11 life lessons that are better learnt “the hard way”

Sometimes, we need to hit rock bottom to rise like a Phoenix. Therefore, some life lessons are simply better learned “the hard way,” aka, on your own skin. 

That means you actually lived through and experienced them firsthand. But what are these life lessons? 

Well, that’s what we’re here for, so without delay, here are the life lessons that are better learned “the hard way.”

1) Balancing ambition with contentment

It’s good to be ambitious. And while it’s important for personal growth and achievement, balancing it with contentment and gratitude for what you already have is equally crucial. 

This balance allows you to strive for success while appreciating the journey and finding happiness in the present moment.

For example, aspiring to climb the corporate ladder quickly, you take on high-stress roles and work long hours relentlessly pursuing promotions and financial success.

But along the way, you realize that job satisfaction and work-life balance are equally important, if not even more so. 

You, therefore, choose a role that aligns better with your values and offers a more balanced lifestyle, even if it means slower career advancement.

This is something you have to learn the hard way and experience yourself. 

2) Rejection is your friend

Another thing you need to experience first-hand is getting rejected. As someone who had a very cushy childhood, getting rejected wasn’t something I often experienced. 

Needless to say, when I hit my young adult years, I was in for a surprise. It wasn’t until I decided to get rejected as many times as I could that I completed a transformation into an incredibly confident young man. 

Actively seeking out rejection may sound counterintuitive, but it’s a powerful lesson in resilience. 

By intentionally putting yourself in situations where rejection is a possibility, such as submitting job applications, pitching creative ideas, or asking someone out, you learn not to fear rejection. 

Over time, you become more resilient, confident, and less discouraged by setbacks.

3) Failure as feedback

Another incredibly important thing you learn from this exercise is that failure isn’t a dead end but rather a source of valuable feedback. 

When you fail, examine what went wrong, why it happened, and what you can learn from it. 

This mindset shift allows you to see failure as an opportunity for growth and improvement, making you more resilient and adaptable.

For example, a writer receives multiple rejection letters from publishers for a book manuscript. These rejections act as feedback for the writer to refine the manuscript, seek editorial assistance, or explore different writing styles.

Or you just power through like J.K. Rowling, who got rejected by 12 publishers before getting a green light from one who actually believed in her. 

4) Failure to plan is a plan to fail

While embracing failure is important, learning to plan and prepare is equally crucial. The necessity of planning and preparation becomes evident when you’ve faced the consequences of not being adequately prepared for work, projects, school, and other life challenges.

Whether it’s planning for a project, a trip, or your financial future, preparation can save you time, stress, and potential failures.

This is most evident in people who don’t save enough money for retirement. They rely too much on the government or employer and realize that the pension or 401(k) they’re getting isn’t nearly enough to live a normal life. 

5) Silence is golden

In a noisy world, the true value of silence and its ability to encourage introspection and clarity is often appreciated only when you’ve navigated the chaos and distractions of life.

That’s why embracing silence is a rare and valuable skill. 

Silence not only allows for introspection and self-discovery but also improves your ability to focus and think clearly. 

The older I get, the more I appreciate silence and tranquility. Walking on the beach at sunrise or sunset when there’s almost no one else around is my favorite activity these days. 

As is yelling at those damn kids from my porch. 

Joking aside, older people are over all the nonsense and the hustle and bustle and just want to enjoy some peace and quiet as much as possible. 

6) Live with purpose

Living a life with purpose is a goal that many never achieve. Most people live to work instead of work to live, especially in the Western world.  

Living with purpose gives your life direction and meaning, helping you make choices that align with your true self and contribute to a more fulfilling life.

But the importance of living with purpose becomes apparent only after you’ve experienced the aimlessness and dissatisfaction that come from a lack of direction. 

You learn this the hard way in most cases. 

I love the Japanese concept called Ikigai. It encourages you to discover your purpose by finding the following:

  • What you love
  • What you’re good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid (well) for  

So, how do you find your Ikigai? By trying different things, of course, and finding the right thing for you.

7) Experience over possessions

Material possessions have taken over our minds and the world. While they can bring temporary happiness, it’s the experiences that lead to lasting memories and personal growth. 

For example, instead of buying expensive tech and gadgets, why not spend your savings on a backpacking trip through Europe, creating lasting memories and experiencing different cultures?

It’s a simple truth that you enrich your life more meaningfully by prioritizing accumulating experiences and not things, whether through travel, learning new skills, or spending quality time with loved ones.

8) Done is better than perfect

Perfectionism was holding me down for many years. I just couldn’t create, publish, or develop anything without spending countless unnecessary hours perfecting things. 

Yes, creating a great product is paramount. It’s also incredibly stressful and anxiety-filled when you’re doing it by yourself. 

It then goes in the other direction and results in paralyzing fear and procrastination. Because anything other than flawless isn’t worth doing. 

Many people only embrace imperfection and accept that mistakes are a natural part of life after they’ve experienced life on the other side of the spectrum. 

They’ve learned it the hard way. The same goes for the following:

9) Self-compassion is key

Let me ask you something. Are you your biggest critic, or do you treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness? 

Many people simply judge themselves too harshly, holding them down and even making them miserable. 

On the other side, when you’re self-compassionate, you acknowledge your flaws and mistakes without harsh self-judgment. 

You treat yourself as you would your best friend and don’t hold grudges. Speaking of…

10) Letting go is the way to go

Holding onto grudges, regrets, or material possessions is often emotionally and mentally taxing

Learning to let go, whether forgiving someone who wronged you, releasing past regrets, or decluttering your physical space, results in greater peace, emotional freedom, and mental clarity.

I have a friend who holds a long-standing grudge against another friend who supposedly wronged him in the past. They haven’t spoken for many years and avoid each other like the plague.

Needless to say, this brings tension to the group dynamics as some gatherings bring both of them together in one place. 

I’m hopelessly trying to explain to them that letting go of this grudge would allow both of them to free themselves from the negative emotions associated with it and possibly repair the friendship.

But I’m also not holding my breath. They obviously have to realize this on their own. 

11) Strength in adversity

Resilience is one of the best traits you can have. It helps you bounce back from adversity and grow stronger through challenges. 

When you’re resilient, you’re facing difficulties with courage and perseverance, knowing that setbacks are a normal part of life. 

Resilience and adaptability allow you to navigate tough times with grace and come out on top wiser and more confident than ever.

But you need to learn this lesson the hard way. Rarely are people born resilient. 

Final thoughts

Most of the time, you’re better off learning from other people’s mistakes. But in some cases, you have to live through some things to learn and grow. 

All of these lessons can be challenging, but they’re often the ones that shape us the most, too. 

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

If someone displays these 10 traits, they’re probably quite lonely in life

If someone uses these 12 phrases, they’re probably really smart