These last few weeks have included a large number of pictures in my Facebook feed of the children and grandchildren of friends of mine who are graduating from high school or college. It reminds me of my own graduation from college many years ago.
I feel like I’m in fairly good shape compared to some of my friends who I graduated with. But there’s other people who made better decisions that I did and they’re in much better shape today than I am. With this in mind, I would like to offer some advice to young graduates that I wish someone had told me back then.
First, mistakes are an inevitable part of life, and they’ll affect your life in negative ways sometimes for years after you make them. But they can be minimized, both in number and severity, by using wisdom. The best source of wisdom is the Bible, and a really easy and accessible source of Biblical wisdom is the Book of Proverbs. It has 31 chapters which makes it very easy to read one chapter a day every month. You can start today, reading the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month, and read it through to the end and then start again in chapter 1 on the first day of next month.
Repeat this cycle of reading through Proverbs every month for the rest of your life and I promise you the wisdom you will glean from it will keep you from making MANY mistakes. It’s never too late to begin this habit, but it’s better to start early in life.
Second, sit down with a piece of paper and pen (sorry for being old-fashioned but this really is the best method and you’ll see why in a second) and write down five goals you’d like to accomplish by the time you’re 30 years old. Then another five you’d like to accomplish by the time you’re 35.
If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your parents, pastor, and other mentor types you have in order to get some ideas.
A really good goal to put at the top of your list is to pay off your debts. It CAN NOT be overstated how damaging it is to a person’s life to have a large amount of debt that they never manage to pay off. The less debt you have the more and the better of everything life has to offer will be available to you, and the opposite is also true.
Third, take care of your health.
If you’re in your early 20s, as most college graduates are, you probably have a difficult time believing that the day will come when you won’t be able to remember what it was like to wake up in the morning after having slept the entire night through without waking up even once because of some ache or pain in your body. Or what it was like to climb a flight of stairs without setting your heart pounding in your chest and being short of breath, or effortlessly carrying a large amount of groceries into the house or a suitcase onto a plane.
But unless you start to take care of your health NOW, that day will come, and it’ll come sooner than you can possible imagine. Because unless it is maintained, the human body is a machine that starts to break down LONG before it dies. These little breakdowns can grow into debilitating chronic problems that have a hugely negative effect on a person’s life. Even if they don’t, the ordinary creakiness that most people begin to experience in their late 30s (yes, you read that right) are bad enough.
The good news is that by eating right and exercising regularly a person can push back the onset and severity of the breaking down process by many years, even decades.
This can be a source of at least one other goal on your list. If you’re overweight, put the weight you’d like to be on your list of goals. If you smoke cigarettes, put quitting on your list of goals, etc.
Whatever you put on your list of goals, put that list somewhere where you’ll see it and read through it EVERY MORNING as you’re starting your day (maybe use it as a bookmark to keep your place as you read through the Book of Proverbs every month.) This will allow you to keep your goals in mind as you’re going through your day and RUTHLESSLY eliminate from your routine everything that doesn’t bring you closer to those goals.
As an example, if you’re filling up your car with gasoline and you go inside to pay, you might be tempted to grab a bag of chips and a soda pop while you’re at it. After all, it’s only an extra couple of dollars and you’re already spending $20 on gasoline, so what’s a little extra?
But this is the kind of impulsive decision that people can make hundreds of times every year and which, taken one by one, don’t seem like such a big deal. But when you add them all up, they cause enormous problems. Song of Solomon 2:15 described them as the “little foxes that are ruining the vineyards”.
Your list of goals can help you avoid the little foxes by reminding you that you are trying to “pay off my credit cards” and/or “get to my ideal weight” and so you don’t need or want to get that bag of chips and soda pop because it will push you further away from your goals rather than bring you closer to them, and accomplishing your long-term goals is more important to you than the momentary gratification those things will give you.
The first few times you say no to one of these “little foxes” it’ll be difficult, but it will quickly get easier and become a way of life. Soon you’ll be saying no to bigger foxes, eliminating really big things from your life that cause you to spend time, effort and money you don’t have on things you don’t need that’ll cause problems you don’t want. It’s a process, and most people have to start small and work their way up. But it’s definitely worth making the effort.
So congratulations young graduates! I hope this advice was a blessing to you.