Life breezes by us faster than we notice.
Reaching 40 is going to feel like it only took a blink of an eye to get there.
At that age, people expect us to have everything figured out.
But you might be feeling unsure if you’ll ever actually have it all figured out — that’s okay.
On the journey to 40, there are lessons that you’re guaranteed to learn along the way, whether you realize it or not.
It’s important to be aware of those things because once you’ve reached that age, starting life all over again will be more difficult.
To make sure that you’ll take valuable lessons along with you, here are 14 things wise and successful people know before they hit 40.
1. You Define Your Own Success
For some, success is taking a trip to the Bahamas as often as they’d like.
For others it could be living in Paris with their family, driving a luxury sports car to work, or simply earning enough to live a stress-free life.
Not all successes are equally rewarding, however.
Sure, taking a trip to the Bahamas often is nice, but that idea of success wouldn’t work for you if you’re a voracious reader; owning a personal library might be more rewarding.
Thanks to social media, it’s easy to believe there’s only one kind of success (the financial kind).
But it can really be anything you want it to be. You get to define your own success.
2. Who You Know Matters More Than How Many You Know
When we’re young, we want to climb the social ladder and make a name for ourselves.
We network to fill our contacts with people that we only intend to use to meet more and more people.
While meeting new people can create new business opportunities, viewing relationships that way greatly limits their value.
Relationships are much more than that. It’s about meeting people that can be part of your personal tribe — or finding a tribe of people that gives meaning to your life.
It’s not about the number of people that you know but how deep your relationships are with them.
3. Your Own Personal Values
If we don’t know what you stand for, we’ll fall for anything.
Understanding our own personal values allows us to know what’s worth spending time on and what isn’t.
We each have our own set of personal values.
These can range from family and friendships to honesty and humility.
By the time you reach 40, you’ll have had enough life experience to work with to understand the trends in your life: what you spent the most time on and what you chose to give up.
These are the values that give meaning to your identity and life.
4. How To Communicate Your Feelings & Ideas
Communication is one of the most important social skills that someone can have.
Articulating our ideas clearly can make or break a pitch to a potential client.
Marriages have been saved by the spouses simply talking it out.
When someone isn’t able to articulate their thoughts well, or at all, it can cause fractures in a relationship.
At 40, it’s expected that you’re more skilled in sharing your thoughts with other people so that they can understand you more.
5. What Others Think About You Doesn’t Matter
When we’re growing up, we’re often concerned if other people like us. That’s natural, of course.
Deep down, we all have a basic want to be welcomed in the group. We don’t want to be left out to eat lunch by ourselves in the cafeteria.
We change how we dress and how we talk to please others. But that gets tiring.
The fact is that no one thinks about you as much as you think about yourself; why would they?
They’ve got their own lives to worry about!
We spend too much time worrying about what other people think about us rather than asking what we think about ourselves.
6. Failure Is Inevitable
Failure is unavoidable. There’s a saying that goes, “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.”
Failure comes in different forms, but it always feels discouraging.
There’s going to be a moment in your life where you get rejected by a company that you applied for, or you lose money on an investment you thought would succeed.
As intimidating as failure might be, it isn’t the important part. What’s important is getting back on your feet and not giving up pursuing your dreams and making your life better for yourself.
7. Not All Stress Is Bad
As much as we might like to imagine it, a stress-free life is impossible. There’s always going to be something that’s going to test our patience once more.
But that’s OK. A life without stress leads to stagnation and hampers our growth.
That’s a common mistake that many young people make: that all their problems will be solved one day and that’s that.
But it’s that very stress that allows us to continue reaching our true potential.
As former President John F. Kennedy said, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”
8. It’s OK To Say No
Saying “No” is a common difficulty among people. When a friend invites us for a night out, saying no might make us seem like boring and uninteresting people — something we’d rather not be thought of.
So we go along with people’s invitations, hating ourselves for not being stronger to decline the invitation.
But as we grow older, saying “No” becomes more and more important. Saying “Yes” everything is going to lead to an unfocused life.
Sometimes, we need to say “No” so we can say “Yes” to studying to finally get that degree, to that transcript that we’ve been meaning to write, to spend precious time with our family.
9. Time Is Precious
No amount of money has ever been bought a second of time.
We squander hours binging episodes of a series we won’t remember or scroll through the infinite time vacuum of social media. Nothing can be done to take back that time.
Our children only turn 1 once. We are only young once. Every second we spend on the things that don’t matter, we throw away a valuable resource.
10. How To Be Grateful
We spend our days toiling with work to earn enough money to buy what we want — until a new product comes out and we begin the whole cycle again. It’s never enough.
But being grateful changes that. It stops us from climbing a never-ending ladder. We don’t need more things — we have everything that we already need.
When we stop and think about how we can look out the window and see a beautiful sky or that we actually have friends crazy enough to stand by our side — those are what’s priceless.
11. You Are Your Best Investment
No matter what happens in your life, if you’ve invested in yourself, you’ll always find a way to make the best out of it.
If you lost a marketing job, you’d be able to take another one in accounting or coding.
If you have to be relocated, you’re comfortable in an entirely foreign country since you’ve learned the language.
It’s never a bad idea to invest in yourself. It’s what will give you the greatest returns in the future.
12. There Are Fights Not Worth Fighting
There are some issues that may cause more damage than solutions. There’s no point in arguing with a loved one to the point of irreparably damaging the relationship.
You may win with your head held high, yes, but you’ll have no one to celebrate the victory with.
It’s not about winning fights — it’s about keeping your loved ones close to you. That’s why it’s important to be comfortable with compromising and asking “Is this worth losing this person over?”
13. How To Take Care Of Yourself
As we grow older, we acquire more and more responsibilities. We need to deal with our own finances, cook our own food, or book our own doctor’s appointments.
It may be a painful thought but our parents aren’t going to be there forever. At one point or another, we’re going to have to leave the nest to build our own lives.
Depending on others not only hinders their growth but yours as well. Having independence and taking responsibility for your life is important because no one else will.
14. Peace Matters More Than Possessions
We can spend so much of our lives chasing an idea of success that’s based on social status or possessions that we forget about how we feel.
Sometimes, what’s important is that we’ve found inner peace.
It’s about living in the moment and enjoying life, not spending it worrying about whether people like us or not.
By 40, you might already have your own family, your own house, your own business. It could still be a long way from now, or it might not.
What’s important is that you make each day count.
As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits once said, “Each habit is a vote towards the person that you want to be.”
So, who do you want to be when you’re 40?
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