Ultimate List of 50 Life Lessons You Must Learn
You know the old saying, “Youth is wasted on the young?”
I think about that on occasion — how I wish I'd had the self-awareness, confidence, and joy I have now when I was in my twenties and thirties.
So much of life is wasted on worry, regret, pain, and heartache. Of course, some of this is inevitable and necessary. But I spent too many of my younger days sweating over things I didn't need to sweat about.
I simply didn't know better. Or if I did, it just hadn't sunk in yet.
I suppose “life lessons” are called that for a reason. You need to experience life in order to learn the lessons. And the more life you experience, the more lessons you accumulate.
However, some extremely valuable lessons I learned from other people. Some I discovered from reading great thinkers like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie. Others were passed on from friends and family.
Although some lessons must be learned through experience, you don't have to wait until you're old to become aware of what's truly meaningful and worthwhile.
You simply need the curiosity and desire for self-awareness and personal growth. Once you learn the lessons, you can apply them in your life at any age and see the benefits to your happiness and well-being.
Here are 50 important life lessons that have stood the test of time:
1. Life is now.
We keeping waiting for that amazing thing to happen in the future that will be the key to our happiness.
But this is it. Right now. Life continues to be a series of right nows. So learn to love right now, and you'll have an amazing life.
2. Fear is an illusion (mostly).
Most of the things we fear never happen. Or if they do happen, they are rarely as bad as we fear they will be. For most of us, fear is the worst thing that will happen to us. Reality isn't as painful.
3. Relationships rule.
At the end of the day, what matters most are the people in our lives.
Put them first every single day. Before work. Before the computer. Before your hobbies. Treat them like they are your everything. Because they are.
4. Debt isn't worth it.
Nothing is more draining and humiliating than being in debt.
Buying things you can't afford might give you a short-term buzz, but in the long run, it's extremely stressful.
Spend below your means. Save money. Wait until you can afford it. Live free.
5. Your kids aren't you.
You are the vessel to bring your children into the world and their caretakers until they can care for themselves.
You can teach them, love them, and support them, but you can't change them. They are unique individuals who must live their own lives and learn from their own mistakes. Let them.
6. Things gather dust.
Time and money spent accumulating material things will one day irritate you.
You have to clean, maintain, store, and move stuff. The less stuff you have, the freer you are. Purchase mindfully. Simplify. Declutter your life.
7. Fun is underrated.
How much of your day is fun? Really fun?
Life is short. You should enjoy it. Don't make things serious that don't have to be.
Create more fun in your life. Don't worry about what other people think of your fun. Just enjoy it.
8. Failure is good.
We try so hard to avoid failure, but failure is the real evidence that we've had the courage to try.
If you avoid failure, you avoid taking action. Expect and accept that failure is part of the experience. Learn from it, grow from it, and move on.
9. Friendships need care.
One of the top five regrets of the dying is that they let their friendships fade away.
Friendships need time and attention. They need to be prioritized not just in word but in deed.
Nurture them like a prized garden. The payoff is so worth it.
10. Prioritize experiences.
The pleasure and positive memories afforded by great experiences far outweigh material things. If you're trying to decide between the new sofa or the family trip, take the trip every time.
Save and plan for new adventures and meaningful experiences. Don't just dream about them — make them happen.
11. Anger isn't worth it.
The feel-good release of anger lasts a few minutes. The repercussions last far longer.
Regret, stress, and unhappiness are the byproducts of angry outbursts. Learn healthier ways to communicate your feelings, and when anger arises, step away until it dissipates.
12. Kindness matters.
Small expressions of kindness have an enormous positive impact on other people and on your own happiness.
It doesn't take much to be kind. Practice it every day, in every situation, until it's your natural way of being.
13. Age is a number.
When you're twenty you think fifty is old. When you're fifty, you feel thirty. When you're seventy, fifty looks like adolescence.
Our chronological age doesn't have to define us. Don't allow a number to hold you back or prevent you from being the person you are inside. Just be the person you are inside.
14. Vulnerability heals.
Being real, open, and vulnerable invites people in and allows them to relate to you on a much deeper and more intimate level.
Vulnerability, practiced with safe and loving people, can heal emotional pain and strengthen relationships.
Let down your walls and connect. It's surprisingly liberating.
15. Posturing builds walls.
Creating a persona to impress or shield yourself from pain diminishes intimacy and authenticity.
People generally see through this, and it pushes them away. And you look like a fool.
16. Exercise is power.
Exercise should be a daily priority for everyone. It makes you physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger. It improves your health and your outlook. It is the panacea for just about everything.
17. Grudges cause pain.
Holding on to a grudge is like injecting poison into your body every day. Forgive and let go. There's no other way.
If your ego is preventing you from forgiving and letting something go, then tell your ego to take a hike. It's getting in the way of your happiness and well-being.
18. Passion upgrades life.
When you find that thing you love to do with all your heart, every day feels like a gift.
If you haven't found your life passion, make it your mission to find it. The joy it brings you spills over into all aspects of your life.
19. Travel expands you.
Travel makes you a more interesting, insightful, and accepting person.
It expands you, enlightens you, and teaches you about the variety of people, lifestyles, and cultures. It is a pursuit well worth saving for.
20. You aren't always right.
We think we have the answers, know what's right and wrong, good and bad, best for ourselves and other people. But we aren't always right.
There's always more than one version. There are many perspectives that are valid. Keep yourself open to that truth.
21. It will pass.
Whatever is causing you worry or pain right now won't cause you worry and pain forever. Time heals. Things change. It will pass.
22. You define meaning.
A meaningful life is what you define it to be.
If you neglect to define meaning, you won't experience it. Decide what makes life worth living for you, and then design your life around that.
