11 life lessons most people learn too late in life

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Life has a funny way of teaching us lessons, often when we least expect it. And yes, for many of us, some lessons come later than others. 

But as they always say, better late than never, right? The beauty of life is that as long as we draw breath, there’s room for growth and change. 

In this article, I’ll share some life lessons many of us learn too late in life. I hope that by the end of it, you’ll see which parts of your life need to change – right now, wherever you are – before it’s too late. 

1) Health truly is the real wealth

When I was younger, I wanted it all. I wanted to be at the top of my game, to give my children the best of everything in life, to be someone who has “arrived.”

So, I put myself through so much – working two jobs (sometimes three), trying to meet all my goals, sleeping only a few hours a night…

And I did arrive. At the doctor’s office. With a thyroid problem caused by stress. 

In the end, because I didn’t want to take a break, my body decided it for me. I was forced to slow down, learn how to relax and let go, and rethink the direction my life was taking. 

The bottomline: Health is indeed the real wealth. After all, what’s the use of all the success and riches in the world if we’re too sick to enjoy them? 

So, remember to take care of your body, mind, and soul. Eat well, move more, stress less, and don’t forget to make time for things that feed your soul.

2) Success has different meanings

That episode above also helped me rethink my idea of success. And you know what I realized? 

That success looks different for each one of us. It’s not a one-size-fits-all concept, though society might have us think that way. 

The truth is, it’s subjective and deeply personal. For some people, it’s financial security. For others, it’s fulfillment or a happy family life, regardless of how light their bank account is. Or simply the freedom to live like a nomad. 

You define your own success. Don’t let society or anyone else dictate what success should look like for you. Pursue what makes you happy, what makes your heart sing and your soul feel fulfilled and content. 

Because, at the end of the day, that’s what true success looks like – happiness. 

Related: 10 things successful people never let stand in their way

3) Your happiness is your own choice and your own doing

Another common misconception is that happiness is dependent on external factors. On benchmarks like a high-powered career, a partner that checks all the boxes, kids who are well-behaved…

If there’s one thing you need to know about happiness, it’s that it’s not dependent on external circumstances, people, or material possessions. Rather, it’s a state of mind, a choice you make every day. 

You could have all the money in the world, the perfect spouse, the perfect kids…but if you don’t have the right mindset, then I hate to say it, you’ll go on looking for happiness elsewhere. 

The hard truth – no one else is responsible for our own happiness. It’s ours and ours alone. 

This is why I always say, when I’m in a funk, I will CHOOSE to be happy. Of course that’s not to say it always works; some days are just harder than others. But as long as I’m choosing to be happy, I feel in control of my life. 

How exactly do we get there? Here are some little ways we can make happiness a choice

  • Practice gratitude. Be grateful for both the good and the bad – remember, nothing is ever a waste. Good things bring us joy, and bad things bring us lessons. 
  • Find joy in the ordinary. In mundane things like the smell of fresh laundry, the way your partner’s eyes crinkle when they laugh, a good hair day (always a win!)…
  • Laugh often. And loud. And long. 
  • Choose positive thoughts. Because…

4) The power of self-talk can make or break you

That’s right. Those words you tell yourself? You might think they’re just words, but they can do more than just take up space in your brain. 

Your internal dialogue can actually rewire your brain and affect the way you behave. 

If you constantly beat yourself up for being “dumb,” “fat,” “incompetent,” and other such toxic labels, you’ll live your life believing all of that. If you ask me, that’s such a waste of a life!

The good news is, it goes the other way, too. That’s why psychologists and mental health experts tell us to do self-affirmation

A switch from negative to positive self-talk can do wonders for your self-esteem and outlook in life. 

5) The comfort zone kills dreams

Ah, the comfort zone. So many of us love it there. And why not? It’s safe, it’s predictable, and you know exactly what to do there. 

But in case you didn’t know yet, it’s dangerous. It’s where potential withers and dies, where growth is stunted. You coast along for years and years, and before you know it, you’ve missed so many opportunities. 

