22 Universal Truths That Will Help You Understand Life

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Trying to figure out life? Looking for a little bit of happiness? Struggling to understand how to make the most out of your situation?

These universal truths may help point you in the right direction.

Of course, nothing is true all of the time, and there will always be exceptions to the rule, but you will likely find that these truths hold up in many circumstances.

1. Happiness is a choice.

“Happiness is a choice” is an unpopular phrase among unhappy people. And rightly so. Happiness being a choice implies that unhappy people are choosing to be unhappy. And why would anyone choose to be unhappy?

The reason is that it is easy to choose to be unhappy, languish in negative thoughts, fill your mind with negative, awful things, and continue to feed the beast instead of working to replace those negative things with positive things.

Mental illness and trauma are different, though. Sometimes, a person’s brain isn’t doing the right things, making the person unable to choose happiness. That’s not their fault and doesn’t really apply in that situation. That choice is being imposed upon them by these problems that they have. But once you start getting those things under control, you have to start choosing happiness because it will not likely just fall out of the sky into your lap.

2. Low expectations increase happiness.

Things are going to happen: great things, terrible things.

Sometimes you’ll be able to work hard and directly affect the outcome of those things, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes you’ll do all the work you need to do, and everything will blow up in your face. Sometimes you’ll get dumped by a romantic partner out of nowhere. Many of these things will be out of your control.

Low expectations increase happiness because you won’t spend your time being angry, sad, or disappointed that things didn’t work out the way you hoped. You can’t be both happy and angry at the same time.

3. Gratitude is an antidote for pessimism.

Gratitude is such a powerful tool for increasing your optimism, peace of mind, and personal happiness. A lot of people say this, but they rarely explain how it actually works. It’s about retraining your mind to stop looking for terrible and negative things.

You will likely experience a fair amount of suffering, failure, and things that just don’t work out in life. Everyone does. That’s normal. But that pain can be made smaller by being grateful that you’re still alive and have the opportunity to try again.

Gratitude can completely defuse the sting of these losses because you know there is always something else out there.

4. Kindness is rarely the wrong choice.

Kindness is so powerful. Not only is it powerful to the people around you, but it can help silence anger, turmoil, and sadness.

Unfortunately, many people mistakenly think that kindness is solely about its benefit to the person who is receiving it. It’s not. It’s also about not harboring negative thoughts and feelings that can disrupt your happiness and well-being.

Kindness does not mean that you need to be nice all the time or a doormat. Opportunists will absolutely test your limits and may try to take advantage of you. Not all of them are bad people. Sometimes people who are having a hard time can’t tell when they are overstepping. Boundaries are important.

5. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This relatively common truth alludes to how much easier it is to prevent a problem than cure it. It often takes far less time and effort to prevent a problem from happening than devoting the time, effort, and money to fixing the problem later.

For example, it’s much easier to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly than lose weight later. People tend to focus on exercise to try to lose weight. But once you look at the kind of calories that you actually burn while exercising, you quickly realize that exercise isn’t enough. So, you also need to develop a healthier diet and break the bad habits that got you there in the first place.

That’s a whole lot of extra work.

6. Closure is not always possible.

Closure is a luxury that not everyone gets. Sometimes terrible things happen, and your life will get turned upside down with no rhyme or reason at all. Unfortunately, that’s just how it goes sometimes.

The greatest gift you can give yourself is to learn to accept the blows that come with life without wasting too much time looking for the reasons. Sometimes you’ll get them, sometimes you won’t.

People throw away years of their life and happiness, wringing their hands over things that are entirely out of their control. Don’t do that to yourself.

Sometimes the only reason you’ll get is that terrible things happen to people all the time. And sometimes you’re “people.”

7. It is what it is.

There are a lot of things in life that you will just have no control over. It may be a thing that happens to you that is less than great. On the other hand, it may be something bigger, like a social perception that negatively affects you that you just can’t change.

People tend to think that their anger means something. They point to people who are fueled by their anger who have fought and achieved things. The problem is, there is no reason why you can’t accept what is, identify an injustice, and choose to fight anyway.

“It is what it is” implies passiveness, but that isn’t how it needs to be. You can accept what has happened but still act to influence what comes next.

8. Not everyone will like you.

Not everyone will like you, so stop trying to be liked by everyone. It’s not necessary. Far too many people tamp down their personal weirdness or interests to be accepted.

The truth is that these people aren’t being accepted for who they are but for the facade they are presenting to the world. So why waste your time with people who require you to dance to their tune?

9. Most people aren’t thinking of you.

People are often self-interested. Most of the time, they aren’t thinking about you at all. They are too wrapped up in their own problems, anxieties, thoughts, worries, and pursuit of peace and happiness.

