What have you learned during your time here on earth? And who will you pass these lessons on to? The wisdom you’ve obtained becomes even more valuable when you pass it on to a young adult in your life, be it a son or daughter, niece or nephew, granddaughter or grandson. Scholar and author Arthur C. Brooks recommends you:
Devote the back half of your life to serving others with your wisdom. Get old sharing the things you believe are most important. Excellence is always its own reward, and this is how you can be most excellent as you age.
While my daughter was still in college, I came to realize that the best way to communicate the life lessons I learned was not via long-winded, preachy speeches, but by sharing my hard-earned wisdom little by little, bit by bit. My source for these lessons: a personal journal I keep, where I jot down insights and “aha” moments as they come to me.
To this day, while I’ll still cover the basics like “how is work?” and “is your car still running?”, I’ll sneak in a life lesson or two. Looking through several years of journal entries earmarked for my daughter, I saw that many of my conversation points return to familiar themes, often dealing with issues of character and being a better person. What follows are twelve of my favorites. Feel free to pass them on—or consider starting your own list.
Twelve Life Lessons I Passed on to My Daughter
- Learn to trust your instincts. It’s the feeling you have in your gut that some call “the second brain.” It can help guide you in making the right decisions and even steer you away from danger. Unless your head can come up with a very good reason to overrule your gut, learn to trust it.
- Don’t force things to happen, let them happen naturally. You can be ambitious but also be aware that the best opportunities are often right in front of you. Life has a funny way of bringing you the things you need. Keep your eyes open for them.
- Be fully present to the moments of your life. In other words, put down your phone. Many life experiences only happen once—don’t miss out on them.
- Give as much as you take. Someone smile at you? Smile back. Receive a compliment? Give one in return. It’s an unwritten law that the more you give to those around you, the more you will receive.
- “Build pockets of stillness into your life.” ~Maria Popova. Don’t rush through life without taking breaks. Learn to say no to some social events and schedule regular periods of “me time” to meditate, contemplate, or just be.
- “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” ~Epictetus. Never pretend to know something when you don’t. Ask questions. And when an uncomfortable situation arises, lean into it, don’t shy away. It’s when you’ll often learn valuable lessons you can use another day.
- Be less reactionary. When you find yourself in a situation that leaves you feeling stressed or hot under the collar, remember to take a breath. This momentary pause will allow you to think before you act and can be the difference between saying something you’ll regret and being a calm voice of reason.
- Sometimes you have to go with the flow. Be flexible, things may not always work out as exactly as you planned. That’s okay. Reset yourself and move on.
- “Make peace with the fact saying ‘no’ often means trading popularity for respect.” ~G McKeown. Learn to say no to any situation or activity that doesn’t feel right and may put you, or others, in harm’s way. If your intuition tells you it’s not a good idea, it’s probably not a good idea.
- “People will not remember what you said. They will always remember how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou. In every conversation, be fully present. And make it about the other person, not about you. If they ask about you, ask about them. If they don’t ask about you, ask about them.
- “Don’t trip over what’s behind you. Move ahead.” ~Mika Brzezinski. Did you mess up something? No problem, as long as you learn from the experience. Failure is a necessary part of becoming wiser.
- Try to be better than you were the day before. As musician Steve Earle once said, “each day is a new opportunity to get it right.” You might want to take stock at the end of each day, determining what went well and where you might be a little better tomorrow.
One thing I didn’t mention: I consistently remind the young adult in my life to take care of their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. That means making time for exercise, getting enough sleep and eating right. Plus, unplugging from time to time and engaging in the spiritual practice of their choice, like reading, yoga, or taking a hike in the woods.
This story is included in the new book Wake Up Call: Daily Insights for the Spiritually Curious, now available from Wildhouse Publishing.