Every day we encounter life lessons. They come to us in many forms, and when we pay attention to them, they can help us grow.

I love country music, and there’s one song in particular that I love to listen to because it causes me to reflect. It’s Brad Paisley’s song Letter to Me. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a man who thinks about his life and what he would’ve wanted to say to his younger self at the age of 17.

I think the reason why this song resonates with me and why I think it’s such a compelling idea to be able to have a talk with our younger selves is because as we go through life, we obviously learn many lessons along the way. As teens, we all likely felt pressured and cornered into our lives as if there was no way out of the circumstances, ever. Things always seemed so permanent back then.

I can’t help but wonder how much easier teenage life would’ve been had I known some of the things I do today.

So this got me thinking about some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Life Lessons Learned

Confidence Comes from Within.

Confidence blooms from inside. It has nothing to do with your appearance. I remember when I turned thirty-five years old. I began to concern myself about the wrinkles that started lining the skin around the outside of my eyes and the gray hair that began poking through at more extreme levels than before. I cringe when I think about how obsessed I was with my outward appearance back then. It seems so frivolous now. I get upset with myself for wasting time on worrying over something that happens to every single person on the planet.

Now that I’m over a decade older than that version of myself, I’ve come to learn that appearance has nothing at all to do with confidence. I’m not sure when I learned this exactly. I believe it was a slow lesson, simmering in the background of my daily life, waiting on me to recognize that confidence stems from the inside than the outside.

Confidence is a state of mind. It’s preparing yourself for success. It’s putting your passion into something you love. It’s showing compassion for others. It’s about so much more than lip-gloss, highlights or expensive clothes. I would tell my younger self to spend less time on perfecting her makeup and hair and more time on building the skills that will bring her closer to her passions.

Never Force.

No matter how much you try to force something, if it’s not meant to be, it’s never going to be. This is especially important when it comes to getting people to like us. As a teen, we want everyone to like us. Our world revolves around the opinion of others. Even as an adult, if someone doesn’t like me, I tend to obsess about why this is. I start to go all the interactions and dissect them until they’re totally gutted and unrecognizable.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think most of us fixate on the issue, thinking that we can change their opinions. The truth is, some people are going to like us, and some never will. We may never understand why. I would tell my younger self to be the best person she can be, apologize if she’s wrong, set things right when she can. If that’s not enough, turn her focus to those with whom she does connect. Nurture the positive.

Be Really Great at Two Things.

I’d tell my younger self to hone in on something she’s good at, and then add a secondary element. For instance, as a teen I loved cutting hair. I used to have a booming clientele, and that was well before I knew what I was doing! I lived across the street from my high school, and after school, I had a line of kids in my living room waiting to get their haircut. That’s how I put gas in my car and paid for my insurance. I spent all my time on this activity, because I intended to go to hairdressing school and make my living cutting hair. Honestly, I even let my studies slide because I wasn’t even focused on college. I just needed to pass.

So, you see, the problem with focusing on just one skill set is that you put everything into one basket. Years later, when I became asthmatic and had skin allergies on my hands, I realized that my hair career would likely have to be cut short. At that moment, I really wished I’d focused on my other love too, which was writing. I was twenty-two when I realized I needed new skills and a better education.

So, I took one of my passions, hairdressing, and coupled it with a different passion, writing, and started my professional writing career.

I believe everyone should shine in more areas than one, and I say this because we never know what life is going to toss in our way. If we only ever focus in on one area, and that area for some reason disappears one day, we’re left empty. I’d tell my younger self that it’s better to spread the wealth so to speak, and try to connect her passions and skills into a package deal for the future.

Make Yourself a Priority.

Another life lesson I would make sure I told my young self about is to take care of herself first so she can take care of others. Many might think, wow, take care of yourself first. That’s selfish, no?

It’s not selfish. It’s called being prepared.

As a teen, my friends always came first before exercise. Are you kidding me? Go for a run over hanging with my bestie after school? There was no choice. My friends always came first. The last thing on my mind was my health. My health was fine. To a kid, we take our health for granted. Good habits form early on. I had terrible habits as a teen. I ate way too much sugar, got lazy with exercise, and drank lots of soda. If I did that as an adult, I’d be in serious trouble! Health is my number one priority. Some people might think it’s terrible to place it above family and friends on the priority list. I counter that argument with this: If I’m not healthy, I can’t take care of my family and friends the way they deserve.

By proactively taking care of myself through good nutrition, adequate exercise, and relaxing meditation, I am putting myself in a great position to be alert, happy and balanced for my family and friends. So to my younger self I’d say to start the good habit early to ensure I’m around for those I love in the future.

Realize that Everything is Temporary.

I learned this lesson the hard way with my dog, Sunshine. I had taken him for granted in many ways, putting off walks so I could work, getting aggravated when he wanted to sit down on his walks and take in the breeze because I wanted to get home and bang out a project. It’s those little moments, those precious moments, where the magic of life resides. When those opportunities are gone, they’re gone forever. I no longer have the opportunity to sit on the top of a grassy hill and watch the grass sway with my Sunshine. I regret that I didn’t sit on that hill with him every chance I had. Don’t get me wrong, he had a wonderful life. I just wish I had taken more time to enjoy the breezes with him a bit more than I did.

With my dog, Bumblebee, I take those moments and cherish them. They will always be in my heart long after she joins her brother at the Rainbow Bridge. So, I guess I would remind my younger self to stop wishing her time away or wasting it worrying about silly things. Instead, she should soak up all those beautiful moments while she has the chance. I would end that talk on, ‘When you finally understand the temporary nature of life, you’ll never wish it away again.’

Here’s the thing: life is full of lessons. If we take the time to let them sink in, really sink in, I believe life will become that much more meaningful and enriching.