It takes a lifetime of hard-earned lessons to get to where we are today.
But sometimes we wonder, if only we could tell our younger selves what we know now, could we perhaps save ourselves from some emotional or physical distress or better prepare ourselves for the future?
While time travel has yet to become a reality, sharing what we wish we could tell our younger selves can serve to inform others of important life lessons we’ve learned.
Here are some stories Quora users shared, as well as the lessons they can impart on future generations.
Answers have been edited for clarity.
'You may not really know who that is, but people will come and try to influence you a great deal in the next ten years and you'll suffer for it. Don't be what they want you to be. Be who you want to be.
'This is your greatest weakness: the desire to be something to please everyone else, instead of being something to please yourself. You don't know it, but you're very good at being a social chameleon. You'll be able to make people think you fit in anywhere, with any group, pretty much any time. And for all that it sounds cool, it's not. It will leave you adrift, feeling like you're never really a part of anything. Stop it. Be whoever you want to be, and people will love and respect you for it. They won't respect you for being fake.' -- Alex Cherry
'I would grab my younger self by the neck, I'd look at his eyes straight, and I'd say, 'Listen to me carefully:
''Forget the fear of looking fool or ridiculous when attempting something. Just do it! If it turns out well, you won. If not, nobody cares! Just go on.
''Some opportunities come only once in your life. Don't let them pass.
''Failure is just one step closer to success. Just learn from it and do it better next time.
''Most intelligent people lose because they don't dare to try. Most fools win just because they don't think too much about it. Don't think too much, just do it!
''It's better to try and fail, than spending the rest of your life wondering what if...
''Take a few minutes to define, clearly, what's important for you and what's not (money? career? properties? status?). Once you have it clear, work towards these goals. If you are smart, you'll realise much of these things are just fog.
''The future never comes. Seize the day. Enjoy every minute.
''Nobody knows the truth. Just follow your heart.'
'And finally, I'd say: 'Realise that you're freaking good looking, and it won't last for long. Go talk to that chick!'' -- Luis M. Gonzalez
'It's ok to talk about your thoughts and feelings. It's scary and it's difficult, I know. You're afraid you will seem like a freak. But you can do it, and it opens up a whole new world. Most of the time, most of what you say people can relate to, or they can imagine relating to, if it comes from the heart. You don't want anyone to know how much you think about everything, because for some reason, other people don't think about stuff as much, and you assume there must be a reason for this. But there isn't.' -- John David Ward
'Take care of yourself physically. I know you disdain physical activity, but when you get to your late 20s and start to get a beer belly like Dad, you'll understand why.' -- Alex Cherry
'Grandpa is going to start getting sick. Cherish every second you have with him, ok? He's worth it. Listen to his stories -- he lived a long, fascinating life and has a lot of wisdom. He wants to share all of the wisdom with you, so listen. Otherwise, you'll wish later that you could remember more of it. You'll spend time wishing that you could better carry on his legacy -- if only you could remember it.' -- Kristen Prelewicz
'Work hard. I know you've never had to, that you've relied on your intelligence to glide by, but that's not the answer. Mum and Dad told you that you're special because you're smart, but that's not true. There's tons of smart people out there, and most of them aren't successful.
'If you want to make something of yourself, you're going to have to learn to apply yourself. You already do it in choir and playing with your computer; learn to translate it into tasks you don't enjoy. Homework may be pointless for you right now, but it won't be later, and you need to learn how to manage it. Studying may not help you any at the moment, but your complete lack of study habits will cost you college, and with it, the career you always wanted.' -- Alex Cherry
'The questions you keep asking are not enough -- you need to ask more. It doesn't matter that it is a source of constant annoyance for your parents and they act flustered -- secretly they are glad that you are curious about the world and want to know more about it. Don't relent when you feel your questions haven't been answered satisfactorily. Don't be afraid that the grown-ups will admonish you for asking too many questions.
'It's completely fine that your Science teacher asked you to get out because you were disturbing her class by asking too many questions. Do not be afraid of anything. It is fine to ask questions. In fact, when you grow up, you'll find that there are websites dedicated for people like us. The whole world will be open to answer all your questions. So keep asking those questions no matter how silly they seem.' -- Archish Srinivasan
'Your life will be up, down, and crossways -- and that's exactly right. You always said you didn't want to be bored, and you won't be. Some of your dreams will come true, but more often, the unexpected will give you your greatest joys and satisfactions. So hang on, and have fun!' -- Michelle Gaugy
'I know that deceit has served you well, and that your ability to manipulate others has been handy in the short term, but in the long run it's going to really hurt you. You're going to go through a lot of pain when some people figure out what you've been doing to them (and they will figure it out). Save yourself the trouble, because the truth always comes out in the end, and the longer and deeper you spin that web, the harder it will be for you.' -- Alex Cherry
'Dad is going to leave. You already suspect it, you're already afraid of it, and it's going to happen. You're going to be ok. You're going to brace yourself, tough it out, and prove to yourself that you're stronger than your circumstances. Let him go. Let him walk away without looking back. Forgive him -- not for his sake, but for yours.' -- Kristen Prelewicz
'Treasure childhood, because things will never be quite the same way again afterwards. Playing with toys and games and playing make-believe in parks are and will continue to be some of the most wonderful times you've had. Don't take your family for granted -- your two younger (human) brothers, parents, grandparents, and later on, your beautiful dog.
