Justin Chenette Courtesy Photo/Eduard Chenette

As I enter a new decade this month (turning 30!), it got me reflecting back on some of the important life lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Be true to yourself. Easier said than done right? For many of us, finding out who we are is a tall order. It takes a lot of trial and error to know exactly what drives you, what your beliefs are, and what kind of person you want to be. It’s easy to look outward to other people and compare yourself to them. Imposter syndrome is what the professionals call it, I call it unfair judgement on your self-worth. You can’t compare someone else’s journey with your own. Someone else’s success isn’t a reflection of your inadequacy. Your path is yours alone. Own it. Embrace it. Celebrate it.

Use your heart as your compass. In other words, do what makes you happy. Life is too short for negative energy, unnecessary drama, and for spending your time with people who don’t care about you. The same goes for selecting a major, a career path, etc. You want to do something with meaning and a sense of purpose. You might not start out doing what you love, but always aim towards what fills you up excitement. Spend time listening to yourself. Follow your inner voice and trust your instincts. When you tune out the noise around you, you’d be surprised how much you have the answers.

Value the people you care about. At the end of the day what you are left with is relationships. Relationships with a spouse, family, friends, co-workers, etc. Life gets busy and crazy. With everything going on it’s easy to set yourself into autopilot and take for granted the people around you. These relationships are more important to your overall wellbeing and health than you may realize. Prioritize them. What’s not important? The individuals on your Facebook or Twitter feeds who you can’t even remember the names for. Their judgement, their comments, their impression of your life isn’t worth your time and energy. Instead of arguing with someone online, give your friend from college a call or video chat with a relative across the country. It will lift your spirits.

Work isn’t your identity. We live in a society with a work until you drop culture. We value when we are too busy for life things in order to prioritize our jobs. We are attached to work even when we are home, with email at the convenience of our fingertips and our phones. The pandemic has highlighted a need to refocus on a work life balance and taking time out for ourselves. When your identity is wrapped up entirely in a job title, you are left with nothing when you no longer have that title. While not the case with every employer, you have to remember you are replaceable. The moment you leave or are let go, life goes on. They’ll find someone else. You are so much more than a particular job or career. Don’t give yourself
entirely to the job without leaving room to live.

Lift others up behind you. For me, success is driven by who you are grooming to take your place one day. The more you mentor, empower, and assist the next ‘you’, whether it be in a job, nonprofit group, or elected position, the more you are leaving the world better than you found it. We should constantly be thinking about lifting up the next generation. As I always told student groups when I was in the legislature, I want you to replace me.

Create opportunities to serve. No matter what you do in life, there is always a way to connect it to a higher calling and be in the service of others. It doesn’t have to be grandiose or largescale. It could be as simple as opening the door for someone at the Post Office, but it could also be joining a mission that is near and dear to your heart, like a local committee or group. As my Rotary club says frequently, service above self.

Hopefully these lessons will be useful to you no matter the stage of life you are currently at. We
truly never stop learning, growing, and becoming our truest self.

Justin Chenette is the former state senator for the Saco-OOB area. He is currently a scholarship program director, mayoral appointee on the Saco Long-Range Planning Committee, member of the Saco Main Street Board of Directors, president of the Maine Democracy Project, and author of the children’s book ‘The Great Whoopie Pie Debate’. Learn more at www.justinchenette.com.

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