26 important life lessons everyone should learn

There are two types of people in this world:

The first type is people who have a fixed mindset. They believe their talents and skills are given to them, rather than developed themselves.

They passively wait for life to happen to them. They hate challenges and tend to give up when it gets too hard.

The second type of person is those that have a growth mindset. They believe that the hand their dealt is just a start pointing for growth.

They believe their basic qualities are things they can cultivate with effort. They see mistakes as opportunities to learn. They embrace challenges and love learning about things they don’t know.

Who do you think is more successful in life?

News flash. It isn’t the first type. 

The bottom line is this: 

People with a growth mindset pay attention to the lessons that life teaches them

These lessons are often brutal, but by learning to cope with obstacles that life throws their way, they become wiser, stronger, and more resilient. 

So in this article, I’m going to unpack many life lessons that we’d all benefit from learning.

We have a lot to cover so let’s get started. 

1. Develop compassion.

Realize that people are human beings just like you. Grow your ability to understand and empathize with the suffering of others.

When we identify with others, we are more able to find peaceful solutions to issues and less likely to depend on aggression or violence.

2. See the commonality rather than the differences.

A strong ego, a concrete sense of “I” makes us feel separate. This leads to anger and jealousy. Reduce these destructive emotions by feeling more connected to others.

Things are not always what they seem, so don’t jump to conclusions. Quantum physics data makes a strong case for the fact that reality is not objective but subjective.

What we think is real is an interaction between the observer and the observed. The famous double-slit experiment is a classic example.

If reality is subjective, then all is open to question. Could it be that in the same situation, different perspectives are equally valid?

Think about what this means for witness testimony in criminal cases. Did they see what they think they saw?

In your daily life, how many times have you been certain of something (usually negative) that caused you to get into an issue with someone, only to find out that you misread the situation?

3. Be proud not of your gifts but of your hard work and your choices.

By “gifts”, I’m referring to the talents you were born with. It’s what you do with those talents that matter more.

4. Be alert to your passions.

When they speak up, pay attention. Guard against letting your intellectual self overrule your enthusiasm.

5. Become a domain expert.

Learn, learn, learn. Put in the time and effort to be excellent at what you know and do. Yet, intentionally keep your beginner’s mind, so you can always take a fresh look.

6. Success = Persistence + Stubborn relentlessness + Flexibility.

It’s a balancing act. You need to keep true to your vision, yet realize when the details are wrong and have the ability to adjust as needed.

7. Remember to “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Instead of alienating (turning off) those who could be your allies and having bad relationships with your adversaries (those against you), build strong connections with both.

The former will support you when you need it, and you can more easily keep an eye on the “doings” of the latter.

8. Having power and wielding power are two different things.

Just because you have power doesn’t mean you need to use it…and when you do use it, use it wisely and well.

Sometimes, the supreme, best use of power is to step away, and let others handle the situation, keeping a discrete eye on things the whole time.

9. Strive for excellence.

Make it a point to always do your best work at the best quality level you can. You will have the personal satisfaction of knowing you did all you could. In addition, you will gain the respect of others for being someone they can count on.  

10. Reassess priorities often.

The “must do’s” at the start of a project often change. Many times, people stick to the plan no matter what because, well, that’s the plan. Thus, the results are not the best they could be.

Do your best to continually revisit your priorities. Are they still serving you? What adjustments would make things better, more success-oriented?

In this way, your action plan is always being adapted to your needs.

11. Increase your grit quotient.

Angela Lee Duckworth talks about grit (or how much we “stick to” something once we’ve begun it) in her TED talk.

Interestingly, grit and a growth mindset are more important than natural ability, knowledge, and many other factors which people think lead to success. 

After listening to Duckworth explain her idea and hear what her study revealed, check how gritty you are with her grit scale assessment

12. Have the courage to take risks.

One of the nursing leaders has a saying: “Jump off the cliff and the parachute will appear.”

How could this make any sense?

Obviously, it is scary to lean in. This is natural, and many people cannot overcome this instinct. 

Yet, this saying is daring you to be different. It is asking you to be confident enough to believe that there is a safety net even though you can’t see it, that things will work out well despite your not knowing how at the moment. It is suggesting that for those with this kind of bravery, the rewards will be more than worth the risks.

13. Even if you don’t like your current job, do it well.

You will gain respect for being consistent and reliable, no matter your personal preferences. These are the kinds of people who get recommended for jobs that are more to their liking.

14. Never lose your cool.

Keep calm even in the most challenging times. Being calm helps us think more logically and make better decisions.

