What advice do you wish you had been given in your 20s? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
I've actually only been twenty for about half a year now so maybe this isn't my place to contribute - but what the heck.
This is advice that I've found helpful in my twenties so far.
Set standards for yourself.
As a kid I would always tell my parents about what toys or games my friends had or how their parents handled certain behaviors. My mom would always respond with, "Well you're not [insert friend name here], are you?", and that kind of ended the conversation. Now I realize how much power those words hold. It's your job to define success, and what meaning your life has. Defining your life in accordance to others is a mistake and recipe for disaster.
Work hard, then work smart.
I usually see the phrase "work smart, not hard" being tossed around the interwebs and it wasn't until recently that I realized that statement wasn't the whole story -- at least not for me. My first couple years in college I worked really hard, but it took a toll on my health. I didn't sleep more than 4 hours on average, my diet was terrible, etc. It was only after working so hard that I realized what it meant to work smart. Even now I think that I'm probably working too hard -- but it's a necessary thought process in order to learn how to work smart.
Motivation is fleeting. It does not last. You cannot expect motivation to get you through a long and difficult task, as it wears down everyday. Motivation needs renewal constantly in order to be effective in the long term. This is bad for things like relationships, school, projects, or work. You may know what to do, and that you probably should do it, but without motivation what's to make you do it? Habit is the answer. Habit is the autopilot we all need when we don't want to do the right thing, like go to the gym or read a book or program, etc. When the passion and the motivation wear out, habit is the only thing that will save you. Form habits now (good ones!) and reap the benefits later.
Be grateful. We are all very lucky to be here.
The odds are astronomical that you are alive. The chances of you dying grow higher every day. Every opportunity is a blessing and every new day is bliss. There are so many things that can go wrong. Be grateful for your friends, your possessions, your job, your family, or whatever you have in your life. I can tell you that being grateful will make you treat the important things in life like they should be treated -- as a priority. Never forget how lucky you really are to be alive and in a place of prosperity.
Understand that the window is closing.
You are only young for so long. The window for doing crazy things is closing, and it is closing very fast. Live your life like you don't know what will happen tomorrow. Live your life like everything you love will die or cease to exist tomorrow. Don't waste your time now; it is precious, so precious, and you can never get it back. Don't let life be wasted on the youth.
Make bad choices.
Now take this one with a grain of salt. There are things you know you should do, and things you know you probably shouldn't -- like stay up all night, or do something illegal, etc. I'm not advertising for poor life choices that will severely hurt your future options but sometimes it's healthy to do the things you know you shouldn't. It makes for good experiences, stories, and relationships. Take a risk sometimes. It might not always be worth it, but when it is you'll be glad.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: