My 45 years on this earth has taught me a lot of life lessons. And while I know it’s hard to put an old head on young shoulders, my impending death has prompted me to share ten things I’ve learned (plus one because I cannot count). Here are my 10 life lessons + 1.
Take charge of your own life. While you don’t always control the situations you find yourself in, you do control your reaction to them. Don’t react out of habit and don’t react in unhelpful ways. Rather, choose to act or react in ways that are helpful. Furthermore, you have often contributed to the situations you find yourself in and while it is not helpful to lay blame, by taking note of your own contributions you know what to do to change the situation.
Be yourself and be proud of it. You are unique and you are wonderful. Never think that you are less worthy than anyone else around you, but never think that you are better than others either. It is your uniqueness and the uniqueness of others that makes the world wonderful.
Respect and be considerate of others. Before you decide how you will act in any situation, think about how your actions could affect other people. Choose to act in ways that are respectful and considerate of others.
Respect and be considerate of yourself. Tell people what you want and what you need without fear of disapproval. Yet, do so in a respectful and considerate way. While it may be nice to have others’ approval, your needs are more important.
Work hard and persevere. If you want something you must work at it and you must be willing to work at it for an extended period of time. There is no substitute for your own hard work. No one can do it for you. And, there will be struggles and setbacks along the way. If you really want it, stick at it.
Follow the rules yet break them. Whether it’s mum telling you what to do, or society, groups need rules or there would be chaos. At the same time, people who were admired throughout history have stood up against unjust and hypocritical rules. So, in general, I encourage you to follow the rules. Yet, stand up and break them when needed.
Be open-minded enough to seek the truth. We all have beliefs about situations, topics, and the world in general. Yet, some beliefs are more valid than others. Be open to challenging and changing your beliefs based on logic and evidence.
Be tolerant and intolerant. Today many people talk about the importance of tolerance, and I agree with them partially. Be tolerant of other people’s views and preferences. Yet be intolerant of things that are just plain wrong, such as domestic violence and bullying. Judge people by the way they act, not by superficial characteristics such as skin colour, gender or sexuality.
Deal with failure. You will not always achieve the things that you set out to. Nor will you always succeed at being the virtuous person you wish to be. Forgive yourself, get up and try again. At the same time, recognise that this is also true for others – so be willing to forgive them as well.
Look after your body, otherwise, you’ll end up like me. Eat well and exercise regularly. As Tim Minchin pointed out, philosophical people like me who laughed at physical education graduates with their mini witches’ hats, are wrong. PE teachers are right.
Life Lessons +1
Laugh and have fun. There are many important things in life, yet important does not mean the same thing as serious. Learn to laugh and have fun, in good times and in bad. Of course, there will be times when you are sad, but there is so much in life to be grateful for. I’m sad that I won’t get to see you finish growing up or have children of your own. Yet, I’m also grateful that I had the privilege of knowing and guiding you for the time we had. As for the time we have left, why cry when you can laugh.
Narrowing life lessons down to a short list has been challenging. There are many life lessons that you will learn for yourself along the way. However, I hope that my list of life lessons will give you a good head start, and something to look back on at different stages throughout your life. Good luck and best wishes.