6 Crucial Life Lessons to Practice While You Teach Your Child

Family Matters on 11.21.12
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Parenting is one of the greatest learning experiences of our lives. We learn so much about our own nature, as well as human nature. When you begin the work of learning and mastering life lessons so that you may better teach your children, you might be struck by the number of failures you experience; after all, life lessons need to be practiced all of our lives. But a willingness to reach for the stars, learn, bounce back, and overcome can prevail when we consistently strive towards the feeling of calm and inner peace these lessons can provide.

Take advantage of life’s classroom. As you strive to master these six lessons, teach your kids along with you. Your whole family will be happier for it.

1. You will never be happy if you don’t learn to feel gratitude every day.


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Start enjoying what you already have. The problem many of us have is that we think we’ll be happy when we reach a certain level in life – a level we see others operating at – your boss with the corner office, that friend of a friend who owns a mansion on the beach, that woman who has established her own business and actually makes money while she makes her own hours.

If you begin the work to achieve these things rather than lusting from the sidelines, it takes more time and effort to get there than you imagine – and if and when you finally “arrive” you’ll likely have a new destination in mind. You’ll end up spending your whole life working toward something new without ever stopping to enjoy the things you have now.  So take a quiet moment every day with your kids – whether it’s when you first awake, a prayer said before dinner, or as you tuck the kids into bed at night – to appreciate all of your stations in life and the abundance you already have.

2. Materialism causes the opposite of what it promises


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In our society, we are constantly bombarded by messages that brainwash us into thinking that if we buy certain clothes or use a particular mouthwash or drive a specific car, we can buy our way to feelings of love, acceptance and fulfillment. Even though we may recognize that this is an unfortunate load of horse-hockey, the message is still nearly impossible to escape. So we must be vigilant with ourselves and our kids.

Stop trying to buy happiness. Materialism actually causes the opposite of what it promises. People who are knee-deep in consumer culture are more likely to be depressed, feel less connected, find less meaning in life and have lower self-esteem. This lesson is directly linked to gratitude, in that gratitude is the antidote to materialism. Move yourself and your family consciously away from a materialistic mindset and into one of gratitude. The things that make us feel truly satisfied and fulfilled have little to do with spending money: connect with our families, get involved on a community level, pursue fun and healthy activities, and experience growth through our accomplishments.

3. Do not let a fear of failure stand in your way.


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So many people stay small their entire lives and they go to the grave never having reached their potential. This is because they knew that to try is to risk failure. In order to invent a working light bulb, Thomas Edison “failed” 10,000 times. But he didn’t see it that way. Edison said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Edison also very wisely said:

Failure is really a matter of conceit. People don't work hard because, in their conceit, they imagine they'll succeed without ever making an effort. Most people believe that they'll wake up some day and find themselves rich. Actually, they've got it half right, because eventually they do wake up.

To reach your full potential, you must try and fail in order to explore the limits of your abilities and to learn how to overcome them. Teach your kids when they fail, whether it’s a bad grade or a sports loss, that it’s the perfect opportunity to regroup, to learn what went wrong, improve upon the past, and emerge bigger and better next time. Relax about failure; it’s going to happen, and it’s not the end.

4. It doesn’t matter what other people think. Really.


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This lesson sounds nuts, because being very, VERY afraid of what other people think is hard-wired into us. We are bred to need tribe to thrive because as cave people, pooling resources was the only way to survive war, famine and harsh winters. Here’s the thing: once you decide it doesn’t matter what other people think, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop washing your armpits and get mats in your hair.

Once you stop worrying about what other people think, you are free to pursue what actually makes YOU happy. And when you find what makes you happy, you naturally draw a tribe to you – a tribe that allows you to be yourself and do the things that you like to do without fear of alienation or criticism. People who “get” you will happily support your efforts. But in order to find the people who get you, you need to stop worrying about what everybody else thinks. Learning this lesson as children would save everybody a world of grief. Unfortunately, many people never learn it.

5. The key to feeling great is making yourself useful.


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You don’t want what you think you want. It’s common in today’s world to watch people on TV and to assume they have it made because they’ve got fame and they’ve got stuff. Guess what? This doesn’t necessarily make them feel good. They’re human and so they deal with pretty much the same things you do: a lack of gratitude, excessive consumerism, a fear of failure, and – believe it or not – insecurity. Our kids need to be taught this, otherwise, how will they know that the people on TV aren’t some breed of superhuman?

Ask your kids: what is the feeling that you think this lifestyle would afford you? Do you want to be admired? Do you want to feel secure? Do you want to feel important? Then start by considering the actions you can take in your life that can give you those feelings. Your ticket to feeling admired, secure, and important is to tap into your unique talents to help people who need what you have to offer. In this big, wide, world, someone always needs what you have to offer. Pitch in and get back.

6. See people as they are, not as you wish they were.


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If someone wronged you, it’s natural to feel anger and there might be steps you need to take to get justice. However, there are some people out there who continually raise our ire and we find ourselves putting massive amounts of time and effort into generating and hanging onto bad feelings about somebody else. We’ve all had someone like this in our life: the person who drives us irrationally crazy, the person we cannot stop complaining about. This person seems to step on our toes every chance they get. If this is a person that you or your child absolutely must interact with, like a relative, a schoolmate, or a coworker, it’s time to do a mental shift that will allow you or your child to interact with them calmly.

Remember that we can’t change other people; we can only change how we react to them. Instead of feeling anger like the fire of a thousand suns at this person’s social gaffes, first, stop expecting different behavior from the buffoon. It’s this argument with reality about what this person is really like that allows us to hold unrealistic expectations and then be repeatedly disappointed. Second, roll your eyes and relax. This little “eye roll-and-relax” technique will prevent you from wasting precious time, energy and mental space wishing that this person were more evolved than they actually are.

With the aid of these 6 life lessons, you and your child should immediately be on your way to living a happier and more peaceful existence.

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