If someone wants to obtain a driver’s license, become a certified public accountant, or practice law, they must pass a test. The test verifies that they’re at least minimally qualified to proceed.
But what if there was a test to practice life?
A test given to indicate one’s preparedness to face the responsibilities and challenges of life.
What would be included on such a test? What would you need to know to have the best shot at a meaningful life?
What if there was an evening class you could take to help you pass this test? What would the syllabus look like? Probably something a bit like the list below.
These are the things you should know to make the most of life.
This class syllabus can’t cover everything, but it covers enough so that you can pass the test of life with flying colors.
1. No one will get out of this life alive.
The first thing we should acknowledge is that life is finite.
We only have so many days allotted to us. One day we will wake up in the morning and begin our very last day on earth.
Acknowledging that life is temporary is a wise way to approach life. It will help you live each day more fully, and focus on what matters most.
2. Life is unpredictable, but a plan is a good idea.
Nobody can predict the future – their own or anyone else’s. Events and experiences we cannot foresee will come our way with some frequency.
But a well-ordered plan can help us navigate the unknown waters ahead.
Think of a plan as a preferred future. It’s not a guarantee of a certain outcome, but a plan can remove many of the obstacles to our desired future.
Carrying an umbrella won’t prevent a storm, but it can minimize the consequences of the storm.
Make a plan. And expect to revise it from time to time.
3. Great friendships enhance the quality of life.
We’ll meet many people during our lifetime. Some will just be temporary fellow-travelers on the journey. Others we’ll want to join us for the entire journey.
Deep and lasting friendships don’t just happen. They require focus, energy, patience, and skill to form and maintain.
But, boy, they’re worth it.
Good friends will enhance your journey through life in more ways than you can imagine.
Invest in a few. You don’t need a lot. This is one of those cases when quality is more important than quantity.
4. Healthy relationships make life richer.
As for romantic interests, it’s okay to acknowledge that not all relationships will last, but it is wise to try to make them as healthy and as free from conflict as possible.
When in a relationship, you’ll spend a lot of time with your partner. How much you enjoy that time will depend a great deal on your attitude, expectations, and actions.
Just like friendships, they require work to maintain. And they are a team effort. You must be willing to contribute an equal amount to your partner.
Eventually, you may find a life partner. Even when you do, don’t neglect to keep putting in the effort.
5. Expect to have setbacks.
Everyone has setbacks from time to time. Some are annoying, others are debilitating. But they will come, that is certain.
The best approach is to expect them, acknowledge them, work through them, and move past them.
Some setbacks may have lasting consequences, but they need not derail you or cause you to despair. Whether you like them or despise them is not the issue. What matters is that you learn to move forward in spite of them.
Few setbacks block your progress entirely. Though they may require a detour. Embrace the detour. You may even discover some unexpected blessings while you deal with the setback.
6. Life is better when lived within your means.
You don’t need to be materialistic to recognize the important place of money in life. We all need some of it. And we all need to manage whatever amount we have.
In fact, the less you have, the more important effective management becomes. As soon as you have some income, you’ll want to set up a budget that reflects both your income as well as your anticipated expenses.
It takes months to adjust a budget so it will work for you. But once you have it in place, stick to it.
A budget has the same relationship to money as a schedule has to time. A schedule doesn’t create time, it helps you manage time. A budget doesn’t create money, it helps you manage the money you have.
7. Core values should be known and honored.
Life gets complicated at times. It comes down to wise decisions that are consistent with what you consider right and true.
Because decisions often carry emotional baggage, it helps immensely if you know in advance what is most important to you.
That is, what values do you hold most firmly and most deeply?
Once you settle what’s important to you, you’ll be better equipped to make choices when confronted by them.
As they say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
8. Life is better when you invest in your health.
Unlike your car, which you can trade in or ditch when it becomes unreliable, you’re stuck with your body. You can’t trade in your body for a replacement. So you must figure out how to maintain the body you have so it serves you an entire lifetime.
Someday we may be able to pick up new body parts like we do water pumps or brake pads. But that day has not arrived.
So learn what makes for good health habits. Then practice those habits every day. Your body will thank you. And your body will serve you well your entire journey.
9. Actions determine outcomes.
Believe it or not, there are people who see little connection between their actions and the results.
But with few exceptions, the correlation is direct and unmistakable.
The sooner you understand the intimate relationship between your thoughts, choices, and actions… and their consequences, the better off you will be.
When you’re thinking about doing something, it’s a good idea to ask what the likely results will be if you actually do it. Or what they will be if you choose not to do it.
If you plant corn, expect corn to come up. If you plant wheat, expect wheat to come up. If you plant nothing, expect nothing to come up.
10. Unhealthy relationships make for an unhealthy life.
Life is hard enough when you have several encouraging, supportive, and helpful fellow travelers. How much more difficult it is when you allow toxic people to join you on your journey.
Toxins are poisonous. So are toxic people. They will sap your energy, discourage you, generate anger in you, frustrate you, and in a myriad of ways, make your life more difficult.
Avoid them if you can. If it’s impossible to avoid them, figure out how to mitigate their destructive potential.
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11. Self-discipline is a valuable quality.
It’s been said that courage is the queen of the character qualities, because all others flow from it.
I would say a close second is the characteristic of self-discipline.
Without self-discipline, your life will be a struggle from beginning to end. With self-discipline, you can achieve many of the things your heart desires.
Self-discipline is choosing to do what you don’t want to do in order to get what you do want as a result.
Figure out what you want. Then determine what’s required to have it. Then do those things consistently.
The great thinker Aristotle said:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
If you lack self-discipline, you will always be mourning what you could have had or could have been.
