3 Life Lessons to Unlearn (Then Re-Learn)

By Georgia


Last Updated: July 31, 2021

We each learn a lot of lessons throughout our lifetime. Many are taught to us by our parents, authority figures or peers. But we also absorb a great deal through children's programming when we're young and other forms of entertainment as we grow. These lessons to live by can be imparted directly through teachings, but many are absorbed by observing behaviors and responses to others' lived or hypothetical experiences. We also create our own lessons through positive and negative occurrences, as well as the vicarious experiences of those around us. 

But not every lesson is worth learning. And not every rule remains appropriate throughout all of life's phases. As we progress through life we sometimes find the things we learned turned out to be less than helpful. They can range from incorrect but benign to actively destructive to yourself and others. They may have good intentions but there are plenty of expressions that are popular yet misunderstood. So it's time to unlearn these 3 life lessons and replace them with something better.


No Pain, No Gain

The intention behind this saying is understandable: Good things are worth working for. Great achievements require hard work, and you should expect to make sacrifices and be dealt some hard blows in order to make it and become successful. But this life lesson insinuates that you can't make progress without hurting yourself in some way. This is wrong for two reasons:

Pain is not evidence of progress, and pain should not be tolerated because it is supposed to represent progress.

Yes, life can be agonizing and you can choose to learn from painful experiences, but being or feeling hurt doesn't guarantee growth and you cannot automatically assign it meaning. Something being hard or harmful doesn't necessarily make it deep or meaningful. Are things worth pursuing or having often difficult? Yes. But don't search for struggle hoping breakthrough is on the other side. And don't hurt yourself or allow yourself harm assuming it will make you or your circumstances better.


Ask for What You Want

Asking for what you want is an important life lesson too few people learn, but left on its own it is not enough. It is incredibly important to learn to stand up for yourself and ask for what you want. But you need to be prepared for the follow-up to making the ask.  

Many people live their lives with frustration and passive-aggressive resentment because they have unfulfilled needs and wants, yet never actually gave others the opportunity to fulfill those needs. The few who do know all too well the sting of rejection and the anxiety that comes with making a subsequent big ask. So what happens after you finally work up the courage to ask for what you want? You may receive negative feedback or consequences. You may be rejected or suffer unforeseen repercussions. You may start to doubt the value of making a request in the future.

Even though you make the choice to live with the results you can go into the request as a negotiation. Know what you are and are not willing to accept in advance, then create your own consequences for each scenario. If things will stay exactly the same after the ask there was no point in asking. But if you have a goal in mind and are making an ask to reach it, in the end you should decide to only accept what you deserve. This includes tangibles like increased pay, better opportunities, having people in or out of your life, etc. And intangibles like peace of mind, happiness, better treatment by those people in your life, and more.


Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

It is okay to ask for help and expect that help to be quality and inclined. Just because you are in a vulnerable position doesn't mean you should be made to accept substandard or inadequate care, or that you should be unduly indebted or feel excessively guilty. Of course, always ask for and accept help with grace, humility and appreciation. After all, even if you have an amazing support system once you're an adult technically no one owes you anything; notwithstanding organizations designed to step in in your specific situation. But understand, whatever is offered should actually be helpful to you and should be done from a place of genuine care, not a legacy of potential power imbalance, control or indebtedness.


When help is offered genuinely and graciously it does not require you to bow down to receive it or taking more than necessary from you to repay it. The favor(s) shouldn't be brought up constantly or far into the future to guilt you into harming yourself for them. You shouldn't be worse off or feel manipulated in the long run because of accepting assistance now.

Remember, whether giving or receiving assistance:

  • Help cannot be lauded over someone
  • Reasonable rules and repayment is acceptable if clearly communicated
  • Help without conditions is considered a gift
  • Do not expect repayment later if the help is a gift
  • Do not take advantage of desperate or vulnerable people
  • Always ask for and accept help with grace, humility and appreciation


Life lessons have an important place and are often well-meaning. But when you deconstruct the message and rebuild it to best apply in real life, you'll find some substance and genuinely helpful lessons. Look into your mottos and life lessons and find out if they are truly working for you.


Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash


One comment on “3 Life Lessons to Unlearn (Then Re-Learn)”

  1. "No pain, no gain" refers to an exercise routine, not progressing toward meeting personal goals.
    "Ask for what you want" refers to speaking up when you need something because our friends, family, associates, are not mind-readers. It does not insinuate you can expect to get everything you want.
    And, "Beggars can't be choosers" refers to small things such as borrowing a cigarette and receiving a menthol instead of non-menthol. Or asking for a donut and having to settle for a flavor that is not your favorite. It isn't about receiving inadequate advice or assistance. While the article has worthwhile information, the phrases are misrepresented.

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