Ten years ago, I'd just finished school, I was training almost every single day to become a professional Rugby League player and I was just about to begin my first year of study at University.
Since then so much has changed in almost every aspect of my life.
Just recently, I looked back at some of those major changes and on some of the lessons that have helped me along the way which I wish I'd been able to tell my younger self.
Many of these lessons were learned the hard way, by my own mistakes, some of them I was lucky to have a friend or mentor to shown me the way, but all of them were important in some way because they helped shape who I am now.
So here are 20 lessons in life I'd tell my 10 years younger self.
1. Learn something new every day – and apply what you learn.
I try to learn and apply something new every day that can bring me closer to at least one of my goals, I figure if you can learn one or more small thing each and every day, and then take one action to apply what you’ve learnt, then over the course of a year you will be 365 small steps closer to your vision. Learning never stops and you should be prepared to continue adding and applying new knowledge every single day.
2. Things can and do change very quickly - keep an eye on what’s happening around you and be ready.
Sometimes it can feel like the more things change, the more they stay the same. This can leave us feeling like our ability to influence the outcome of a situation is beyond our control. But what I’ve realised whenever I’ve been in situations like this is that things can and do change very quickly, and when they do you just need to be there - and be ready - to make the most of that change. Think of all the things that have changed in the past 10 years, and all the opportunities that have arisen out of them for people who were prepared. Keep an eye what's happening around you, don't lose sight of what you are looking to achieve and be ready!
3. Enjoy the time you spend with your family.
These are the people who truly matter, and time often reveals this in strange ways. There have been two moments in particular that have really reinforced this for me in the past few years. The first was trekking the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea with my parents - an experience that brought us closer than ever before as we retraced the steps and battlegrounds where my Great-Grandfather had served during WWII.
The second is spending time with my Grandmother looking over old photo albums. She has recently entered a dementia facility and is slowly losing touch with the most precious memories she has. Being there for these moments and understanding how important they are are is an incredibly valuable lesson to learn.
4. Get a clear plan in place for your mental health - you will need it (and so will a lot of your mates.)
When I stopped playing Rugby League I was only in my early twenties. I was mentally exhausted, depressed and unsure of what to do with myself. I was lucky I have people who recognised this and helped me get back on my feet slowly over time. But one of the most important lessons I learned during that time was to see a Doctor, talk about my mental health and then to learn as many strategies as possible to improve this important aspect of my life. Since then I've been able to share this knowledge and my experiences with people who reach out to me or get in contact via this blog which has been an awesome benefit. It's only when you've been in a dark place for a period of time that you realise how important a good plan and a good support team are.
5. Don't be too hard on yourself - learn and move on.
As I said, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and done some pretty stupid things. But being overly critical of yourself is a downward spiral. Knowing when to give yourself a break, forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and then make sure they don't happen again is a much less damaging path.
6. Be honest - everyone benefits from honesty.
It seems like a no-brainer but developing genuine honesty with yourself and the people you love and spend time with is going to be a huge benefit for everyone involved. So long as it's clear that it’s intended to improve others as well as yourself, the level of trust and improvement in relationships you can gain from sincere honesty are enormous in the long run.
7. There are things in the world other than sport.
This was a big one for me, growing up I lived and breathed sport every single day of my life, which stopped me from realising the other areas of my life I have come to enjoy today. When I realised that there were other things out there, whole other industries and hobbies that were equally as interesting and that I really enjoyed investing my time into it was a huge benefit to my overall understanding of who I was and where I really wanted to go with life.
8. Get your morning routine sorted.
One of the most important parts of my day is my morning routine. When I get up early, take steps toward my goals - whether that be by writing, reading, running or hitting the gym - then I know I've put myself on the right track to continue kicking goals for the remainder of the day.
9. Start writing things down.
When I discovered the benefits that physically writing down thoughts and ideas in a notebook had on my mental clarity and creativity I made it a fundamental part of my life. I always carry around my notebook wherever I am. It’s one of my must-have items.
10. Travel as often and as far as you can.
The best way I know to expand your mind and give yourself a new viewpoint on the world is to travel and see how things are done in a new environment. Some of the most important lessons I've learned in life I can trace directly to a moment or experience I had while travelling.
11. Give without expecting to receive anything in return.
One of my mentors told me this a while ago. We were standing in a room filled with people who had come to celebrate his life and career. His secret - help people to make the connections that will give them the value they need, and don't expect anything in return.
12. Find what you are grateful for.
Almost every morning while I'm on the way to work or the gym, I'll sit and think of three things I'm thankful for. These can be little or big, I can be thankful for something as simple as the weather or the transport I'm taking, or as important to me as my family or my friends. This is a great habit to get into in the quiet moments throughout your day.
13. Don't waste time with dickheads.
We've all come across them, and sometimes it feels like they're surrounding us. I've certainly spent a fair share of my life trying to impress or be liked by them. But the sooner you recognise when you and your time aren't being valued in a way that shows at least a basic level of respect and decency, you know you're dealing with one. Right then is when you should quit wasting your time and move on.
14. Take responsibility for everything.
This is one of the most important lessons I've found over the past ten years. Everything that is occurring in your life is the direct result of what you have or have not done to get there. So take ownership, and start to put the building blocks in place now to make the changes you want to see. No more excuses.
15. Take action beyond your comfort zone - especially when you see a good-looking girl at a random salsa night.
This is one of the most difficult lessons to learn because failing to learn it comes with a big dose of something none of us like to feel, regret. Pushing your boundaries is the only way to grow, and being open to new ways of doing things is a skill that can deliver enormous results.
Note: One of the definitive moments in my life when I did take this advice was also the night I met my now fiancé, yes it was at a random mid-week salsa night, and no, I still have absolutely no idea how to salsa.
16. Take your time.
As much as things change quickly they also need a great degree of patience and a long-term mentality. You can't become a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 6 months or even 6 years, it takes a long time, a lot of discipline and a great deal of consistency no matter how dedicated or talented you are.
17. Enjoy the small moments along the way.
Even though things will more than likely take a while to fully materialise, taking moments every now and then to take stock and enjoy what you've achieved is also a very important lesson. Life can't be all work and no play so it's important to know what or who it is that recharges you and keeps you from burning out.
18. Speak up or others will speak up for you, and you may not like that.
Learning when and how to speak up when you experience something you feel you need to address is an important lesson to learn. There's no end to the number of examples I could use from my own life to illustrate this point. Communicating how I’m feeling about something is an area and skill I'm continually looking to improve on because it's so important to have a voice.
If you don't speak your mind and put your thoughts out there, don't be upset when others do and you have to deal with the results.
19. Back yourself.
In building upon lesson 18, before you speak up you must back yourself. None of these lessons mean anything if at the end of the day you aren't willing to back yourself, step into the ring at give it a go.
20. Don't be afraid to begin something new.
In the past 10 years, some of the best moments I've had and the things I'm most proud of sprung from the decision to try something different. No one ever achieved anything worthwhile without having the courage to step out and try a new path. Your playing small does absolutely nothing to serve the world. So begin, and keep going.
This article was published on Success.com