This week I’ll be 32 years old. While a lot of people may think getting older is something to fear, I disagree. I see it as leveling up. I intentionally choose to be grateful for all that life has given me so far rather than fearing how little (or much) of it I have left. Because of this mentality, I’ve been able to discover some of the best life lessons anybody can learn.
Throughout my life, I’ve discovered hundreds of principles for living healthy, happy, and free. Not all of those are created equal, though. That’s why today I’ll just share with you my top five best life lessons that I’ve learned in my short 32 times around the sun.
How These Best Life Lessons Are Organized
A sixth life lesson I could say I’ve learned is a form of Newton’s Third Law. I don’t want to include it as its own principle here because it’s more of a guiding one that sets the standard for all the others.
Everything we do in life has a reaction, or a consequence, as we can better understand it. Although we tend to associate the word consequence with bad things, it’s completely neutral. You can have positive and negative consequences.
Every day, every moment even, can be summarized with this one principle:
If I do [insert action] then I will get [insert consequence].
Think about what you’ve done in the last five minutes, for instance. If you’ve sat down, the consequence is that you’ll feel comfortable and relaxed. By reading this article, the consequence is that you’ll be inspired by some life lessons, I hope.
Actions and consequences aren’t singular. Everything we’re doing is constantly affecting everything else for better or worse, so there are multiple actions and consequences happening all the time.
When you follow the right actions that lead to the consequences you want, though, your life will start moving in the direction you want it to go.
That’s where these five best life lessons come in. They’re the best because they are the top five that I’ve found lead to the consequence of a happy life. Each of them also follows a version of this same pattern of doing the right actions to receive positive consequences
I’ve also ordered them by importance, with one being the most important. Let’s start with number five and count down from there.
5. If You Set Fun Goals, Every Goal and Everything Goes Better
“Make it fun if you want it done.” ― Jon Acuff
This principle has two parts:
- Set a goal in the category of “fun,” like going on a fun vacation, and have fun every day.
- Make each of your other goals fun.
First, let’s talk about the importance of fun in terms of setting fun goals. I’m now 32 years old, but I made a very important promise to myself when I became an adult 14 years ago.
I promised myself when I turned 18 that I would never get rid of the kid inside of me.
I committed to always keep a fun side of me that could laugh and joke and play no matter what. And it’s been one of the best decisions ever.
The primary reason being a kid is so great is because kids get to have fun and play all the time. They don’t worry about things so much.
I never want to lose that, and so far, I haven’t. When you’re having fun, everything in the world is brighter. That positive outlook feeds everything else you do, leading to success and happiness all around.
Play is also proven to be good for your brain and body. Research shows it releases endorphins, which make you happy. It’s also been shown to help maintain energy levels and keep you young. As you age, maintaining a habit of play is proven to keep your memory sharp and help your brain cells grow, too.
Plan some time each day to do something that you enjoy. Take a block of hours on the weekend to do fun things too. And every 3-4 months or so go on a vacation and spend the whole time playing.
The other part of fun goals is making each of your goals fun. So often I see people struggling to reach their dreams just simply because they think if it’s not hard they’re not growing. How wrong they are!
Take exercise for example. We’ve grown to think that running=weight loss, when that’s not the only way to shed pounds and stay healthy. If you like to dance, for instance, do that for 30 minutes a day and you’ll be just as healthy as, if not healthier than, a runner.
You’ll end up sticking to your goal because you enjoy doing it more. Try this with your financial goals by doing work you love, your relationship goals by focusing on what you have in common with people, and your spiritual goals by identifying your values and being confident in living them.
4. If You Want to Be Happy, Move Your Body
“Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do. Not a punishment for what you ate.” — Anonymous
I’ve summarized over 400 non-fiction books. One of the most common lessons is how movement and exercise make everything better. Our bodies were made to move, and when we do that habitually, they perform at maximum power.
Exercise is proven to help with mental health, productivity, memory, and so much more. Even the oldest living people in the world all include some form of movement as part of their daily routines.
As I mentioned before, though, moving your body doesn’t have to be difficult. If you don’t like running, don’t do it! Find what you enjoy and get outside and do it.
Here are some of my favorite ways to move that you can try yourself:
- Playing Just Dance on the Wii
- Playing Ring Fit Adventure on the Switch
- Dancing with my kids after dinner
- Mowing the lawn
Anything that involves moving your body counts, so try whatever comes to mind and stick with what you love most and you’ll take advantage of the power of movement!
3. Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, It Gives You Options
“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” — Mark Twain
Somewhere in all the years I was growing up I got the mistaken idea that wanting money is wrong. I’ve since learned that this isn’t true at all.
Wanting money is an admirable quality, as long as you have the right mindset.
Wanting to become a billionaire and hoarding wealth while so many in the world suffer is despicable, yes. The ultra-rich are selfish losers and outcasts.
But simply wanting to earn enough to provide well for your family, help those less fortunate than you, live financially free, and enjoy the beauties of this world by traveling is wholesome, admirable, and righteous.
Money gets an undeservedly bad name because of the ultra-wealthy. Hating what they do is understandable. But spending so much time and energy on attacking them isn’t worth it because it just keeps you from living your best life. It only breeds negativity, which holds you back.
When you bust yourself of limiting beliefs about money, you open up a whole new world of opportunity that most people will never know about.
Think, for a moment, if you made just $20,000 a month. How would you use that money? What options would you have that you might not have now?
When you consider all the areas of life, it gives you dozens of options that weren’t there before. You can eat healthier, get better exercise opportunities with equipment and gyms, and improve your sleep with a better mattress and blackout curtains.
