Philosophy

What is the most important life lessons you’ve learned in life.

16 Mins read
lessons

There are some things that you only need to know once in your life, after which your life will never be the same again. Here, you will get the 21 most important life lessons learned.

I have always been a curious guy, I spend a lot of my time wanting to know the bizarre and the misunderstood concepts in life.

My curiosity led me to this article in Quora , where someone asked about the most important life lesson that anyone has ever learned in the course of their lives. The answers were mostly hilarious apart from a few thought provoking and insightful ones.

I have scoured the internet for all the information I can get and Jesus Christ, isn’t the internet huge. I hope you don’t get tired of reading this long piece as much as I did while researching about it, furthermore, didn’t you come here to learn about the life lessons learned.

21 life lessons

1. Life is short – the most important of all life lessons.

The most important life lesson you will ever have to learn in life is that – life is short, you are not here for a long time, life is going to end sooner than you think and that the best thing you can ever do, is make the most out of each and every situation with no regrets.

In simple terms, seize the day – carpe diem1

Seize the day, making it your effort to do all the things you want to do, as perfectly as you could ever do them, and making sure that you have no regrets afterwards. You need to seize the day to the point where you can say, “I did everything that I could, there is nothing more that I could have done to change anything.” And that is all you will ever need to know to be happy.

In her song, Lush Life, Zara Larsson says:

I live my day as if it was the last

Live my day as if there was no past

Doin’ it all night, all summer

Doin’ it the way I wanna

Zara larsson

I like the message in the song because it clearly expresses the motto that this blog – The Mind Complex, is all about – live your life as you should, based on who you are as a person (personality and maturity) and being in the moment (mindfulness).

This – life is short- is by far the most important life lesson anyone has ever learnt. If you have ever lost someone, a family member or a friend, then you know that feeling that comes after, the realization that it could have easily been you.

Death, and its eventuality is the biggest shocker to us all. We live each day not thinking about it, knowing at the back of our minds that it is coming but not really acting on it. The bible says;2

Yes, a wise man thinks much of death, while the fool thinks only of having a good time now.

Ecclesiastes 7:4

The verse focuses on telling the readers that the eventuality of death is a reason enough to have a purpose and direction on life, for just chilling and enjoying life, forgetting that it might end, is the recipe for disaster.

2. Learn the power of gratitude and appreciation.

” Maybe you thought it was money, sex or food, but experts are saying that the key to happiness is something entirely different. It’s something that anyone can have at any time. It’s simple and it’s vital. It’s gratitude.” (Joshua Rosenthal, 2010)

Gratitude and appreciation is simply the act of being thankful of what you have, who you have and counting you blessings really. Most of us get stuck in wanting and wanting, what we don’t realize is the more we want the more we forget to appreciate and be grateful for what we have now.

Most philosophers and thinkers of old age such as Aristotle, Socrates and Plato were great advocates for the power of contentment.

Contentment means that you are grateful for what you have and happy in the position that you are in at the moment. Its one of the most important life lessons learned.

Recent research shows that a daily gratitude practice can lead to increased concentration, enthusiasm, optimism and satisfaction – not to mention improved sleep quality and a greater sense of connection to others. 3

I have always believed that, if you can’t find a way to be happy and content where you are right now, then the chances that you are going to be happy when you get what you are chasing are very minimal.

Start practicing gratitude in your life by:

  1. Slowing down and being mindful.
  2. Keeping a gratitude journal or diary.
  3. Thank others and inspire them.
  4. Count your blessings and be genorous.

3. Smiles are for days, smiles are contagious.

“A smile conveys feelings of happiness, hope and positivity to anyone who sees it. When you smile, you are sending a message to those around you that you are accepted, you are welcome, all is well.” (Kaitlin Rogg-DeBillis,2014)

I once asked my female friends what makes a guy attractive at first glance. One of the repeated answers was – a guy who smiles. There is something about smiling that makes the people around you feel at ease. Smiling gives the people around you the notion that you are comfortable around them, comfortable with being yourself and that you are enjoying yourself.

This makes them feel at ease around you, and also make them reciprocate the same towards you, hence the phrase, “smiles are contagious.”

4. Choosing good friends is one of the biggest life lessons.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with

jim rohn

Science explains how your friends:

  1. Influence your emotions.
  2. Urge you to conform so as to be liked and fit in.
  3. Influence what you do and the direction of your life
  4. Influence your habits and character.

The atmosphere and relations created by the people you hang out with influence your actions, behaviors and character because as humans we are social creatures and bound to emulate the people we hang out with.

