Today is my last birthday of my 40s. While most of my 30s was consumed with the non-stop pandemonium of four babies growing into toddlers growing into school-age boys, my 40s have given me more time for personal growth and even a little reflection. I’ve probably learned more about life in my 40s than at any other time. So what wisdom and observations do I wish I could give to my younger self? Here are 47 things:
1. It’s okay to say no as long as you learn the art of doing it graciously.
2. Don’t waste time worrying and moaning about stuff you have no control over. Let it go.
3. Everything you see depends on how you look at it.
4. The morning after is rarely, if ever, worth the night before.
5. Listening to someone — really listening — is one of the most important, respectful and rewarding things you can do.
6. It’s awesome to collect people throughout life, but you’re truly blessed if you have a handful of besties who will always, always have your back. Even if you don’t speak to them all that often, you know they’re there.
7. Stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides.
8. No one gives a crap if you go to the supermarket in sweats. Without makeup. And your unwashed hair in a ponytail on top of your head.
9. Experiences are infinitely more memorable than stuff.
10. Confidence is beautiful and powerful.
11. Laugh lines are worth it.
12. It will always boggle your mind how some people will exceed the lowest imaginable depth of stupidity, incompetence and nastiness, while others will exceed the highest imaginable pinnacle of kindness, compassion and helpfulness.
13. Don’t live your life by anyone else’s expectations, taste, hopes or dreams.
14. If you rely on others for joy, you will never be joyful yourself.
15. Grudges aren’t worth it.
16. You’ll never regret going out of your way to brighten someone’s day.
17. “Please” and “thank you” are always appreciated and appropriate.
18. Tell the little self-sabotaging voice in your head to bug off.
19. The food doesn’t matter. The table settings don’t matter. All that matters is the company.
20. Being super-busy is not a badge of honor, importance, popularity or success. It’s perfectly okay — and actually healthier and preferable — to be not so busy.
21. Despite your delusions, you have absolutely no idea what’s happening behind other people’s doors.
22. Most bad behavior and bitterness is rooted in jealousy.
23. What makes you happy isn’t the elixir that will make someone else happy.
24. It’s not always someone else’s fault. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror.
25. You can disagree with someone’s opinions and beliefs, but it doesn’t make them wrong. And it’s probably best just not to go there when it has to do with religion, politics or love.
26. Friendships change over time. Sometimes they have an expiration date and they dissolve into fuzziness. And that’s okay.
27. Eye cream is your friend.
28. Stop waxing poetic about how good it used to be. Stop fantasizing about how good it might be in the future. Savor how good it is right now. Make your moments matter.
29. It’s nice to be thought of and remembered.
30. Sometimes you’ve gotta do stuff just because it’s the right thing to do. Often it’s uncomfortable. Usually it’s inconvenient. But it’s almost always worth it.
31. Elephants don’t belong in the room. Having the tough conversation is ultimately better than living with the energy-sapping misery of resentment or misunderstanding.
32. Some stuff just isn’t meant to be. The sooner you accept it and stop trying to force it to happen, the better off you’ll be.
33. The solution to someone else’s problem that seems so obvious to you is likely something they’ve already tried and it hasn’t worked.
34. A good night’s sleep is a gift from the heavens and can change everything.
35. People will make time for you if you’re important to them. And they pretty much won’t if you’re not.
36. Sometimes you need to suck it up hard in the name of love, peace and harmony.
37. Don’t let angry people get to you; instead, try to muster some compassion for them.
38. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. Stop wasting energy on stuff that isn’t your business. You just do you.
39. Accept, embrace and celebrate change.
40. Being polite and smiling genuinely can make a big difference.
41. Stillness is restorative and healing.
42. Take one day at a time, one step at a time. Break down challenges into small do-able chunks. It will all get done.
43. Life is what happens while you’re waiting expectantly for the next big thing on the horizon to come to fruition. Savor the everyday.
44. If you push yourself and focus on what’s good rather than wallowing selfishly in the negative, things will almost always improve.
45. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it isn’t immediately apparent, but in time, and with reflection, the reason usually becomes clear. And often it’s so extraordinary and breathtaking, it’ll blow you away.
46. No matter how much you wish, you can’t will things to happen. But often there’s a better and “righter” path that reveals itself if you keep your eyes and mind open.
47. Take a risk and have the guts to seize the opportunity, because it may not present itself again.
What are some things you’d tell your younger self?
Thank you so much for this amazing list, Andrea!! I so agree with it all! I’m 29 and I find this all so helpful! I’m going to save this and go to it when needed! Thanks for taking the time to share these smart and inspiring lessons! I’m always grateful for your beautiful posts.
You are so sweet, Meriam! Thank you so much for your kind words…you made my day!
What a wonderful list that asks us to look inward, check our motives and smile. I am 42 and I am happy. Yes, I get irritated by others and their choices but I have to constantly remind myself that I have not walked in their shoes. I love where you said that no matter how much you want to dislike/judge someone, you need to find some redeeming quality that you can respect about them. An area that I want to explore is the difference between people who have never been betrayed or hurt by someone who was supposed to love and protect them. I was recently walking with a mom-friend and she was shocked that I literally have never been hurt by anyone who was supposed to love me: parents, family, siblings, spouse. I am wondering if this is rare? How do people who have been betrayed respond to life and it’s challenges? I teach college students how to be successful college students, excel as leaders and (I hope) help them discover their strengths and weaknesses so they can succeed in life. One area where I focus is on dating and relationships and personal happiness. I can’t wait to read more of your work and bring it to my Univ of Oklahoma freshmen.
Thank you so much for reaching out, Sunny, and I’m so glad to hear that the piece resonated so strongly with you. You are quite blessed indeed never to have been hurt by someone who is supposed to love you, and it sounds like you fully appreciate that incredible gift. That’s awesome that you’re doing such important work with young people. Our future is in good hands with teachers and role models like you! 🙂