Article: I wish I knew this when I was younger

Culture

I wish I knew this when I was younger

As we celebrate National Youth Day today, we reflect on six pieces of advice for the youth as they navigate personal and professional journeys through a rapidly-evolving and endlessly disruptive societal and corporate ecosystem.
I wish I knew this when I was younger

January 12th has a significant importance for India. With the day marking the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanand, it was also declared in 1984 - in his honour - as the National Youth Day. 

Every year, this day is focused on celebrating the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and helping the youth attain wisdom and learning to lead a holistic and enriching life. With a unique focus every year through its theme, National Youth Day endeavours to take a pause and empower the youth to take on greater responsibility, acquire knowledge and pave the way for a better future. This year’s theme, ‘It's all in the mind’, has emerged from one of the key teachings of Swami Vivekananda:  

“It's all in the mind: Whatever you think, that you will be. If you think yourselves weak, weak you will be; if you think yourselves strong, strong you will be.”

Keeping the emphasis on one’s mind, here are six pieces of advice to inspire today’s youth and help them reflect on these learnings as they transition and grow through personal and professional struggles  in today’s rapidly-evolving ecosystem, both at the workplace and in the broader society.

Save, invest, and grow your income streams

In the words of financial guru Warren Buffett, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” 

While financial wellness is gaining greater focus these days, what it truly encapsulates is still known only by a few. The reason? Both a lack of interest and lack of education. While it is better to start late than never, one can only wish they had focused on building their wealth sooner.

To best plan your finances, it helps significantly to have financial goals in place, both short-term and long-term. These are essentially expected expenditures to help you plan your savings and investments well in time and build your financial capital. Such planning also helps you budget your expenses, which if left unattended, can drain your account and leave you with negligible savings. 

In addition to boosting your financial acumen and understanding what savings and investment instruments work best for you - equity, debt, mutual funds, real estate and the many other avenues, it is also essential to make sure you cater for unexpected emergencies. This can include having an emergency fund of six months or more, health insurance, term insurance if you have dependents, among other options.

Your paycheck is a source of income, not to be mistaken with financial stability.

To ensure you are financially secure, you need to identify how you can grow your wealth, what works best for you and channelise your income efficiently. 

Never stop experimenting in life 

"Observation is a passive science, experimentation an active science".

17th century Roman Catholic priest and historian Claude Bernard emphasised with his quote on how proactiveness can enable anyone to kick start their journey of life. To experiment is to find a way through the mud of hit & trial that people come across every day. That is something the youth needs to be reminded of - Never ever stop experimenting in life! 

As 2022 begins to settle, it is important for the youth to remember that time is an element of change and everything around you will change and evolve. The challenges that life throws at you, will make you feel anxious, exasperated, nauseous, including experiencing heartbreaks. Experimenting with  your choices and decisions will give you the courage and wisdom to choose which battles to fight. 

American researchers Christopher R. Rate, Jennifer A. Clarke, Douglas R. Lindsay & Robert J. Sternberg worked on a theory about people's perception of courage and they found out that risk plays a crucial role in inculcating bravery in one's personality. So when would be the good time to take risks?

It is important to understand that 'now’ is a good time to take risks. Just do it, fail fast, learn fast and move forward.   

The quote by Canadian film director Kari Skogland best sums up the whole predicament - 'Experimentation is a big part of how you find the best of the best.'

Don’t let social media shape your choices 

The use of social media spiked since the pandemic. With lockdowns and restrictions on movement, more youngsters took to social media to not just voice their opinion and express themselves, they've used it as a means to stay engaged in today's issues and even as a source of entertainment. But spending too many hours on social media has had a detrimental effect on younger people's lives. The overuse of popular social media channels including Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok has led to instances of cyberbullying, body image issues, anxiety and depression. It also reduced the time that young people can spend on in-person social interaction, sports, exercise, home work and so on.

Be mindful of what you consume on social media, engage in conversations that are productive and positive. Remember that what you see online may be altered, edited and filtered images. Restrict your time on these platforms and ensure you're getting adequate sleep, nutritious food and physical activity.

Invest time in building quality relationships

'It’s all about relationships.’ Technology has made it easier to keep in touch with the outside world. For the digitally-savvy youth, this is especially true. But the question is, do these often virtually built relationships bring happiness to them and help accomplish their potential? Studies highlight the importance of investing in relationships which not only help to meet personal aspirations but also professional goals. Today’s youth are brave and want to make sure their voices are  heard, across platforms and forums. But the missing aspect is the culture of positive relationships beyond the confines of technology and virtual spaces. 

One requires a wide spectrum of relationships, relationships that help shape their mindsets and opinions, as well as life and career choices.

Be it nurturing personal relationships or professional connections, from parents to peers to friends to professional mentors and more, it's important for the youth to invest time in building meaningful relationships that serve them beyond filling in awkward silences and offer more than instant gratification.

Just like it’s important to empower our youth with the right opportunities to create new possibilities, it’s important for the youth to learn to invest time and effort in building and sustaining relationships beyond the virtual world, shaping their very real existence and life journey.

Be vocal in driving social change

Years of social conditioning have hardened our mindsets, and those  of the generations before us. These mindsets have more often than not injected bias, stereotyping and discrimination when we look at certain sections of the society, going on to impact someone’s economic stability, access to jobs, social equations, treatment at the workplace and various other domains of life. While many confine themselves and their response to such discrimination within their rigid conditioning, history has demonstrated the mere impact of speaking up and showing up to right the wrongs of the past. 

It takes one human to start a movement, and it takes collective voice to drive change. Be it the freedom struggle, the fight for women empowerment, decriminalizing Sec 377, and the many other instances where the status-quo was challenged and justice restored. The country needs these voices to continue to drive impending change, and ensure equity for all.

Find your voice, and make it heard. Speak up, be vocal, and bring about a meaningful change in your community. It is bound to have a ripple effect across others.

Don’t fear growing old

There are enough pressures of life you will need to deal with, so don’t let the hype of turning 18, 25, 30 and other believed-to-be age-defining milestones drain your energy and dim your shine. Instead, celebrate growing old. Growing old means you have had those many extra laughs, experiences, learnings and memories to look back on and share. We get too caught up in thinking of how we appear to the world, and sure how we look, the colour of our hair, our physical strength impact our self-confidence in this competitive world. But, wouldn't life be less complicated if we try to accept and embrace where we are and make the most of it, instead of holding on too tight to something we have for what it’s worth, grown out of? 

Age is truly just a number, because the older you grow, the more wisdom you have to tackle the various curveballs life throws at you, greater resources to live a quality life, deeper meaningful relationships to back you up in times that are low, and a wonderful enriched journey to look back on, showing how much you have truly grown! Own your experiences, and help your loved ones, colleagues, students, teachers, leaders, own theirs . Bank in as many laughs and adventures as you can every single year!

Life is a journey. Keep listening, keep experimenting, keep learning and continue growing!

What advice would you give today’s youth? Tell us in the comments.

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