It’s not unusual after a challenging experience to wonder what life lessons we might take from it. Whether it comes from wanting to avoid making the same mistake again, ensuring we take better care of ourselves, or simply wanting to understand what happened, we can feel desire, possibly even pressure, to get it figured out. So I thought it would be handy to share life lessons and what they’re trying to show us.

There are familiar themes to life lessons. These are:

Read through the list of 24 life lessons, and see which one (or more) resonates

  • Ignoring, dismissing and overriding yourself. What did you keep saying about yourself? Hint: It’s not true!
  • Not trusting yourself. How would you phrase it? So, was it not trusting yourself enough or trusting the other person too much? If it’s about not trusting yourself, which past experiences and self-judgements were the basis for this? If it’s about trusting someone too much, what was it about them or what they represented that made you invest trust?
  • Biases and blind spots were at work. This can include making too many assumptions and jumping to faulty conclusions that lead to problematic decisions. Which assumptions, even if you think they’re expectations or beliefs, did you base your actions? 
  • Moving too fast. Even if you believed what you were doing at the time was okay/fine/normal/logical/{insert word of choice}, where, with the benefit of hindsight, can you see that you moved too fast? Did you move too fast emotionally, mentally or physically? Or, can you recognise where someone else moved too fast?
  • Trying to take a shortcut. Where did you bypass your (or even someone else’s) boundaries? What were you trying to skip past in your attempt to get/avoid something?
  • Indecision. Where did you vacillate with yourself (and others)? Now that the window to make the decision has passed or you’ve made it, what was behind your indecisiveness? 
  • Giving away your agency. Who did you regard as being an authority, and why?
  • Lying to yourself. What truth were you struggling to accept? Or, what were you hoping would happen if you believed in the lie?
  • Still angry, hurting, affected by something in the past. Use this experience to be honest about where you haven’t forgiven yourself. This can be a jump-off point for further exploration, including Unsent Letters and seeking further support. 
  • Settled for too little. Accepting the unacceptable.Why? What was the thought process behind it? 
  • Stop trying to ’get’ or ’avoid’ the same thing. What’s driving this motivation, and can you see where it keeps setting you up for a fall?

Engaging in relationship insanity. Are you going out with or engaging with variations of the same person in different packages, carrying the same baggage, beliefs and habits and then expecting different results?

More help

Even though you’re proactively trying to understand what life lesson a situation was trying to teach you, avoid pressuring yourself. Yes, be open to knowing more, but don’t try to be in control of how fast you learn and implement. Life lessons unfold day by day, moment by moment. You can’t force you to know ‘everything’ now to try to speed things up.

Examine what you’ve noticed and recognise what it taught you that you didn’t understand before. Remember: in all of these experiences, you were being invited to see what you couldn’t see before. Wherever you see things in the same way that you have previously is where you stand to make the biggest jumps if you can recognise the life lessons.

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.
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