Sitting in a comfy orange armchair on the second floor of a café in Kathmandu, Nepal, surrounded by the noise of cars, the whirring of a latté machine, the delicious aroma of espresso, and the sweet sound of Indian flute music, I closed my eyes and opened a dialog with the 8-year-old version of Raam.
What advice would I give him, based on the collective experience, knowledge and lessons of all the mistakes I’d made over the past 28 years of my life? How I could have been more prepared for the situations I would face? I didn’t wish I had done anything differently. I believe that accepting our mistakes and loving oneself is vitally important to continued inner growth, and who I am today is a culmination of everything that has happened in my past. I believe we should build on our existing foundation, not leave behind an empire of half-finished castles.
Here’s the advice I brought back through time to give him:
1. When something isn’t changing, it will likely continue not changing.
You gotta take action and do something about it, even if that means getting uncomfortable. Even if that means pushing your limits. Even if that means making mistakes. Even if that means risking it all.
Wasting time—the one precious thing we all have a limited amount of—is just not worth i t. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, if you feel like life shouldn’t be this way, if you feel like there’s more out there for you, take action and do something about it.
It’s going to feel like the entire world is working against you. It’s going to feel like everyone is afraid of change and they all want to convince you that change is bad and too risky. That’s when you need to take a stand, hold your ground and believe in yourself.
There is only one person you can count on and that person is you. Don’t let him or her down. Seriously, life is just way too short to waste it.
2. Take care of your teeth.
Once your baby teeth are gone, you’re stuck with one set of real teeth for the remainder of your life. If you neglect those adult teeth, you’re screwed.
Sure, you can have cavities filled and you can even get teeth replaced with fake ones, but there is no substitute for original healthy teeth. Unlike other aspects of your health, you cannot restore neglected teeth!
Some people are born with softer teeth than others and they need to spend more time taking care of them. Whatever your case, spend a few extra minutes every day taking care of your teeth. Your long-term health, peace of mind, bank account and your future self will all thank you.
3. You cannot control the outcome of a relationship.
All you can control is your half of the relationship. If it’s not working, don’t be stubborn and think that with enough time, effort and patience things will magically change.
Like the previous lesson, when something isn’t changing, it will likely continue not changing. If you’ve made your best effort (which means communication when it comes to relationships) be prepared to move on.
While we’re on the topic of relationships, remember that communication is the life-blood of a relationship. If communication is lacking, the life of the relationship is dwindling.
Communication ensures that both sides clearly understand the motivations, beliefs and expectations of the other side. If both parties are constantly unclear, the relationship will stagnate and not move forward—you will be wasting time.
4. You cannot own anything. You’re just the caretaker.
Think about this for a moment: your life is on rental. You won’t have this body forever. If you don’t even own this body, how could you possibly own anything in the physical world?
You rent everything. Your car, your house, your TV, your phone, your life. Let go of that part of you that wants to own things, that part of you that wants to possess things.
There is nothing wrong with having a house, a car, a phone or even this life. But when we think we own them, we forget how temporary everything is and we become attached.
Attachment leads to a never-ending desire for more and an inability to be satisfied. Instead of being happy and recognizing the value in what we have, we look for something else to attach ourselves to, something else to “own.” You own nothing.
The illusion that we own things leads us to spend so much valuable time in the pursuit of possessions that have no intrinsic value to our lives.
5. Time is a currency that appreciates in value and simultaneously decreases in quantity over the course of your life.
There are only a few things really worth spending time and money on in life. Family, education and more time are some of them. Yes, just as you can spend time you can also buy time. You can pay for time through getting rid of things in your life that require your attention.
Your family, your friends, your children, your education, your health—they all require your attention and therefore you pay for them with your time. You also pay for your time with your car expenses, your home mortgage, apartment rent, cable subscription, phone bill and even your daydreaming.
To buy more of the things you love, you need to stop spending time on things that are of less value to you. If you consider your family or your health to be more valuable than your expensive car or deluxe cable TV subscription, then reducing those expenses so that you don’t have to work so much should be a no-brainer.
6. Fulfill your crazy childhood dreams as early as possible.
Accepting that we’ll never achieve our childhood dreams often causes acceptance of mediocrity in life; it causes us to settle and accept the status quo. We don’t feel driven to really achieve anything substantial in life because we’ve accepted that the thing we want most, we can’t have.
Imagine you’ve already done everything you really wanted to do in life. You would feel so content and so at peace that it would be difficult for anything else to upset you.
You’d feel motivated to use the remainder of your days being happy, truly enjoying life and helping others do the same. You would feel so content that time wouldn’t scare you. Death wouldn’t scare you. Death would simply be—as it is—a part of life, not something to fear.
Following your heart is worth every risk!
Fulfill your dreams as early as possible. Once they’ve been fulfilled, you may discover new purpose and new meaning in life. Or you may continue living those dreams. Either way, if you’re not following your heart and living life on your own terms, you’re wasting your life.
7. Use your free time wisely.
If you’re working a boring job that involves you sitting around for hours, instead of staring off into space daydreaming, why not spend that extra time studying, learning or otherwise doing something that improves your chances of doing something you love?
Remember what I said about things not changing unless you change them? You don’t have to quit your job and struggle to survive doing something you love. Keep your job and use your free time wisely. If you cannot read at work, turn off the TV or skip the bar after work and spend a few hours every day learning what you need to learn to live the life of your dreams.
Every minute that passes is another minute you don’t have. Most of us have less than 20,000 days left to live. Think about that for a moment: your body will be a rotting corpse in less than 20,000 days. That’s about 480,000 hours or 1,728,000,000 seconds.
By the time you’re finished reading this, you may only have 1,727,999,880 seconds remaining to live. Are you spending your time doing something worth living for?
What advice would you give your younger self that would better prepare him or her for the life ahead? Close your eyes, travel back in time and leave your thoughts in the comments below.