There are many advantages of hitting ‘The Big 40.’ The most valuable, however is that you’re at a point in life where you can begin taking the life lessons you’ve endured and make them work for you, instead of against you. The following are just some of the lessons people at the age of 40 have endured enough to have mastered by now. So now, it’s all about putting your mental skills into action and turning these lessons around into a direction that enables you to thrive.
1. Everything will be okay, and if it’s not, it’s certainly not the end of the world.
By this time in life, we’ve faced enough troubles to know that the hardship will soon pass. Children and young adults don’t have the life experience of enduring difficult times and situations with the confidence that it’s going to be okay. By thinking optimistically in a difficult situation, our sense of rationality boosts the ability to find solutions that will help, rather than hinder the situation. You can now take your knowledge and experience and help friends and loved ones to realize that there’s light at the end of the tunnel in all situations with confidence that it’s not the end of the world.
2. Find what you love and own it!
As young adults, we often take to heart the input of friends, family members and loved ones a little too much. It may even distract us from going after what really brings intrinsic reward in life. My mom is a retired educator and when I told her about my first position as a special education teacher, she told me I’d hate special education.
A few days later, a 4th grade position became available. I took it because of what my mom said. It was okay, but I didn’t come home truly feeling in my gut that I belonged where I was. The following year, I took a special education position. As a result, I’ve been able to handle my own kids’ learning disabilities and help parents of other children cope as well. A time came where I had to trust my own strengths and passions. When I did, I took off and haven’t stopped since.
3. Don’t fear mistakes.
Failure is the pathway to success. There’s always something to learn from mistakes. Even if it’s simply that you know not to make that same mistake again. With past mistakes, you’ve agonized over what you ‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’ done. In reality, the best way to approach mistakes is to find some way to improve and move forward.
4. You deserve respect.
When my son was a teenager and had his friends over, at first I held the attitude of, “I’m your elder, so you’re going to respect me.” I even went so far as to demand that they answer me with, ‘yes’ and ‘no ma’am.’ As time went on, I realized that by ‘demanding’ respect, it caused them to be intimidated, or at least, not want to be around me.
Gradually, I began greeting them, joking with them and asking them questions about their interests. In a short amount of time, they no longer avoided me. In fact, they talked to me more, weren’t afraid to come to me when there was a huge problem and they began answering me with ‘yes’ and ‘no ma’am’ automatically, without insisting they do it. I earned their respect…and so it came automatically.
Society still commands respect for its elders. So emulate behavior that earns it. You’re considered older, wiser and more experienced to younger generations so find ways to encourage, be a positive example. By doing this, the respect will automatically come.
5. Romance is NOT the same as love.
Romance is conditional. It’s based on appearance, hormones, mood. Love is unconditional. It is unconditional love that weathers the storms of life. The good, the bad, the ugly, the hurt, the financial strain, the betrayals and even the illnesses. It can bear all things and become stronger through life’s struggles and tragedies.
6. It’s never too late to live a life that makes you proud.
It goes along with the age old saying, “Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” Only you have the power to change you, and you can do it at any given point and time in your life. By middle age, the perception of time is completely different. Time holds a more precious role, so you’re less likely to waste it and go after what you want with ambition and passion!
7. Remain calm in all situations.
When I was 20, I was in Burger King and a man started violently choking. I hysterically yelled out, “Call 911, he’s choking!” At the time, I was a licensed E.M.T. and had the knowledge and ability to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on him, but instead, I panicked.
About a year ago, while in church, the boy next to me was eating hard candy, and yes, he started choking. Without any hesitation, I got up and performed the Heimlich on him and out popped the candy. I patted him on the back and quietly went back to my seat.
What would it look like if you were to fall apart in every stressful situation as a middle aged person? It’s expected that older persons are wiser, calmer and better at dealing with difficult situations. Approach chaos with confidence and wisdom from your life experiences. It’s time to serve as an example instead of being a middle aged ‘blithering bloke.’
