25 at 25, Part 2

Yesterday I posted the first in a series of posts about things I’ve learned in my almost-25 years of life. I call this series “25 at 25”. They’re just little things I’ve learned or noticed over the years, some from observation and some from experience.

Without further ado, here are the next 5 things.

25 at 25 #6: What you listen to affects how you think and feel.

Kind of similar to #1 (“What you wear influences how you feel”), this concept really extends to anything you put into your mind. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

I used to be one of those people who said, “I don’t really care about the lyrics. I just like the music!”

But the whole time, I was really lying to myself. I did care about the lyrics.

I started noticing that some songs inspired me and made me feel great, while others made me feel… not so great. Or made me think about things I didn’t want or need to.

So, I started being more aware of what music I was listening to and what the songs were about. I made mental notes of songs that ran counter to my beliefs. I also made note of songs that didn’t lift me up or feel good in some way.

I’ve cut out those songs from my playlists, even if “people” say they’re “great songs”. And now I’m much more critical when I hear a song for the first time—I ask questions like, “What is this song about?” and “Is it promoting something bad or negative?” and “Does it leave me feeling good inside after I listen to it?”

This has helped me really enjoy music more and keep needless negative influences out of my life.

Side note: I intentionally kept this generic because it really doesn’t matter what genre(s) of music I listen(ed) to. I apply this same principle to anything I listen to. (Well, maybe not classical music or instrumentals….)

The point is this: Be mindful of what you listen to and how it could be affecting your mind and emotions.

25 at 25 #7: Listen to one new song every day.

Can you sense a musical theme going on here?

We all listen to what we like. We’ve got our favorite songs, our favorite artists, all on repeat. And that’s great!

But there’s no easier way to start expanding your (musical) horizons by doing the simple task of listening to a new song every day.

“But how do I find something new to listen to?” you ask.

Here are some ideas:

  • Got a song you like? Listen to others by the same artist.
  • Got an artist you like? Start listening to their discography.
  • Got a genre you like? Start listening to similar genres. (If you like classic country, give modern country a try.)
  • Or, you could just think of a song or an artist you’ve heard about but never checked out. (Like how I started listening to The Clash last week.)
  • Or… you could just pick something. (Like bluegrass. Or polka. Or “Bluegrass Polka”, which is my new song for the day!) Try it! You never know what’s out there that you might like!

In 365 days, you will have listened to at least 365 new-to-you songs, though likely more. And, you will have expanded your musical knowledge, which makes you a more well-rounded and well-entertained person.

Then, you can start expanding your horizons in other areas, like books and movies. And pretty soon, you’ll be pretty cultured and a very interesting individual.

25 at 25 #8: To own less is to own more.

I am a minimalist at heart. Not everyone is, and that’s fine.

But when it comes to owning “stuff”, there comes a point where you stop owning things and things start owning you.

I love guitars, but I’ll never start a big electric guitar collection for a few reasons…

  1. I wouldn’t have time to play them all.
  2. I’d have to always have space to store them all. And the big one…
  3. I’d have to keep all them clean, tuned, and otherwise maintained.

From books to cars to wristwatches to firearms to knickknacks to clothes to you name it… the more you own, the more work you have to do to maintaining what you own.

And… it’s really easy to acquire something, but it’s really hard to give it up once you’ve got it.

Better to have a few things that are high-quality that you enjoy and don’t have to worry much about, than to have a lot of things of any quality that you are afraid to lose.

25 at 25 #9: You need one day per week dedicated to rest from work, relaxation, and reflection.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). In the New Testament, Jesus clarifies and reinforces that “the Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

We tend to lead such busy lives these days that it’s hard to disengage and disconnect—and surely impossible for one whole day! But, in my experience, it is essential.

All through high school and college, among studying for classes and going to events and working and everything else, it was hard to ever completely take a day off. I knew instinctively that I needed to rest for a day, but I just had too much on my plate. I went weeks on end feeling very restless and stressed.

Now that I’ve graduated (thank God!), I can take that one day off each week to rest. It has made a huge difference in all aspects of my health: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And, the quality of my work and my stamina throughout the week have both improved.

Taking time to focus on God, spending time with family or friends, exploring hobbies and interests, and not working for profit… doing these things for one whole day a week allows us to recharge, recenter, and refocus on what matters most in life.

God Himself set the example by creating everything in six days and resting on the seventh. And he blessed the Israelites with the command to cease working on the Sabbath, because they had come from a place where they most likely were worked to the bone seven days a week with no respite.

Even if you’re not a Christian… you will benefit from taking a day every week to step away from whatever it is you’re committed to, do something else, and then restart again a day later.

And if you feel like you need a big vacation… see if you can set up your Sabbath as a mini-retreat once every week, even if you don’t leave your house. Sometimes all you need is just one day away from the hustle and bustle.

So, go and enjoy a day of rest from your good, hard work.

25 at 25 #10: Be disciplined about when you wake up and when you go to bed.

I am one of those “weird” people who actually needs the recommended 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. On top of that, I am also one of those weird people who enjoys waking up at 5:00 every morning.

That said, this principle applies even if you can get by on less than 8 hours of sleep and you’re a night owl.

Being consistent with your sleep will stabilize your body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates hormones such as melatonin to help you fall asleep. Quite simply, consistent sleep patterns equals better sleep, and therefore better health.

But if you had to choose between going to bed at a consistent time and waking up at a consistent time… waking up at the same time every day is the way to go.


As you go through the week and miss out on sleep, waking up at the same time allows your body to build up a “sleep debt”. This sleep debt will in turn make it easier for you to fall asleep (and get restful sleep) as the week progresses.

Sleeping in only disrupts this process, as you’ll have a harder time falling asleep at bedtime and then wake up the next morning feeling unrested.

Plus, sleeping in throws your whole day off (less time to wake up in the morning, late for work, less time in the day to get stuff done, etc.).

The health benefits of sufficient sleep have been studied and documented, and researchers continue to find more and more. At a high level, getting enough sleep helps:

  • Boost your immune system (get sick less often)
  • Keep your weight at a healthy level (reduce body fat)
  • Lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease
  • Lower stress levels
  • Improve athletic and cognitive performance
  • Prevent depression (have a more positive outlook on life)
  • Improve mood and social interactions

So, be consistent with that one-third of your life you spend horizontal so that you can improve the two-thirds of your life you spend vertical.

Thanks for reading these 5 tips, “life hacks”, or whatever you want to call them. I hope you found them helpful. If you’re ready for more, here are the next 5!


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