12 Life Lessons I Learned in 2015

January 5, 2016

Can you think back to a year when you learned quite a few life lessons? I’ve had some years where I learned a little about myself and life and then I’ve had some where I’ve learned quite a deal. I don’t know how your 2015 went but I chalk mine up to having learned a lot about life.

Only one of these has to do specifically with money so if you’re looking for money lessons come back another day.

1) Strive to Find Balance

Life puts many demands on you and if you don’t plan balance into your routines then it’s easy to get a lopsided life in terms of your priorities. I doubt you’ll regularly have a perfectly balanced day but if you plan for it you have more chance of balancing your time across things that are important to you over the course of a week or a month.

Some years it’s easy to get out of balance. This often happens when you’re reacting (or over-reacting) to something that happened in your life. Perhaps even something you’re simply afraid might happen in the future.

Poker players call it going “on-tilt”. When things don’t go your way and you over compensate to try and make up for the loss by taking action (maybe reckless or contrary to your typical approach) that you wouldn’t have considered in the past.

Basically your emotions get the best of you and cause you to make interesting decisions.

I think this is probably going to happen to most people at some point in their lives. We’re emotional creatures so chances are you’re probably not immune to knee jerk decision making.

Probably the best thing you can do is to setup safeguards to limit the amount of damage you can do if you go “on tilt”.

2) Know How to Ground Yourself

When things aren’t going well what is your “go to” thing to make you feel better and get you back on track? For me, it’s exercise. The trouble is that when I feel like crap it’s hard to make myself get out and go for a run. However, as soon as I do I’m reminded of how it gives me time to think and reflect and when the endorphins kick in my worries seem more manageable.

On the flip side, when you’re flying high what, or who, can help you remember that there will be rainy days at some point in the future? How will you remember to plan for them and not throw caution to the wind? How will you remember where you came from and that karma matters?

3) Be Grateful

Unfortunately I watched a lot more television this year than I have in a long time. Part of that was due to getting hooked on shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Falling Skies”. Both tell apocalyptic tales of the world being ruined, one by zombies and the other invading aliens. At the heart of both shows is the story of a dad trying to keep his family together and safe amidst the end of the world.

Although they’re just scripts, both stories remind me of how easy it is to take for granted the blessings we have in life. Our modern world isn’t perfect and there are many people suffering around the world but we’re all still people. We’re lucky to wake up every day and have a chance to be with the ones we love and to pursue the things most important to us.

Counting your blessings can help put your daily life into better perspective.

4) Acknowledge your Weaknesses

You probably know your biggest weaknesses, right? I’ve known mine for years but there’s a difference between simply being aware of them and having a plan in place to help mitigate them.

I haven’t done a great job of this and need to improve how I handle my weaknesses. My plan involves a mixture of having people hold me accountable, getting expert help where needed, and finding tools to help me measure tendencies that are holding me back.

5) Find Someone to Keep You Accountable

Some people use a coach, a mastermind group, an online community, and some rely on their spouse or other family member. There are pros and cons to the different approaches that involve factors like cost, expertise, availability, & objectivity.

Whatever works best for your situation, the thing to remember is that over the long term it pays to have someone keeping you accountable. Having someone ask you the hard, uncomfortable questions should help you make better thought out decisions.

6) Health Matters

Everything is worse when you don’t have your health, take care of yourself. Most people don’t gain 100 pounds or develop heart disease in a day. Many modern medical conditions are a result of lifestyle over a period of time. One thing that worked for me is the Give Skinny a Chance challenge.

7) Create an Emergency Fund

Do you feel like you’ve lived the saying “when it rains, it pours”? If so then you understand the value of having an emergency fund. One financial mishap can lead to another. What seem like relatively minor issues on their own can add up and begin to snowball pretty quickly. One of the best ways to combat these snowball effect is to have reserve of money you can tap into when

8) Your Thoughts Matter

It’s amazing the impact the thoughts in your head can have on your personality, your body, your motivation, your productivity, and your overall happiness. Until you’ve experienced how impactful they can be it’s difficult to explain the degree to which your thoughts can make a difference in your life. Two years ago I would have semi-rolled my eyes at a lesson like this but having seen it firsthand I can say that it’s important to work towards a positive mindset.

