I have learned a lot of lessons over the past fifteen years of my life. Some of the lessons have come out from my own experiences, and some from reading about and observing the lives of others.
In this article, I share with you the fifteen most important lessons I have learned over the years. I hope you find some value in them.
Let me start right away.
1. Empathise – Empathy is one of the most important ideas in a world where most people live and act for selfish reasons. To empathise is to be kind. If you say or do something to someone, just think for a moment how you will feel if someone says or does the same to you. If you would feel pleasant hearing other people’s words or by their actions, then only say or do something to others. Imagine being in someone else’s shoes. Only if you can do that, you will do things differently, and with greater kindness.
2. Surround yourself with good people – It is always important to be aware of the people around you. There is a saying that we are the average of the five people we spend most of our time with. Thus, it is important to choose our peers well.
3. Be optimistic – A wise person said that life is what happens to us when we are making other plans. Whether we are going through a good or bad situation, it is important to be positive and look at life with great optimism. Most of what happens to us is beyond our control, and thus we must know how to deal well with whatever is offered to us in life. And since time is short, we must not waste it on negative people and negative thoughts.
4. Learn from your and other people’s mistakes – Every mistake offers us something valuable to learn. So we should never be fearful of making one or disappointed when we have already made one. A mistake, if taken in a positive way, brings about a massive change in a person. I can vouch for that, given the number of mistakes I have also made in my life. But we must learn from our mistakes. Also, we must learn from other people’s mistake so as to not repeat the same in our lives.
5. Have patience – I have read somewhere that patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting. Being patient is a good quality and the fruits of patience are sweet. Good things in life compound over time, and we can benefit from such a compounding only if we are patient. But patience is like a muscle that develops only with practice. The earlier you start, and the longer you practice it, the better you get.
6. Keep learning – The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can steal it away or take it from you. Famous investor Warren Buffett says, “The more you learn, the more you earn.” And it is not just about earning, but about becoming a better and wiser person over time. Reading books is a great way to learn. What is more, when you read good books, you can learn not just from people who are alive but also people who are dead but who wrote wonderful books that have survived the test of times. Good books help us open our minds. We must also learn from other people. In fact, we must learn from everyone and everything we encounter in life.
7. Be frugal – While it is important to enjoy the present by spending money on things and great experiences, we must always be saving something out of our pocket money or income. Saving money not just helps us meet our requirements in the future but also come in handy on a ‘rainy day,’ like in emergency situations. You can also give away some part of your money to needy people.
If you earn Rs 100 as pocket money, take out Rs 10 or Rs 20 and keep it aside before spending the rest. This money should not be used to buy things you want. You can also invest this money and earn some returns. Even if you are not investing this money, store it in a piggy bank or wherever you want and let it accumulate for a long period of time. If you keep spending on your ‘wants’ and do not save anything, a day may come when you may not have enough money for your needs.
8. Maintain a diary – This is a habit that I have developed over the past three years. When I look back at my diaries, I feel a sense of happiness. Every night before sleeping, just think of the day gone by, the things you did, the experiences you had etc., and write them down in your diary. Years later, when you read about those days and years gone by, all those special moments will flash before your eyes and you will feel so good. You can also use your diary to put down your thoughts into words. Writing a diary is a great way to thinking and living better.
9. Don’t worry about criticism – Whenever you do something, there may be people who will appreciate you. But there may be some who may pick out the flaws in your work. We should not ignore and shun away the critics from our lives. If someone is offering a positive criticism, we should pay heed to what that person is telling us instead of feeling bad and ignoring him or her. Sometimes, the way someone else may look at your work is different from your perspective. We should listen to something which is useful and that may improve our work. However, it is equally important to ignore negative criticism, which is done just for the sake of it. We must never let such negative criticism come in the way of our work.
10. Take care of your health – Our body is the most precious thing we possess, but there is just one we get in a lifetime and thus we must take proper care of it. We must eat healthy food and be physically fit. Food acts as a fuel to our body, and we must fill it with the right kind. Sometimes it is fine to eat something you like but which may not be healthy, but you should treat it just as a cheat meal.
Now, apart from physical health, we must also take very good care of our mental health. We should not take stress as it harms our body in a lot of ways. The best way to de-stress is to do whatever you love doing, which may include writing, dancing, singing, painting etc. Always being happy, in whatever circumstances you are in, is also an important aspect of mental health.
11. Learn to deal with failures – We are taught from early childhood that it is not good to fail. That is why schools also stress a lot on its students achieving the best grades, often at the cost of real learning. No one is expected to fail, and that is why, as we grow, we start fearing failure.
Always remember that failure is not the end, but just a stepping stone in our life’s journey. Failure always brings something positive with it and contains the seed of making a person mentally strong and capable. One should accept failure in a positive way and learn from it.
12. Be grateful – If you are reading this, you are among the luckiest people in the world who have ready access to information, have food on their plates, and a roof on their head. We should always be grateful for what we have in life in place of worrying about things we do not have. In a day’s hustle and bustle, people often forget about the little things they can be grateful for. Like waking up in the morning, one should thank god for giving her/him another lovely day to live. Every morsel of food you eat, be thankful that you have enough food for staying alive whereas many people live on the streets, begging for even one meal a day. Be grateful for things you have in place of craving for more things which will not be so important in life. Being grateful is another way of being happy. Every day, just before sleeping, write down in your diary minimum three things you are grateful for in life. This is a great habit.
13. Be ethical – The former Justice at the United States Supreme Court, Potter Stewart, once stated – “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what is right to do.” Our ethics is a representation of our personality, and we must never leave it while dealing with others in any area of life.
14. Be disciplined – We all want to have freedom in life but we must also understand that true freedom requires great amount of discipline. If a person is disciplined in life but has no freedom, he/she cannot do much to be happy. On the other hand, an undisciplined person with all the freedom will be a menace for the society.
15. Have courage and be kind – I saw a beautiful movie in 2015, which was story of Cinderella. It offered me a very valuable lesson. Cinderella’s mother advises her to always “have courage and be kind.” This stuck with me as a powerful lesson. One should have the courage to be right and do the right things. Kindness is something everyone should possess. Be kind to everyone and in return everyone will be kind to you.
Mark Twain, the famous American author, is quoted as saying –
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
This is the final lesson I would like to leave you with, my dear reader.
Be kind. Be happy. Be at peace.
Thank you for reading!