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The 1 Piece of Advice I’d Like to Tell My Younger Self

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Take these life lessons from women who have been there and done that.

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Of course, there are no do-overs in life, but we can learn from other people's experiences. Heed the advice from these seven women about what major lessons they wish they'd learned earlier. Their stories may inspire you to reflect on your past, present, and future.

Learn By Doing

"For years, I read books on how to become an entrepreneur and dreamed about owning my own business. I thought I had to know how to do everything before taking the leap and I was determined to be a perfect student (as many women are). While I was studying up, life gave me a good shove. I was laid off from my job in journalism in 2008. I was 46 at the time. Without a backup plan, I finally just started my own chocolate business and became a chocolatier. The learning curve for both chocolate and business was steep, but since I couldn't back out, I learned as I went. I worked until 3:00 a.m. making and remaking chocolates. I burned myself pouring caramel. And I botched the first taxes I had to file. And instead of feeling incompetent as I'd feared I would, it felt like an adventure. I wish I'd embraced this attitude earlier." —Robyn Dochterman, 56, of Scandia, Minnesota

Adjust Your Mindset

"If you are angry that someone cut you off in traffic and imagine the driver to be a selfish jerk, try changing your perspective and viewing the person as simply stressed out by a very bad day. Remember how you felt on your last very bad days and, suddenly, you find yourself no longer angry at all. You might even feel happily grateful instead that you are having a good day [compared to the other person]. Choose to be happy!" —Lynn Julian, 51, of Boston, Massachusetts

Practice Self-Compassion

"One of the things I've learned as an anxious woman and a therapist is that the more you criticize yourself, the more anxious you're likely to be. As an adolescent and young adult, I told myself I wasn't pretty enough, thin enough, or feminine enough. Later, as a wife and mom, I thought I was a bad mom for not wanting to play with the kids all the time and there were times I felt I should be kinder to my husband. My advice to my younger self is: You're human and humans make mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up over things you wish you'd done differently, try practicing more self-compassion. As a woman over 50, I've embraced that none of us are perfect. Perfect is an impossible goal. If I have a problem, I ask myself, 'If a friend came to me with the same problem, how would I respond?' Then I try to offer myself the same kind words. And I remind myself that everyone struggles from time to time." —Elizabeth Cush, 58, of Annapolis, Maryland

Forgive Others

"As a full-blooded Italian, I come from a long line of grudge-carriers. I always thought that it was okay to stay angry and that forgiveness was too difficult. Even surviving a mastectomy and chemotherapy did not give me enough perspective to forgive and move on. At age 55, sitting in church one Sunday, I had a revelation that I had to forgive to heal myself. I went home and began to write notes to those whom I'd been harboring ill feelings for years. I wrote five notes and one to myself. Although I was crying when I picked up the pen, I was smiling when I finished the notes and mailed them. The healing came instantly. I had never felt lighter in my life. Surprisingly, I received letters back from most people, thanking me for reaching out and forgiving them. Not only am I lucky to be alive 14 years after battling cancer, but I'm free of angst. Younger self, forgive yourself and others. Only then will you stop reliving hurts and offenses of the past and live in the present." —Debbie Trujillo, 56, of Tampa, Florida

 

Delegate More

“If I could go back, I would tell my younger self to learn how to delegate better. I tend to micromanage everything and do everything myself because sometimes it’s easier to do it myself than to teach someone else how to do it. I tended to keep too many pieces on my own plate. All I did was eat, sleep, breathe, and run my real estate company, but I wish I could’ve taken a little more time for personal things that I neglected.” —Dottie Herman, 65, of New York, New York

 

Check In With Yourself Regularly

"Pencil in time each year to reflect on where you want to be in life and chart your path forward. Life has this lovely habit of intervening—whether it’s a friend’s illness, your new pet, a baby, or an elderly parent in need of care. However, an annual reflection point allows you the opportunity to affirm your path or right your ship in a timely way, as opposed to allowing life’s interventions and distractions to simply drift you in another direction that may not be toward your ideal destination."—Tracey Friedlander, 52, of Bethesda, Maryland

 

Learn How to Manage Your Money
"When I was a teenager, my mother taught me how to balance a checkbook. She also encouraged me to open a credit card to start building a credit score. But that was the extent of my financial education. I never learned how to manage how much money was coming in and how much was going out. When I divorced in 2005, I had thousands of dollars in credit card debt. I was able to pay it off within a couple of years, and I vowed to never be in that situation today. Today, I'm doing well financially. The only debt I have is my mortgage, and I'm on track to pay that off within 12 to 18 months. I have money in an emergency fund, and I'm saving for retirement. I do a written budget every month, so I know exactly how much money is coming in and where it needs to go. I also use a cash envelope system. Some people may think that's a bit extreme, but it works for me! If only I understood how to manage my money when I was in my 20s, I'd have a lot more of it right now! But that's okay—it's never too late to start doing the right thing!"—Diane Windsor, 52, of Allen, Texas