Advice To My Younger Self
The problem with giving advice to my younger self is saying something I would have listened to. My 20-year olds self thought I knew how everything should be and I didn’t want to hear about the realities of living. Looking back, these are the eight things I wish I had known earlier.
1. Growth is about going from one set of problems to a better set of problems.
There will always be some issue in your life that you want to resolve. No one ever reaches a point where their life is problem free. The only way to understand if your life is actually moving is if the problems that you’re dealing with now are different than the ones you were dealing with before.
Einstein is quoted for saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Until you solve the problem, then you’re the same person using the same thinking. If you currently have the same problems you did four years ago then you know you’re stuck and whatever you were doing, however you are living isn’t working. Do something else.
2. You are what you create.
Identity is much more fluid than we want to believe. We tie our identity to our values and our beliefs and think that those are stable cornerstones. Who you are in your head is imaginary. It’s only real to you. Unless you can bring into reality the person you have in your head, you’ll feel more disconnected with yourself each year. This requires #3.
3. Learn to compromise.
The most successful people (and I don’t mean financially) are the biggest compromisers in the world. They want to be effective and not right. Everyone wants things their way and if everyone refused to move forward unless they got their way then relationships would never work.
We use the excuse that we’re just being true to ourselves. At a certain point, being true to yourself is inherently selfish and you have to want to make selflessness a part of who you are. Learning to compromise also means knowing when you have to stand your ground.
4. Your significant other, soul mate, life partner is not there to make you happy or fulfilled.
No one is ever going to understand you because when you think about it, you barely understand yourself sometimes. Happiness is something you practice and not something that’s given or something you find. What a new person can do during the butterfly stage is to make you forget that you’re unhappy, but eventually you’ll remember again. It’s your job to practice happiness, the same way you practice yoga or authenticity. No one else can give you a skill.
5. You’re either going to be very happy in your 40’s or very unhappy.
The ones who believe that happiness is a learned skill, start practicing in their 20’s and start getting good in their 30’s and by their 40’s, they get really good. The ones who believe that happiness is out there in that significant other or that great job get disillusioned in their 30’s when they realize that getting everything they want isn’t as perfect as they imagined. They become largely unhappy in their 40’s as they continue to search for that next thing that will make them happy.
6. Significance comes from what makes you different. Connection comes from what makes you the same.
If you think you’re different than everyone else and that no one out there thinks like you and the world doesn’t understand, then that’s what’s going to keep you disconnected to everyone else. There’s no middle ground. There’s no special person who’s ever going to get you because you’ve based your entire sense of self-worth on being different.
Connection only happens when you realize that no matter what personality type, everyone is trying to make it through just like everyone else. The human condition is what everyone has in common. It’s only when you focus on what makes people alike instead of trying to be different, will you understand the skills it takes to connect to other people.
7. Keep a journal.
Because you’ll forget how good you had it. And how bad you had it. Journals let you appreciate your journey.
8. Perfection is about subtraction not addition.
The common advice is to let go of perfection. We tend to see perfection as addition. If we can do more, become more than we’ll be perfect. This project will be perfect if we keep messing with it. This view of perfection is unachievable.
Perfection happens not when nothing more can be added, but when nothing more can be taken away.
Trying to become more is never-ending and therefore something we use an excuse to stay where we are. It works far better if you try to get rid of everything in your life that isn’t you.
Trust me, what’s left will be perfect.
Jul 3, 2018
I am really impressed by your insight into the whole process of growing up as a person with the INFP personality type. I especially liked that you were getting straight to the point unlike most personal growth blogs. This article, when combined with the ‘5 stages of INFP’, creates a really good guide for young people. Thanks for all you’ve written and I hope I can share it with others soon
Jul 3, 2018
This is outstanding! And Im a happiness in progress 40 something. Thank you for your beautiful ideas.
Jul 3, 2018
Perfection being more about getting rid of everything in your life that isn’t you – really looking forward to drilling deeply on that one, thank you…
Jul 19, 2018
How do you learn the skill of happiness? Is this about mindfulness or something more?
Corin Nguyen Reply:
July 19th, 2018 at 2:01 am
There’s different ways. I chose the psychology path instead of the spiritual path.
I started with locus of control theory. Basically, unhappiness is inversely proportional to the amount of influence you feel in creating the life you want. If you feel you have no control in creating your life, you’ll be unhappy. So I started by reducing unhappiness.
Locus of control is the degree to which people feel they can influence outcomes in various areas of their lives. You can control your thoughts and your interpretation of stimuli. You can control your body and the actions it does. Those are the two I started with. Neuro-linguistics programming (NLP) helps with emotional state control but it’s not for everyone. And then I created goals around the stuff I had felt I had full control over – my body and my art.
I’m decently healthy and pretty active. I also write a lot. No one can stop me from doing those things. I have full control over the outcome. Also, happiness doesn’t actually come from reaching your goals, it comes from knowing that your making small daily incremental improvements towards them. This is where the inferior Extroverted Thinking mental function has to be developed. It helps you set and complete tasks towards goals.
