I have a lot of be proud to in my life. I can pay my bills, have a supportive group of family and friends, and I love the place I live. By many measures, I am successful. There are times when I feel I am a failure or I’m not meeting my full potential, but I also know there are millions of people who would love to have my accomplishments. Part of this comes from the fact that I didn’t obtain my current status overnight; it took effort.
We’re all works in progress. Along the way we face adversity, and this is were life’s lessons begin to educate us. The problem: some of the most important lessons can be the hardest to learn. Sometimes it takes struggles and setbacks for you to learn how to move forward.
Through my experiences as an adult, I have developed an outlook on life that can only come from overcoming challenges. I know I’m still younger than many professionals, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in my experiences. While everyone develops their own outlook on life, I also know I’m not that unique. There are some hard truths in life we all come to realize at one point or another, even if we tried to avoid them.
1. Time Is Life’s Real Currency
A couple months ago, my car got towed. I’ve been locked indoors during the pandemic and I didn’t notice it was gone for nearly a week. After a morning of scrambling and a few hundred dollars flushed down the drain, I was upset. Then, I moved on. I realized the money was gone and the only place I could move was forward.
When people face financial burdens, their abilities to adapt are often remarkable. They accept the loss and work to correct it. It’s typically not fun to spend all of your time budgeting, but rebounding from financial losses can be possible with effort. The same cannot be said about the time lost.
Getting my car back only cost a few hours, and I don’t feel awful about that. I do feel awful about the time I’ve wasted doing meaningless work and building relationships that would go nowhere. When your time is gone, it’s truly gone. There is no way to get it back, but you can apply lessons from lost time to the future. I often think about all of the time I let slip by. When people tell me to wait a minute, I think that this is a tiny fraction of my life I will never get back. I also acknowledge that most people don’t have this mentality, but deep down we all know it’s true.
2. Plenty of Things in Life Are Free, Just Not For You
If you’ve ever taken an economics course you’ve probably heard the term “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” In essence, this means everything has a cost, even if it’s not monetary. While this is true on some level, many people have things handed to them for little-to-no effort.
The truth is, hard work isn’t always the key to success. Some people know the right people while others were born into the right family. This means the things you’re desperately trying to acquire are given to them after displaying no effort. In the end, your skills and experiences mean nothing when you’re fighting for a promotion against the CEO’s son. If you’re trying to buy a house with all of the money you save last decade, the CEO’s son can swoop in and make a bigger offer with his dad’s money. The seller doesn’t care where the money comes from and the CEO’s son doesn’t care about you.
In these cases, you’re going to be left with frustration and envy. This is normal, but don’t overlook the blessings you have in your life. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. If you have people in life who are willing to lend a hand, then you’re also in a position of privilege. Don’t be afraid to lean on others sometimes, but remember to seize opportunities to pay it back or pay it forward.
3. You’re Not Apathetic When You Don’t Care
It’s common to hear people face inconvenience or criticism and respond with an “I don’t care.” Are they telling the truth? Probably not. People care a lot more than they’d like to admit. I’m no exception to this. When I say I don’t care, I really do care. I am just not going to modify my behaviors.
“Not caring” is an active process. You receive information, then you elect not to incorporate it into your life. If you were truly indifferent you would be apathetic; that’s the lack of caring. When something significant happens and you’re feeling apathetic, there might be bigger issues beneath the surface.
In life, we can only pay attention to so many things. If you don’t care then you’re allotting your attention elsewhere. There is some effort required, and it doesn’t mean you’ve disregarded all emotions. People who truly don’t care won’t feel the need to tell you, their actions will do that. Someone who announces they don’t care is taking an active approach to cancelling something out of their life.
4. You Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome, Then You’re an Underachiever
Over the past decade, I’ve heard people talking about imposter syndrome. This phenomenon occurs when someone is in a role and feels they’re under qualified. This person feels unworthy of the title, and begins to feel like an imposter posing as a manager (or any other title). This can be a difficult road to navigate, especially because it happens when someone is so new in their role. Often, they don’t have the necessary relationships built to get advice and comfort from coworkers.