23. Risk expands you.
To make a positive change in your life, you often must take a risk. You must tolerate some level of uncertainty.
Taking thoughtful, calculated risk strengthens your “change muscle” and helps you grow.
24. Change is good.
Life is change. We shouldn't resist it.
Remaining stagnant is in opposition to the natural order of life. Flow with change. Embrace it and regard it as an adventure.
25. Thoughts aren't real.
Every moment of the day, we have random thoughts floating through our brains.
Many of the thoughts are negative and limiting. You don't have to believe them. They aren't the truth or the whole truth.
Thoughts can become our reality, but only if we let them.
26. You can't control others.
We want people to think and behave as we do. We want them to accommodate us and live the way we think they should live. We want to change them.
But with awareness, we realize we can't and shouldn't try to control others. Instead, embrace differences and honor the uniqueness of the people in your life.
27. Your body is a temple.
We all have something, or many somethings, we hate about our bodies. But your body houses your very essence.
Treat your body with respect and care for the efficient and wondrous way it takes care of you. Even if there are parts of your body you don't like, focus on your body with a sense of love and gratitude.
28. Touch heals.
Physical touch is healing and intimate. It bonds us to other people and relieves stress and anxiety.
It has a myriad of health benefits such as lowering heart rate and improving the immune system.
Mindful, loving touch with those you love is a gift that should be shared.
29. You can handle it.
Whatever you think you can't handle, you actually can.
You have more strength, more resilience, and more inner wisdom than you give yourself credit for. You'll get through it and survive — and maybe even be better for it.
30. Gratitude multiplies happiness.
Consciously focusing on all you have rather than thinking about what you don't have is a far better use of brain power. Gratitude fosters positivity and well-being.
31. Intuition counts.
Your judgment is important, but your intuition supercharges your judgment.
Intuition is data from your subconscious mind, based on your past experiences and patterns in life.
It can arise spontaneously when you are called on to make a decision or need information.
32. Please yourself first.
Pleasing others for approval and acceptance might feel good in the short term, but eventually, you will lose yourself and feel resentful.
Please yourself first and give to others based on conscious choice, not the desire for approval or feelings of guilt.
33. Self-honesty is freedom.
When you are in denial about something, you are blinding yourself to the truth.
Even if the truth is temporarily painful, it will ultimately set you free. Be radically honest with yourself so you can live authentically.
34. Perfection is boring.
Perfection is unattainable, and the pursuit of it makes us boring.
It is our differences, our foibles, and our imperfections that connect us to humanity and make us real.
35. Serving creates meaning.
If you want meaning in your life, start with serving others. Find a way to make a difference, even a small difference, and your life will feel purposeful.
36. Little things matter.
It's not the big wins, the great accomplishments, or your status in life that really count.
It's the accumulation of little things — the quiet moments in nature, special time with our kids, seeing the smile on your spouse's face when you walk in the door. Pay attention to these things.
37. Learn forever.
There is so much to learn and explore in our very short lifetimes. Take advantage of learning every single day.
Challenge yourself to acquire a new skill, read something different, take a class. Learning keeps our minds engaged and sharp, even into old age.
38. Aging happens.
Our bodies age. It is a truth we can't avoid. You can manage to age well by doing the best with what you've got.
Beyond that, do your best to let it go. Enjoying life is the best antidote to getting older.
39. Marriages change.
The person you married will change over time. You will change over time.
Hopefully, you will change in the same direction or come to love the changes in the other person. Don't let these changes take you by surprise.
If the changes start to pull you apart, take action as soon as possible to heal the rift.
40. Worry is worthless.
Worry is useful only if it leads directly to a solution. But the very nature of worry implies that it doesn't.
You worry about “what ifs” that aren't real, and the worry itself creates stress and physical symptoms that cause real reason for angst. Learn how to manage your worry thoughts.
41. Heal your wounds.
Don't allow pain from your past (or present) to linger and cause you suffering.
Don't stuff it down or pretend it doesn't matter when it does.
Seek support from a professional trained to help you heal and renew your emotional health.
42. Simple is better.
A life full of complications, obligations, and an overwhelming schedule make life more difficult and stressful. A simpler life in all regards gives you more space for joy, authenticity, and engagement.
43. Do the work.
If you want something in life, you must do the work to get it. There are rarely shortcuts.
But fortunately, the work is what affords the most sense of accomplishment. The process is more engaging than the outcome.
44. It's never too late.
This is an excuse for not trying. Great things can be accomplished at any age. Telling yourself otherwise is a sure way to remain stuck and frustrated.
45. Action beats angst.
Action is the cure for worry, procrastination, indecision, anxiety, and frustration.
Stop thinking and do something, and you will create momentum that leads to something valuable — or at the least heals your turmoil.
46. Creation beats reaction.
Be proactive in your life, designing exactly what you want rather than reacting to what life throws at you.
Creation empowers you and expands your opportunities. Reacting disempowers you and diminishes your choices.
47. Release attachments.
Don't become too attached to outcomes or beliefs. Remain open to all possibilities and ideas.
You will be surprised how much more there is to life when you don't cling to your beliefs, opinions, and things.
48. Words matter.
The words you speak have power. Consider your words carefully. Use them for good rather than harm. Once they are out, you can't take them back.
49. Make every day count.
If you live to age ninety, how many days do you have left?
It is a finite number, and one day you will reach that last day. Remain conscious of the value of every single day.
Ask yourself every morning, “What can I do to make today count?”
50. Love is the answer.
Love is why we are here. It is the force for good in this often random, painful, and harsh world. Share it freely. Express is daily. Use it as your lodestar.
What are some of the life lessons you've learned over the years? How have they impacted you or the way you live? Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.