14 difficult lessons to learn that you’ll benefit from forever

Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual or even a map. We’re all bumbling our way through this earthly experience, getting the occasional kick up the butt and hopefully learning from it.

Some of these lessons learned can hold us in good stead as we continue on our journey. That is if we allow them to. 

The quicker we internalize and absorb the lesson, the faster we can move on to learn another. Admittedly, that sounds better on some days than others.

Anyway, without further ado, here are fourteen difficult, but in the end useful and necessary, life lessons most of us will encounter.

1) Not everyone stays

Think about it. Most people we date and have relationships with will not be for forever. Nor could they. Only one can be “forever,” and that’s if you’re lucky. 

You’re still going to kiss a lot of frogs before you land on The One. Most people enter our lives for a season or a reason – not for an entire lifetime.

Same with friends. Most will be transient visitors in your life, bringing you new experiences and new ideas.

So yes, most of your loves will end up as exes, and that’s as it should be.

Just learn to let go without too many questions. There are some things we won’t ever know. You need to make peace with that concept.

2) Closure isn’t always a thing

Relationships, even great ones, end without any definite reason sometimes. There was no last showdown, no wrapping up the details. It was more like:

*Poof!*– hey, they’re gone!

Now wait a minute. I deserve closure! Doesn’t my now-ex person owe me some sort of explanation or reason after 2, 10, or 50 years?

Actually, no. They don’t. It’s counterproductive to think the person who’s just hurt you can heal you, but so many of us are guilty of this.

Nothing can make you feel better in this moment so just ride the pain wave. It will end, I promise. But I’m not going to lie and say it won’t suck. 

And, if you ever suit up and get back in the game, just remember anything other than a “yes” is a “no.”

3) Mixed signals mean no 

If someone you’re interested in is sending you mixed signals, you already know the eventual outcome. 

The answer may not thrill you at the time, but learning this lesson early and well can save you scads of misery down the pike, trust me. 

I went through a phase of giving people the benefit of the doubt, which was akin to repeatedly smashing my head into a brick wall, and just as fulfilling. 

If someone values you, there will be no question about it. 

4) Are you valued? 

Someone who truly values you will show you. Often. 

It really is that simple. 

People make time for the things they care about. If you are valued, your person will prioritize spending time with you.

If they don’t, they’re sending you mixed signals, and we all know what that means.

It means run, and concentrate on your personal goals for a while as you regroup. 

5) One action daily

Showing up every day whether they feel like it or not is the hallmark of a person who’s steadily moving forward in life

Even if you do just one small thing every day to further your goals, it’s enough. A quick phone call, answering your emails, or that walk you’ve been putting off.

These actions are a show of good faith to the Universe that you’re ready and willing to take action and manifest your desires

6) Be intentional

If you have a plan and work on it diligently, you’ll inevitably attract opportunities. If you decide to drift through life, you could miss out on many chances to improve your lot in life. 

And that’s perfectly OK if that’s the lifestyle that makes you happy, and you’re content with the leftovers of those who are living their lives intentionally.

7) Share progress, not goals

pic1526 14 difficult lessons to learn that you’ll benefit from forever

Here’s the bottom line: The preemptive praise we get from sharing our goals can prevent us from actually achieving them.

You’ve already gotten the rush, so why put the work in?

Savvy people refrain from announcing their goals publicly. Better to work diligently and silently behind the scenes and then share your actual progress instead.

Sharing your progress keeps you motivated. You can watch the evolution of your efforts unfold before you share actual results instead of a blueprint.

And when you are prioritizing what steps to take and when, resolve to do the stuff you hate first. This has been my M.O. since childhood.

You’ll find getting the worst done first gives you that boost you need to keep on keeping on. 

8) Do the worst first 

You know that chore or task you are dreading most today? Yes, that one. Do it first and get it the heck off your plate.

Don’t put it off until later in the day.

Whether it’s initiating a difficult conversation, making a phone call (I hate the phone), or working out, do it first. This sets you up for success all day.

Putting the stuff you hate off is counterproductive because now you’re wasting time dreading tasks that could and should be off your docket.

9) Limit your exposure to toxic people

You know the type. You can find them among your friends, coworkers, and family members. They’re always mean, negative, rather rude, and don’t give a hoot about anyone but themselves unless there’s something in it for them. 

If possible, limit contact with toxic people or, even better, cut them out completely. This can be incredibly hard to do, especially when family is involved. 

Life is dramatic and stressful enough without the added strain of having these kinds of people trying to hold you back.

Let them go, and hold no grudges. 

10) Grudges hold you back

Here’s the other side of the coin. Eradicating toxic people from your life is one thing. Holding a grudge out of pettiness is quite another. 

Question: In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?

If not, let it go. Holding onto resentment eats you away with negative energy and prevents you from enjoying real happiness and peace of mind. 

Live in the present moment, and stop fixating on yesterday’s hurts. 

11) Live in the now 

So many people deliberately delay happiness until they finally (fill-in-the-blank.) 

Why back burner your own happiness with arbitrary goalposts? The clock is ticking for all of us mortals.

Real happiness is found in everyday life if you’re open to it. 

12) Worrying is pointless

Really. Give it up. 

Most of what you worry about almost never comes to pass and if it does, it’s rarely as bad as what your imagination cooked up. 

There’s no point in agonizing over situations outside of your control. Focus on the things you can control, like how you choose to respond to setbacks and disappointment. 

Easier said than done for us anxious types, but still worth a shot. 

13) Chasing happiness leads to disappointment

Happiness isn’t a destination, it’s the journey along the way. We convince ourselves that the dangling carrot before us will magically eradicate all of our problems. 

“When X comes down, I’ll finally be happy.”

I wasted way too much time cultivating this mentality and it added precisely zero of value to my life. 

I was always in constant pursuit of the next Big Thing so I was missing the awesomeness of what I already had right in front of me, right now.

14) Your habits define you

No matter what emotional catastrophe we find ourselves in, we have to muster up the fortitude so we can pick ourselves back up and get on with it. 

But how? How do we function when chaos is all around us? We allow our daily habits to provide a framework. 

Our daily habits are the bedrock from which the rhythm upon which our lives is built. And what you do today is a good indication of where you will be tomorrow.

Curious about where you’ll be a year from now? Take a look at what you’re doing today. This is the best indicator of future events because you become what you repeatedly do. Your habits define you.

Ah, sweet mystery of life

No one said life was going to be a cakewalk, but we can make things easier on ourselves by taking the lessons life hands us to heart and integrating them into who we are.

If you play your cards right, you may not even have to learn them all the hard way.

Picture of Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.