Advice to a Familiar Stranger

woman-walking-down-road-billowing-red-shawlYou’re driving down the road when you see a familiar figure walking on the side of the road. You slow down and offer a ride. The stranger accepts, opens the door, sits down, turns to thank you . . . and you discover that this familiar stranger is the person you used to be twenty-five years ago!

You now have an hour of one-on-one conversation with your former self. What advice would you give this earlier version of yourself? What changes do you wish you would have made twenty-five years ago that would have enriched your life and made who you are today even better?

If it were me, given my lack of wisdom and maturity at twenty-seven, I’d be careful not to exceed my younger self’s capacity for understanding and absorbing my wise counsel. That said, I would advise my younger self to:

• Speak up and be more assertive in your personal and professional relationships without worrying so much about what others will think of you.

• Hold back from “rescuing” loved ones from self-inflicted difficulties because you’re actually thwarting the maturation process and preventing them from learning vital life lessons.

• Be frugal and stick to a sensible financial plan.

• Begin to watch your thoughts as if they were someone else’s so you can awaken to a greater awareness and learn how to be more present and live more consciously.

• Ease up on the self-absorption and lose your unwarranted sense of entitlement.

• Trust that whatever is happening is happening for a reason and challenge yourself to find the gift in whatever is in front of you.

How about you? Other than stock tips and Super Bowl scores, what would you tell the person you used to be? Perhaps someone else may read your words of wisdom and take them to heart.


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8 Responses to “Advice to a Familiar Stranger”

  1. Kate Says:

    I would probably include your pieces of advice to my younger self. But most importantly, I would tell myself, “Do it! Do everything that you want to do at every stage of your life. Don’t think everything to death. Live life as if you’re about to lose it!”

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:


  3. Sibyl Says:

    I think I would go with one of the same recommendations you made. To live in the present and to be consciously aware of every moment. Otherwise great experiences and events can just pass you by. Being aware of your thoughts and having greater awareness just gives you a different experience and that impacts your outlook on life.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I agree, Sibyl. Being able to be a conscious witness to your own life is the start of living consciously.

  5. Kath Says:

    25 years ago I was 22 years old, a new graduate and excited by the new world of medical IT in primary care (UK GPs) that was starting its life at the same time.
    I would advise myself that working myself into the grave could do just that, that becoming an expert in my field so young was the right way to go, that massive admiration for a man does not make him the right partner and to become more aware of what I needed from a relationship and what I was compromising. To cherish every healthy day and to eat well and drink little.
    By 20 years ago I had jointly created a multimillion pound company, had 2500 doctors using my computer system, was married and had just been told I have MS. I would tell myself to be careful who I told of this and to be aware that certain people could see me as a threat due to my position and my ability and I shouldn’t let them find a way to start to plot.
    Working life became very hard but I still loved it. Sadly I was seeing the cracks in my relationship but still admired him enormously. I would tell myself to get out of the relationship with integrity. That he didn’t deserve to be kept on board only to be abandoned later. By 14 years ago I was forced into medical retirement. I would have told myself to have children younger but that’s difficult looking at how important my career was to me.
    By 13 years ago I was still with the same man and our first child was born. It seemed too late to get out and our second child was born less than 2 years later. To my unending regret I launched into an affair to find the things that weren’t in my relationship. Again I would advise myself to find some way to get out with integrity. To give him some integrity too.
    As to ending the relationship I think I did the right thing to do it when the kids were only 1 and 3 so that they didn’t feel the impact so much but I would certainly advise myself NOT to get into a relationship with another inappropriate person. Again clutching on one aspect of a person and choosing to overlook the rest was not a recipe for success.

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for sharing that, Kath. I suspect that our younger selves would dismiss much of the wisdom passed on by our elders, thinking that we were different, we were special and that we had all the bases covered. But that’s how we learn—making mistakes for ourselves instead of learning from others’ mistakes. Ah, the ignorance and passion of youth!

  7. Kath Says:

    of course when I was young I was convinced I knew everything there was to know! How arogant and how sad with the benefit of hindsight.

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Wish I could say I can’t relate, Kath.

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