That added money could let you hire a coach to help you with that business you’ve always wanted to start. You could save a bunch of it and eventually quit your job and pursue a career that makes you happier.
Most importantly, more money gives you more time with your loved ones.
You have to earn the money right, though, for this to work. Be wise about what you’re doing to get there and don’t get trapped by the “golden handcuffs” of an opportunity that pays a lot but ties you down to a location or way too many hours of work each week.
But back to the fact that more money gives you time with those you love most. This is the most important thing you can use your money on because as we’ll see a little later, relationships are the key to the best happiness in life.
You can go out to eat with friends more often, or take them on vacations. If you have a family, money lets you have more chances to take your kids on trips, during which you grow closer together than when you’re all at home and distracted by devices.
Money gives you the chance to be more generous with others, too. You can give giant tips at restaurants, help families in need, or feed the hungry.
So many good and positive things in this world came from money. Why would we ever deny that by thinking it’s wrong to want money when we only want it to do more good in the world?
If you increase your income, you will have more options, which can make you happier.
2. Relationships Are the Highest Indicator of Happiness
“Choose people who lift you up.” — Michelle Obama
In all of the 400 non-fiction books I’ve summarized, there’s one lesson that stands out above all others as an indicator of a good life. It’s the power of relationships, and I learned it from Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage. In Shawn’s own words:
“Turns out, there was one—and only one—characteristic that distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: the strength of their social relationships. My empirical study of well-being among 1,600 Harvard undergraduates found a similar result—social support was a far greater predictor of happiness than any other factor, more than GPA, family income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race. In fact, the correlation between social support and happiness was 0.7. This may not sound like a big number, but for researchers it’s huge—most psychology findings are considered significant when they hit 0.3. The point is, the more social support you have, the happier you are. And as we know, the happier you are, the more advantages you accrue in nearly every domain of life.”
In other words, having strong social connections makes you happier than anything else, and that happiness will make you more successful.
Achor’s book isn’t the only one to declare the importance of relationships. dozens of the books I’ve summarized say the same thing, and often with a lot of research and experiences that back it up.
Think about the most successful and happy people you know and they’ve always got strong connections. If you want to be like them and live your life to the fullest, you need to do the same.
Put in the work to find people who get you. People that validate your deepest values all the time. If this isn’t your family of origin, that’s okay. Some families aren’t great sources of social strength. But you can always choose your friends and who you start your own family with.
For me, the most powerful social connection that’s brought me the most happiness is my own marriage and family.
It’s tough to compare how life was before I was married because it’s been eight years now. Sometimes, though, I remember how much more difficult money, cooking, cleaning, and just about everything else in life was without my wife.
Although, my kids have since made all of that more difficult. But the amount of happiness they bring is well worth it. I get to relive all the best parts of life through their eyes. And in the case of our daughter, it’s like watching my wife grow up.
I could go on for hours, but the point is, my relationships bring me joy and make my life much better.
Get good relationships with positive people and you will be happy.
1. Feed Your Mind and Spirit Every Day and You’ll Grow Faster than Ever
“Spirituality is not adopting more beliefs and assumptions but uncovering the best in you.” ― Amit Ray
On August 28, 2008, I got on a plane for the first time and went to England where I spent 24 months as a missionary. I learned and grew a lot while there. I met some of the most amazing people and had some life-changing experiences that showed me more about life, God, and myself than I ever would have learned had I not gone.
Since then I’ve discovered a lot more about spirituality than I ever thought existed when I was a missionary. I still know that connecting with God, or a higher power, is necessary for happiness. But I’m starting to see that there are many more ways to do that than I previously thought.
I’ll still stand by faith, prayer, study, and other basic principles of my faith as the most important ways to connect with God.
But I’ve also connected with Him through meditation, pondering, and even getting to know myself better and improve.
I’ve discovered that spiritual growth is more about your faith than anything else. And faith is something that everybody has, regardless of whether or not they’re religious.
Everything you do and have is because you had a belief first.
Your health, financial situation, relationships, and all else about your life came from something you thought. You may have unintentionally thought those things, and some of them may not have been what you wanted. But the power of thinking was the center of it all becoming reality.
You can intentionally believe that good things are coming to you and they will come. You can connect with a Higher Power, whatever you want to call it, and receive strength and growth beyond what’s humanly possible.
I know because I’ve done it myself. I’ve connected with that power and spend time doing so every day. Not only that but when I work on my mindset and belief systems around all aspects of life, including relationships, finances, health, and fun, all of it goes better.
As I seek to improve, the Higher Power that I know as God helps me. He gives me grace beyond what I think is possible, and mercy beyond what I deserve.
Everybody can experience that power, and all it takes is setting aside a little time each day to learn about and connect with it. How you decide to do that is up to you. For me that means prayer, study, and meditation, and I keep up the habit because it’s foundational to my happiness and success in all other areas of life.
Connect with a Higher Power and work on your belief systems, and you’ll be happier and grow faster than you ever thought possible.
Let’s Wrap This Up
If I could summarize the best life lessons I’ve learned in one sentence, it would be this:
If you set goals and work hard making the right choices spiritually, socially, financially, and physically, then you will be happy, become your best self, and reach all of your dreams.
I know this is how life works because this is how it’s all worked out for me. As I’ve prioritized these four areas of life—faith, family, finances, and fitness—I’ve seen myself grow faster than I imagined. I’ve achieved greater things than I ever thought possible.
And most importantly, I’m happy because I’m well-rounded, prepared, spiritually and socially connected, financially free, physically fit, and fun.
Grow your own spirit, heart, mind, and body and you too will experience these same things as I have.