The 10 biggest life lessons most people learn too late, according to psychology

Life has a funny way of teaching us lessons. Sometimes, though, they come a little too late. In fact, according to psychology, there are ten significant lessons that most of us tend to grasp when it’s already past the ideal learning curve.

As Lachlan Brown, founder of Hack Spirit and a mindfulness and Buddhism expert, I’ve spent countless hours delving into the realms of the human mind.

And I’ve realised that some of the biggest life-changing revelations often come when we least expect them and sometimes when we’re least prepared to act on them.

This article will uncover the 10 biggest lessons most people learn too late, according to psychology.

We’ll explore these lessons in an attempt to prepare you better for what lies ahead or to help you make sense of some of the things you’ve already experienced.

Let’s dive right in.

1) Understanding the impermanence of life

In my journey through mindfulness and Buddhism, one truth has consistently echoed – all things are impermanent.

Now, this isn’t just a philosophical musing, but a significant psychological lesson many of us learn too late.

We spend a large part of our lives chasing after things – be it material possessions, relationships, or certain life milestones. But in this relentless pursuit, we often overlook the inherent transitory nature of life.

Psychology reaffirms this. Our happiness and contentment are not tied to these transient elements. Yet, most individuals spend their entire lives under the illusion that these pursuits will bring them lasting happiness.

Living mindfully involves understanding and accepting the impermanence of life. It allows us to let go of our attachment to these transient elements and make peace with change.

Unfortunately, for many, this realization comes later in life, often clouded with regret about the time wasted chasing after impermanent things. But remember, it’s never too late to shift your perspective and embrace the lessons life has to offer. Life is fleeting, but once we learn to accept this truth, we can truly begin to live in the present moment.

2) The importance of self-acceptance

Imagine if you could look at yourself through a lens of compassion and acceptance, rather than judgment or criticism. Sounds peaceful, doesn’t it? Yet, many of us struggle with self-acceptance.

As a student of Buddhism and mindfulness, I’ve learned that self-acceptance is not about being complacent or ignoring our faults. It’s about acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses, and understanding that both are integral parts of who we are.

Too often, we’re our own harshest critics. We berate ourselves for our mistakes and perceived shortcomings, leading to a cycle of self-doubt and negativity. Psychology tells us that such behaviour can lead to issues like anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

Yet, the key to a healthier relationship with ourselves is acceptance. As Jon Kabat-Zinn, a renowned mindfulness expert, once said, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how despairing you may be feeling in a given moment.”

Many people learn this lesson too late in life, after years of self-criticism and negative self-talk. But the beauty of this lesson is that it’s never too late to start practicing self-acceptance. The journey towards a healthier relationship with ourselves begins with acknowledging and accepting who we are – flaws and all.

3) Letting go of ego

One of the biggest obstacles we face in life is our own ego. It’s that voice inside us that insists we’re always right, that we’re superior to others, and that our needs should always come first.

The ego can be a real troublemaker, causing conflict in relationships, stunting personal growth and making us unhappy. Yet, many people spend their lives serving their egos without realizing the damage it does.

In my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego, I delve into how Buddhism teaches us to tame our egos. The idea isn’t to obliterate the ego but to understand its place and not let it control our lives.

Psychology supports this Buddhist wisdom. Studies show that excessive ego can lead to stress, poor decision-making, and relationship problems. The lesson here is about learning to let go of the need to always be right or in control.

Sadly, this understanding often comes too late for many people, after years of ego-driven decisions have taken a toll on their wellbeing and relationships. The good news is, it’s never too late to start practicing ego management. Your ego is not your enemy; it’s merely a part of you that needs guidance and understanding.

4) Embracing failure

Failure is an inevitable part of life. Yet, many of us spend so much energy avoiding it that we forget to see its value.

Think about it. How many times have you held back from trying something new out of fear of failure? How many opportunities have you missed because of this fear?

In the realm of psychology, it’s well-established that our attitude towards failure can significantly impact our growth and success. Failure isn’t a dead-end; it’s a stepping stone on the path to success.

Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor, once said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He viewed each failure not as a defeat but as a lesson.

Yet, many people learn the value of failure too late in life, after years of seeing it as a negative outcome rather than a learning opportunity.

Here’s a practical tip – next time you face failure, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, ask yourself: “What can I learn from this situation?” Shift your thinking from seeing failure as a setback to viewing it as feedback. This shift in perspective could make all the difference in your growth and success.

5) Recognizing your core values

Understanding our core values is like having a compass that directs us through life’s journey. But, sadly, many people go through life without a clear understanding of what truly matters to them.

As a mindfulness and Buddhism expert, I’ve learned that living in alignment with our core values is at the heart of leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Our values define who we are. They guide our actions, decisions and relationships. Yet, many of us are so caught up in the daily grind that we hardly take the time to introspect and understand what our true values are.

Psychology supports this. Research shows that individuals who live in accordance with their values are likely to experience greater well-being and life satisfaction.

Life Transition coach Jeanette Brown has developed a valuable tool that can help you define your core values – the Defining Your Values Exercise. I recommend you give it a try. It’s an excellent way to gain clarity on your true values, which can serve as your guiding principles in life.

