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35 Tough Life Lessons That Ultimately Increased My Happiness

Welcome back for day 15 of my Happy.Healthy.Whole Project (HHWP)!

If you’re just tuning in, see what it’s all about and catch up on the previous days HERE.

As you may or may not know, my birthday is coming up at the end of the month. And if you read many blogs, you might have noticed an obligatory birthday post trend: XX lessons I learned by the age of XX.

So, with it being my first birthday as a blogger, I thought I’d better partake (why not?).

However, I’ve put a little twist on the standard post to help it fit with my October theme of happiness – hence 35 Tough Life Lessons That Ultimately Increased My Happiness.

Alright, let’s do this (before I get any older)!

35 tough life lessons that I learned the hard way but made me happier in the long run
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35 Tough Life Lessons That Ultimately Increased My Happiness

1 – It is okay to ask for help.

I have always been a very independent person. I think that my mother would vouch for the fact that from a young age, I took pride in doing things myself. But asking for help doesn’t make you weak, in fact, it takes strength to ask for help.

2 – Don’t be your own worst enemy.

For most of my life, at least until my late 20’s I was always the person that was hardest on myself – my own worst critic. No matter what I did, or how hard I worked, I was never pleased with the outcome. I think I lost a lot of years of happiness that way.

3 – Don’t beg for anyone’s affection.

If you have to beg for someone’s affection, they don’t deserve your love.

4 – Everyone is capable of happiness.

Some people may have a genetic disadvantage when it comes to being happy (like some people are naturally less athletic), but that doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t capable of being happy. It just means that they might have to work a little harder at it than other people.

[Related: My Epiphany: How I Completely Changed My View Of Happiness]

5 – You can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose how to react to it.

Research by Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky has shown that about 50% of happiness is genetic, 10% is due to our life circumstances, and 40% is due to our behaviors. We can’t change our genetics, there’s only so much we can do about our circumstances, but we can always choose our behaviors.

6 – If you’re unhappy, make a change.

If something makes you unhappy – change it. Few things in life are permanent. If you’re unhappy in a job, find a new one. If you’ve always wanted to do something do it. I quit a good paying, steady job to move to a place I’d never even visited 2,500 miles away to start a job in an entirely different industry, and made a ton of new friends, and even fell in love in the process!

7 – If you don’t love yourself, it’s hard for anyone else to either.

You will be much more fun to be around if you like who you are as a person. Instead of trying to find love to make you happier, try to become happier and let love find you.

8 – People pleasing won’t get you anywhere in life.

Growing up, I was always a people pleaser. I think I felt that I needed their approval. So I would go out of the way to try and make them happy, but it usually turned out that both they and I ended up unhappy. 

9 – A day spent in nature is never wasted.

Time spent in nature has countless positive benefits including: stress relief, and increased focus, creativity, happiness, productivity, and kindness.

10 – Don’t compare yourself to anyone but you.

Comparing yourself to others has only 2 outcomes. One, you feel better because someone else is doing worse than you are, or two you feel worse because someone else is doing better than you are. Neither or good outcomes – in the first you feel good because someone else feels bad, and in the second you just feel bad. Instead, compare your present self to your past self. Have you improved? 

11 – Tomorrow is not guaranteed, make the most of today.

We never know how much time we are going to get on this Earth. Don’t put off the things you are passionate about and bring you fulfillment for some distant and uncertain future. 

12 – It really does get better.

I had some really rough patches growing up, and people always told me things would get better. I hated hearing it, and I didn’t believe it, but it turns out they were right, things really do get better.

13 – The grass is greener where you water it.

Humans have this tendency to want what others have, and to take the good things in their own life for granted. I call this the “grass is greener on the other side effect”. But I have learned that all things worth having take work. When we work hard on something (goals, a relationship etc.) we will appreciate it and be happier. The grass is greener where you water it.

14 – No argument is worth losing family over.

My mother’s side of the family tends to have all kinds of arguments over the littlest of things. I can’t tell you how many times they have been “not talking” to each other over something like who puts gas in a motorhome. Family is precious, the older I have gotten, the more I have realized that.

15 – Never pretend.

When we are young the most important thing seems to be fitting in. But pretending to be someone you aren’t, to be happy when you aren’t, to like someone you don’t etc. doesn’t pay off. It only makes it hard to discover who you really are.

16 – Speak up for yourself, no one else will.

This is something I am still learning. If I am being treated unfairly or taken advantage of, it’s on me to speak up for myself. It’s called self respect.

17 – Quality over quantity.

