It’s true. I’m turning the big 4-0 later this month. The best thing about approaching forty is the sense of self and awareness I have now that I didn’t have twenty years ago. I’ve learned a lot in forty years…
- I reserve the right to change my mind.
I am human. I am fickle. I change and adapt to my environment. One day I may love mushrooms; the next day –not so much. Change is a natural part of life. Changing my mind is also natural. I am not static. I am multi-dimensional and ever-changing. And you know what? That’s okay. I embrace change, even change within myself.
- ‘No’ is an option.
Pleasing everyone is impossible. Saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means that I am prioritizing. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything that’s asked of me – or that I want to do (I can’t count the number of stories or paintings I’ve already created in my head that will never materialize). It is okay to say ‘no’, particularly when saying ‘no’ might save your sanity.
- Don’t be a slave to numbers.
You all know what I’m talking about: time, money, waistlines. I spent far too many years obsessed with numbers, particularly with time. It’s probably why I have a terrible anxiety disorder in my middle age. Until very recently, money was always a worry too. And I’ve always struggled with my waistline, but not in the way that most women generally describe. I’ve been chronically under-weight for years. Again, probably something to do with my anxiety issues. A-a-a-nd what’s at the root of all that has caused me worry: time, money, and the notion that I’m not a real woman because I don’t have curves (yeah, that meme stings a bit). Numbers: arbitrary values that define who I should be and how I should live. Here’s the thing though: I had chosen to allow those things to bother me. I let them go, and I was much happier. You know why? Because there will never be enough time, money, or change in the waistline – and that’s okay. Once I realized that, I spent less time worrying, and more time living.
- Most people are good.
It’s true. Most people don’t intentionally do bad things. Let’s face it though – everyone has done something bad in the eyes of another. It’s okay though – it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You see, some people tend to spend a lot of time criticizing other people’s behaviours, but fail to self-evaluate their own. Imagine how much better we’d all be, if we stopped focusing on the ways others need to change and began self-reflecting more. Try it. You might be surprised to see that which you’ve criticized staring back at you. Sure, there are truly evil people in the world – but the people you’ll most likely meet aren’t those people. Check yourself before you start checking others.
- Don’t just step outside the box: Live outside the box.
How cliché, right? The truth is that some people function better inside the box, but I’m not one of those people. I tried it for several years, but I wasn’t happy or fulfilled. I tried to become this ideal person that I thought other people wanted me to be. I tried to fit into the mould, but it never felt right. Then I not only stepped outside the box, but I began living outside the box and I discovered a better me. It is okay to step outside the box, and for some, it’s okay to live outside the box.
- It’s never going to be what you expected or planned.
It’s perfectly reasonable to set out goals, but it’s perfectly unreasonable to expect the path toward that goal to be straight. There will always be roadblocks in front of goals – and sometimes those roadblocks will completely derail goals. That’s okay. As long as I try to achieve my goals, I can attain a measure of satisfaction that I am moving forward – living. And when I do reach my goals, I can bask in elation at the accomplishments I’ve achieved. Either way, I’m engaging with this life I’ve been given.
- Stop worrying about what other people think. They aren’t judging you. They’re too busy worrying about what other people think of them.
This isn’t always an easy state of mind for me to achieve, particularly since I have an anxiety disorder. That hasn’t stopped me from actively reminding myself that other people have insecurities too. In fact, most people do. We tend to assume that there is a spotlight on us, when there probably isn’t. It’s okay to be insecure – everyone else is too. What’s even better is realizing that you have nothing to be insecure about because no one is really judging you. They’re too busy worrying about what other people think of them.
- Smile often – even when you don’t feel like it.
Smile. Right now. Go ahead. Yep, right now – smile. You’ll instantly feel better. The more often you smile, the better you’ll be. Try it again. SMILE. It’s okay if you can’t smile all the time, but smile as often as you can.
- Be kind – always.
Kindness will fill your heart and your home. If you’re not looking for a full life, then by all means, carry on with your cantankerous ways. Some of the unkindest people I have met are also some of the loneliest. It’s okay to not feel like being kind all the time, particularly when someone has been unkind to you. Just because you feel like being unkind, doesn’t mean you actually have to be unkind though. It’s easy to extend kindness, even when you might not feel up to it. Kindness doesn’t cost you anything and it reaps benefits for both the giver and the receiver. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by being kind.
- Apologize for your mistakes.
It’s okay to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Some of us make larger mistakes than others. The only way to learn from mistakes is to realize that they are mistakes in the first place and then to take responsibility for those mistakes. Part of taking responsibility is apologizing for mistakes that have caused others pain or hardship. Not only will you become a better person, but you’ll lift a burden you may be feeling – you know, the guilt you feel when you’ve done something wrong. It’s okay. Apologize, seek forgiveness, and then you’ll be able to move on. Don’t forget to apologize and forgive yourself too. Sometimes the worst mistakes we make cause the greatest hardships upon ourselves.