Unfortunately, many people realize the importance of identifying and living by their core values later in life. 

Understanding your core values and making decisions aligned to them could make all the difference in leading a fulfilling life.

6) Practicing gratitude

Gratitude is a simple practice with profound effects. However, many of us tend to overlook it until later in life.

We often get caught up in what we lack, focusing on our problems rather than appreciating what we already have. This mindset can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

Psychology tells us that gratitude can significantly improve our mental health and overall wellbeing. Studies show that individuals who regularly practice gratitude tend to have lower levels of stress and depression.

The practice is simple – make it a habit to identify and appreciate the good things in your life. It could be as simple as a delicious meal, a warm sunny day, or the company of a good friend.

Unfortunately, many people learn the importance of practicing gratitude later in life, often after periods of discontentment and dissatisfaction.

Here’s a practical tip – start a gratitude journal. Every day, jot down three things you’re grateful for.

This small habit can shift your focus from negativity to positivity, helping you appreciate the abundance that already exists in your life.

7) Living in the present moment

As a mindfulness practitioner, I’ve learned that living in the present moment is one of the most transformative habits we can adopt. Yet, it’s a lesson many of us learn too late in life.

We often find ourselves either ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. This constant mental chatter can rob us of the joy that comes from truly experiencing the present moment.

In Buddhism, mindfulness is all about being fully aware and engaged in the here and now. It’s about letting go of past regrets and future anxieties and immersing ourselves completely in what’s happening right now.

Psychology echoes this wisdom. Studies show that mindfulness can reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance emotional wellbeing.

Sadly, many people realize the importance of living in the present moment after years of being mentally stuck in the past or future. But remember, it’s never too late to start practicing mindfulness.

Here’s a simple tip to help you get started: take a few minutes each day just to sit quietly and focus on your breath. This simple practice can help anchor you in the present moment and bring a sense of calm and clarity to your life.

8) Accepting that change is inevitable

Change is the only constant in life. However, accepting this truth is a lesson most of us learn too late.

We often resist change, clinging to familiarity and comfort. But this resistance can keep us stuck, preventing growth and adaptation.

As the famous Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant in life is change.” Embracing this truth can liberate us from our fear of the unknown and open us up to new possibilities.

Psychology affirms this. Research shows that individuals who are open to change tend to be more resilient and adaptable.

Unfortunately, many people learn to accept and embrace change only after they’ve resisted it for far too long. The good news is, it’s never too late to start. The next time you face a change, instead of resisting it, try to see it as an opportunity for growth and learning. This shift in perspective could make all the difference.

9) Accepting that happiness is not the end goal

Now, this may sound counterintuitive, but bear with me. So often, we’re told that the ultimate goal in life is to be happy. But, through my own journey of mindfulness and Buddhism, I’ve learned that it’s not happiness itself, but the pursuit of meaningful experiences that truly enriches our lives.

We often chase after happiness as if it’s a destination, a place where once we arrive, we’ll live happily ever after. But life isn’t a fairy tale. Happiness comes and goes. It’s transient.

Psychology supports this. Studies show that those who focus solely on pursuing happiness often feel less happy and more stressed. It’s what psychologists call the “paradox of happiness.”

The truth is, life isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s about finding meaning and purpose in our experiences, even the challenging ones.

Sadly, many people realize this truth late in life, after years of seeking happiness as an end goal.

But remember, it’s never too late to shift your perspective. Instead of chasing after happiness, focus on pursuing meaningful experiences that bring you joy and fulfillment.

10) Prioritizing self-care

The importance of self-care cannot be overstated. Yet, it’s a lesson many of us learn too late.

We often prioritize everything else – work, family, responsibilities – over our own well-being. But neglecting self-care can lead to burnout, stress, and health issues.

Psychology tells us that taking care of our physical, emotional, and mental well-being is critical for maintaining a balanced and healthy life.

The practice is simple – take time out each day for yourself. It could be anything from a relaxing bath, a brisk walk in the park, quiet meditation, or simply reading a book.

Sadly, many people realize the importance of self-care only after they’ve experienced burnout or health problems. But remember, it’s never too late to start prioritizing your well-being.

Here’s a practical tip – schedule your self-care activities just like you would any other important appointment. It’s a small commitment that can make a big difference in your overall well-being and quality of life.


Life’s biggest lessons often come to us when we least expect them, sometimes later than we’d like. But the beauty of these lessons is that it’s never too late to learn and grow from them.

These lessons range from understanding the impermanence of life, accepting our selves, taming our ego, embracing failure, recognizing our core values, practicing gratitude, living in the present moment, accepting change, realizing happiness is not the end goal and lastly, prioritizing self-care.

Remember, life is a journey of continuous learning and growth. And sometimes, the most profound insights come from reflecting on our experiences and understanding our true values.

To help you with this, I highly recommend Jeanette Brown’s “Defining Your Values Exercise”. It’s an excellent tool to gain clarity on your core values and guide your decisions in life.

In the end, it’s not about learning these lessons early or late; it’s about learning them at all. So take these psychological insights to heart and start applying them in your life today for a more fulfilling and meaningful tomorrow.

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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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