Many of life’s lessons must be learned by actually experiencing the messy stuff of life, but some of the most important lessons are best learned from our parents. Parents are often a person’s greatest teachers, and these lessons are some of the most essential ones The Active Times staff learned from ours.
It’s important to take care of the Earth, especially given all the ways the environment affects your health. Our parents taught us the importance of connecting with and respecting nature with activities such as going for a hike, working in the garden and making the effort to recycle more.
It is so vital to adopt healthy habits early on, such as using proper sun protection, eating a balanced diet and curbing bad habits like smoking and excessive drinking. Not only will it get you in the habit of taking care of yourself, but it’ll lead to healthy aging and better wellness later on.
© Belahoche | Dreamstime.com
Spend your days doing what you’re passionate about, and you’ll find plenty of fulfillment. The luckiest people can pursue what they love as a career, but even if that’s not an option, our parents taught us it’s important to have hobbies, especially once the nest is empty.
© Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com
When it comes to getting married, parents are often fonts of wisdom, some of ours having gone through with second weddings, even. That means they know exactly how important it is to make sure you’re choosing the right person when getting married.
© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com
One of the keys to a lasting marriage is working as a team, even when in disagreement. Instead of focusing on getting your way, try to see if you and your partner can compromise. It should never be you vs. them; it should be you two versus whatever you’re dealing with.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
True happiness can be found in helping others. Generous, giving people ultimately make the world a better place, whether it’s through small acts or large ones. Sharing your passion and your time without expecting anything in return can be one of the best ways to live a peaceful life.
© Pojoslaw | Dreamstime.com
For all the wisdom our parents have to offer, our grandparents have even more — they were the ones who taught our parents, after all. Spending time with your grandparents, if you can, means tapping into that wisdom to learn more about their life, your family history and everything they’ve learned. It also means changing their life just as much as they change yours.
Although you want to minimize any pain your child has to go through, sheltering them from reality doesn’t do them any favors in the long run. While there are some lies it’s OK to tell your children, kids often have a sense of what’s going on, so teach them about honesty by being upfront about your own struggles so that they know they can be upfront about theirs.
Exploring the history, culture and food of a new place, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just across the state border, teaches you to live in the moment, confront fears and become more open to different ways of life. Indeed, there are a lot of travel experiences that can change your life.
© Katarzyna Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime.com
Failure to admit your mistakes is one of the habits of toxic people. It’s important to own up to your mistakes, apologize when you’ve hurt someone and commit to doing better — and actually follow through on it.
Apologizing for your mistakes is absolutely essential for maintaining and improving your relationships, but you won’t go very far if you don’t learn from them. While our parents were often there to explicitly teach us where we went wrong when we were young, they also gave us the very necessary tools to figure out how not to make the same mistakes again, whether it’s when driving, doing homework or navigating relationships.
Holding a grudge typically hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. Be a kinder person by forgiving others for their transgressions, just as you would want yours forgiven, and let things go for your own peace of mind too.
© Didesign021 | Dreamstime.com
Don’t take your friends for granted. In order to build friendships that will stand the test of time, it’s important that you make others feel valued. Make time for them, show interest in their life and hobbies and be there during both good times as well as bad.
If you’re not happy with your job, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re stuck with it. It’s never too late to follow your dreams or just try out a different industry that you think you might enjoy more. Consider a different role in your company, going back to school for another degree or even turning a hobby into a small business.
© Pojoslaw | Dreamstime.com
Whether it’s a relationship with someone, a dirty kitchen, a job or your carbon footprint, our parents taught us the importance of leaving something a little bit better than it was before. This doesn’t mean you need to fix problems for every person you encounter, but it does mean being fully present in those situations and relationships you do decide to engage in.
© Mirko Vitali | Dreamstime.com
Spending your time and money on experiences rather than material things can not only create incredible memories, but also help you feel less alone in the world and more connected to those around you. Instead of buying physical items, our parents taught us to invest in things like traveling the world, learning new skills, attending events and spending time with our loved ones.
© Boggy | Dreamstime.com
Whether you’re trying to boost your productivity at work, mowing the lawn, making some art for yourself or writing a first draft of something, always do the best that you can, even if you don’t think anyone else will ever see it. Not only is it possible that someone might, but it’s important to always do the best that you can just for yourself.
Life can get super hard, but that doesn’t mean you have to just accept the status quo. If you find yourself surrounded by toxic people, distance yourself. If you find yourself dealing with financial issues, negotiate a pay raise. Volunteer for causes regarding issues that concern you. Change happens when strong people stand up.
Fear is mostly an illusion — unless you’re in a haunted spot. Of all the things we fear, most of them will never actually happen. And if they do, they often end up not being nearly as painful as we imagined, such as when we have a big speech, a move or need to change jobs. That’s why it’s important to make sound choices based on things you truly believe in and not let fear dictate your path.