I believe that this is true in most every situation. I would almost always prefer quality over quantity. For example, when it comes to friends – choose quality over quantity every time.

35 life lessons that made me happier in the long run
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18 – Failures don’t need to define you.

This is something I have learned as I have developed a growth mindset [LINK]. It’s okay to fail –  this is how we learn, this is how we grow, but it’s important to brush ourselves off and keep going. Failures are rarely permanent. And they don’t need to define you.

19 – Forgive them, even if they don’t deserve it – for your sake.

If you have been badly wronged, you may be harboring some resentment, hate or anger. You are entitled to those emotions. Experience them, but don’t hold onto them. If you hold them inside it’s very hard to recover from the wrong that was done to you, and you will be unhappy far longer than you need to be. What I learned is that you need to forgive them. Even if they don’t deserve it. Forgive them for you, so you can heal – it doesn’t have to be for them, and you don’t even have to tell them.

20 – Getting a good night’s rest is the best productivity tool out there.

When I do not get a good night of sleep, I am not a functional person. I feel the effects on my performance (physically and mentally) after only 1-2 nights of bad sleep. If you want to be productive, go to bed.

21 – Perfectionism is not a good thing.

When I was younger I actually took pride in my perfectionism – I wore it as a badge of honor. That was stupid. Perfectionism kills all joy. I know this now, but I still need to remind myself of it every day. Done is better than perfect. Progress not perfection. Don’t let great be the enemy of good.

22 – It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let it keep you from living your life.

There is nothing wrong with being afraid. Fear is a learned response. Fear of failure means you care. These are not bad things. What is bad, is letting fear prevent you from living the life you want to. The fear isn’t going to go away until you take action. Live your life to overcome your fears.

23 – Vigorous exercise is the best cure for anxiety, frustration, and anger.

It’s taken me longer than it probably should to learn this. Of course it will be different for everyone. But learn what works best to deal with your emotions, and do it.

24 – Nature and time with friends/family are the best cures for depression.

Again, this one may be a little bit different for you. But for me it holds true. The tough thing about depression is that it steals the joy from the things you love to do. It makes you want to hide, and even though you know hiding doesn’t help, it’s very hard to do anything else. What I have learned is that I have to force myself to go for a hike or to be social. I don’t want to at the time, but afterwards I’m always happy I did.

25 – Mindset matters.

I used to think it was silly to think that what I thought in my own head about myself mattered. How naive I was. Mindset makes all the difference in the world. 

26 – It isn’t selfish to prioritize your happiness.

Many people think that it is selfish to prioritize their own happiness. But I would argue the opposite is true. People that are happier tend to be more patient, kind, helpful, productive and successful. 

27 – The only way to fail is to quit.

It doesn’t matter how ugly, slow, or imperfect your progress is. As long as you are moving forward, that’s a win.

28 – There are a lot of things you can’t control in life. Don’t waste time worrying over them.

This one was a big one for me. I have always been a worrier even as a kid. But what did worrying get me? It didn’t solve the problem, and usually it prevented me from doing anything of value. Instead of worrying over what you can’t control, focus on what you can – worst case scenario, it distracts you from what you can’t control. Best case, it solves the problem you were worried about.

[Related: How To Manage Stress & Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control]

29 – Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy life.

Don’t be so busy planning for tomorrow that you miss out on the joys of today. Stop and smell the roses as they say.

30 – There is no such thing as the perfect time – start now.

We often delay doing the things we want to do or know need to be done because we feel that it is not “the right time”. But what I have learned is that there is no best time. Don’t wait till January 1st to eat better or get in shape. Don’t wait until the kids are out of the house to start that business. Life is messy, things will never be perfect. The only perfect time is NOW.

31 – When bad things happen, look for the opportunities that follow.

Bad things happen and there is nothing that we can do about it. But we can look for that silver lining. I have found that in the wake of bad things, if we open our eyes and our minds, we can often find opportunities there that others might miss for feeling bad for themselves. Look for the opportunities.

32 – Keep it simple.

Humans like to overcomplicate things. I am not sure why, but I can be guilty of this as well. Whenever possible, keep it simple. Not everything needs to be rocket science. 

33 – Start where you’re at.

This is a big one for me, and I think it is helpful for most people as well. Have you ever wanted to do something important but said to yourself, “I’m not ready yet”? I have often been guilty of this. A lot of times we want to start way too big, but we feel we aren’t ready, so we don’t start at all. Instead, we should start where we are at. Start small, it’s okay. Starting small and working up is better than never starting at all. Every time.

34 – Never feel bad about investing in yourself.

