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Monday, October 13, 2014

Motivational Mondays:: Part I: Results From Advice to Your Younger Selves: What Makes Us Regret Our Youth?


Thought for the Day: I am starting a new series of post. Each will include a number of questions. I hope you will share your thoughts and comments to enrich the learning that can result from posts like the one which stimulated the current series. I look forward to your thoughts and comments as I explore a new format for the blog. Thanks in advance for your help!

When I first posted the question:  If you could write a note to your younger self what would you say in only two words?  I never imagined where the results would lead me. The question fascinated me from the moment I read it. Although I had my own response, I held my tongue since I wanted to hear what the people who follow my blog would say. The responses flowed in from across social networks. There were multiple responses from groups on Google+, responses on Facebook, Quora, Tumblr and therapists from a LinkedIn group responded with insightful comments. Although I have over 10,000 twitter followers, I’m unsure why no one tweeted any 2 word advice. As the two word notes to people’s younger selves came in, I began to ask for additional information. How old were they now? When did they realize that these 2 words of advice were important to them? Why did they choose these two words? When people replied the stories behind the notes were fascinating.

To make sense of the results, I began to put the responses into 6 categories. The categories have  a great deal of overlap. At times I was simply guessing as to where the responses belonged since not all people shared their back stories. I did my best to group them together and tried to make sense of what they could teach about gaining insight and wisdom. Using these groupings, I’d like to start to describe what these words of advice mean and how they might help people at any point in their lives.

First let me say that I think the task reflects how people grapple with growing up. It also reflects what I have called the challenge of learning to become one’s own “dream parent.” We have two parents. Most do the best they can to help their children become productive members of society and live good lives, but parents are not perfect. Very few of us are lucky enough to have what I call “dream parents” in my book. However, in addition to our parents, we may have encountered some parenting figures along the way who have helped us cope with life challenges. A “dream parent” can be the combination of our parents, an aunts or uncles, neighbors, coaches or teachers who helped us along the way. These two word messages are signs of what we have learned about self parenting ourselves as adults.

Some people who responded to the questions felt that developing wisdom takes a long time. They see age and experience as necessary to acquire what it takes to offer good advice to their younger selves. I preferred to keep an open mind without preconceived notions of what allows one to gain wisdom. I wanted to find out how and at what age they learned the advice. I also wanted to see whether people developed insights to share with their younger selves or not. The findings may surprise you. Read on to hear more about what your responses have taught me and some additional questions they have raised for me...



Wisdom, according to the findings of this simple survey, comes at various ages in reaction to a variety of life situations. Some of the insights were discovered as early as age two, in grade school or adolescence. Many seem to have resulted during people’s early 20s to 30s. Some people gave more than 2 words of advice and seemed to want to impart as much as they could. A good portion of the responses came from professional therapists who have spent years analyzing their lives and helping others learn from their experiences. I will be sharing the results in several posts. If you responded to the initial question and did not share the back-story or feel that my interpretation does not fit with your experience, I hope you will comment and let me know why it doesn’t fit. I plan to look at the therapists’ responses, which were extremely interesting separately in one of the posts.

Before I go into each of the types of responses in depth in separate posts, here are the groupings that the responses seem to fall into: Defeatists, Survivors, Mind Gamers, Education As the Answer, Social Learners and Action Takers. Most of the groups seem to have in common that they learned from mistakes. However, members of the ”Survivors” group seem to have learned from more serious painful life experiences than mistakes. The other groups may have lost focus, gone off track or just decided that they had found a way to make their lives better without having made major mistakes. Some people gave more than one response and may fall into more than one group.

Today, I’d like to start  with the smallest group, the “Defeatists.” It is interesting to note that there were only three people from 72 responders who fell into this category. They seemed to have little to offer their younger selves. They would tell themselves to "stay young," "stay there" or would "never attempt" to give their younger selves any advice. None of them responded to my additional queries to find out what led to their answers. They may have been simply brave and honest enough to admit that they did not feel equipped to give themselves wise advice. What do you think might lead to having so little confidence in their experiences or choose to advise themselves not to grow up? Did they learn nothing of value to share with themselves? Do they regret their life choices so much that they feel unqualified to give advice? 

Perhaps they were being sarcastic, but even if they were, their responses saddened me. We all feel defeated at times, but it is sad to feel that our experiences could not help us correct our mistakes. If you have ever felt like the “Defeatists” when you think about your younger self, I’d appreciate it if you would share why? (If you want it to be kept anonymous, send me an e-mail (DrBarbaraLavi@aol.com).) Perhaps your experiences will help someone else understand the way they feel about their journey through life. Some of you may have felt defeated but found an alternative solution to staying stuck. If you have, please share it and help this experiment continue. This "Defeatists" comments led to today’s question in the GIF which opened the post: What is the one thing you regret doing or not doing the most in your life?

If these groupings help you come up with additional words of advice to your younger self, please share them, as well. This is a work in progress and all thoughts and comments are welcome.

Tomorrow, I will share some thoughts on those who are “Survivors."
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