Many of our parents, especially our mothers, taught us that it’s essential to be able to take care of oneself financially without needing to rely on a partner. Speak to a financial planner, make sure you have an emergency fund and retirement account and start saving money right away if you haven’t already.
It can sometimes be hard to avoid lying awake at night fretting, but one thing that can help is remembering that things will always be better in the morning — even if you’re not a morning person. At night, you’re tired and alone with your thoughts. But in the light of day, and especially with a friend or family member to talk things through with, most problems are surmountable.
Your relationship with your siblings can shape you greatly, for better or worse. Siblings can understand your life and circumstances in a unique way, and they can be a fantastic source of support for you and vice versa. If you’re blessed enough to have siblings, it’s important to not take them for granted and ensure a great, lifelong relationship.
© Iurii Krasilnikov | Dreamstime.com
As important as it is to take care of those you love, it’s even more important to take care of yourself. Make sure to take out some “me time,” and not just when you’re super stressed. Taking part in your hobbies, getting a spa treatment just because or seeing a counselor are all ways to prevent stress just as much as they are ways to treat it.
Whether you’re dealing with coworkers, friends or family, you want to try to be the kind of person others can trust. That means always keeping your promises, thereby building stronger relationships and assuring your loved ones that you’ll always have their backs.
© Roman Samborskyi | Dreamstime.com
Some decisions can be life-changing, such as picking a career field, buying a house, getting married or even going through with a divorce. While a lot of thought and planning does, and should, go into the ins and outs of those decisions, making the larger choices means sometimes following your gut since it knows your situation best.
It’s a very basic and simple thing, but one that seems easy for many to forget. No matter what situation you’re dealing with, try to keep others’ feelings in mind. It can be very easy to fall into toxic habits that hurt your relationships; while someone getting hurt may not always be avoidable, do your best to never be the source of someone else’s pain.
Judging others can be easy, but empathy is an important skill to have. Instead of making assumptions about others’ motives or judging their behavior, appearance, relationships or financial situation, try to be a better friend by having some compassion and putting yourself in their shoes.
Another way to strengthen relationships is by respecting the boundaries within those relationships. There are some boundaries you may not even realize you’re violating, which is why it’s super important to be mindful of what others ask or need of you and check to make sure you’re not making others uncomfortable or upset. By respecting people’s boundaries, you prove that you care about their well-being too.
While it’s a good thing to take charge and try to make things happen, you have to remember that you can’t control or force people into anything. Manipulating others is toxic behavior in a relationship, and it often doesn’t work. Even if it does, you’ll just leave others feeling resentful.
© Shannon Fagan | Dreamstime.com
Life includes a lot of change, especially as we get older. Our parents taught us that letting go is a necessary part of life, and they were often a great example of how to do it, like when they dealt with their kids going away to college or tough breakups.
© Milkos | Dreamstime.com
Self-sufficiency is something every parent should teach their children, and cooking was something that our parents taught us not only for survival, but also for situations such as caring for our partners or hosting a dinner. Best of all, they taught us some pretty sweet cooking hacks too.
© Ammentorp | Dreamstime.com
Learning is a lifelong endeavor, and it shouldn’t end with the completion of a degree. In addition to learning new skills around the house or on the job, one can keep furthering their education with activities such as visiting a museum, taking a course or learning a new hobby.
Being a good neighbor is a pretty universal value, and by giving back to your community, you’re taking care of your neighbors. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate some clothes or give your time to an animal shelter. You can even give back to your community with small acts of kindness from home.
© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com
Not only is it important to make sure you’re friends with good and kind people, but it’s also smart to make sure you’re friends with people who challenge you, teach you and help you grow as a person. Instead of negativity and toxicity, surround yourself with positive people and those who have your best interests at heart.
Our parents really emphasized respect for our elders, an important value in many cultures, but they also taught us how important it is to respect everyone, regardless of age. When our parents showed respect for us, it helped to improve our relationship.
© Fizkes | Dreamstime.com
Being honest is something that every parent should teach their child, and it seems like an obvious thing to say but bears repeating. Lies can hurt people or make situations worse, so try your best to stay honest and open and show others that they can trust your word.
© Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com
It’s important to be there for others through both the good times and the bad rather than just being a fair-weather friend. If you have a friend, family member or even a coworker or neighbor that’s going through some stress, offer them any help they need or even just a sympathetic ear.
© Fizkes | Dreamstime.com
As the popular saying goes, laughter is the best medicine and many of our parents helped us feel better by making us laugh or simply laughing with us. Boost those happiness hormones by hanging out with friends, watching a funny movie or even grabbing some tickets to a comedy show.
Family doesn’t necessarily equal blood. There are many types of relationships worth cultivating, and many times, our friends can become like family. While “family first” is a good value to have, it’s important to remember that family doesn’t have a fixed definition.
© Mladen Zivkovic | Dreamstime.com
Our parents taught us to be thankful every day, and they were right even in the scientific sense. One study conducted by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that gratitude is good for one’s mental health, which is why you should try to show gratitude every day.
More from The Active Times: