The 8 biggest lessons people learn too late in life, according to psychology

Life’s a journey of learning and growth, but sometimes, the most valuable lessons come a bit too late.

Hello there. I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder of Hack Spirit. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering life’s biggest lessons – the ones we often learn when it’s too late.

Drawing from psychology, I’ve gathered the 9 biggest ones, hoping to save you some time and heartache.

Here are some pearls of wisdom that many tend to grasp at the twilight of their lives. If we can integrate them sooner, we might just live fuller, happier lives.

Let’s dive in. 

1) Happiness is a choice

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but the truth is, happiness is not something that just happens to us. It’s a decision that we make every day.

According to psychology, we often forget that our happiness is largely within our control. We tend to think it’s dependent on external factors – a promotion at work, a new car, or the perfect partner.

But in reality, it’s about recognizing the positive aspects of our lives and choosing to be happy with what we have. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for more. It just means that we should appreciate where we are in our journey.

Many people realize too late that they have spent too much time chasing happiness, not knowing that they could have chosen to be happy all along.

Happiness is a choice you make every day. Don’t wait until it’s too late to understand this crucial lesson.

2) Living in the present is key

As an expert in Buddhism, I, Lachlan Brown, have spent a considerable amount of time studying and understanding its principles. One of the key teachings of Buddhism is the concept of mindfulness – being present in the moment.

Psychology echoes this principle. Many of us tend to either dwell on the past or worry about the future. We’re often so caught up in what was and what could be that we forget to appreciate what is.

The unfortunate truth is, many people go through life without truly living in the present. They fail to appreciate the beauty of each moment until they look back and realize how much time they’ve wasted.

Buddhism teaches us that life is happening right now, in this very moment. And psychological studies back this up. Living in the present can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life.

It’s a lesson that hits home too late for many. Let’s not wait any longer. Start living in the present today.

3) Failure is a stepping stone to success

Growing up, I was always afraid of failure. I perceived it as a sign of weakness, a mark of inadequacy. It took me years to understand that, in reality, failure is an integral part of success.

Psychology supports this notion. Failure is not the end of the road; it’s just a detour or a pit stop. It gives us a chance to evaluate our approach, learn from our mistakes, and come back stronger.

Most people fear failure so much that they avoid taking risks or stepping out of their comfort zone. They stick to the familiar, missing out on the myriad of opportunities that life has to offer.

But as I’ve learned—and as psychology attests—failure is not something to be feared. It’s something to be embraced. It’s through our failures that we grow and learn the most.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to understand the true value of failure. It’s not a setback, but a setup for a comeback.

4) The importance of letting go

One of the most vital teachings in Buddhism is the principle of detachment or letting go. It’s about understanding the impermanence of life and not clinging onto things, people, or experiences.

As a Buddhist scholar and the author of Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego, I delve deeper into this principle in my book.

Psychology, too, supports this Buddhist concept. Holding on to past hurts, grudges, regrets, or even past glories often does more harm than good. It can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Many people spend their lives holding onto things they cannot change or control. They realize too late that letting go could have led to inner peace and happiness.

5) Being selfish can be selfless

Sounds counterintuitive, right? But let me explain.

In our lives, we often prioritize others’ needs over our own. We think that selflessness is the key to being a good person. But psychology tells us that sometimes, being selfish is necessary.

Taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally is not just important for your well-being—it also allows you to better care for others. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Many people learn this lesson too late in life after depleting themselves while taking care of everyone else. They realize that they should have taken time for self-care and personal growth.

6) Acceptance is the key to inner peace

In Buddhism, there is a profound teaching: “What you resist, persists.” This means that fighting reality only leads to suffering. On the other hand, accepting what is happening in our lives can lead to inner peace.

Psychology supports this Buddhist principle. Studies show that acceptance—whether it’s accepting our feelings, acknowledging our faults, or coming to terms with an unfortunate situation—can significantly reduce mental distress.

Many people struggle with accepting their reality. They resist change, hold onto the past, or obsess over the future. They learn too late that acceptance could have brought them peace and contentment.

7) It’s okay to say no

I used to be a people-pleaser. I would say yes to everything, even at the cost of my own well-being. Over time, I realized that it’s not only okay to say no—it’s necessary.

Psychology supports this. Saying yes to everything can lead to stress, burnout, and even resentment. It’s essential to set boundaries and prioritize our own needs.

Many people have a hard time saying no because they fear confrontation or don’t want to disappoint others. They learn too late that saying no is a crucial aspect of self-care and maintaining healthy relationships.

8) Perfection is a myth

It might sound counterintuitive, but striving for perfection can actually hold us back.

In our quest for perfection, we often set unattainable goals and standards for ourselves. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and a constant feeling of inadequacy.

Psychology research shows that perfectionism can be harmful to our mental health. Instead, it’s healthier to strive for progress and personal growth.

Many people spend their lives chasing the illusion of perfection. They learn too late that they should have focused on being their best selves, not perfect ones.

Perfection is a myth. It’s progress and growth that matter most. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection hold you back.

9) Life is impermanent

Buddhism teaches us about the impermanence of life. Nothing stays the same, everything is constantly changing and evolving. This principle is a hard one to grasp, but once understood, it can change our perspective on life.

Psychology mirrors this Buddhist principle. It tells us that accepting the impermanence of life can reduce our fear of change and help us appreciate the present more.

Many people spend their lives resisting change and clinging to the familiar. They learn too late that embracing the impermanence of life could have brought them peace and helped them adapt to life’s inevitable changes.

Life is impermanent. Embrace change, appreciate the present, and live life fully. Don’t wait until it’s too late to understand this profound lesson.


Whether it’s choosing happiness, living in the present, embracing failure, or understanding the impermanence of life, each step brings you closer to a more fulfilling and peaceful existence.

If you’re interested in exploring more about these principles and how they connect with Buddhist teachings, I invite you to check out my book Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego. It’s a comprehensive guide that can help you navigate life’s ups and downs with grace and resilience.

Remember, life is a journey of learning. Let’s make sure we don’t learn these vital lessons too late.

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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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