Choose your friends wisely, they can either make you or break you. Its one of the harshest life lessons you will ever learn.

The rule for choosing good friends is to simply recognize who they are, their character and behaviors. After that, ask yourself if you want to be identified in a similar way.

5. Knowledge is power, you can’t get too much of it.

The most valuable thing in life is knowledge. Everything else in our lives, money, health, things, love, they can all come and go. They can all be taken away from us. The one thing that no one can ever take from you once you have acquired it is knowledge.

– Sir Francis Bacon

I remember watching this motivational video a while back. And this speaker said, “I’m not scared of losing any thing I own in my house, I’m not worried of getting robbed or ending up bankrupt, because I know I can still make all of those things with time regardless of what happens. You know why, because I have knowledge.

Knowledge is the one thing that can’t be taken from you, the skills, the information and the experiences that make up your knowledge are more valuable because you can’t lose them, get us much information as you can.”

The more you know, the more opportunities and ideas you will have. The less you know, the less opportunities and ideas you will have.

Make an effort to always know more, be curious, read a book, read that article, go to that seminar, attend that conference, go to that event, do more and you will be more.

6. Don’t be pessimistic, nurture realism and optimism.

Personally I advocate for being a realistic individual. A realist will see things for what they are, the good and the bad and act accordingly to favor the most optimal outcome. Unlike an optimist who will always want to see the good side of things even though the reality of the incident isn’t so black and white.

Pessimism has a lot of effects on an individual’s health 4. Severe pessimism can decrease motivation by leading people to believe that there is no point to their efforts. But that isn’t inevitable, and it can also happen that optimism leads to overconfidence or complacency, and thus lack of action, and failure to prepare for negative possibilities (Kimberly Lawson,2016).

People who are pessimistic will overthink situations and always see the worst in every situation. Most of them believe that this is a strength- this is based on the illusion that if you know the worst thing that could happen in a given situation then you won’t be hurt because you will be prepared, or if the best thing happens then you have nothing to lose.

The downside to pessimism is that the feeling of seeing the worst diminishes your zeal for life. Even though you will be prepared for the worst case scenario, the fact that you believe in the worst things happening, will make you have a terrible outlook on this world, to you the world will be a hell hole where bad shit happens all the time.

7. Beliefs, culture and tradition changes your life.

The society we live in today is a product of thousands of years of traditions, beliefs and cultures, some still standing, some long forgotten and some twisted.

Our family traditions shape us from when we are kids till when we have kids of our own. Our belief systems – the religions, politics and principles, are vital to our world view and success.

The friends you are going to make, and how the world responds to you is going to be a product of these beliefs, chose them wisely. But also be wise in what you believe in, be logical and methodical about it, don’t believe in things that will harm you or the people around you.

Cultural beliefs influence health-related behavior all the time. Consider the Jehovah’s Witness spiritual concern that translates into refusal of blood transfusions. Is it logical?

Being logical is also one of the most important life lessons.

Don’t let your family or friends change your principles, principles define who you are, without them you would be just chasing the wind and just trying to fit in everywhere, never being yourself.

8. Expectations will break you if you are not careful.

In a recent study looking at the relationship between parents’ expectations and their child’s math performance, researchers reported that the more parents thought that boys were better than girls at math, the worse their daughters felt about their own math ability (Tomasetto, Mirisola, Galdi, & Cadinu, 2015).

What’s worse is that by the ripe old age of 6, girls are already becoming less and less interested in games for “smart” kids and are less likely than boys to say that members of their own gender are “really, really, smart” (Bian, Leslie, & Cimpian, 2017).

Many more researches echo these findings, the reality is, what you expect out of someone is more often going to influence their behavior. This is true for relationships, the workplace and parenting. 5

Sometimes we can’t help ourselves in setting up expectations for people. We should realize that our expectations will influence their behavior, that is why it is not a good idea to set up high expectations or low expectations for people. For if we make them believe the are going to fail then they may surely fail, and if we make them believe they might succeed they may succeed or force themselves to succeed for the fear of disappointment.

9. What you want and what you need are often two different things.

We all have a type, an ideal partner or lover. We all have this list in our head of the perfect mate that influences the type of people we chose to date. But if you have dated a few people then you will find out that what you thought you wanted in a person ended up being useless or the thing you hate.

It’s important to always give people chances, and experience new things because that is how you will get to really know what works for you. We need to learn how to let go of our wants and start figuring out our needs.

This applies to our relationships and also finances. Spending on things that you don’t need will ruin your financial independence. You should’t squeeze and confine yourself to just the necessities of course, but the art of minimalism is essential for financial freedom and healthy relationships.

