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Three Surprising Teachers We’ll Never Outgrow

Back to school? Actually, you never left!

Yesterday, it happened again.

Imagine this scene:

(A typical American living room. Mom and two kids are present. Daughter has just finished an intense complaining fit regarding minimal time for bike riding.)

MOM: “We only have 24 hours in a day. Some of that’s for sleeping, some for school, some for homework, and the rest you get to choose how you spend….So maybe instead of watching shows on the iPad for an hour, you do your 20 minutes of reading so you have more time to ride your bike.”

(Mom realizes mid-speech that this lecture—with a few edits to the specifics—is exactly what she needs to be telling herself. Her demeanor reflects this unsettling recognition.)

Like I said earlier, though, this wasn’t the first time insight has struck in the middle of a daughter-directed sermon.

Which is why I’ve come to believe that our life teachers take several surprising forms:

1)   Our kids

Not just our biological kids. Any youngsters in our lives are caretakers of a special kind of ultra-pure knowledge.

Sometimes they ask the innocent question we never think or that we fear to ask ourselves and other times their erratic behavior holds in it a lesson—for me it’s often patience—that we’ve yet to master.

2)   Our nemeses (plural of nemesis—just learned this!)

Is that mean neighbor or competitive coworker really there to ruin your day? Or could there be a bigger reason? That saying “hurt people hurt people” comes to mind.

Perhaps they’re running on love fumes and need to refill the tank. Or maybe the challenges they throw our way is their role in helping us grow.

Neurosurgeon and author Eben Alexander, M.D. proposes in his book Living in a Mindful Universe that our souls actually agree to help each other grow. And growth happens both in the best of times and in the worst of times.

3)   Our world

Nature, human triumphs and stumbles, everyday objects—all are excellent teachers. In fact, most of my social media posts are bits of wisdom that these parts of our world have inspired in me.

But these are the quietest of the teachers, so we often need a strong practice of presence to hear them.

I’ll wrap things up with this just-discovered quote, a perfect fit and teacher:

“All the energy and intelligence needed to transform our world lies latent in the human spirit.”

–Terry Patten, Author of A New Republic of the Heart

When we learn from the teachers in our lives—in whichever forms they take—we begin our own inner transformation. One day, whether mid-scene or at the epilogue’s end, we realize that our spirit and our purpose are a perfect match.

And taking action from this place of alignment is what transforms the world.

Who’s your most meaningful teacher? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. Laura says:

    I do learn from all three of these each and every day about who I want to be and who I don’t want to be. I think that each is just as important as the other. And when we slip into a place of being that is not beneficial, those teachers are there to remind us (whether it is known or not) of what we need to do to correct and realign our being. Thanks for the insightful post!

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