8. You win some, you lose some.
In all situations, there are winners and losers. You can’t always be the winner so lose gracefully and put into use what your parents drilled into you about not being a sore loser. There’s always a ‘next time.’
9. The term ‘Overnight Success’ really means 2 to 10 years.
Everything takes time and the best things in life are earned through consistency and patience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that if you just work hard, you’ll have everything you ever wanted. There’s definitely such a thing as working smarter. In order to discover ways to work ‘smarter’ it takes years of experience.
10. Maintain your focus.
Having good focus is directly connected to self-discipline. There will always be distractions, especially in the digital age. Making every single party and social event just isn’t as important now. Use your experience, wisdom and instincts to focus on what’s truly important in life.
11. Not everyone is always going to like you.
This is a difficult concept to grasp when you’re young. We all want to be liked by everyone. It’s impossible, and it takes too much energy trying to please everyone. Be yourself, as authentic as possible because it comes naturally and reserve your energy for going after your goals.
12. You simply cannot control everything and everyone.
It took years for this to really sink in, but now that you truly know this, you’re able to enjoy life, and people a lot more. Peace comes easier when you’re not stewing over how to control any and all situations.
13. Energy is everywhere and you can use yours to either work for you, or against you.
Disliking, not forgiving and trying to change others takes more energy then just letting it go and minding your own business. Now that you’ve mastered this, you can choose wisely where to expend energy to create the ideal life for you.
14. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
It’s not that you condone everything that happens, or everything that people do and say. It has more to do with accepting people and places exactly as is and still being able to thrive among them.
15. Money is not the measure of success.
You’ve learned to make your happiness with what you have. If you haven’t, you can start right now. Think about the home you have, your family and friends. You’ve built relationships and gained experience for a good solid two decades and now you have the chance to enjoy what you’ve built, with or without cash.
16. It’s not about what you have. It’s about what you do with what you have.
So you used to be a great athlete but with age, the body begins to fail. You still have the talent and experience so use your focus and energy on coaching, writing, sponsoring athletics. Such is the same with many other aspects of your life. For example, modeling. You may not be able to land the assignments like you used to, but you still have a gift with fashion, make-up, and photography. You can take your life experiences and cater to your age, your health and your condition right now. Take what you have and thrive beyond your 40 years!
17. You really do reap what you sow.
This includes both your thoughts and your actions. You know that when your thoughts and your actions promote, encourage and emulate humility, your life is blissful. Work hard, be honest, love, forgive and most of all, stay in the game of life. It’s what has brought you success in past years and what you’ll thrive off of in the years to come.
18. Happiness doesn’t just come to you automatically. You make it with your thoughts and actions.
I have two side jobs to help pay tuition for my girls’ private school. One is putting up 60 ‘Open House’ signs for a housing development on the weekends and the other is a paper route that entails getting up at 4 a.m every Saturday. Sound dreadful? Not in the least. I make it fun for the girls and I. I choose to approach these jobs with adventure and gratitude. As a result, the girls are learning how to work hard, be responsible and that even dreadful tasks can be rewarding. (Now if I could just get them to enjoy cleaning their rooms!)
19. The past has passed for a reason. So let it go.
It’s exhausting hanging onto all those negative emotions. With age, letting go of the past becomes easier. You’ve seen and felt the residual of hanging onto the past. Most of all, our energy, and time are more precious. If you’re still hanging onto past incidents, it’s never too late to let go.
20. Life is short and can end in an instant. Live it to the fullest.
Experience over the years has made us realize that people could be gone from your life in an instant. Every single day counts. It’s important to take life’s lessons, learn from them, and live every moment so that you have no unfinished apologies or business.
If you’re familiar with the story of wandering in the desert for 40 years, in reality, life today is similar. You spent your first 40 wandering, searching, testing the waters. Now that you have the experience and knowledge from ‘wandering the desert,’ you’re armed with everything you need to make the next 40 years amazing. So go…put your experience and your mental skills to work and make it another amazing 40!
For more amazing tips on how to thrive after 40, learn how to look younger than your age here.
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