10. Money can buy comfort not happiness.

There is a certain point in your income at which any increase in your salary won’t change the state of your living (Jordan Peterson, 2017)

Money can only give you so much before you get tired and see how futile making more money will be to your happiness. I believe that chasing after money and riches isn’t a bad thing, but depending on money as the sole motivator in your life is a recipe for disaster.

Money matters have many life lessons, one of which is the futility of the endeavor itself. Those who are rich believe they could be happier without those riches and those who are poor believe that they could be happier with the riches.

11. Ignorance isn’t bliss, face issues head on.

Ignorance is bliss – is a misinformed notion that what you are unaware of, what you don’t know exists won’t affect you. It is misinformed in the sense that, just because you chose not to know something, doesn’t mean that thing won’t affect you, it will, you just won’t know what it is.

If you are in a relationship, and you suspect that your wife is cheating, if you chose not to ask, so that you don’t know about it, it doesn’t mean that she won’t be cheating. She still will be, you just won’t know about it, it will still affect your marriage, you just won’t know the cause.

When you’re an adult, ignorance-is-bliss today means you have an STD tomorrow.

So no, ignorance isn’t bliss. Make it a habit to always face issues head on. Find solutions to problems, tackle the tough life decisions head on, ignoring them won’t make them go away.

Postponing the problems too is a bad habit, the problems will pile up to a point where it will be too much and that is how depression starts.

12. There is no perfect time, don’t waste your sweet time.

Don’t waste your sweet time, that is where you go wrong. If you keep waiting for the perfect time, with the ideal situations, you might never get to do what you want to do.

Make it a habit of always doing the best even though the conditions are not favorable.

13. Money is an issue in relationships.

There is this thing that romantics believe in, that love has nothing to do with money.

Boy are they wrong.

Relationships involve sharing your life with other people. That means sharing your financial burdens and struggles with them. Good relationships are built on sharing activities and ventures which always require money.

Always remember that money is an issue in any relationship and make it your duty to hustle and provide for the relationship as best as you can.

14. All your actions have consequences.

One of the best life lessons I have come to learn is that;

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

isaac newton

In one of his lectures, Jordan Peterson – a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto said; “In my line of work, I have never seen anyone get away with anything, ever!”

He goes further to say how he has seen – in his line of work- that no one ever gets away with anything, whether the wrong things are done consciously or subconsciously.

You might think that this is a terrifying thought, but personally I think it is a good one. It means that the concept of karma isn’t far fetched either.

It’s an important life lesson to realize that you can’t get away with anything, make it your daily drive to always be honest and truthful, with always knowing at the back of your mind that you can’t get away with anything.

15. Beware of the slippery slope.

I hope you are familiar with the story of the camel’s nose in a tent– it is an Arab story where an Arab, through his sympathy, lets a camel put its nose in his tent during a cold night, by the end of the night, the Arab had been pushed out of the tent by the camel and he was out in the cold while the camel enjoyed the warmth of the tent all to himself.

The moral to the story is simple – be careful what you allow in your life. It’s a life lesson that comes too late mostly. This is evident in addictions, broken marriages, failed businesses.

Any habit or persons that we chose to entertain or involve in our lives, is bound to be part of us. If you chose to allow something into your life, be sure to know that there is a high likelihood it will be part of you and that the effects that come with it might not be so tolerable.

It is a slippery slope. Don’t entertain bad habits, they may become part of you, don’t entertain bad friends, they may be the end of you, don’t entertain bad relationships, they may ruin your love life.

16. Be adaptive, flexible and teachable.

Pride comes before a fall

As much as we all have dreams and goals that we can’t let go, it is an important life lesson to know that things don’t always go as we want them to.

One of the most valuable skills that we have as humans is the skill of adapting to difficult circumstances. You need to learn to own this skill. Let go of your pride and learn to adapt to difficult circumstances.

Adaptability as a skill refers to the ability of a person to change his actions, course or approach to doing things in order to suit a new situation. We constantly change our lifestyles because our world is changing always .

17. Learn to be highly emotionally intelligent.

Emotional intelligence is the back bone of this blog, emotional intelligence is the ability of being able to notice and being aware of your own emotions and other people’s emotions, acknowledging them and being able to act accordingly to suit the most valuable outcome.

Emotional intelligence comprises of so many aspects of your life such as; your self awareness, social management, self management and social awareness.

Life is so full of emotional triggers and disappointments, you need to own the skill of dealing with these setbacks in life.

