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40 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self

From celebrities to scientists, doctors to artists, we asked some very successful people to share what they wish they had known when they were younger. You and your kids get all the great advice—no time machine needed!

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01_Don't leave vacation days unusedcourtesy Thomas Ryan Redcorn

Don't leave vacation days unused

"Ever since I decided to be a lawyer, I pursued that goal with total dedication. But looking back on it, I wish I had given myself a bit of a break. I would tell my younger self to not worry so much about climbing the professional ladder so fast. As long as you stay true to your core values and strive to do the best work possible with good intentions then your work will speak for itself and you will be successful. Make time for things outside of work—use every single one of your vacation days! Go on your honeymoon! Work will always be there when you get back." —Nikki Borchardt Campbell, JD, attorney and Executive Director of the National American Indian Court Judges Association, Paiute and Ute Indian Tribes

Teddi Mellencampcourtesy Teddi Mellencamp

It's not about weight, it's about health

"Growing up, I was a nationally ranked equestrian, so as an athlete who was constantly competing, I was focused on riding rather than what I was putting in my body. But that didn't mean I had healthy eating habits. And when I went out on my own that came back to haunt me. Moving to Los Angeles alone at 17 led to anxiety, and I let poor food habits comfort me. Yo-yoing between 60- to 80-pound gains, I tried every fad diet out there and while I did lose some weight, it wasn't in a healthy way. Finally, I decided I needed to get healthy, not skinny. I made a commitment to myself to stop worrying so much about the scale and learn what my body really needs to be healthy and happy. I learned everything I could about fitness and nutrition. Over time I not only lost the extra weight but I was healthier mentally and physically. I wish I could tell my younger self to stop worrying about how others viewed me and focus on what I wanted and needed to feel my best." —Teddi Mellencamp, co-star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and founder of All In, a health and wellness company. For more ideas, try these 53 brilliant health tricks you'll want to make into habits.

Lacey Adamscourtesy Lacey Adams

Quit tanning

“As a teenager, I desperately wanted a golden tan but as a pale blonde, that wasn’t going to happen naturally. So I did what lots of girls my age did: I would lay out in the sun for hours and used indoor tanning beds regularly—my friend even had one in her house that we both used at least once a week. We just wanted a ‘healthy glow,’ a phrase that makes me want to scream because now I’ve had melanoma not just once but twice. Now I know that tanning beds are one of the biggest risks for all skin cancers, including melanoma, but back then I didn’t have a clue. I just wanted to be ‘beautiful.’ Through the grace of God and excellent doctors, I’m fine now but I wish I could go back and warn my younger self to skip tanning—it’s not worth the risks!” —Lacey Adams, wife of U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and advocate for skin cancer awareness

Dawn Burnettcourtesy Dawn Burnett

Spend your money on experiences, not things

"One thing I've learned through my own experiences and through helping my clients is that memories are far more important than things. Growing up, like a lot of young adults, I wanted all the fun gadgets and nice clothes my friends had but then I had a life-changing experience when I was hit and nearly killed by a drunk driver. Nearly dying helped me realize the true meaning of life and the importance of time. I wish I could tell myself to spend money on experiences and live as a minimalist in regards to stuff. Things break and get lost, we sell them for pennies on the dollar, yet time is something we can never get back, and memories last a lifetime." —Dawn Burnett, CSA, therapist, divorce coach and author

Judi Sheppard Missettcourtesy Judi Sheppard Missett

Listen to your intuition

"From a young age, we are often taught to listen to others and prioritize their opinions over our own. But I've learned through decades of being a successful businesswoman that no one knows me better than me. I'd tell my younger self to listen to her own instincts and intuition, go with her gut. It's still important to use your head when making decisions but don't discount the feelings in your heart. Then I'd tell her that once she's decided on what's best for her, to pursue that dream with passion guts, grit, gumption, and, most importantly, grace." —Judi Sheppard Missett, Founder and CEO of Jazzercise

Cameron Hillcourtesy Cameron Hill

Procrastination is your biggest enemy

"When I was younger I believed that I did my best work under pressure—what a joke! In reality, I was using this thinking as an excuse to delay important, meaningful work in exchange for the dopamine hit that comes from checking less important things off my to-do list. If I could go back, I'd tell my younger self to schedule distraction-free, focused time on the most critical priorities and hold it sacred. This means no email, no phone, and definitely no multitasking. Block this time as early as possible in your day. Another trick I'd tell myself is to set deadlines far ahead of the actual due date—then enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes from getting the most important things done early and done well." —Cameron Hill, business coach and Client Partner for FranklinCovey. Here are more secrets to excel at your job.

Milana Perepyolkinacourtesy Milana Perepyolkina, Gypsy Energy Secrets

Make exercise a priority

"I would tell my younger self to start practicing yoga. I wasn't super into fitness growing up, it all seemed too intense. But as an adult, I've discovered the power of exercise, as much for my mental health as my physical health. I first started going to yoga classes at a local gym to get more flexible but I was surprised to discover that after each class not only was I more limber but I felt a sense of peace and tranquility. I have a stressful job, and going to a yoga class at the end of my day shifted my mood from intense to relaxed. Soon I began craving these yoga classes. I began looking forward to 'me time' when all the problems of the world ceased to exist. I just wish I'd discovered it sooner!" —Milana Perepyolkina, author of Dark Chocolate for the Soul: Turning a Bitter Life into a Sweet Life No Matter What Happens to You

Brydell Cockycourtesy Brydell Cocky

Map out a five-year plan

"I would tell my younger self to have a 5-year plan before graduating high school because I learned the hard way that if you don't have a plan to follow, you end up going nowhere. The first year after graduation, I basically did nothing. I didn't know what I wanted for a career, so I ended up working as a custodian for elementary schools. I discovered that this definitely wasn't what I wanted so I decided to go to college and made a five-year plan to help me accomplish that goal. All the universities I applied to turned me down so I went to community college instead. I'm doing great now but not being prepared meant I got slapped in the face with reality and ended up wasting a lot of time." —LaQuan "Brydell Cocky" Wilson, comedian, actor, and social media personality

BrettCourtesy Brett Helling

You have to fail before you can succeed

"I started out as an Uber driver. Today I own my own company, Ridester, a ridesharing information company. For people who only know me as I am today, it might seem like I had an easy career path. It was anything but. I had to go through a lot of difficult times and failed businesses before I found the one that took off. But I didn't succeed in spite of those failures, I succeeded because of them. I wish I could tell my younger self not to be afraid of failing and to embrace it. You have to experience failure and rejection because that's how you learn and improve. Failure is an inevitable part of life and your career." —Brett Helling, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Ridester

Farringtoncourtesy Robert Farrington

Start saving for your retirement as early as you can

"The biggest thing I wish I could go back and tell my younger self is to max out my 401k contribution starting when I was first eligible. Lots of people will tell you to contribute the amount your employer will match but no one told me I could—and should—contribute more than that. So, for years, I contributed just 5 percent of my salary. Of course, any amount put in a retirement account is great but I could have been saving much more money! It's hard to think about retirement when you're young and first starting your career but that's actually the best time to think about it because you can start saving more earlier." —Robert Farrington, financial expert and founder of The College Investor. In addition, check out these 9 common retirement mistakes people make.

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