10 essential life lessons that aren’t taught in school (but should be)

We often think of school as the place where we learn all the critical things in life. Maths, Science, Literature, and so on.

But there are some life lessons that, for whatever reason, often don’t make it into the curriculum.

I’m talking about essential life skills like financial literacy, dealing with failure, or even just learning how to be happy.

These aren’t just nice-to-haves.

These are crucial tools we need in our day-to-day lives – tools that I wish someone had taught me at school.

In this article, I’ll share with you 10 essential life lessons that aren’t taught in school but should be.

So buckle up and let’s dive in.

1) Financial literacy

Let’s be honest. How many of us actually understood the concept of mortgages, credit scores, or taxes when we stepped out of school?

Most of us weren’t taught financial literacy in school, yet it’s one of the most essential skills in adult life.

It’s about understanding how money works – how to earn it, save it, invest it, and spend it wisely. It’s about knowing the value of money and the importance of budgeting.

Without financial literacy, we’re likely to make poor financial decisions that could lead to debt, bankruptcy, or a less-than-comfortable retirement.

In this day and age, where economic stability is far from guaranteed, financial literacy is more important than ever.

It’s a life lesson that should definitely be taught in schools. But until that happens, we’ll have to educate ourselves. 

2) Dealing with failure

My high school was all about grades. Each failure was seen as a disaster, a dent to one’s academic record.

But once I stepped out into the real world, I realized that failure isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s an integral part of life and growth.

I remember the first time I applied for a job and got rejected. I was devastated.

But then I took a step back and analyzed where I went wrong. I improved my resume, honed my interview skills, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. The next time I applied, I was more prepared and eventually landed a job.

Schools often focus on success but rarely teach students how to cope with failure.

But in reality, dealing with setbacks is an essential life skill. It teaches resilience, motivation, and the importance of perseverance.

So remember, it’s okay to fail. It’s not okay to not try again.

3) Importance of empathy

In our increasingly connected world, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, known as empathy, is more critical than ever.

Yet, despite its importance, empathy isn’t explicitly taught in most schools.

However, did you know that empathy can be learned and improved upon at any age?

Research has shown that the brain can be trained to become more empathetic. This is great news in that anyone, at any age, should in theory be able to learn how to be more empathetic. 

But wouldn’t it be great if it was instilled from a young age?

Learning to empathize helps us understand different perspectives, improves our relationships and contributes to a more inclusive society.

It’s a life lesson that should definitely be part of our school curriculum.

4) The art of negotiation

From bargaining at a local market to negotiating a salary raise, the art of negotiation is a skill we use more often than we realize.

But negotiation isn’t about “winning” or getting the most out of the other person.

It’s about finding a solution that’s acceptable to all parties involved.

Yet, despite its importance in our daily lives and in fostering healthy relationships, it’s not something we’re taught in school.

Learning how to negotiate effectively can help us in numerous ways – from resolving conflicts and building better relationships, to achieving our goals and advancing our careers.

It’s high time we recognize negotiation as an essential life skill. 

5) Embracing diversity

We live in a beautifully diverse world, filled with people of different races, religions, cultures, and beliefs.

Understanding and embracing this diversity is a crucial life skill that is often overlooked in traditional education.

Embracing diversity isn’t just about acknowledging differences. It’s about understanding and respecting them, and recognizing the value they bring to our world.

In a society where discrimination still persists, teaching children about diversity and the importance of inclusivity can help foster acceptance and reduce prejudice.

We need to equip the next generation with the tools to understand, respect, and appreciate the rich tapestry of human culture and experience. 

If not, what type of world are we creating for the future generation?

6) The importance of self-care

In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life.

We often prioritize work, studies, or taking care of others over our own well-being.

We’re conditioned to think that taking time for ourselves is selfish or a luxury we can’t afford.

But the truth is, self-care is essential for our physical, emotional, and mental health.

Self-care isn’t just about spa days or bubble baths.

It’s about recognizing when you need a break and giving yourself permission to take one. It’s about eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and taking care of your mental health.

The act of caring for oneself is a life skill that should be instilled in us from an early age. If we can learn to value ourselves and our well-being, we’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges life throws at us.

7) The value of kindness

Growing up, I was often told that kindness is a virtue.

But it wasn’t until I experienced its power firsthand that I truly understood its value.

Once, during a particularly rough patch in my life, a stranger went out of their way to help me. It was a small act of kindness, but it made a world of difference to me at that time.

That experience taught me that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a big impact on someone’s life.

It can turn someone’s day around, bring a smile to their face, and sometimes, it can even change their life.

Kindness is a powerful tool that we all possess, and it’s free to give. It’s a lesson that should be taught early on, so we can all grow up knowing the value of being kind to others.

8) Learning to say no

We’re often taught that saying ‘yes’ is polite and agreeable.

That it’s the key to being liked and accepted. But what if I told you that learning to say ‘no’ is just as important?

Saying ‘no’ isn’t about being rude or selfish. It’s about setting boundaries and respecting your own time, energy, and needs.

It might seem easier to go along with everything, but constantly agreeing to things you don’t want to do can lead to stress, resentment, and burnout.

Learning when and how to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty is a crucial life skill that can help us maintain balance in our lives, protect our well-being, and make room for the things that truly matter to us.

And learning how to do this in the safe space of a school should be the starting point. 

9) The power of gratitude

In a world that often emphasizes what we lack, the power of gratitude stands as a refreshing contrast.

It’s about appreciating what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t.

Gratitude has been linked to increased happiness, reduced depression, and improved physical health. It’s a simple practice with profound effects.

Yet, despite its benefits, gratitude is not something that’s commonly taught in schools.

In overlooking this, we’re doing young people a disservice. We’re sending them into a chaotic world without the anchors they need to stay grounded. 

Because ultimately, incorporating gratitude into our daily lives can greatly enhance our overall well-being and happiness. And we all deserve that. 

10) The pursuit of happiness

Happiness. It’s what we all strive for, yet it’s not something we’re taught how to achieve.

We’re often led to believe that success, money, or possessions will bring us happiness.

But the truth is, happiness comes from within.

It’s about finding joy in the simple things, being present in the moment, and nurturing positive relationships.

It’s about self-acceptance, growth, and fulfilling your own potential.

Understanding what truly contributes to lasting happiness is perhaps one of the most important life lessons of all.

And it’s high time we start teaching it in our schools.

Reflecting on the journey

The lessons we learn in school lay the foundation for our understanding of the world. But as essential as academic knowledge is, it’s not the only thing that shapes us.

The lessons we’ve explored here—financial literacy, dealing with failure, empathy, negotiation, embracing diversity, self-care, kindness, saying no, gratitude, and the pursuit of happiness—are fundamental aspects of life that are often overlooked in traditional education.

Life is a continuous journey of learning and growth.

And often, the most valuable lessons come not from textbooks, but from our experiences and interactions with the world around us.

As we navigate through life’s ups and downs, let’s strive to learn these essential lessons and become better versions of ourselves.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about what we know, but who we become.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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