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Your 20s are a time of self-discovery, excitement, and breaking free to live the life you have always wanted. Caught up in their newfound freedom, many fail to consider the long-term ramifications of choices that they make during this time, only to pay the price. There are a number of common regrets that many of us share as we look back.

I’m not saying that you can’t overcome these mistakes or find happiness in spite of them. In fact, I’m quite happy to report that I made my fair share of errors and yet I am piecing together a life in my 30s now that I am quite proud of! However, wouldn’t you love the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and that of many others who came before you rather than struggling through them first hand? Who wouldn’t want to avoid the pain, frustration or difficulties that these mistakes may bring?

Here are 28 harsh realities that all 20-somethings need to hear to avoid regret. You’re welcome…

#1 – Cultivate Happiness

Happiness isn’t something that is magically bestowed upon the lucky few. You don’t have to be rich or live some perfect charmed life. Instead, happiness is something that anyone can create in their life with a little focus and dedication. You have to actively choose to be happy, finding the positivity and life in every situation that you encounter. Don’t wait for it to be given to you by someone else, the key to happiness lies in your own hands.

#2 – Be Honest About Your Self-Reflection

Look at who you are today if nothing else were to change. Would you be comfortable spending the rest of your life as the person that you are in this moment? This will give you the direction that you need for focused self-growth, allowing you to work towards being the best version of yourself. Take the time to engage in honest self-reflection, and it will propel you forward in all that you do.

#3 – Write A Mission Statement

The use of mission statements in business is a tool that is considered to be incredibly important, even necessary, assisting large organizations and corporations in creating a positive, focused direction for their company’s efforts. Apply this same concept to your own life. Take the time to sit down and write out where you want to go and what values you hold as important in your life. Before making decisions, take time to consider this mission statement and whether your thoughts and actions stay true to the values you highlighted. If not, it’s time to reconsider.

#4 – Avoid Gossip

It’s the topic of most conversations in today’s day an age, but spending your time talking about other people creates a toxic environment that is not only harmful to those you are gossiping about, but also to yourself. Find topics that you enjoy discussing that don’t revolve around others.

#5 – Determine Your Priorities

Here’s a hard truth that none of us want to admit, but you don’t have enough time in a day to do everything you want. Life is a giant balancing act, forcing us to give up one thing for another. The only way to do this without regrets is to sit down and consider your priorities, dedicating your time to those things that matter most.

#6 – Don’t Burn Bridges

You are going to meet A LOT of people in this life. Some you will click with quickly, developing a connection that will continue to grow and flourish over the years. Not everyone, however, is meant to stay in your life forever. You will have to walk away from friendships, end romantic relationships, leave jobs and make difficult choices in this life. When the time comes, do your best to leave in a respectful way with grace and maturity. You never know when one of these people may resurface in your life.

#7 – Stop Worrying About Things That Don’t Really Matter

When you are on your death bed, looking back at your life, you likely aren’t thinking about how you wish you had lost 20 lbs or bought a more expensive car. When all is said and done the things that matter most are the relationships you built, the people you touched and the mark you have left on this world. Don’t waste time worrying about everything else.

#8 – Ask Questions

It’s tempting to go through life as the source of all knowledge, entering every conversation with a solution and eagerly showing off what you know and who you are to those around you. The problem with this mentality is that everyone wants to be seen and acknowledged, not just you. If you want to build meaningful connections with others, from romantic relationships to great working relationships, learn to ask questions. This shows interest in them and gives them the opportunity to share.

#9 – Acknowledge the Discomfort in Your Life

It has been said that no one will truly make an effort to change their lives until the time when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain involved with change. You can, however, make this whole process a little easier on yourself. Pay attention to the times that you are uncomfortable in your life and identify what is making you feel this way. Discomfort in life is created by bad habits, challenging situations or unmet needs. By identifying these areas in your life, you can take the steps to change and correct them long before the process becomes painful, helping you to grow and change, moving into the next chapter of your life.

#10 – Commit Fully to the Things That Are Working

If you have a strong goal in mind, and you notice that your current path is working positively to move you towards that goal, don’t hold back. Give yourself 110% to these efforts, prioritizing your future. You are worth the effort! You hold the keys to your own success, but it won’t come without dedicating time and energy into making it happen. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

#11 – Value Truth

The ‘truth’ is kind of a funny matter. On one hand, we are all quick to say that we want to hear the truth, claiming to value honesty or even to be completely honest ourselves. On the other, however, we live in a society that teaches us that little white lies are okay, after all, they don’t really ‘hurt’ anyone – right? Learn to value the truth in your life, even when it’s uncomfortable. If you tell a lie it will come back to haunt you someday down the road. The truth always comes out.

#12 – Be Empathetic Above All Else

We are taught right from childhood about the importance of knowledge, developing our own opinions and working towards success, but are those really the secrets to happiness? There is no denying that facts and opinions matter, but life is built on people and relationships, and empathy will take you far regardless of your dreams in this life.

#13 – Stop Trying to Prove Yourself

Let’s be honest, millennials are constantly bombarded with harsh criticism and judgment in the mainstream media, painted as a lazy generation that believes they should be given everything on a silver platter without actually working to earn the nicer things in this life. Don’t fall into this trap. In fact, many people become so focused on proving themselves they actually end up falling completely short and coming across as incompetent and lacking confidence in themselves. Instead, open your mind to learning and new experiences and remember that the only person you have to prove anything to is yourself.