Everyone can develop their “calmness quotient.” Research shows that listening to music you like reduces stress and tension. Meditation can also be helpful

15. Approach your future with purpose, vision, passion, energy, and hope.

In effect, these factors keep you focused and motivated. They help you stay true to your vision of who you are and what you want to achieve. They help you put your heart and soul into creating your very best life. 

16. Make your life a continual “graduation.”

Graduation can mean a refining or removing of impurities in the way that refining gold removes “not gold” to create a purer product. Make your life a process of refinement by continually removing unwanted parts of your behavior and character.

This is much easier said than done. Few of us enjoy taking that long hard look at ourselves, especially since once we see our shortcomings, we usually start to feel that internal, nagging voice which keeps telling us to do something about it.

Develop the inner strength to love yourself as you are while simultaneously working towards self-improvement.

17. No one knows the path forward, and there is always uncertainty.

Those who say they know how things are going to work out with you are just plain wrong. There are so many decision points, unseens, and unexpecteds that there is no way to predict an outcome with any certainty.

However, your guts and imagination will see you through. Between your inner reserves (guts) and your ability to keep your goal(s) in your mind’s eye (imagination), you will be able to roll with the punches and come out successful on the other side.

18. It’s ok to be uncomfortable or even afraid to step into the unknown.

Be courageous, and do it anyway. You will never know what you can truly achieve unless you try.

19. Listen to your gut…but also your head and your heart.

A growing body of data appears to show that thinking and logic are not the only ways to make decisions. Including your emotions (heart) and intuition (gut instinct) will help you make better choices and keep you safer.

20. Talk it out, and then talk it out.

Sooner or later, every relationship has its conflicts. Effective resolution is based on talking about it as many times as needed. 

Arguing productively is a skill set. One skill in the set, for example, is being modest or not thinking that our view is the whole or only truth.

Another skill is graciousness. In other words, when it is relevant, we are able to agree that the other person is right.

A third is patience—waiting for our chance to speak, giving people time to process our points, allowing the time needed to work through the issue.

A final skill example is forgiveness or compassionately understanding when someone else is having difficulty with the points we are making.

Winning the argument should not be your goal. Instead, aim for an argument which is successful.

That is, one in which the participants were heard and respected, new insights were gained, and a way forward was reached.  

21. It’s ok to take “no” for an answer.

Not everything has to be agreed on. People don’t always reach a compromise. Sometimes, it just ends up being “no.”

By giving others the right to say “no”, you give it to yourself as well. Saying “no” helps us guard important boundaries and limits so that we do not feel “used” or disrespected.

22. Be ok with asking for help.

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak or ineffective. Actually, knowing when to ask for help is a sign that you are life-smart.

23. Learn the enjoyment of being on your own.

Everyone needs some time by themselves to reflect and recharge. Social 24/7/365 is not going to create your best life.

When was the last time you went somewhere by yourself without feeling like a loser? Why is it that many of us see being on our own as something defective?

Enjoying your own company means you are not needy and clingy. That’s already going to have a super positive impact on any relationship.

24. Listen to your body.

Nature has programmed our bodies to be very communicative. When things are not on track, our bodies let us know it

Fever, rashes, aches and pains, changes in appetite and energy levels, nausea/vomiting, sudden weight loss/gain —all these are examples of ways in which our bodies send us ill-health messages.

Are you paying attention?

Taking the necessary action in a timely manner can fix things before they become worse or get out of hand altogether.

25. Honor your body.

If you know that it’s going to be bad for your body, don’t do it. If you must, do it rarely and in small quantities.

Let’s take alcohol, for example. Admittedly, there are many social situations in which not having a drink is going to be very awkward.

So, have one. It’s only once in a while. If you find yourself drinking a lot without really wanting to, consider your social circle. Are these the people you really want to hang out with?

26. Invest in preventative maintenance.

We change the oil in our cars on a regular basis, not just when the engine is smoking and damaged. Same here. Build an eating plan and exercise schedule that suits your needs and your resources. Stick to it. Get regular checkups, and carry out treatments responsibly.

Parting words

What’s a life lesson for one person is not necessarily a life lesson for another. Therefore, beware of letting others take over your life.  Only follow the life lessons that resonate with who you are at the moment and where you are in your journey.

You may want to keep a life lesson diary. Jot down life lessons from this article or any source whatsoever.

Read something somewhere that you knew was meant for you? Into the diary. Heard some great advice somewhere that will support your path? Jot it down in your diary. 

Continuing to examine life lessons gives you opportunities to grow personally and professionally. There is never a reason to be afraid of checking out a life lesson. If the lesson doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.

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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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