As life goes on, there are certain lessons that we learn from experience. What’s more, every person learns something different, based on the circumstances life throws at them. You might not relate with some of the life lessons, but nonetheless, they are great pointers on the things that really matter. Here’s my list of life lessons I’ve learnt over the course of two decades and a bit more.
Get out of debt
This should be a no-brainer. If you have any debts remaining, the only sensible thing to do is to pay them off as soon as possible. A lot of people place emphasis on the amount in their savings account. What they should be giving importance to, is their net financial worth. Your net financial worth is the sum of your savings and the value of your assets minus the amount you owe. You should always strive to keep your net financial worth positive, which means, little to no debt. If you have $25,000 in your savings account, but have a debt of $50,000, your net worth is in the negative, and you should try to clear your debts as soon as possible.
Financial advice is something that should have been taught to us in school, but it isn’t. Budgeting, living within your means, paying taxes and filing your tax returns – these are the things that need to be taught to us in schools, but a lot of us are completely illiterate about this. Financial knowledge is something most of us don’t get when we really should. Ignorance about these basic topics and the need to be accepted by peers leads to stories like this, about youngsters who are on the verge of bankruptcy but at the cutting edge of trends.
Paying off your debts is the best investment you can do. The returns you get in the future, simply by paying off your debts now, is larger than the returns you get on any other type of investment. Instead of looking for ways to increase your income, look for ways to reduce your spending. Not only is it easier to do, but the results are tangible and immediately visible. But don’t get demotivated thinking about reducing your spending. Make sure to think carefully about your wants and needs and cut out meaningless purchases from your life. That coffee at 11 AM, that dinner outside every weekend; slowly those savings accumulate.
Learn to say no
This is something I still have to remind myself to follow, because saying yes is just so ingrained in us, the habit is hard to break. Saying yes to every request you get doesn’t make you a polite person, it just leads to people taking advantage of you. Yes, it takes a bit of courage and thick skin to say no, but you will thank yourself down the line for it. Every resource we get in life is infinite compared to the time we have. Time is limited and the scarcest resource we have. This is why everyone is fighting for our attention and time, online and off. Saying no and meaning it might rub some people off in the wrong way at first, but they will appreciate your honesty and learn to value your time, just like you do.
Do not worry about the consequences of saying no. Think about the committments you’re about to make before saying yes. Is this something you’d like to spend your time doing? Are you really sure you have the motivation to juggle that little task with your other tasks, and finish it on time? Think about it, and say no politely.
Saying no doesn’t just involve tasks someone might ask you to do, or requests. Be it unwanted toxic relations or invitations for a fun night out with friends that might lead to unwanted spending, say no and your future self will thank you for it.
Keep a daily journal
We all lead a busy life, complete with daily schedules and to-do lists and stress. So what do we do to keep the stress at bay, and not lose our minds? Maintain a daily journal. Now, it might seem overrated and angsty, like a “teen-thing” to do. But trust me, it’ll do wonders for you.
Filling in your journals with ideas and thoughts and half-formed opinions and even ideas for stories are all great ways to flex your creative muscle. Five years down the line, you will thank yourself for having written down these journal entries. A journal provides a window into how you have changed, as a person, with the passage of time. It provides a timeline of the transformations you’ve had, and how certain incidents might have had a subtle influence on you a couple of weeks later. This is one of the reasons I write, since it provides a snapshot of me as a person and lets me see how I have changed.
What’s even better, journal entries can provide you ideas for future blog posts. When I’m stuck, I read my journal and find something worth writing about. Every time you share your thoughts and problems with someone, it feels good, like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Your insecurity greatly reduces. Sharing the same with a journal has a similar effect, but it feels more personal and less awkward. Five years down the line, you’ll marvel at how much you have changed from now, and you will thank yourself for writing a journal. So what are you waiting for? Start writing your journal today!
The world around you will not let you get better
I might sound a little pessimistic/nihilistic when I say this. But it’s something I’ve noticed over and over again – or maybe I just need to change my social circle 😛 The world around you will not let you get better at things or learn new things. The people around you will want you to stay with them, to stagnate or worse, be left behind.
We can all revel in the feeling of security we get when we are with the people in our lives, surrounded by their smiles, blanketed by the comfort their presence provides us. But when it all comes down, the only person who’ll be with you is yourself. In the end, that’s all that matters. To get better at something, to make your life better, you’ll have to identify the subtle signals the world sends your way.
I realise I’m sounding really paranoid and almost cult-like, so I’ll keep this section short. All I want you to take from this section is this, the world doesn’t care if you are stagnating, the world is busy with making itself better, while trying hard to get you to stagnate. To truly get better in your life, you need to rely on yourself. No one else will help you out, but yourself. This is clichéd as hell, but self-help is (truly) the best help.
These are the life lessons I’ve learnt in my short life so far. Who knows how many more I’ve got to discover and learn from experience? If at least one among you relates to these lessons, or can apply it to your life, that is the greatest thing I could have ever done. What are the lessons you have learnt along the way? Let me know and let’s discuss.