What does this mean? It’s okay if you did something embarrassing or messed something up. Most people aren’t going to be thinking about it all.

10. Few things in life are black and white.

Life would be so much easier if everything were black and white, but few things are. It’s wise to not accept anything black and white at face value. Always dig deeper, look at the sources of information, and question the bigger goals of that information.

Painting the world in black and white is a common, effective way to influence people to think or feel one way about a particular thing; and it’s not often honest.

11. Everything changes.

The only true constant in life is that everything changes. People, circumstances, and situations change. So you can add a lot of peace and happiness to your life by learning how to roll with the punches and embrace change when it’s time. Because it will be time, sooner or later.

12. The past is gone; the future is not promised.

How much time do you waste yearning for the past or dreaming of the future? Both are a waste of valuable time. All you really have is the present.

You could have a freak accident, and your life could change on a dime. You could have some invisible medical problem that you don’t detect until it takes your life right this instant.

Use your present wisely.

13. No one owes you anything.

Entitlement can be a problem. People often expect to be treated a certain way or think they deserve a thing. But the truth is no one owes us anything, and that’s what we should expect to receive.

There are plenty of people who have no problem stepping on other people, treating other people disrespectfully, or just being jerks to try to get their way. Don’t expect to be treated kindly, well, or with respect. Be prepared to stand up for yourself and work to get what you want.

14. Most people are average, and that’s okay!

To be exceptional is an exception, not the rule. Most people are average people who live an average life. There’s no shame in that.

Marketing and sales to sell more stuff fuel the constant need to be more, do more, have more. That’s because salespeople are trying to create desire within you, so that you won’t settle for average. That desire will make you more susceptible to buying more things.

It’s okay to be average and have an average life. That’s what most people will have.

15. Knowledge is power.

“Knowledge is power” is an old phrase that points to a strong universal truth. The more you know, the better decisions you can make. The more informed decisions you make, the better outcomes you will have. Read more. Learn more.

16. First impressions matter.

People form an initial impression of you based on the first time they perceive you. People aware of this bias will typically do their best not to let that impression affect how they treat that person. Other people, not so much.

First impressions do matter and they can follow you for a long time. Take some time to consider what kind of first impression you’re sending. You don’t want to be creating a negative first impression in job interviews or when you’re trying to date.

17. It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.

Much of the world runs on who you know, not what you know. The fact is that people prefer the things they know to the things they don’t know. The unknown is a wild card that may come back to negatively affect them later.

Don’t neglect basic socialization and friendships. Suppose you have a hard time being social. In that case, there are plenty of books, websites, and YouTube channels about developing social skills. Get out there and practice.

18. A large part of success is simply showing up.

It’s utterly amazing how many people can’t show up. And by showing up, we don’t just mean to literally be present. It’s about doing the work, meeting expectations, and doing what you say you’re going to do.

And if you aren’t able to do what you say you’re going to do, you have a way to proceed and still make sure the other person isn’t inconvenienced.

In the context of actually showing up, a reliable person is far more valuable than the best of the best. That best of the best person is useless if they aren’t actually there to do the job.

19. Money can’t buy happiness.

Money can’t buy happiness if your problems aren’t financial in nature. It can buy a temporary good time. It can buy things to distract you from the ugly parts of life. It can pay for therapy or your medical bills. It can pay rent and put food on the table.

But it certainly doesn’t guarantee happiness.

People with money just have a different set of problems and challenges to deal with. By all means, get out there and find a way to get yourself some money, but don’t be surprised if you’re still unhappy when you get it. That is unless the lack of money is the problem.

20. Work smarter, not harder.

There’s a time to work smart and a time to work hard. Learn to see the difference. Hard work in and of itself can be worthwhile, but you also need to ensure that you are not being taken advantage of. It can certainly improve your chances for success when you set your mind to something and go for it.

Hard work for the sake of hard work is different. Some people view it as a matter of character building, regardless of the outcome. Other times, hard work is just going to lead to burnout for not much gain.

21. Social media is not real.

Don’t compare yourself and your life to what you see on the internet. A lot of it is not real. People regularly use filters, photo editing, or just deceptive practices to make themselves seem like something they’re not.

For example, a person may take a selfie with a fancy car owned by someone else to make themselves seem rich. They may also rent or buy designer clothes for an afternoon, take some pictures, and then return them. One influencer got caught posting selfies in her “new kitchen,” which turned out to be a mock-up in an interior design showroom!

Social media is not real. Don’t compare yourself or your life to what you see there.

22. You are dying every day.

Every minute of every day, you are coming closer to your death. On the one hand, you can look at that as existentially terrifying. On the other hand, you can treat it as motivation to get up and get moving!  Dream big! Set goals! Get after it!

You don’t have an infinite amount of time. So make the most out of what you have right now and go for what you want out of life.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.