18. A long life isn’t necessarily an amazing life.

I remember when I was in high school, one of our teachers told us about this story of a sick kid, the kid was 14 years old and had cancer. He was a christian and extremely smart for his age. When he learnt that he was sick and that the medication wasn’t working, he chose to outline his life in a journal.

In the journal he wrote all of the dreams and goals that he wanted to accomplish before he died. He set his time limit to around 4 years, which was the time the doctors told him he had.

In the next 4 years, he embarked on doing all of those things; he played all the sports games he ever wanted to, he ate all the foods he ever wanted to, he helped out in all the charities he wanted to, he talked to all of the young kids he wanted to advice, he even got himself a girlfriend like he had always wanted, the list was long.

Anyway, when the time came, he had had so much fun and had enjoyed his last 4 years way more than most of us tend to enjoy most of our lives.

We sometimes get stuck in these routines of endless tasks that don’t add up to our happiness for so long, that they end up dominating our lives. Even if we live long but still continue indulging harmful habits then is that long life really worth it?

It is important to take care of your health, obviously, work out as much as you can everyday. Keep yourself fit and healthy, it will save you a lot of headache when you are older. But also make sure you spend your time doing what brings joy to your life, for this is the ultimate key to a more fulfilling life.

19. Patience and courage is key.

Don’t be in a hurry to do anything, that is how you get to do a sloppy job. Good things come in due time, focus on doing something as best as you can, to the best of your ability and knowledge, the rest will follow.

Be courageous enough to follow your dreams and passions but don’t let the setbacks and time constraints prevent you from your impending glory, be resilient and patient.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

20. Expose yourself to new things.

Travel more, make new friends, try out new hobbies, read more books, watch more tv shows, date more, play more sports, expose yourself to new things.

If you stay in your comfort zone, you won’t get to learn anything more than what you already know, and like I said earlier, knowledge is power, you can’t get enough of it.

Experiences are one of the most valuable items in the world, experiences give us our cherished memories, experiences make us and define us. Have more amazing experiences and your life will be glamorous.

21. NO ONE CARES! PERIOD!

I had to save this for last since it was one of the hardest life lessons to learn for me.

Personally I used to be the type of guy who would worry too much about my impression on others. I always questioned what people thought of me, what their opinions were about me and my character, I used to worry about every minor details – my dressing, my conversations with them, my grades in school, my eating habits, my accent…. the list is endless.

No One Cares About You & That’s The Most Liberating Thing There Is

mel lashbrook

Don’t worry no one cares, you need to get to a point in your life where you realize how self absorbed we all are. That doesn’t mean we are selfish, no, we are just mostly affected by the things that concern us and not other people, we are more affected by problems that touch us personally rather than the ones that don’t.

In one of my favorite shows of all time, How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby says, “Its funny how we react to our friends’ good news. For a moment you are excited for them, happily in celebration for their achievements. But a few moments down the line, you start thinking about your own self, what you haven’t accomplished, your own shortcomings and your regrets.”

The truth is – no one cares. That is because we are concerned about what is going on with us and not you. I hope this gives you as much drive as you need to stop being worried about other people’s opinions.

And with that, I finish this 21 life lessons list.

I’d love to hear from you. Would you say you have learnt these life lessons yourself? What do you think are the most important life lessons that people should know?

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the most important life lessons you have learned.

Footnotes

  1. Carpe diem (sieze the day) is a phrase used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that one should enjoy life while one can. This based on the fact that- every day that you live, you face a thousand ways to die. Yes, I stole that last line from “1000 ways to die”, sue me. Basically, we need to get in touch with the fact that any of this could be gone before we know it, so lets seize everyday like it’s our last.
  2. I love this verse so much – Ecclesiastes 7:4. The words of the Philosopher, David’s son, who was king in Jerusalem, have always been of great comfort to me, am not the most staunch Christian, but the truths in these pages are enlightening, I recommend them to everyone
  3. Gratitude: The Secret to Happiness.-Huffpost.com
  4. Did you know that pessimism can lead to death. Researchers in Finland did a study of older people in the country and found out that being pessimistic is a contributor to high risks of heart diseases and failures.
  5. Bian, L., Leslie, S. J., & Cimpian, A. (2017). Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests. Science, 355(6323), 389-391.
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About author
I'm a psychology enthusiast and a fried chicken lover. I write bite sized articles unpacking the complexities of the human mind. The mission is to advocate for what's more important in life - the pursuit of the truth and the highest good one can do with that truth - for themselves, the people around them and the society as a whole.
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