25 Life Lessons I Learned By Age 26

Only in hindsight do we fully understand the hardships that spurred growth, the failures that led to success and the roadblocks that bestowed a blessing. When we reflect on our hardships, failures and roadblocks, we gain an appreciation for them that makes the growth, successes and blessings worth relishing. 

It took me 26 years to learn that and the 25 other lessons, reasons and isms I wrote down so you can learn them, too:

1. Everyone is on a different life path. Some people are attending college. Others are accepting a promotion. Some people are marrying their life partner. Others are living single. Some people are moving to a new city. Others are living in the city they grew up in. Everyone is traveling on a different life path at a different pace, and none of them are right or wrong.

2. Growth happens outside your comfort zone. "We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore." - Anonymous

3. There's no sense in doing something you hate. I more than once sat in a hot yoga class pretending to exert myself while calculating the right time to step out for a 15-minute "water break." Don't waste your time (or someone else's) doing something you don't like.

4. Save money when you can save money (and/ or pay off debt when you can pay off debt). If you're working a steady, well-paying job with enough means to stash some cash in a savings account or put down more than the minimum on credit card/ student loan debt, do it because you not might not be able to in two weeks or two months or two years.

5. It's okay to say no. It's okay to say no to plans and no to a heavier workload and no to a second serving of your boyfriend's mom's homemade blueberry pie. No is necessary for "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less."

6. Faith cannot coexist with fear. My most fearful days are hopeless. When I'm fearful, I'm doubtful. I'm skeptical. But faith casts away fear. Faith is a fortress that will shield you from fear, doubt, skepticism and hopelessness. You cannot be fearful when you are faith-filled.

7. Life happens in the transition. Danaan Parry uses the parable of the trapeze to explain that, if life is a series of trapeze swings, then the transition zone (the place where you're hurtling across space between trapeze bars) is the only real thing and the trapeze bars are "illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us."

8. High risk = high reward. Nothing worth doing is without risk. You may risk financial security or familiarity or failure (sometimes all three), but the reward it well worth it.

9. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Take care of your mind like you take care of your body. Exercise when it needs exercise. Rest when it needs rest.

10. You'll have to fight for what you want in the workplace. Whether you're asking for a raise or time off or the flexibility to work from home once a week, expect pushback, and be prepared to walk away. E! Entertainment's Catt Sadler left the network after she learned co-host Jason Kennedy earned "close to double" her salary. "My team and I asked for what I know I deserve and were denied repeatedly," Sadler, who worked at E! for 12 years, wrote in a blog post. "Know your worth."

11. Failure is the gateway to success. We learn from our failures. Try, fail and try again. You'll eventually succeed as long as you never give up.

12. Invest in people who invest in you. Pay attention to the people who put you first. The ones who text you to check in, call you to catch up and invite you to go out (or stay in and watch The Bachelor). Put those people first.

13. Work where you're wanted. Don't waste time working for a manager who doesn't recognize your potential or at a company that doesn't acknowledge your value.

14. Landing your dream job takes more than a few years. "I wish I did know when I entered the real world that nothing is going to be given to you. I remember when I graduated college, I was like, “I’m 21 years old, I have two degrees, I’m a former college athlete, I interned at a news station, and I have pretty good references.” I thought jobs would just be coming from left to right, and that was not the case," 27-year-old Gianina Thompson on how she landed her dream job at ESPN. Read more here.

15. How someone treats you is a reflection of them. I felt insecure when my ex-boyfriend would point out my flaws. I soon realized he was merely projecting his insecurities onto me. Remember: how someone treats you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves.

16. Focus on today. "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." - Matthew 6:34

17. It's okay to feel like sh*t more than once in a while. Bad days can turn into bad weeks can turn into bad months can turn into bad years. Accept this, and move forward. Better days, weeks, months and years are ahead.

18. You don't have to have sex with him/ her. Sex isn't earned or bargained or bet on. Share your body with someone else because you want to, not because you feel obliged or pressured to. 

19. Know yourself well enough to know when to walk away. "Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy." - Robert Tew

20. Gratitude is essential to happiness. When I think about the times I'm happiest, it's when I'm thankful for what I have.

21. Your metabolism isn't getting any faster. Your metabolism starts its inevitable decline— as much as 2 to 4 percent each year—  at just 25, according to celebrity trainer and fitness expert Obi Obadike. Preserving and gaining lean muscle mass through exercise keeps your metabolism working properly as you exercise.

22. Don't work a job you hate just to make a buck. Don't waste your time, energy and talents working a job you can't stand. No amount of money is worth compromising your happiness.

23. Committed and persistent work pays off. "Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty." - Proverbs 21:5.

24. Memories > milestones. The highs, lows and bumps in the road are the memories that make milestones (graduating college, job opportunity, marriage, etc.) worth savoring.

25. The only person looking out for you is you. Everyone's looking out for themselves, so look out for you.

Photo: Getty Images

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