What makes us stay there, really? Well most of the time, it’s the fear of failure. And I get it. Of course, the thought of failing is scary! 

But you know what? In the end, we’ll find out that failure is still a better option than regret over all those missed chances (and that’s another life lesson we find out too late, by the way!). 

6) Nobody’s watching

Have you ever wanted to join a dance class but you’re scared people might laugh at your two left feet? 

Ever dreamed of holding an art exhibit but you’re afraid people might say, “Huh, that doesn’t even make sense!”?

Do you want to wear red shoes but you move in a circle where people are dressed conservatively? 

I’ve got news for you – no one’s watching. At least, not as much as you think they are. The reality is, most people are too caught up in their own lives to scrutinize yours.

And if they do judge you for your choices, so what? As Bon Jovi says…

“It’s my life

It’s now or never

But I ain’t gonna live forever

I just want to live while I’m alive!”

7) Don’t wait for retirement to enjoy your life

“Live while I’m alive” – this really resonates with me. I’m one of those who believe that a good life is the sum of well-lived days. 

Which means…if you’ve been putting off enjoying things till your retirement, if you’ve been working tirelessly, saving and planning for retirement…

…You’re not exactly making the most of your days. 

Look, there’s no telling what tomorrow holds. Those dreams and travel plans you keep postponing? They might not even happen. I know that’s hard to hear, but that’s reality.  

So here’s the lesson: Life is happening now. And we’re meant to enjoy the journey, not just the destination.  

8) Relationships should come first 

Did you know that “not staying in touch with my friends” is one of the top 5 regrets of the dying? That’s what palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware says in her book “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.” 

It’s all too easy to lose sight of this in the rat race. Sometimes in the pursuit of success, our relationships are the first to fall by the wayside. 

Career achievements and intellectual prowess are important, but they’re not everything. Many people realize too late in life that it’s the relationships they’ve built and the emotional connections they’ve nurtured that truly enrich their lives.

9) Say what’s in your heart

Another top regret is this – “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” 

I’ve been there, and I know now, life really is too short to not say what you want to say out loud. My dad and I had always had a strained relationship, often going through long periods without talking. 

Sadly, we never had a chance to thresh out our issues. 

You know why? Because he passed away before we could. And when he did, I felt such a wave of grief that I hadn’t expressed what I really felt, and it’s something I carry around to this day. 

So, learn from my experience. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Life is too short to keep your feelings tucked away. 

10) This too shall pass

An age-old adage, a piece of stoic wisdom, yet something we don’t fully understand until much later in life. 

I really struggled with this when I was younger. Whenever something bad happened, I’d feel like it was the end of the world. I’d be caught tight in the grip of unpleasant situations, reacting way too emotionally and making things even worse. 

I should’ve realized then how seeing life in its transitory nature can really help us navigate the storms with more grace and resilience. 

And it’s not just the bad times. This adage is also useful for the good times. When we celebrate the highs with a little stoicism, we stay humble and mindful because we know that they are fleeting. 

And finally…

11) The days are long, but the years are short

I’ll leave you with this last life lesson many of us learn too late, and it’s a thought that has been a guiding light for me throughout my life. 

Day to day, we often find ourselves trapped in routines, ticking off tasks on our to-do lists, living our lives in compartments of hours and days. 

The result? Those days can feel incredibly long, filled with the busyness of work, responsibilities, and boring life admin tasks. Sometimes it just feels like it will never end. 

But when we zoom out and look at the big picture, it’s such a shock to see how swiftly those years passed by! 

Childhood, adolescence, adulthood—each stage seems to have rushed past while we were immersed in the ‘long’ days. This is exactly what I realized when I became a parent. 

So, what did it teach me? To cherish the everyday moments, not just the important events. 

And most of all, to live an intentional life, fully designed to make me present, to make each day count and add up to the purpose and meaningfulness I wanted. 

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

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Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.

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With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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