8 life lessons people often learn too late in life (a little toolkit for life)

The journey of life is a learning process, but there are certain truths that people often realize a bit too late.

I’m Lachlan Brown, founder of Hack Spirit and a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to mindfulness and Buddhism. And I want to share with you some wisdom I’ve gathered along the way.

These aren’t just any lessons. These are life lessons that can serve as your little toolkit for navigating the ups and downs of existence.

In this article, I’ll be sharing insights that can help you live more mindfully, save a bit of heartache, and maybe even dodge a few life’s curveballs.

Let’s get started. 

1) Death is inevitable

I know, it’s a bit grim to start with, but let’s not shy away from the truth.

Buddhism teaches us that everything in life is impermanent, and death is a part of this natural cycle. Yet, most of us spend our lives running in the opposite direction, trying to deny this inevitability.

We fill our days with distractions, avoiding the thought of our mortality. But what if we embraced it instead?

By acknowledging death, we’re not inviting it sooner; rather, we’re allowing ourselves to experience life more fully. It encourages us to cherish every moment and live in the present – a key principle of mindfulness.

We often learn this lesson too late, when time has run its course or when faced with a life-altering event. So here’s your chance: acknowledge it now.

Remember, death isn’t the opposite of life. It’s a part of it. And understanding this can empower you to live more intentionally and mindfully.

2) Happiness is an inside job

This is a lesson I’ve personally had to learn, and it’s a game-changer once you understand it.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that happiness comes from external factors – a successful career, a loving partner, a fancy car. But the truth is, none of these things can guarantee happiness.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk and mindfulness expert, once said: “There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.”

What he means is that happiness comes from within. It’s about finding peace with who you are and where you are in life. It’s about accepting your flaws, embracing your journey and focusing on the present moment.

We often learn this too late, after years of chasing after external validation and materialistic success.

But once you realize this truth, it can transform your approach to life. Instead of striving for external achievements to make you happy, you start nurturing your inner peace.

Happiness is not a destination. It’s a way of life.

3) Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

This is a fundamental Buddhist teaching that often takes people a lifetime to truly understand.

Life is full of ups and downs. We all experience pain – be it physical or emotional. It’s a part of being human. But suffering? That’s a choice we make.

Suffering arises when we resist or try to change the inevitable pain that life brings. It’s when we hold onto the past, fear the future, or reject the present moment.

In reality, these are all struggles against what’s already happened or what might happen, and they rob us of our ability to experience the present moment fully.

This doesn’t mean you should suppress your feelings or ignore pain. Instead, it’s about acknowledging the pain but not allowing it to control your life.

Life isn’t about avoiding pain. It’s about choosing not to suffer by accepting things as they are and finding peace within that acceptance.

This lesson often comes too late for many, after a cycle of suffering that could have been avoided.

But once understood, it can be a powerful tool for navigating life’s challenges with resilience and grace.

4) You can’t control everything

And this is a hard pill to swallow for many of us.

Life is unpredictable and full of variables outside our control. We can plan, strategize, and worry, but the truth is, there will always be aspects of life we simply can’t control.

This is where mindfulness comes into play.

Mindfulness teaches us to let go of our need for control and instead focus on the present moment. It urges us to accept things as they are, rather than how we wish them to be.

It’s about understanding that while you can’t control every event in your life, you can control how you respond to those events.

Often, we learn this lesson after much stress and anxiety spent trying to manipulate outcomes and situations. But once we grasp it, it can bring a great sense of peace and acceptance.

When you’re feeling anxious about something out of your control: breathe, let go, and just be in the moment. It’s all part of the mindfulness journey.

5) Ego is not your amigo

This is a lesson I explore in-depth in my book “Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego.”

Our ego often gets in the way of our growth and happiness. It fuels our desires for recognition, validation, and control, often leading us astray.

In Buddhism, we learn to let go of our ego. We learn to live with humility, compassion, and contentment, understanding that we are part of a larger whole.

Our ego makes us see ourselves as separate from others, causing us to act out of self-interest. But the truth is, we are all interconnected.

Realizing this often comes late in life after a series of ego-driven decisions that lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. But once understood, it can pave the way for a more fulfilling and content life.

If you’re interested in delving deeper into this notion of minimizing the ego to maximize your impact, do check out my book. It was written with a lot of love and sincerity, aiming to help others navigate through life with more mindfulness and less ego-driven decisions.

6) Forgiveness is freedom

This is a tough one for many to grasp. Holding on to resentment and anger might feel justified, especially if we’ve been wronged. But the truth is, the person who suffers most from your unforgiveness is not the person who wronged you – it’s you.

In both Buddhism and mindfulness teachings, forgiveness is a recurring theme. It’s about letting go of negative emotions that keep us stuck in the past. It’s about freeing ourselves from the chains of resentment and bitterness.

We often learn this lesson later in life, after years of carrying around unnecessary emotional baggage. But once we truly understand and practice forgiveness, it can be incredibly liberating.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean forgetting or condoning their actions. It means choosing to release the hold their actions have over you.

It’s not an easy journey, but it’s a worthwhile one. Because at the end of the day, forgiveness isn’t just about setting the other person free – it’s about setting yourself free.

7) Change is constant

This might sound cliché, but the reality is, we often resist change instead of embracing it.

In Buddhism, the idea of impermanence is a fundamental understanding. Everything changes, nothing remains without change. It’s a principle that applies to our bodies, to our feelings, and to the world around us.

As Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön once said: “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.”

We often learn this lesson too late, after wasting energy resisting change and fearing the unfamiliar. But once we accept and embrace change as an inevitable part of life, it can become less intimidating and more empowering.

Instead of fearing change, embrace it. It’s not only inevitable but also necessary for growth and development. After all, a caterpillar must undergo change to become a butterfly.

8) Doing nothing can be productive

Sounds counterintuitive, right? We live in a society where busyness is often equated to productivity and success. But the reality is, constantly being ‘busy’ can lead to stress, burnout and disconnection from our true selves.

This is where mindfulness comes into play. One of the key principles of mindfulness is just ‘being’. It’s about taking the time to simply be present, without the need to always ‘do’ something.

It’s in these quiet moments that we often find clarity and inspiration. It’s in this space that we can reconnect with ourselves, understand our feelings and thoughts, and regain our balance.

We often learn this lesson too late, after experiencing burnout or feeling overwhelmed by the constant hustle. But once we realize the value of doing nothing, it can transform our approach to productivity.

It’s not always about doing more. Sometimes, it’s about doing less and just being. Because in the silence of ‘doing nothing’, you might just find everything you need.

And there you have it – eight life lessons often learned too late. The beauty of life is that it never stops teaching. But we must be open to learning, to unlearning, and to embracing the wisdom that life offers.

Each of these lessons has the potential to profoundly change your perspective on life. They remind us to live mindfully, to let go of our ego, and to embrace the beautiful impermanence of life.

If you found this wisdom insightful and want to explore more about living a life of maximum impact and minimum ego, I invite you to check out my book “Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego.” It’s a deep dive into these ideas and more, providing practical advice on how to apply these Buddhist principles into your daily life.

Remember, it’s never too late to learn these lessons. It’s never too late to change, grow, and live more mindfully. So here’s to embracing the wisdom that life has to offer – today and every day after.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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