12. You always have a choice.
One of the common traps we fall into is the mistaken belief that we have no choice when we actually do. It may not be the choice we want, it may not be the choice we prefer, but it’s nonetheless a choice.
We waste so much time and energy bemoaning the choices we don’t have. It would be so much better if we simply exercised the choices we do have.
What’s the next best step you can take? Take that step.
If that step turns out not to be so great, no worries. Simply take the next best step after that. There’s always a next best step you can take. Always.
13. An emergency fund will help you sleep at night.
You’ve probably noticed that life is unpredictable. You just never know what might be lurking around the bend. In fact, it’s impossible to predict the future, so don’t try.
Instead, make provision for the future. One way you can do this is to establish an emergency fund.
Begin by saving a percentage of every paycheck and set it aside for your emergency fund. You can start off small and increase the percentage over time.
Aim for one month’s expenses in a safe place. Then aim for two months, and eventually work up to six months. It will get you through if you lose your job, get sick, or are unable to work for some other reason.
An emergency fund will not only prepare you financially for the unknown future, it will help you sleep better at night.
14. Fear should motivate, not paralyze.
Fear, like failure, is not your enemy. Fear is simply a warning system telling you to take action.
There are 3 ways you can respond. Fight, flight, or freeze. Engage in the battle, escape the battle, or stand firm.
If the matter can be handled, you engage or fight. If the matter is beyond your capability, you flee. If the matter is best handled by neither fighting nor fleeing, maintain your current position.
Each of these responses has its place…
If you fear your upcoming job interview, it’s a call to prepare. If a hurricane is heading your way, it’s a call to head the other way. If you’re crossing a street and a car is speeding through the crosswalk, it’s a call to freeze right where you are until the car passes.
Learn to see fear as your warning system. Fear is your body’s way of telling you that action is required. Figure out what the best action is and take it.
Don’t let fear paralyze you. Let fear motivate you to take the best action.
15. It’s best to say what you mean and mean what you say.
Establish early in your life that you are a person of your word. That you say what you mean. That you mean what you say.
The first is about clarity. The second is about reliability.
Don’t make people figure out what you mean – just say what you mean clearly and without ambiguity.
The twin sister to speaking clearly is speaking reliably. You want to have the reputation of being reliable. That you can be counted on to do what you say you will do. That when you don’t do something you said you would do, everyone will assume you must be dead.
16. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
I loved the words and thoughts of the late Stephen Covey, who used to say that too many people get caught up “in the thick of thin things.”
He was right. You will avoid this trap if you learn to keep the main thing the main thing.
Don’t forget your purpose. Don’t forget your aim. Don’t forget what you were trying to do in the first place.
Keep the most important things right out front where you can see them. Give the important things your focus, your time, and your deepest devotion.
17. Changing what isn’t working can make all the difference.
You’d be amazed at how often people continue to do the very same thing day after day and year after year when it’s as clear as a bell that it’s not working.
But they press ahead anyway, doing the same thing in the same way and experience the same results every time.
They either don’t realize or they forget that if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.
If you’re tired of doing the same thing and getting the same results, try doing something different. Change it up. Explore. Think outside the box. Take a chance.
Then, if the new thing gives you the same results you don’t want… you guessed it… try something different. You’ll eventually come up with what works. That’s the thing you’ll want to repeat.
18. Saying no tactfully and clearly will keep you out of predicaments.
You will find as you journey through life there are people out there who think they know what’s best for you. So they will attempt to control, manipulate, and influence you toward their agenda.
Don’t let them do it.
You’ll need to learn to say no to people. Know that you can say no clearly and tactfully at the same time.
Sometimes you may want to give a reason for your decision. But you don’t owe anyone a reason.
Simply say, “No, I’m not going to be able to make it, I have other plans.” Your plans may be to sit at home, watch a movie by yourself, and eat your favorite ice cream. No problem.
Just remember: you want to live your life, not someone else’s.
19. Procrastination will not serve you.
There are many reasons people procrastinate. I’m not talking about purposeful delay. I’m not talking about doing later what is better done later.
I’m talking about doing later what should be done now.
I’ve known people who’ve exerted as much energy avoiding a task as they would have exerted doing the task.
If you’ve determined that something should be done, do it. If you’ve determined that it shouldn’t be done, then procrastination is not the issue.
The goal is to stop putting off for later what should be done now.
It’s not good for you. It makes the task harder. It hinders your progress. It can even become your undoing.
20. Failure is your teacher, not your enemy.
Failure is inevitable. Big failures and small failures. We all have them. But failures are not a problem unless we fail to acknowledge them and learn from them.
Failure is a valuable teacher. But you must be a willing and teachable student.
When you fail, ask yourself if there was some way you could have prevented the failure. Then do it differently next time.
It’s been said that the only thing more painful than learning from experience is not learning from experience.
21. This too shall pass.
On your journey, there will be times when your life is not what you hoped it would be.
You lose a job you loved. A relationships ends. You suffer a major health issue. Life seems more of a bore than a blessing.
This is normal and common among all people everywhere.
One thing that can help you during such times is to realize that it’s only temporary. Tell yourself that all things end and this too shall pass.
Say, “It’ll be okay, just not today.”
Think of it as a long detour on a road you’re traveling. It seems like the detour will never end. But eventually it ends, you get back on the main road, and you resume your journey.
Don’t focus too much on your circumstances. Don’t spend too much time thinking about how good things used to be. Learn to accept what you cannot change.
Did You Pass?
Well, there you have it. 21 things everyone should know about life. If you work your way through each one, you’ll be ready for your final exam.
In the meantime, you may want to choose just one to work on at a time. No sense in being overwhelmed. Just choose one of the 21 and focus on it for a time. You won’t master it right away. But if you focus and devote your energy to it, you eventually will.