I have always been an "academic star", right from nursery school until my management degree. Over the years, I gained knowledge on a wide range of subjects, learned (and upgraded) a diverse set of skills, accomplished many things that were important to me and, yes, also dealt with my share of highs and lows.
Today, as I step back and ask myself where I learned the most important lessons that took me through the great, good, bad and ugly that life threw at me, the answer is clear. Life itself was my best teacher and it taught me some valuable lessons. I sometimes wonder why no one ever spelled them out to me.
Here are some life lessons I want my children (and indeed all children) to learn sooner than later.
1. How to be a lifelong learner
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." -- Mahatma Gandhi
Continuous focus on learning is absolutely vital in the journey of life and you have to make it a personal priority and focus. The key to success is awareness of your personal learning style, interests and priorities. The sooner you recognise this and make "learning" your ally, the better equipped you are to deal with life.
2. How to think
"A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes." -- Mahatma Gandhi
How we think about ourselves, people and the world is reflected in how our life eventually turns out. Hence it is important to create and fuel positive, powerful and purposeful thoughts. You may have come across specific people (parents, teachers, mentors and guides) who make you realise the importance - and the process -- of right and positive thinking. The key is to make it a way of life.
3. How to manage personal finances
"A penny here, and a dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending." -- P. T. Barnum
Personal financial management is key to determining the quality of your life today and in the future. Many of us learn about personal financial management through well-meaning advice, experimentation and with each mistake we make. Early exposure to an understanding of money, the value of money and how to make money work for you go a long way in life.
4. How to build and nurture relationships
"The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships." -- Anthony Robbins
In the journey of life, if there's one thing which will help you sail through the trying and difficult times, it is the quantity and quality of your relationships -- both personal and professional. The best part about relationships is that it's never too late to create, build and nurture them -- if you have the interest and intent. So here and now, you can build new relationships, revive old ones and, of course, nurture them so they grow and blossom.
5. How to deal with change
"The only thing that is constant is change." -- François de la Rochefoucauld
While change is definite and integral to our daily lives, the reality is that many times we are unprepared to deal with it. In most scenarios, life teaches you how to deal with change, many times the hard way. Sometimes you may never accept the change. How wonderful would it be if you knew a well-defined, systematic and structured way to accept and embrace change?
6. How to handle failure
"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." -- Winston Churchill
Failures are vital for life. Failures are definite in life. Failures are many times stepping stones to your chosen destination. And yet, you are mostly unprepared to deal with failure. Who taught you how to define failures, accept failures, deal with failures and learn from them? Would it be great if someone guided the next generation? Of course, yes.
7. How to deal with loss
"Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form." -- Rumi
In the journey of life, dealing with many kinds of losses is inevitable -- the loss of people (temporary and permanent), financial loss, loss of jobs, loss of friends, loss of peace of mind, loss of health, loss of memory, loss of appetite, loss of passion, loss in motivation, losses in business, loss in relationships. Some take the learning from the losses, give it a positive spin and forge ahead wiser. But many let the loss take over life. Then there are some losses which you may never accept or come to terms with. Don't you wish you knew a way to deal with loss?
8. When and how to say no
"Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough." -- Josh Billings
The two words which most of you heard in abundance as kids were your name and "No". As children, we use "No" generously, especially with our parents. And yet, as we grow into adults we find it hard to say this word. When you say "Yes" to everything that comes your way, life may be steered off course. Saying "no" can truly liberate you. It takes conscious effort, lots of heartache and phenomenal clarity of thought to get there. Once you do, it can be one of your best gifts to yourself.
9. How to cultivate self-discipline
"Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear--and doubt. Self-discipline allows a pitcher to feel his individuality, his inner strength, his talent. He is master of, rather than a slave to, his thoughts and emotions." -- H A Dorfman
Anyone who achieved anything worthwhile in life will vouch that self-discipline played a key role. And yet, self-discipline is a dying virtue today. School and home definitely enforce some level of discipline in your life, but do they really teach us to be self-disciplined for life? I wish they did.
A version of this post appeared on the author's blog