#14 – Be Patient with Yourself

So, you had a vision of where you were going to be by 30 and it looks like you may not be reaching it. If you’re not married with 2.5 kids, owning your own home with a 2-car garage and a white picket fence this doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. We are all traveling our own journeys on our own timeline. Be patient with yourself and the direction that you are heading, understanding that you are doing your best and you will see the rewards for your hard work in due time.

#15 – Break Free from Social Media

I’m not saying that you need to delete all of your social media accounts and never look back. However, in a world where we are becoming increasingly addicted to our electronic devices, allowing them to come between us and truly ‘living,’ Rather than spending all your time documenting your life online, put down your phone and learn to appreciate the moment.

#16 – Recognize the ‘Fake’ Side of Social Media

Adding to the previous point, acknowledge that the world of social media is anything but the truth. In fact, much of what you see on social media is nothing more than an illusion of a perfect life. People share their best moments, celebrations, and times of happiness. What they don’t share is the struggle it takes to achieve it, the challenges that they face or the times that they fail. This may create the impression that you are somehow falling short of those around you, but it’s an unfair comparison. After all, you can’t help but focus on your own failures and shortcomings. Don’t victim to the fake side of social media.

#17 – Dedicate Time to Reading

Unfortunately, far too many of us leave school and the habit of reading disappears with it. Whether you are curling up with your favorite thriller or romance novel or spending some time working through a highly recommended self-help book, reading benefits our lives in so many ways. Be sure to include some time each week in your busy schedule to enjoy a good book.

#18 – Home Is Where You Make It

This point carries two very important lessons that will have an impact on your life moving forward. First, ‘home’ isn’t a physical place. As you grow up the time will come to leave your childhood home and venture out in the world. You may go off to school for a few years before moving again, move for work or follow someone you love. A house is a physical building, but home is the love and connection that occurs within those 4 walls. The second point, however, is that a home is only built when you put the energy into doing so. Make an effort to build a home on a foundation of happiness, love, and trust.

#19 – Always Be Kind

This sounds like something you would teach a kindergarten student, but as we get older these valuable lessons are often forgotten. Let’s go back to the basics for a moment and discuss the ‘Golden Rule’. Always treat those that you encounter in this life in the way that you would like to be treated, focusing on being kind to everyone that you meet. A smile and a kind word can go a long way.

#20 – Pay Attention When Things Aren’t Working

This can be an incredibly hard one, as it requires you to really step back and seriously reflect on what you are currently doing in your life. If you are giving your time and energy to something and notice that it’s not moving you in the direction that you need to be headed, be true to yourself and admit that it’s time for a change.

#21 – Avoid Blaming Others

It’s far easier to blame everyone else for all that is happening in this world than it is to actually acknowledge the ways that we, personally, could have prevented a situation. Rather than placing blame when you are facing a trial, take a moment and look inward. Could you have done something to avoid the situation? Is there something you can do today to remedy it? You are the only person that has true control over your life, don’t give that control to anyone else.

#22 – Don’t Hold onto Your Love

Far too often we avoid sharing how we feel out of fear of rejection or being hurt but holding back our love is only robbing yourself of the chance to make connections, find true love and create true happiness in this life. You don’t want to spend your final moments wondering if those that you loved most knew how you felt. Share these feelings today.

#23 – Pay Attention to Who You Surround Yourself With

You’ve likely heard it before, but there is some truth to the notion that you are a reflection of the people you spend the most time with. Don’t allow just anyone into your inner circle, or you will likely also be welcoming negative and toxic energy as well. Your relationships have the power to expand your mind and motivate you to grow into an even better version of yourself, or to hold you back from this type of development, preventing you from succeeding in life. Choose to spend time with people who are worthy of your attention, people who, when you’re working together, lift one another up.

#24 – When You Find Your Life Partner, Don’t Let Them Go

This may or may not happen in your 20s, but if you meet someone and truly believe that they may be the person you would like to spend your life with, take these feelings seriously. Give them your heart, prioritize them in your life, and dedicate your time and energy into showing them just how much you care. If they are walking away, it’s already too late.

#25 – Stop Overreacting

There are going to be major, life-altering moments in your life, but there is no need to turn every little challenge or struggle into a life or death situation. Living a life constantly bombarded by drama is enough to send most people running in the opposite direction. Don’t allow yourself to welcome this kind of negativity. Instead, acknowledge your own personal strength and ability to overcome.

#26 – Don’t Overvalue Accomplishments

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate your accomplishments in life, after all, you’ve earned them! Try to keep it all in perspective. The things that you have accomplished can help you to earn great things, but they aren’t the most important thing in your life. You will celebrate for a moment, and then it will be put aside as you return to your daily life. Your habits will continue long after this time, deciding whether you will continue to succeed moving forward. Rather than focusing on your accomplishments as the be all and end all, invest your time and energy into developing positive daily habits.

#27 – Seek Purpose Over Pleasure

There are two different reasons why something feels ‘right’ in our lives. Pleasure provides us with an immediate reward, making us happy at the moment, however, it doesn’t actually change anything and will eventually fade away. It’s like the crush you had on the person at the coffee shop only to discover after a couple conversations that this person you’ve been lusting over isn’t everything you had allowed yourself to believe that they were. Meanwhile, purpose is focused on a long-term goal. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but it will help you to find passion and joy in this life.

#28 – Live Within Your Means

Such an important point that should be taught at a young age, and yet many of us made the same mistake in our 20s. With the availability of loans, credit cards and other forms of debt it can be tempting to artificially inflate our financial standings to look like we are more successful than we are but saddling yourself with this additional debt will only bring you stress and struggle down the road. Humble yourself to live within your means now, and you will be more successful long term.