It might not be easy for you to be positive about everything but I think it’s important to be positive about a few core things in life. Even if several things seem to be going wrong at once if you have at least one core thing to keep you energized and moving forward it can make a big difference.

9) Find a Good Partner

Whether it’s your spouse, business partner, or your team at work having someone who you can count on and work with makes a big difference you when things are rough or when you have tough decisions to make. A great partner would be someone who complements you, who excels in areas where you struggle. This also goes along with finding someone to keep you accountable – having another perspective in your decision making process.

Not only can a partner help you plan for the future but having a person or team you can rely on to pick up the load when you’re swamped can make it a lot easier to get your footing when you stumble.

10) Ask for Help

People are busy with their own lives and probably won’t simply volunteer to help you unless you ask for specific help. They likely won’t be able to solve your problem for you but they can offer fresh ideas or connect you with resources to help you get past the area you’re stuck.

It’s easy to let your pride get in the way and think you can handle everything on your own but if asking for help can save you a lot of time, heartache, or money then its worth reaching out.

11) Create Traditions

The nice thing about traditions is that they can serve as anchors in our busy lives. Without them it’s easy for whole days and weeks to seemingly slip by as we go through our daily routines.

Traditions give you things to look forward to and give you a reason to take a break from the rush of life. They don’t all have to be major traditions that only happen a few times a year like ones we associate with the holidays. You can have a tradition of celebrating your weekly wins on Friday with a lunch or a drink with friends. Simple things like family movie night on a Saturday or Sunday.

Establishing regular events or moments like these can help build relationships & memories if you share them with others or can simply give you something to look forward to if it’s something you do on your own.

12) Be Optimistic

Peter Thiel talks in his book “Zero to One” about ways of categorizing how people and societies think about the future. The optimists believe that the future will be better than today and the pessimists think that things will get worse.

With all the negative things you read, hear, or see in the world today it’s easy to be pulled towards the pessimistic end of the spectrum. However, when I think of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents they all had tough times in their respective generations. It’s easy to look back now on history and see where things worked out in the end but it definitely wasn’t clear cut when our ancestors were worrying through those times.

Thank goodness they didn’t throw up their hands and declare the world had gone to hell in a handbasket and there was nothing they could do about it. Thank goodness they kept innovating, and caring for others, and working to make a better future for their kids. Some of our challenges are different than theirs were, seemingly more complex. However, we live in a different time. We have information and technology that they didn’t have access to so we’re equipped to handle the challenges of our generation.

Thiel further distinguishes between definite optimists and indefinite optimists. He says those of us that are indefinite optimists believe the world will be better, we just don’t know how. He describes definite optimists as people who have a strong vision and plan for how things will get better. You may not know how you’ll make the future better for yourself, your family, and your community but I think it’s important to look for reasons why you want the future to be better.

Having an optimistic view of the future makes it much easier to get out of bed, be excited for each day, and give your all in the time you spend with the people in your life. So I hope you have an optimistic new year, a hopeful 2016. Maybe some of the lessons I’ve learned (or been reminded of) will help you along the way.

If not, don’t despair. There are many smart, interesting, hopeful people sharing their lessons and stories at this time of the year. Keep connecting with people and you’ll eventually find the lessons you need to make your next year great.


Will this article help you save or earn more money? Get others like it simply by entering your email address below. Your email is used only for delivering daily money tips and you can opt out of delivery at any time. Click here to see all your free subscription options.


Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

All posts by


2 Responses to 12 Life Lessons I Learned in 2015

  • Money Beagle

    That’s a lot for one year. Great list. Thanks for sharing and best wishes for a fantastic 2016 and beyond!

    • Ben Edwards

      Yes, it was an interesting last year : )

      It is nice to have a fresh start to habits in 2016. It’s a good time of the year to reflect and plan.

      thanks for the well wishes, I hope your new year gets off to a good start!