In my 20’s I wrote a lot of poetry – full locus of control. The only person that could stop me from writing was me. I workshopped what I wrote, went to poetry readings to gauge reactions and to rewrite. Doing the things you say you’ll do gives you a lot of self-confidence. After that, I started focusing on things that I had less control over, like getting published. A lot of things in life require that you influence other people. Anything where other people get to decide your outcome means you have less influence — getting published, making friends, getting a date.
However, in those situations you focus on the things that you can influence, yourself and your actions and you have to learn to be less attached to the result. I couldn’t control if my writing got accepted but I could control how I submitted my work. I had a system where I always had three submissions out at any given time to various literary magazines. In those days it took 4-6 weeks to get a reply so you just couldn’t wait and do one submission at a time.
Paul Coelho, famous author, said, the reward for our work is not what we get but who we become. Those are important words that I focus on.
I don’t focus on results like blog traffic numbers. I focus on becoming a blogger that writes good content. I don’t focus on how much I can lift or how far I can bike. I focus on developing the mindset of someone who values health and fitness. I don’t focus on making new friends. I focus on being someone that someone else would like to get to know.
To me happiness is a practice like health, not a condition you achieve. One of those things that can be practice is focusing on the things you can you can influence and taking action in those areas.
Jeremy M Reply:
July 19th, 2018 at 2:25 am
Thank you for the reply. I often forget to enjoy the process of getting better at something and get too focused on the desired result.
Aug 28, 2018
Wow! There’s some great wisdom in this post. Perfect timing that I found your blog because a lot of what you talk about here I’ve been struggling with. Thanks for the insight, Corin!
Sep 15, 2018
I’m glad that you still write on this blog. Your posts are really insightful and special. They touches the core of being an INFP, not like other around the web about “empathy, dreamer…”. Please keep sharing your thoughts about how to live being infp, it helps us a lot.
Oct 19, 2018
Just wanted to say I’m so so so thankful for your writing and wisdom. I’m currently 19 in college and I’ve been seriously struggling with everything so far. There will be days I am fully functioning and healthy, and other days I crash and feel extremely negative, such as today. I love your advice on viewing happiness as a practice and working towards building habits/mindsets rather than focusing too much on the result. I know I’m just a growing and mostly immature infp so your blog helps so much!
Mar 31, 2019
Hi, loved your blog.
I have an ask.
You have mentioned that you have 2 daughters, one INFP. Could you describe how an INFP views raising other INFP? How difficult is to raise INFP, meet their needs when they are children/kids.
How is it to be an INFP parent.
thank you very much!
Corin Nguyen Reply:
March 31st, 2019 at 11:47 pm
I think parenting style for INFPs has more to do with personal values then it does with personality type. I’ve never wanted to indoctrinate my children into my personal views or tastes. She and I are very different when it comes to certain values and tastes. She’s a conservative. I’m a libertarian. I challenge her views in order to moderate them, and she’s smart enough to defend her positions.
Since INFPs are value driven, I’ve never told her that her values are wrong. When I disagree with her, I tell her that this is how I see the consequences of her actions will play out and that she’ll need to accept those consequences. I started that early with the easy stuff when she was 10 like not sleeping at a decent hour. I built a pretty good track record of being right that now at 16, she takes me seriously about friendships and other things that have long-term consequences.
The other important thing is that I let her change my mind. We argued a lot when she was 12-13. But if she presented a good argument I would change my mind as long as she accepted the consequences. I think that gave her sense of agency early in life. I’m a decent parent, not a great one. But she asks to spend time with me on a weekly basis so I must be doing something right.
Info newbie Reply:
October 20th, 2019 at 2:54 am
If your 16 year old wants to spend time with on a weekly basis, you must be a great parent😂
Jun 2, 2019
You are on of those amazing INFPs out there.
Keep writing (:
Aug 11, 2019
Stumbling on this on a lazy Sunday morning, at a stage of my life when I am only beginning to grapple with the realities of adulthood(I’m 23, and two months into my first job -that you would say is a wonderful case of perfect mismatch-it gives me a chance to connect, some sense of freedom and space, but also a lot of headaches-I’m due to see a neurologist soon.)More than everything, it has given me the awareness that network engineering does NOT come naturally to me, and I might have to scratch harder to find the illusive life mission.
Now not to turn this into career therapy, I know I got a long way to go, but your insights are spot on and so original to the extent of feeling relatable.
I hope I grow bold enough to share my own thoughts and insights like you do. One way or the other
Thank you, deeply, for sharing your art, and heart, with us!
Aug 5, 2021
I gotta thank myself for being alive to read this.
My rambling: I’m a very idealistic person and for a very long time I was worried why I’m not like one those ideal members of society and trying to fit in, but it was a hide mistake for me. Trying to impress others by being someone I’m not made me feel different when I no longer had to impress them and I had to keep up the same set of characteristics to feel normal for myself. I was afraid to express what I really felt since I was already being called recluse and psycho. I don’t really care for others opinion right now cuz theirs doesn’t matter when they’re not around. I thought I will feel good when I’m accepted by others, it just made me doubt myself who I really am.
Now after reading your post I’m having thoughts on every fixed ideologies I have. Thanks for this post.