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Essential Life Lessons

Essential Life LessonsSo, another school year begins, and students once again apply themselves to their studies, vying for top grades and possibly a spot at a prized university.

Regardless of our academic achievements, we learned (or should have learned) many important lessons in school. 

Pay attention in class.

Be receptive to new information. Be willing to look at things a different way. Have an open mind, but not so open that it falls out. In other words, engage both your intellect and your curiosity.

Follow directions.

While you may believe that you know a better way of tackling your assignment than that suggested by your instructor, at least try it their way first. Be humble. Often we can make things unnecessarily difficult by worrying or being “creative”, rather than just adhering to instructions.

Pace yourself.

Keep up with your homework. Don’t procrastinate and then pull an all-nighter right before the exam. Create a study schedule for yourself and adhere to it. Do take breaks, get enough sleep, and proper nutrition.

Practice, practice, practice.

You generally don’t develop proficiency at something without doing it over and over again. The repetition isn’t necessarily fun, but it’s necessary. Often the difference between a B and an A grade is the degree to which you apply yourself.

Keep your eyes on your own work. 

Focus on doing your best, rather than comparing yourself with other people. (“Compare and despair”.) Establish your personal goals and run your own race.

Take it one day at a time.

Your teacher won’t tell you to pull out your trigonometry textbook when you’re in pre-algebra. Nor are you expected to take a history test in your geography class. Don’t worry about the future. Just attend to what’s in front of you – one thing at a time.

Don’t cheat.

Teachers and friends may tutor you on your studies, but they can’t do your work for you. Even if they did, you wouldn’t gain anything in the end. You need to develop knowledge of the material yourself.

You will be tested.

In order to pass to the next level, you will need to take exams, to see how well you’ve mastered the lessons already given. If you do poorly, you will need to repeat the class.

You will be given essay questions. 

You will be called upon to elaborate on the information you’ve learned, to show that you can apply what you’ve learned to a real-life situation and add your personal insights.

Teachers come in all shapes and sizes.

Sometimes the really challenging instructors can teach you the most valuable lessons. You can’t always pick your teachers, and they may show up in the most unexpected places. Learn everything you can from the people placed in your life.

Play well with others.

Show respect for other people, listen to their opinions, and be tolerant. Throwing tantrums when things don’t go your way will not win you friends or colleagues. Learn how to function as a team, with everyone contributing his or her unique strengths and encouraging one another.

Not everybody will like you.

It’s impossible to please everybody all the time. Resist peer pressure to engage in behavior that seems wrong to you. Instead, get clear on what’s important to you and remain true to your personal values.

Balance work with fun. 

Make time for sports, meals with friends, activities that interest you (music, art, debate, etc.). Invigorate yourself with rewarding pursuits.

You are here to learn and grow. 

Deep in each of us is the desire to evolve, to continue developing as a person. Otherwise we stagnate and life becomes dull. At the beginning of each day, ask yourself, “What can I practice and get better at today?” At the end of the day, consider, “What did I learn today?”

Life is a continual education and is always in session, so if we didn’t “get it” the first time around, there’s always another chance.


Essential Life Lessons

Rachel Fintzy Woods, MA, LMFT

Rachel Fintzy Woods, M.A., LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist in Santa Monica, California. Rachel counsels in the areas of relationships, the mind/body connection, emotion regulation, stress management, mindfulness, emotional eating, compulsive behaviors, self-compassion, and effective self-care. Trained in both clinical psychology and theater arts, Rachel works with people to uncover and develop their unique creative gifts and find personal fulfillment. For 17 years, Rachel has also been conducting clinical research studies at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the areas of mind/body medicine and the interaction of psychological well-being, social support, traumatic injury, and substance use. You can read more about Rachel at her website:

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APA Reference
Fintzy Woods, R. (2017). Essential Life Lessons. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Jul 2017
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