9 important life lessons that can’t be learned in school

Life’s most valuable lessons often come from experiences outside the classroom.

You see, school can teach you a lot, from quantum physics to Shakespearean sonnets, but there are certain life lessons that a textbook simply can’t impart.

These are lessons that you learn at the school of hard knocks, through personal experiences and from the wisdom of others.

They’re crucial for personal growth and navigating life’s ups and downs.

In this article, I’m going to share with you nine important life lessons that I’ve learned the hard way, ones you likely won’t find in any school curriculum.

So grab a seat, get comfortable, and let’s dive right into it.

1) Life isn’t fair

This might be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s an essential lesson that life teaches you.

In school, things are generally standardized.

Everyone studies the same curriculum, takes the same tests, and is evaluated on the same criteria. But life outside of school?

Well, it doesn’t quite work that way.

In life, there are no standard rules.

Things don’t always go as planned. People face different challenges and have different opportunities.

Some people seem to have all the luck while others struggle despite their best efforts.

The key here is not to dwell on the unfairness but to focus on what you can control – your attitude, your actions, and your reactions. 

In fact, as a former teacher myself, I often wished we spent more time teaching children how to manage their emotions and handle the inevitable setbacks of life.

Don’t get me wrong, spending hours learning algebra might come in handy at one point or another in their lives, but understanding the complexities of life is something we all deal with on a daily basis!

2) Failure is a part of growth

This is a lesson I learned the hard way.

School often teaches us to avoid failure at all costs. You study to pass exams, and when you fail, it’s seen as a bad thing.

But real life doesn’t come with a study guide, and failures are inevitable.

I remember when I tried to start my first business. I was young, full of ideas, and confident that I had a ground-breaking concept.

Fast forward six months; I was facing bankruptcy and the harsh reality that my ‘great’ idea wasn’t so great after all.

The failure was devastating, but it was also illuminating.

I learned more from that failure than I had from any of my successes.

It taught me resilience, made me reassess my strategies, and most importantly, instilled in me the humility to learn from my mistakes.

Ultimately, embracing failure as a part of the journey, rather than a dead-end, fosters growth and innovation.

3) Money doesn’t buy happiness

You’ve probably heard this one a million times, but it’s worth repeating.

Let’s be honest, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that money equates to happiness, especially in our materialistic society.

However, research shows that once our basic needs are met, additional income does little to boost our sense of satisfaction.

A study by Princeton University found that emotional well-being rises with income up to about $75,000 per year. After that, money doesn’t make much of a difference in how happy you are day to day.

So as cliche as it sounds, true happiness really does come from things that can’t be bought – like meaningful relationships, fulfilling work, and good health.

And while financial stability is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all of happiness.

It’s essential to find joy in the simple things and invest in experiences rather than material possessions.

4) It’s okay to say no

In our eagerness to please others and avoid conflict, we often find ourselves saying ‘yes’ when we really want to say ‘no’.

Especially at school, where disobedience isn’t tolerated lightly, even if you’re disobeying for a valid reason. 

However, this seemingly harmless habit can lead to stress, burnout, and resentment.

The truth is, you can’t be everything for everyone.

There are only 24 hours in a day, and you need to prioritize your own needs too.

It’s okay to decline invitations if you’re feeling overwhelmed or to refuse extra work if it’s going to affect your mental health.

And contrary to what we might learn at school, learning to say ‘no’ isn’t being selfish or unkind.

You’re setting boundaries and respecting your own time and energy.

It’s a lesson that took me some time to learn, but it’s been instrumental in maintaining my sanity and well-being.

5) Change is inevitable

Change is inevitable 9 important life lessons that can't be learned in school

In school, we typically follow set schedules and routines.

But outside those structured walls, change is the only constant.

Whether it’s a shift in career, a surprise move, or a sudden loss, life has a way of throwing curveballs.

And while these changes can be unsettling, they’re also opportunities for growth and new experiences.

Rather than resisting change, it’s better to learn how to adapt to it.

This might mean developing resilience, being open to new experiences, and learning to manage stress effectively.

But I get it – change can be challenging.

When I’m feeling nervous about it, I remind myself that it’s also what makes life exciting and worthwhile. 

6) Kindness goes a long way

In a world that often praises competitiveness and individual achievements, it’s easy to overlook the power of kindness.

But let me tell you, a little kindness can make a big difference.

Whether it’s lending a helping hand to a stranger, showing compassion to someone in distress, or just offering a friendly smile to brighten someone’s day, acts of kindness can have a profound impact on others.

But the beauty of kindness goes beyond its effect on others.

It also has a way of enriching our own lives.

Studies show that acts of kindness can boost our mood and overall sense of well-being.

Kindness has this magical ability to create a positive feedback loop – the more we give, the happier we feel.

So remember, in a world where you can be anything, be kind. 

7) It’s okay not to have all the answers

When I graduated from college, I thought I had it all figured out.

I had a clear career path mapped out, complete with timelines and milestones.

But as I ventured into the real world, I quickly realized that things rarely go according to plan.

There were unexpected obstacles, surprising detours, and plenty of moments where I felt lost and unsure.

Not to mention, I struggled significantly with self-doubt and questioned my decisions.

Then, I came to understand that it’s okay not to have all the answers.

Life is a journey of exploration and discovery.

And as Baz Luhrmann advises in his song “Everybody’s Free” (which taught me more about life than any school lesson has):

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life
The most interesting people I know
Didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

8) Relationships take work

In school, friendships often form naturally over shared classes and common interests.

But as we grow older, maintaining relationships becomes more complicated and requires more effort.

Whether it’s a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a professional connection, all relationships need care and attention to thrive.

This means investing time, showing empathy, having difficult conversations, and sometimes making sacrifices.

It’s important to remember that not all relationships are meant to last forever.

Some people come into our lives for a season, teach us something valuable, and then we move on. And that’s okay.

9) Self-care is not selfish

And finally, taking care of your own needs isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, prioritizing everything else over your own well-being.

But neglecting self-care can lead to burnout, stress, and a diminished quality of life.

And you know what?

Self-care can take many forms. It could be taking a few minutes each day to meditate, getting regular exercise, eating healthy food, or simply taking time out to do something you love.

Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Prioritizing self-care allows you to show up as your best self in every area of your life. 

Final thoughts: 

The profound lessons we learn outside the confines of a classroom often stem from our personal experiences, triumphs, and even failures.

Consider the renowned author Mark Twain’s words: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Sure, we gain valuable knowledge from school, but real-world experiences offer us something different: wisdom.

This wisdom helps us navigate life’s complexities and uncertainties, shapes our character, and guides our decisions.

So take a moment to reflect on your own life lessons. What has life taught you outside the classroom?

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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