When I hear the phrase “life lesson” one word comes to mind: cliché. People, usually older family members, are always trying to force their words of wisdom upon us. Honestly, it can get pretty annoying. At the same time though, there are certain things I’ve found through my own experiences (and yes, that my mom has taught me), to be entirely true. While there are a million life lessons out there, from the broad, applies-to-everyone kind to the this-only-works-for-my-life type, here are five lessons that everyone needs to know:
You control your own happiness
This is super important, and I feel like we hear it a lot, but no one really believes it. Happiness is so individual and personal, and there is no way to measure it other than simply asking someone. And if someone says they’re happy, they are correct by definition. Happiness is truly a state of mind. Not only that, but it’s not a destination. We waste so much time looking forward, constantly searching for happiness. And yet, you can feel happy pretty much whenever you want to. You don’t have to wait until the weekend, or until you enter a relationship. We should all stop searching and start realizing that we are the ones in control. It’s all about attitude, and how you choose to look at the world. Happiness is a choice. This is not to say that other things or people can’t contribute to your happiness. It simply means that the root of your personal happiness comes from you. Of course, sometimes circumstances make it seem hard, or even impossible, to feel happy. But even then, it is all up to you. Making a conscious effort to feel happy and content will make even the hardest days a little more bearable.
You don’t know if you don’t try
We have a tendency of making a lot of assumptions. We figure that we already know the answer or what’s going to happen. And yet, people and situations surprise us all the time. Spoiler alert: we have absolutely no idea how other people are feeling or thinking, or how they will react to things. Another spoiler alert: we have a knack of sometimes misinterpreting situations and drawing incorrect conclusions. The way to combat this? Try. Ask. Go for it. Be bold. From little things, like asking if you can alter a menu item at a restaurant, to more substantial things, like telling someone how you feel about them, you can avoid the dreaded “what if” situations if you just put yourself out there. It can be a scary thing depending on the scenario. Even if things don’t go your way though, having an answer and knowing there isn’t anything else you could have done will leave you more satisfied than being kept in the dark. Here’s the bottom line: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So take a risk, because a lot of the time it’s completely worth it.
Everybody deserves the same level of respect
A lot of people say “respect is earned.” Well, I disagree. I believe that everybody deserves your respect unless proven otherwise. When I say everybody, I mean it. Not only should everyone get respect, but that respect should be the same regardless of status, race, gender, etc. I was taught that be it a waiter at a restaurant, the CEO of a company, your best friend, or the President of the United States, everyone is worthy of equal, respectful treatment. The world today is filled with so much hatred.
And yet, we’re all human beings, most of whom want similar things out of life: health, love, family, happiness. It’s an easy thing to go through life showing everyone some courtesy, and it will make you a more gracious person. Plus, you know that old saying “treat people the way you would like to be treated”? Well in practice, it works. Demonstrating to other people that you value them will prompt them to treat you the same way.
Family is everything
The word “family” means something different to everyone. To me, family means the people with whom I fight and experience life, miss terribly at college, sometimes can’t stand, yet truly love to death. Family means unrelenting, unconditional love. Yes, family can be frustrating and difficult at times, but it is also the most incredible thing in the world. Unfortunately it’s important to realize that not everybody has a family. Therefore, if you do, recognize how lucky you are. Your family is your blood. When push comes to shove, your family matters more than anything else. People come and go throughout our lives, but family is there forever. While families come in all different sizes, colors and formats, there is one common variable: love. Appreciate your family, because at the end of the day, your job is not going to take care of you when you’re sick.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
There are certain days when it seems like absolutely nothing can go right. You overslept, spilled your coffee, forgot to hand in an assignment, and had a fight with a friend. Safe to say you’re in a bad mood. However, it is so important to keep perspective about what actually matters in life. As soon as something bad happens, it feels as though the sky is falling, and it is the biggest problem in the world. Learning to recognize what should actually make you upset versus what you should let go will make handling life’s inevitable roadblocks so much more bearable. Ask yourself after every alleged disaster: “will this matter in five years?” If the answer is yes, you have every right to be upset. If the answer is no, understand that even though it may stink in the moment, everything’s going to be fine. Keep perspective, and take a step back to look at the big picture every once in awhile.
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