8 Life Lessons All Twenty-Somethings Should Learn

As we say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in the new year, many of us reflect upon the twelve months just passed. It’s a time to evaluate what we have achieved and think about what we would like our future to hold – not least for those who have just graduated.

Over the past few years, three honorary graduation speeches from major figures have shaken the internet. The addresses of Steve Jobs, US Navy Admiral William McRaven and most recently Tim Minchin all offer valuable advice for young people to carry with them through life.

Below are a few of the most important lessons these three titans have to share.


There’s no rush

Humans are long-lived creatures – especially these days – and that’s a lot of time to fill. We spend a third of our lives at work, which means that you need to be careful and thorough in your careers planning. Don’t rush it.

Maybe you have everything sorted and know exactly which career you wish to pursue, who you want to marry, where you want to live and how many children you’d like to have. That’s great. It’s similarly okay if you don’t know where you’ll be next month, let alone in ten years time.

Life’s unpredictability is what makes it so exciting; keeping an open mind to this uncertainty is the best thing that you can do. You have plenty of time. Enjoy it, but remember not to panic if you haven’t got everything arranged just now.


Dedicate time to short term goals

Instead of overwhelming yourself with a dream which won’t allow you to feel accomplished until it’s achieved, focus on short term tasks and complete one at a time. If you look too far ahead and seek only one path, you could run the risk of missing other opportunities that crop up around you.

The number of years spent working nowadays is increasing. This means that your career will probably change direction numerous times throughout your working life. Embrace new beginnings. If you commit yourself to smaller projects, you’ll be constantly experiencing a sense of achievement and not getting hung up about one big thing.


Respect those worse off than you

Nothing makes you better or worthier than anybody else. Not money, not race, not upbringing – nothing. Remembering this will instantly make you a better person. You’ll respect everyone and become pleasant to be around.

Do good by people and you’ll be rewarded. Perhaps you will have a particularly good day where everything goes to plan, or your efforts will be openly appreciated. It’ll also bring you joy; studies show that kindness is linked to life satisfaction.


The little things in life matter

As McRaven states: “if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

If you focus on easier tasks and getting those right, the more difficult ones will become simpler. If you begin your day by making your bed then you’ve already achieved something to feel good about. Besides, there is nothing more satisfying than ticking something off your to-do list and starting the day with a tick. You’ll feel more upbeat and ready to tackle some of the bigger tasks.

This doesn’t only apply to productivity but appreciation too. If you appreciate smaller things in life like a good cup of tea or an especially crisp winter morning, things will start to look up.


Acknowledge the help of others

Never take for granted the wealth that friends, family, colleagues and even strangers can bring to your life. Offer a helping hand, accept help, listen to opinions and never try to stick it out on your own.

Knowing that there are always people out there who will support you – and understanding the importance of coming together – will make things a lot easier. You are never alone.


The dots will always connect

Everything in life always seems to fit into place. For every door that closes, another opens.

One lesson discussed by many graduation speakers is to trust that the dots of these random occurrences will always connect. You might not understand how until later in life, but trusting that this will be the case can help you relax in moments of adversity.

Have faith in the unpredictable. You’ll look back in years to come and realise that most of your choices were the right ones. Those that weren’t happened for a reason, teaching you valuable lessons for the future.


You are lucky to be here

This goes back to appreciation. As Tim Minchin says in his speech, we are “incalculably lucky to be here” – something we often forget. In the western world you rarely hear people discussing how lucky they are; we’d much rather moan about the increased price of coffee or bad weather at the weekend.

Next time you’re ranting about something, or someone, or a bad day in the office, think of this. It is entirely by chance that you exist and have been given the opportunity to do so. Love every minute of every day; you really are lucky to be alive!


Look after yourself

This is one of the most important things to remember and all other lessons will only apply if you do this. Your health is so important. To live long and prosper, you must live long in the first place; make sure you take care of you. Exercise, eat well, keep positive and do the things you love. It’s as simple as that!


Harriet Mills is an English Literature and Creative Writing graduate based at her hometown near Cambridge. She is an aspiring writer with her main interests being features and travel writing. For more of her story check out her personal blog.