Life and experience are the best teachers. We learn more from life than we do at school. Some lessons we learn the hard way i.e. by experiencing it ourselves in the form of pain, heartbreak, setbacks, tragedies and losses. Other lessons we can learn from others without waiting for life to teach it to us.
In this article, I want to share 20 important life lessons that I've learned in the last 10-12 years. I learned all of these lessons the hard way, but you don’t have to. These are only some of the lessons I've learned, not all, and I will share more lessons in upcoming posts. I still have a lot of growing to do, and many more life lessons to learn.
With that said, let me tell you that you may disagree with some of these, because people have different circumstances and different experiences. My life and experiences have taught me these lessons. Yours may have taught you the exact opposite. These lessons are not set in stone and are just my opinion based on my personal experiences. In any case, I hope at least some of them will ring true to you.
Forgive people. Forgive so you can move on in your life. Forgive even if they didn’t apologize. Forgive even if they don’t deserve it. Forgive everyone who has ever wronged you. Don’t keep grudges and don’t seek revenge because it will only hurt you more. Forgive because forgiveness is liberating and you deserve to live in peace. Forgive because you can.
Forgive yourself. No matter what you have done in your past, you can always change. Once you change, you’re reborn. You are like a completely new person, a clean slate. So forgive yourself for whatever you have done in your past and start anew. Your past doesn’t have to define you.
Speak up for your rights, because no one else will. Be your own advocate and don’t expect anyone else to fight for your rights, because if the rights are yours, the fight should be too.
We are not living in a fairytale and there is no knight in the shining armor. You are not a damsel in distress. Or Rapunzel. Or Cinderella. Or Snow White. Or (add your own Disney princess here). Be your own savior and rescue yourself.
Think of your miseries as training. Learn your lesson and come out stronger and wiser. You can literally turn your miseries into blessing just by changing the way you think about it.
Focus on gathering experiences, not material possessions. Material possessions give you a temporary feeling of happiness and excitement, which wears out sooner than we would expect. Experiences change you, mentally and physically and their impact is long-lasting. Experiences are memorable. I have forgotten what it felt like when I bought my first laptop or smart phone, but I still remember vividly how I felt when I saw a snowfall for the first time in my life.
In today’s fast-paced world, we set goals and focus on the outcome i.e. the end goal. All our energies are invested in achieving that outcome. In doing so, we rush through the journey and fail to enjoy it and sometimes even use unfair means to get what we want. But the truth is, focusing on the journey, enjoying it to the fullest and making the most of it can make reaching the final destination an even more pleasurable experience. The people you meet, the connections you make, the skills you build and the person you become along the journey is what makes the final destination worth your while. Success is not who you become AFTER achieving your end goal, but who you become along the way, who you become BEFORE you achieve your end goal.
If you see them as impediments or hindrances in your success and growth, you need to change your mindset. Start thinking of problems and challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and become stronger. Start thinking of mistakes in terms of lessons learned. Start seeing failure as a stepping stone for your success. Problems, challenges, mistakes and failures can make you stronger and wiser if you change the way you think about them.
Whenever you feel you’re stuck and trapped, you’re actually not. There is always a way out. You just need to find it.
When knowledge goes deep and touches your heart, it makes you humble, not arrogant. If your knowledge, degrees and accolades and accomplishments don't make you humble, but make you a narcissist, your degrees are like toilet paper, worth being flushed down. If the consequence of your education is not humility, then rest assured that all the knowledge you thought you had gained actually didn't infiltrate your heart and bounced back from your chest to wherever it came from.
You don't have to fear the world, or the society, or people. It does not matter one bit what others think. If the world doesn't accept you for being who you are, accept yourself.
Making your own decisions is the key to your independence and individuality. Listen to your parents, friends and well-wishers. But, from what to study to who to marry, the final decision should be yours, even if it later turns out to be wrong. If you don't make mistakes, if you don’t take wrong decisions in life, you will never learn important lessons that you need to survive in this world. If important decisions of your life are spoon-fed to you and served in a platter, you will never be able to trust yourself and your capabilities. Don’t be a backseat passenger in your own life. Hop into the driver’s seat and take the steering wheel. Take control.
You are the writer of the story of your life. You can write yourself a loser who gave up after a traumatic event, or you can write yourself as a brave survivor who came out stronger than ever.
It’s okay to be wrong. What’s NOT okay is to know that you’re wrong, but not admit you’re wrong and remain adamant on being right. So be open to the possibility of you being wrong and be willing to admit and accept it.
More often than not, we live our lives according to the script written by others. Go to college or university, have a proper full-time secure job, get married around 25, have kids before 30, etc. But you don’t have to. You have the right to do what you want. If you don’t want to do a bachelors or masters, you can do vocational training courses to build skills for a skilled occupation like Travel agent, tourist guide, actor, technician, electrician, plumber, mechanic, artist, craftsperson, fitness trainer or yoga teacher, etc. If a 9 to 5 job is not for you, you can go for freelancing or start your own business. Get married when you are ready and when you find the right person, not because your friends are getting married or because you’re crossing a certain cut-off age. Have kids if and when you want, not because your mother or mother-in-law, your friends or your next-door neighbor is telling you to have kids.
Stop caring what the society or other people would think or say. Let them think whatever they want. Let them judge you.
The best thing you can do for your mental health and peace is removing toxic people from your life or at least keeping a distance. They may be friends, colleagues or even family. The whole forgiveness-is-liberating thing (see number 1) doesn’t apply here because forgiveness is for people who occasionally make mistakes, no matter how grave. But people who are so toxic that their entire existence is a mistake, for which you have to pay, such people don’t deserve forgiveness.
When our mental health is being negatively affected, it is okay to do things that would make us look bad in the eyes of other people. Like removing toxic people from your life, quitting things that are working against us, etc. You have the right to be selfish when your mental health, peace, happiness and your very existence is being threatened.
There are many situations where patience is not what you need. For example, when a wife is being physically or mentally abused by her husband or in-laws, patience is neither a virtue, nor the solution. Or when you are being bullied at workplace for being overweight or being harassed simply for being a woman, patience is not the answer. These situations call for action, not patience.
The popular advice that you can do anything you want or be anything you want, is not true. You are limited by your aptitude (ability), your personality and your interests. You cannot be an accountant, statistician or financial planner if you suck at Maths. You cannot be an animator or art teacher if you can’t draw or hate drawing. You cannot be a singer if your voice is not made for singing. You cannot write a book and become a successful author if you can’t compose a concise and coherent 5-paragraph essay.
There you have it. I hope these lessons will make sense to you and you will not have to go through what I went through to learn these lessons.