Investing in yourself allows you to grow and improve. When we say “invest” people often think money. However, there are a lot more ways to invest in yourself than money. You could also invest the time or effort to pursue something you are passionate about. But whether money, time, or effort – don’t feel bad for investing in yourself. You are worth it.

35 – When you’re feeling low, engineer quick wins.

Quick wins have saved me more times than I can count. When I am feeling stuck, like I can’t make progress for whatever reason, or am feeling bad about myself, I find a way to accomplish a small but meaningful task, something I can easily cross off my to-do list. This makes me feel a little better, and then I am able to tackle something a little bigger. This technique can cause the snowball effect, which is it’s super power.


So there you have it. 35 life lessons that I have learned the hard way through my own blood, sweat and tears. 

To be sure, I didn’t enjoy learning any of these lessons as they were happening, but in the long run learning them has made me a stronger, more resilient, and overall happier person.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on life lessons:

  • Did any of my 35 lessons resonate with you? If so, which ones were your favorites?
  • What life lessons have you learned that you would add to this list?
  • What life lessons are you currently working on learning?

Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for following along with my Happy.Healthy.Whole Project! If you would like to catch up on any of the previous 14 days, check them out HERE.

Until tomorrow,


35 tough life lessons that ultimately increased my happiness
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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a health coach, autoimmune warrior, and avid adventurer. And she is on a mission to help women escape the diet-culture mentality so they can build healthy habits they actually WANT to stick to - without all the guilt, deprivation and FOMO! When she's not coaching amazing women like yourself, you'll find her outside - hiking, paddling, and hunting for hidden waterfalls on the island of Kauai where she lives with her partner and furry side-kick, Ipo!

30 Replies to “35 Tough Life Lessons That Ultimately Increased My Happiness

  1. It is the tougher lessons; the lessons we do not want to learn that ultimately bring us closer to understanding ourselves and what makes us happy.
    I love that you share the lessons that helped you learn so others out there can have their eyes opened a little more to things they may not understand yet. 🙂

  2. I love hearing realizations and life learning from other’s perspective! I like how you came up with yours too! It ia indeed a fruitful birthday when you have life lessons to match. Happy birthday!

  3. It’s good to see all of these summarised into one blog post. Often you see individual articles written on these topics but it’s important to realise all of these are connected to one another and you need all of the combined to create a happy life.

  4. I definitely relate to a lot of these things but the ones that hit home the hardest were the people pleasing and the standing up for Yourself part. I am a recovering people pleaser myself and growing up in church, I always felt that I had to please other people with my words and my action all because I was a pastors kid. Standing up for myself has been my hardest lesson this year, but the more I did it, the better I got, thanks for sharing xxx

    1. You are welcome Jodie! I am glad that you could relate to a lot of these. I imagine there would be a lot of pressure for you to set a good example as the pastor’s daughter.

      People pleasing is tough! I was the oldest of five children so I think I was always trying to gain approval and get noticed by my parents through the people pleasing. Practice definitely makes perfect!

  5. I love all of these! It’s so important to have a positive outlook even during the tough times. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You are welcome Amanda, I agree that it is good to stay focused on what we have and what we can do rather than what we don’t have and what we can’t do. That difference in mindset has made a big difference for me. Thanks so much for following along with my project!

  6. Wow it was a good read will coming back to the article again whenever I feel out of track. Thanks for sharing.

  7. You can’t see me, but I’ve been nodding my head to all of these points as I read through your post. With my birthday just around the corner, I’ve been doing some serious reflection these last few days, and I have a similar-ish post sitting in my drafts.

    I’ve also come to realize that we may all have the knowledge, all the information that we need to live happier/more fulfilled lives, but sometimes it takes a moment (or a 100) for the penny to drop. And from that point on, if you have the courage to follow through, your entire story can change!

    So well, here’s to growing older, here’s to living happy lives. 🙂

    1. Yes, I love it Shirsha! Here’s to living happy lives! And to birthdays!

      I love what you said about that we mostly know what we need to be doing but that it’s really the courage that we need to start living that happier life. I agree!

      I was just listening to a talk by Dr. Laurie Santos a psychology professor at Yale, and she said that it’s a common misconception that just knowing something is enough to change our behavior. But as you just pointed out (and as she did in the talk) knowing is the easy part. Acting on that knowledge and actually doing what it takes to be happy is the hard part.

  8. “People pleasing won’t get you anywhere in life.”

    This one really resonated with me. It’s something that I’ve been guilty of the in the past, But I’ve really been working on not relying on other people to feel good about myself.

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