And the lessons you can learn from them
“You’re always one decision away from a totally different life”
— Mark Batterson
You have no way of knowing how a decision will impact your life. If you could foresee the future, it wouldn’t be a decision, it would be a choice without risk. But, at the very moment you make it, a decision is like gambling.
Still, you can learn from every decision you ever made, hindsight is a great teacher. But it’s also helpful to learn from other people’s decisions, just so you don’t have to learn every life lesson through experience.
At 32, I still have many more decisions to make in my life. But these are the best I’ve made so far. I hope you learn something from them.
1. Become Vegetarian
If I had to pin down the single best decision I ever made in my life, I think this would be it. For one simple reason: it’s about more than just myself.
I started experimenting with a plant-based diet in late 2014, motivated by a couple of friends and my desire to try new things. And I discovered something much more powerful than I expected: empathy.
When I stopped eating animals, I started feeling like one with the planet. Like I was doing my part to a fairer, kinder world, where each being lives and lets others live too.
I need to be honest with you. Although it is a dietary lifestyle with many health benefits, it also has its downside. I need to monitor my iron levels constantly and reached a state close to anemia last year. But I recovered, and I feel great. It’s worth it for me. Either way, many people eat everything and they are still completely unhealthy.
What you can learn
The major lesson here is not that you should become vegetarian. Rather, I would like you to keep these two ideas in mind:
- Being open to change is the most powerful secret to a happy life. If you are set in your own ways, how can you try new things and discover something that makes you happier?
- Living according to your own values brings you the most plenitude you can feel in life. I believe all living beings should be treated the same way, and living according to that makes me feel true to myself. What do you truly believe in?
2. Travel Alone
Traveling is always a good choice. Alone, with friends, family, or a partner — it doesn’t matter. As the quote goes, “travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”.
But traveling alone is the holy grail of any travel experience. I did two long trips alone, both in Eastern Europe, in the summers of 2017 and 2018. It wasn’t a hard decision: I grew up doing road trips with my family, and I did a lot of business trips alone. To be honest, I don’t know why I waited until 29 to grab a backpack and get on the road solo. Still, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
The days on the road on these solo travels are some of the happiest memories I have. I felt incredibly alive, I went through life-shaping experiences and I learned more than with any other thing I have ever done.
What you can learn
Trust me on this one: the real lesson to be learned here is waiting for you on the road.
But it’s up to you to make the decision to try it. Think about it for a moment: what is setting you back?
- Do you think you’ll get lonely? If you are open to it, you will meet so many wonderful people that you will end up having to deliberately take some time off to be alone.
- Are you concerned with your security? If you plan in advance, always let your family know where you are, and get yourself travel insurance, it isn’t much different from being in your own city and having something happening to you.
- Are you afraid of having too much me-time? Well, that’s exactly why you will learn so much!
3. Live Abroad
I am Portuguese and, besides my own country, I have lived in France, the UK, and Hungary. The first time I moved abroad, I was just shy of 22, had recently graduated, and accepted an internship in Paris, at a tiny company I had never heard of. The adventure lasted three months and I learned more in that time than in the three years I spent at university.
Living abroad has changed me dramatically as a person. Because of it, I feel I became a more mindful, open, and empathic human being, with endless skills that help me navigate life. And it has made my days so much more exciting and interesting than I imagine they would have been if I had stayed put.
What you can learn
I believe everyone should live in a different country for some time, be it through a volunteering program, work experience, or a more long-term stay. It’s less scary than it sounds and it teaches you more than you expect.
Your key lesson here is this: at least once in your life, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Maybe you will not move halfway across the globe, but you can try a different city in your country. And if, for some reason, you need to stay where you are, get out of your bubble in other ways: meet new people, change jobs, join a theatre group… anything that forces you to grow.
4. Quit Jobs
Quitting is not for losers. Quitting at the right time, for a new challenge, is a damn winning move.
I’ve quit a few jobs in my career and, whenever I did, I never had another one lined up. I did it to pursue my own entrepreneurial endeavors, like creating a biography writing service or a travel vlog. Or I quit to go back to school and change careers. Every time, it was worth it and I always managed to move forward in my life.
There are very few things as inspiring as starting over. It keeps life exciting, it gives you new perspectives, and it propels you forward. Try it!
What you can learn
You are told this story from a young age: you need to study, get a job, be good at it, progress, climbing the corporate ladder. But what’s the purpose? To arrive where? To 65 years of age, without having fully enjoyed your life?
In a LinkedIn post, author Tim Denning states that
“Some of the biggest growth you’ll have in your career comes from downtime — not from working 24/7, or a hustle till you die attitude that then leads to burnout”.
Fortunately, time off from jobs is less and less often seen as something bad on your CV. People take time off to go travel the world, create new businesses, start a family. You’re not a working machine, you’re a person. Dare to live up to it.
5. Yoga and Meditation
For sure, one of your friends has recommended you try it, or you read an article about its health benefits, or your cousin has told you all about the benefits of her yoga retreat… In 2021, you have to live under a rock to never have heard about the power of yoga and meditation.
My personal journey with these started in 2015, during a messy time in my life. I started meditating, first with apps, then alone. The next step was starting practicing yoga. I lived in the UK at the time and I certainly didn’t want to pay for sessions at an expensive studio. I found guidance and support in Adriene Mishler, on her Youtube channel, “Yoga with Adriene”.
This goes to say that yoga and meditation are not the privilege of the rich, a new wave hip for the snobs. They are a highly individual exercise of you connecting with yourself, your body, and your mind.
My practice is far from regular but, throughout the years, I always come back to yoga and meditation after stretches of time without doing them. It’s a safe place and the easiest way to feel good with myself.
What you can learn
I am not an expert in any of these, but Adriene is: check out her Youtube channel and follow along with some videos.
My advice: be persistent. You only start feeling the benefits after a bit of practice. But isn’t that the same with everything? You don’t start learning a new language and expect to have a fluent conversation the next week. Take the same approach with this.
Some life decisions present themselves in very clear ways: a new job offer that you need to accept or refuse, getting married, having babies.
Others, however, will never become a decision you need to make if you don’t chase them. You will never have to decide to stop eating meat if you don’t start questioning your life in the first place.
Make this exercise regularly. Question yourself, just so you end up in a position where you need to make decisions. Is it comfortable? No. But it’s the best way to live a life full of meaning, purpose, and happiness.