This week I celebrate my 40th birthday … I’m not sure how or when I suddenly reached the age of my parents but somehow it happened. When I was little people used to ask me if I felt any different or any older on my birthday. I always answered “no” and even as I get older my birthday comes and goes each year and I don’t really feel any different. As I enter my 40s though, I realize that I might not feel older but I am different… each passing year has taught me something new about myself and about life. So … in honor of my 40th birthday, here are 40 things I’ve learned over the years.
#1 – Your dreams can change and that’s okay!
#2 – The advice you so clearly give others is often the hardest to follow yourself. That’s where friends and family come in… sometimes you just need to hear it from someone other than yourself.
#3 – Travel when and where you can as often as you can—it’s a big world out there and the people and experiences will change you for the better.
#4 – Give of yourself freely and without expectation of reward. Give because we are all in this together.
#5 – Give people the benefit of the doubt –more often than not their behavior has more to do with them than with you.
#6 – Love your family with all you’ve got! You may disagree with each other but they are a gift so love them dearly.
#7 – Hug your children every day! Even when they’re taller than you or roll their eyes because they’re “too cool” … hug them anyway. Helping your children feel loved and secure will serve them well in more ways than you can imagine.
#8 – Be kind for everyone you know is fighting their own battle. You never know what happened that morning, that day, or what they are struggling with inside that you might never know about.
#9 – Watch sunrises and sunsets and take time to look up at the stars and the moon… they are reminders of something bigger than us and the beauty that surrounds us if we take the time to look. In the end these seemingly “small” things are often more important than the “big” stresses of work and deadlines that take up most of our thoughts each day.
#10 – Find time to quiet your brain—yoga, run, meditation, etc. A few minutes in peace can rejuvenate you, bring clarity, and reduce stress more than you think.
#11 –Make your home a safe place to land for your family. Add candles, flowers, burn a fire in the fireplace, and make it a peaceful and beautiful place to come home to and escape the stress of the day.
#12 – Exercise 2-3 times a week no matter what. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety and helps your body stay healthy.
#13 – Eat as healthy and clean as you can but don’t deny yourself the things you love most as long as it’s in moderation. Making a long “no” list tends to backfire so listen to your body instead… if you’re eating as clean as possible, your body will usually tell you what it needs!
#14 – Make time for yourself whether it’s just spending some downtime alone or treating yourself – you deserve it and you need it so do it and don’t feel bad about it!
#15– Cherish your friendships! We often associate friendships with childhood or times in our life when we’re single but the truth is friends as an adult make good times sweeter and help make bad times easier.
#16 – Some people come into your life but aren’t meant to stay—be grateful for the lesson they teach you, let them go, and move on. It’s all part of your journey.
#17 – Life is rarely black and white nor is it always a straight and easy journey from point A to B. It’s filled with twists and turns and lots of gray areas but in the end you’ll always get where you’re supposed to be.
#18 – Seek out mentors, both personal and professional… experience and life brings growth and changes and it helps to have someone you can ask advice from and to help guide you along the way.
#19 – Find time to play! Build a snowman, swing on a swing set, play board games, shoot hoops… whenever you get the chance! Play is a reminder that life should be fun too!
#20 – Be kind, Be wise, Be true… it works in any situation! Speaking and acting from a place of truth and kindness may not always be easy but it will always rest better in your heart.
#21—Work hard and always do your best. A solid work ethic is more fulfilling and does more for your professional reputation than almost anything else.
#22 – Find time to read something every day. It doesn’t have to be a grand novel, but find something that interests you to read each day whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, self-help, or a magazine but find some pages you can’t wait to turn or that teach you something new.
#23 – Stop wasting time hating the way you look. Your body can do amazing things and your look has its own unique beauty. Own it! Not every day will be a good hair day and some days your jeans will fit just a little too tight but you know what? You’re beautiful anyway! Look in the mirror and seek the things you do like, instead of just those you don’t!
#24 – Cultivate a grateful heart… life will not be perfect but there is something to be grateful for in each day!
#25 – Seek out new adventures and experiences… they will help you find out who you really are. Start crossing things off your “life list” … you’ll learn something from each one that will help define and create the life you dream of.
#26 – Never stop learning. Take your education seriously whether it’s completing your degree, signing up for professional development or certificate programs but never stop learning.
#27 – Take photographs as often as you can… of everyday moments as well as the big events. Time passes more quickly than you think and looking back at photographs helps you celebrate the journey.
#28 – Breathe. When life feels overwhelming, take a step back and take a deep breath. Sometimes the pause will give you what you need to make a decision or bring you clarity.
#29 — Be honest with yourself and others. Living a life of honesty creates peace of mind, and peace of mind is priceless. It’s amazing how much stress and drama you can avoid this way.
#30 – You can never have too many fabulous shoes! The right pair of shoes can change your world… just ask Cinderella!
#31 – Breathe in the sea and mountain air every chance you get. There’s something about spending time in nature that reminds you of what’s important in life.
#32 – Make mistakes… even if they’re big ones. I spent a lot of my life afraid to make mistakes and afraid to disappoint those around me. Turns out I made mistakes anyway and you know what? I learned something from every mistake that made me who I am today. It’s all part of the journey.
#33 – Listen to your gut. Whenever I’ve gone against my intuition or reasoned myself out of it, things always end up harder than they should be.
#34 – Someday everything will make sense. You can’t connect the dots going forward, but looking back they will make perfect sense.
#35 – Don’t be so hard on yourself! A friend once gave me the advice to filter that inner self talk into what I would tell the 5 year old version of myself. Every time I’m tempted to fall back into those old patterns of beating myself up for x, y, or z, I think about my kindergarten picture and ask what I would tell her instead. It’s a quick and easy way to turn that negative self-talk around.
#36 – Start believing that you’re ready for the next step. Embrace the opportunities that come your way, and accept the challenges – you’re always more ready than you believe you are.
#37 – Sometimes you have to put things in the “I don’t know” folder. We can choose to let negative events define us or we can choose to be positive and see the best in life anyway. That’s where true strength and happiness comes from. Often the brightest smiles and the happiest people have overcome the darkest times.
#38 – Try again. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you think the first time. Don’t give up. Keep trying, sometimes things take longer than expected or work out differently than you thought but keep trying.
#39 – True love really does exist! Sometimes it surprises you… sometimes it is with someone you never expected… sometimes you don’t get it right the first time… but it does exist. A friend recently shared words her mother often told her, “If God made you, he matched you. You just have to believe that.”
#40 – Laugh often, apologize when necessary, enjoy the little things as much as the big, cherish those you love, and let go of the “shoulds”. Life is short but amazing. Trust your journey and enjoy the ride!