'Keep drawing and making up stories. You'll wish you'd done more of this later, when you'd have been really good at it by then.
'You will get a thought that you should start being paranoid about germs after seeing some graphic images in health class, they were trying to scare us away from sex and drugs. This time it's ok to follow the crowd -- be like the other kids and let it go in one eye and out the other. Don't let it fester, turning into a crippling paranoia that will strain your family relationships and ruin your teenage years. Just forget about this stuff and go back to playing. Same goes for annoying, intrusive superstitious thoughts. Ignore them. Forget this crap and don't look back. Don't choose fear -- choose happiness. Play to your heart's content and enjoy every minute of it.' -- Dan Popp
'Ignore everybody who says that if something's worth doing, it's worth doing well. The important thing is that you do it at all. Sometimes you just have to get things done.' -- John David Ward
'Stick with what you love. Keep singing. Drop guitar. Read. Write. Don't take up hobbies to make yourself cool -- what you're doing will make you cool. It will give you the approval you seek from the people whose approval actually matters. I know that's hard to understand right now, but it's true. The things that are 'nerdy' and 'dorky' are what will make you an interesting person later in life. The people doing stuff that's 'cool' are going to be pretty boring as grown-ups.' -- Alex Cherry
'When I was younger, I looked up to my elders and assumed everything they 'warned' me about life or any tips they gave me were like gospel.
'Why? Because I subconsciously made the assumption that someone who has lived for a long time must be knowledgeable about life.
'Here's the thing about that, though: The average life expectancy is above 70 years of age. That means the average person is likely to live to be old.
'Now every one of those people has a life story, and with their life story comes lessons that they have learned through natural hardships and choices.
'But it is literally impossible to follow all of their collective advice since different people have different 'answers' to life.
'A drug addict who lives to be 75 might tell you that the key to a good, long life is doing drugs. While a person who hasn't touched a drug in their life, but who is wealthy might say the key to a good long life is to never touch drugs.
'They both might have lived very fulfilling lives in their own perspectives, but that doesn't make their life advice any better than anyone else's.' -- Joel Trottier
'Stop hating your sister. She's going to be your best friend when you get older. After friends, and boyfriend betray you, when your parents start to age and you take on taking care for them more then they take care of you and when you go out in the world and realise that no one shares your values, your history or understands what its like to deal with your mother like she does. Because when it really comes down to who you can move in with, rent free, unemployed, in the worst economy ever, indefinitely, with two cats, well the list gets pretty short. I know, when hell freezes over right? Nope, not that far away.' -- Laura Parker
'It all boils down to time. That's the name of the game. You have limited time, and figuring out how best to use it is the most important question to answer (which involves learning not to spend too much time figuring out how to allocate your time).
'Think about who you're spending your time with. Are they really worth your time?
'Think about what you're spending your time on. Is it really worth your time?
'The sooner you understand that time is the end-all-be-all, the better you will fare.' —Michael Sinanian
'I know you carry around a lot of shame and guilt from witnessing the physical abuse your mother received from your father. You feel as though it was your responsibility to stop your father, but you were too scared at the time. James, you were a six year old child. There is nothing you could have done.
'Holding on to the feeling that somehow you were a coward for not taking action has impacted your life in so many ways.You even feel as though some of the whoopings you received from your mother were because of your lack of action. When it came to anyone that you loved or cared about needing your assistance, you acted negatively and overreacted.
'That was still the six year old within you trying to show that he wasn't a coward. It really isn't about you proving how much you love someone else, it is about loving you.
'I'm sorry that was the last memory you have of your father. I know about the struggle you have within yourself. You still love your father but a piece of you hates yourself for having these feelings. I want you to know it is ok to love him and hate his actions. He is your father and each day you wake up, you will see traces of him in the mirror. I don't want you to take out the pain and hurt you felt on yourself.
'I know you are a thinker and aren't big on speaking, especially to new people. I pray that you will start sharing with people how you feel or just start writing your thoughts on paper. Also, it is ok to smile every now and then. So much of you tells the world to stay away from you when I know you want the opposite. You are just scared of the pain of losing someone you love again.
'I recently had a chance to meet the real you underneath all of the pain; the sensitive, loyal, caring, compassionate man that you chose to bury at six years old. I must say that everyone loves you and realises they need you just as much as you need them.
'I must admit that writing this to you has healed a piece of me. I hope you never feel alone again because I'm always with you.
'The Real You' -- James Houston
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