- There will never be enough time.
It’s one of the tragedies of human existence. We will never have enough time, and that’s okay. It’s what you do with the time you do have that really matters. Stop worrying about how much time you have left and start doing something with your time. Fill it with things that matter to you because doing anything less is just a waste of precious time.
- Change is constant.
Life is never going to be the same, and that’s okay, in fact, change can be downright delightful. There will be ups and downs; challenges and triumphs; laughter and tears. You can’t expect life to stay the same. There will always be changes, both minute and monumental. Friends will come and go, and sometimes come back. There will be losses, but there will also be many gains. Change is inevitable. The good news is you can adapt to change. Adapting to change means moving forward through life – living.
- Live in the moment.
So many of us spend a lot of time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. What a waste of time. You can’t change the past and you can’t predict the future, but you can live in the moment. Look, it’s perfectly okay to reflect and prepare, but if most of your precious time is spent on dwelling and worrying then you’re wasting an awful lot of time on things you can’t control. You might even need help to move on from the past or to relax about the future. Go get it. It will change your life – suddenly, you’ll have a lot more time for things today.
- Be thankful for the people you value in your life.
The people you value in your life right now are not always going to be in your life in the same capacity, if at all. Don’t panic, it’ll be okay. For most of us, our circle of friends gets smaller as we age. Family dynamics change too. We may become more distant or closer to kin, but connections can remain strong through loss, distance, or time when we are thankful for those we value. The pain of separation can be eased by knowing that you parted from that person showing them how grateful you were to have known them, and how important they were in your life.
- You have a chance every day to do something great – take it.
Doing something great doesn’t mean you have to do something grand. Really great things come in many packages. Maybe it’s our consumerist society that makes so many of us strive for really big things. That’s okay, just don’t forget about the little things that are great too. There are many opportunities for great things to happen each day, but if you’re only focused on the really big ones, you may miss the smaller ones. Seize every opportunity for greatness, both big and small, each and everyday.
- Stop being so afraid.
Easier said than done, right? Yup. Sometimes you can’t help being afraid, and that’s okay. Fear is a state of mind, a very resilient state of mind. Sometimes, your mind just gets the better of you (and sometimes your mind can make your body do really weird things). The problem with fear is that it can inhibit someone to live fully. Fear can lead to missed opportunities and disappointment (usually in oneself for being such a baby). Everyone is afraid of something, and some of us carry a lot more fear than others. Fear can be conquered, easier said than done. Yup.
- You’re going to get older – deal with it.
You can’t escape the specter of time… and that’s okay. You’re going to age, go grey, get wrinkles, and become frailer over time. Sure you can try any number of remedies and cure-alls, but you’ll never be able to escape the fact that you are getting older. Stop fighting it and start embracing it. Your time is limited here. You can either spend it fighting the natural aging process, or you can learn to adapt to your reality.
- Prepare to be disappointed.
There’s a saying on a popular television show, ‘expect the unexpected’ that can be applied to life, except it should be modified to say ‘expect to be unexpectedly disappointed’. There’s no denying that people are going to disappoint you, and that’s okay. While you can’t control someone disappointing you, you can control how you choose to react to the situation. People are flawed and they’re going to make mistakes. They will do things that will disappoint you; however, most people don’t intentionally go out looking to disappoint you. Take a deep breath and know that they are just as flawed as you are, and they screw up too.
- Embrace your ‘flaws’.
I have crooked teeth. I have less-than-perfect skin. My skin tone is so pale that I can glow-in-the-dark. I’m a bit clumsy, and depending on who you are – I either have the most annoying nervous laugh, or an insatiable zest for life. You know what? I’m perfectly okay with that. There was a time that I was super self-conscious about all these things. The thing was, that those things barely bothered anyone else, so why was I so hung up on them? I mean, it’s not like my pock-marked skin and snaggle-toothed grin have kept me from finding love, happiness, and success. They aren’t ‘flaws’ at all, but rather part of who I am. We all have them, and most of the time the only person who is obsessing over your ‘flaws’ is you. Seems a bit pointless, doesn’t it? Besides, I have better things to do with my time then spending it obsessing over the state of my middle-aged skin or the occasional hair on my chinny-chin-chin.
- It’s never too late.
There’s something about turning forty that results in hearing a lot of this phrase: “I’m too old to do that”. Pfft… really? Tell that to Tolkien who published the first in his Lord of the Rings trilogy at age 62. Or what about John Glenn who in his 77th year became the oldest person to fly in space. Or what about two of the oldest female marathon runners at 92 years young, Gladys Burrill and Harriette Thompson? You’re never too old to try, because the truth of the matter is none of us know how much time we have. Sure, health, finances, and other factors may impede your intentions on trying, that’s okay. Being too old should never be the excuse keeping you from accomplishing your dreams and goals.
In the lead up to my birthday this month, I’ll be sharing “20 More Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years.” Stay tuned!