Life lessons I had to learn the hard way

Our childhood years and our education are foundation to pave the way into adulthood with good morals, judgments, life lessons and wisdom. Hearing stories as a child about life lessons in the forms of metaphors and anecdotes helps develop a sense of right and wrong as well as the consequences of each decision. Regardless of how well prepared you become from your parents or the younger years, some lessons will come along as you mature and get world wise.

Below is a list of life lessons I figured out the hard way. Hopefully my lessons can help you on your life journey. Some of these lessons do not need to be learned the hard way, so why spend valuable time learning the hard way if you can instead spend time benefiting from another person’s lessons?

1. Everyone has times they don’t understand life or what they are doing 

Even though it would seem that our elders and gurus are fully aware of the world and its contents, many of us tend to not really know what we are doing. We gather learnings, we gather understanding and we foster wisdom as we go along. Nonetheless, we cannot always know the answers and we cannot always understand. That is part of the human experience. You may look at people around you and think they have everything figured out, that they know how to happy and lead a fulfilled life. Common on Facebook, people tend to exude confidence and focus on the positive sides of their life. The brightest and best can get lost, can struggle finding their way and can have a moment of doubt. Just remember that everyone is human and doesn’t have all the answers. That is perfectly normal and the most important is not to have the answers, but how we question.

2. Novelty keeps your brain fresh 

Whilst young, you learn at a phenomenal pace and your brain functions as a sponge, absorbing everything. Everything is new and therefore activates your brain to analyze, comprehend and understand it completely. When we are infants, our world tends to be our family, our food, our home and our direct surroundings (Not that I personally recall these moments of course!). As we age, our world progresses to include new places, new people, new friends, new foods, and other new components. Every time we experience something new, it slows time down because we are going back to our sponge state.

Want to feel young and experience time at a slower rate? Keep on experiencing new experiences. See below a well-known image of our perception of time (very correlated with the novelty):

Perception of time based on new experiences
Perception of time based on new experiences – Source:

3. You won’t get along or be liked by everyone 

Honestly, this one is a difficult one to carry when you are used to bonding quickly and easily with a myriad of people. As an expat child, it is customary to become friends easily with anyone and everyone. Once I started getting to know more and more people, I noticed that some I did like but did not like me. It became more and more evident when they would show disinterest in conversing, not invite me to events and take a passive stance. Once, a young woman did not like me merely because I was in a relationship with my ex. She wanted him and I was ‘in the way’. No matter what I would do, say, or moments I would share with her, she would not change her position on me until I was out of the equation. Who I was wasn’t the problem; the problem was that I was the person my ex was with. No character change would have resulted in that relationship changing.

Letting go of the disappointment of not always being liked took me a while. Being at peace with someone not liking me took me a lot of effort and letting go of certain ideologies that are dear to my heart.

4. Tit for tat will leave you unhappy 

Karma suggests that what you reap is what you sow. In some cases people think it means that you will get back what you put in every situation, however these expectations will not yield a positive influence. Expecting a favour for a favour will be exhausting because that isn’t exactly how the world works. Sometimes we will do a favour and (at some point in time) will have another person somehow repay the favour. Sometimes, they will not repay the favour. Think about family and closest friends, do you do favours in order to receive a favour in return? Hopefully not. If you help a stranger on a bus, would you expect something in return? Hopefully not. Letting go of the expectation of gaining something in return will help to live in the moment. Ultimately, it will come back to you one way or another.

5. Each person will learn life lessons at their own speed 

Certain life lessons will be learnt by everyone throughout their life but do not necessarily occur at the same moments in time. For example, learning that time is our most valuable currency (not money) will occur at different moments for different people. For some, it may occur based on the way their parents lead their lives. For others, it may be later in life. Imagine getting a burn out because you want to achieve the highest ranks on the ladder rather than looking after your health and happiness. That would be a moment that you reflect on what you need rather than what you want.

Not only is this lesson important for letting yourself take the time you need, it also requires you to cut some slack on other people who may not have learnt what you have learnt (yet). We are the collection of our own experience and we cannot be judged for information we have not yet received nor processed. If you notice that someone around you is not yet at the same level of life lessons and/or experiences, take that moment to either help them gear towards it or to let them be. Either way, you should not feel the need to be in a position of judgement. Patience is an incredibly important virtue.

6. Happiness takes self-awareness & effort

Recently I have been privy to very interesting happiness research. Majority of it focuses on: (1) the fact that happiness is one of the core components in deciding quality of life and (2) that happiness is the difference between expectations and reality. Those who expect a lot will be disappointed and those who do not expect at all will be happily surprised. It seems awfully simply when put in those terms, so why isn’t everyone happy?

Because it isn’t easy. We (almost) all have our ghosts haunting us, our rational, our experiences and our peers/family/colleagues telling us what is right for us or how we should go about things. These elements can possibly hinder the process towards a happy life, since a lot of the advice we are given is based on someone else’s experiences and ideals. It may not be easy to rise above if you know what is right for you to be happy, to keep going when you feel like everyone is questioning you and your resolve.

You need to keep on making a conscious effort to achieve true happiness. Along with this, a healthy dose of being self-aware of who you are and what makes you happy (self awareness) – you can begin to create a plan on how to become increasingly happy.