Fortunately, imposter syndrome can be overcome. It won’t be easy, but time will bring comfort. Want to know what time can’t heal? The feeling of being an underachiever. If you’re stuck in a role where you’re overqualified time will be your enemy. You can continue to float along, but you won’t build skills until you force some movement. For some people, this lasts years.
It’s a bit of a paradox. Someone who feels like an imposter would love some stability, but someone who’s been stable for too long would love some growth. Objectively, most people would rather be in imposter who seems to have more opportunities than they need. However, it’s more common that people will feel devalued, under-utilized, and unimportant.
5. Whatever Is Wrong, It’s Probably Your Fault
It’s amazing how much can go wrong in a short period of time. Within moments, a perfectly fine day can become a disaster. Usually people blame an external factor for ruining their day such as the weather, their annoying coworker, or that other driver. Even in more extreme cases, there is usually some external factor giving you a problem.
Unless you’re in court, assigning blame to someone else isn’t going to solve anything. Other people have dealt with more severe problems than you and ended up just fine. The secret? They know they’re in control of their emotions. Nobody chooses to have additional burdens in their life, but they can choose how they respond to them. If you assume responsibility for your own emotions, then you are usually the one who allows the problems to have impact.
If nothing else, accepting a level of responsibility will force you to find different solutions. Sometimes you just need to accept that something bad has happened and move past it. The sooner you realize you have this power, the easier it will be to dedicate your attention to the more important aspects of life. If nothing else, this level of self control will give you the power to not sweat the small stuff.
6. People Talk About the Future to Ignore the Present
Whenever you’re struggling or upset, it can be great to have a shoulder to lean on. Often, people want to help, but there are many times when their advice is useless. When I’ve had struggles, I often hear things like “this will get better,” or “it will be a memory next year.” I’m sure this is true, but it does nothing for me right now.
People who can actually help give more immediate advice. They don’t discredit your emotions or give you generic advice like “you’ll get through this.” Conversely, if you want to help someone you should try to think of the present. Actionable advice helps people improve, generic sentiments sell greeting cards.
Often, I keep my mouth shut when people give me useless advice. I know they have good intentions, but it can be hurtful to cling onto their empty promises. This doesn’t make these people bad, far from it, but it means they’re not the right person for your specific situation. If you can find someone who is consistently helpful, never let them go. Let them know how helpful they are, because the ones who can truly help are more rare than you may realize.
7. It Doesn’t Matter Until It Happens to You
You can go online and read all the advice you want. Most of the time, you won’t pay attention to these lessons until they actually impact you. Everyone knows they’re not supposed to speed on the road, but no one pays attention to the rule until the get a ticket. Even though you have a dozen friends who have gotten speeding tickets, reality didn’t slap you in the face until you had to pay.
In psychology, there’s a phenomenon known as the superiority illusion. This states that people generally believe they’re above average despite the fact that they’re statistically the same as everyone else. This means people will ignore the advice they receive and assume it will happen to someone else. Whether or not you want to admit it, you often believe you’ll be the exception to the rule.
This leaves you to take precautions after hearing advice, but in all likelihood you won’t. In all actuality, this makes you perfectly normal, but that doesn’t mean you should stop seeking information. When something happens to you, you’ll want to know solutions are out there. Given you’re not taking the necessary precautions to avoid problems, you’ll need to draw upon this information at some point.
Life Always Goes On
No matter how many hardships you face, life will go on. This means there’s always a silver lining at the end of any struggle you may face.
Just because I have learned some lessons throughout life doesn’t mean I have all the answers. In fact, I had to make a lot of mistakes to gain the information I’ve spoken about. If I could go back in time, I would probably rather avoid my mistakes and not have the lessons. But that’s not the way life works, and all I can do is learn from my past.
My current level of success has given me some information, and I know I have a lot to be proud of. The hardest truths in life are usually the most difficult to learn. If you find someone who’ super successful, it means one of two things. Either they’ve learned a lot along the way, or life has been really easy for them. It’s up to you to determine which case applies to each person.