The best life lessons we learned from our parents

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So many of life's lessons must be learned by actually experiencing the messy stuff of life - that's how they get their name, after all. However, some of life's most important lessons are best learned from others. Valuable knowledge can be gleaned from the works of great thinkers, writers and artists. Still other significant lessons are passed down from teachers, neighbors and various people passing through our lives. And then there are those we learn from our parents.

Some are brutal, some are powerful, some are instilled in us when we're young and some are learned too late in life. Think back: What are the most important things you've learned from your parents? We did just that, and mined the memories of our colleagues to find those little gems that are actually pretty major.

Take care of the world around you

Even though we are constantly bombarded with news of irreversible damage done to our environment and the ways climate change affects our health, we've learned from our parents the importance of connecting with and respecting nature. Our daily decisions affect not only us, but those who live far away, and those who will come after us. Something as simple as going for a hike, working in the garden, or making the switch to reusable straws can keep you connected with the environment, which might spur those around you toward even greater acts.

Travel teaches you lessons you can't learn in a classroom

Ask anyone who's been around the sun a few times, and they will certainly rank a semester spent abroad, a solo trip or a favorite vacation as one of the most important experiences of their lives. 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.

Take care of your health early on

Practically all of our parents have shared this same piece of advice -as hard as it can be to follow when you're young and feel like life is stretching out before you. Most parents strongly urge their kids 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. Have fun, but remember that moderation is key in most things.

Tell stories about the good old days

Listening to the stories and laughter our parents and extended family shared when they would get together was a memorable part of so many of our childhoods. While we were tucked away in bed, we would eavesdrop on the hilarious (and sometimes heartbreaking) stories they would tell late into the night. This instilled in many of us a strong sense of comfort and underlined the importance of adult friendship, even within one's own family. Years later, even when some of the key participants are long gone, hearing those stories of the "good old days" brings a sense of belonging.

Pursue what you love, and share it with your kids

The father of one of our editors loved to ski, and instilled in her a love of the mountains, whether it was whizzing down the slopes or climbing into a snowstorm on an icy chairlift. Spend time doing what you're passionate about, and don't be afraid to share it with those you love.

Being selfless can make you happy

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.

Don't overlook or neglect relationships and time with your grandparents

The mother of one of our colleagues instilled in him the importance of building a genuine friendship with his grandfather, and often prompted him to visit. He says it went from being a burden to something he looked forward to, and then relied on later in life. By doing things with and for his grandfather, he learned hobbies he otherwise wouldn't have been exposed to and has been able to pass them along to his kids.

Putting on a brave face isn't always a good idea

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. Although it's natural for parents to want to do this, quite a few adult children end up wishing that their parents hadn't. 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 up-front about your own struggles.

Prioritize experiences

Spending your time and money on experiences rather than things can not only create incredible memories, but 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 what's really important: family, friends and causes we believe in.

Admit your mistakes

The father of one of our colleagues always said, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." Adults aren't perfect, and age doesn't teach you everything. The need to always be right can be very damaging to both yourself and your relationships. Practice taking a breath and admitting your mistake. It can be one of the most empowering and healing things you can do.

It's never too late to switch careers

Many of us grew up with parents who switched careers in their 40s, 50s and beyond. It's a brave move to change careers at any time in your life, and so much more common than many people realize. A new career can bring a renewed sense of purpose, can inspire those around you, and can even increase your earning power. Why should age matter if you've found the thing you love, or just decide you need to take a different path?

Who you marry will be one of the most important decisions of your life

This one may seem obvious, but the decision to marry is often made during a whirlwind period of life. Our parents taught us that a good partnership is based on honesty, kindness and reliability. Look for a partner who is empathetic, has integrity, and is someone around whom you can truly be yourself. Shared values, similar outlooks on finances, shared interests and a sense of humor can also be important.

Always do your best work, because you never know who will see it

One of our favorite interns shared this tip from his dad. His dad would give him this guidance even if he just did a crummy job of mowing the lawn. But this advice works for so many situations beyond lawn maintenance. Go the extra mile at home, work or elsewhere, because whatever you're doing is important enough to do it right the first time (whether people are watching or not).

Friendships can last a lifetime if you invest in them

One of our editors told us how her mom and her mom's three college roommates have been friends for nearly 40 years, and they've supported each other through all of life's stages - from getting married to taking care of aging parents, and the highs and lows in between. Though they have sometimes briefly lost touch over the years, there was never a point at which they felt that too much time had passed to reach out to each other.

Always leave something better than you found it

Whether it's the environment, a relationship, a work project or a dirty kitchen, 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.

You don't have to accept things the way they are

Our photo editor learned from her parents that, while the world may suck in a given moment, that doesn't mean you have to accept the way things are. If you find yourself surrounded by toxic people or in a place that's just no good for you, ask for help but don't be afraid to strike out on your own. Change happens when strong people stand up.

Don't make choices out of fear

Fear is (mostly) an illusion. 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 a big speech, a move or changing 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.

Have your own money

Our associate editor's mom taught her the importance of being able to take care of herself financially and not needing to rely on a partner. As a result, she contributes 10 percent of her pay to a retirement account, has an emergency fund, and has no plans to open a joint account with a future partner, preferring to keep her money under her own control.

Things will always be better in the morning

Our other favorite intern shares this tip from her dad: Don't lie awake at night fretting, because things will always be better in the morning. As nighttime wears on, problems can seem bigger and scarier - especially when you're 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. There's no need to go it alone - morning can be a time of clarity, especially if you establish some healthy morning habits to help you cope.

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