40 Life Lessons
Last week, I celebrated a milestone birthday – the big 4-0.
As a child, 40 was always the age I deemed as “old” – scary huh? Clearly my opinion has changed, and here I am!
I’ve enjoyed a fortunate life so far, and often think that if I were to die tomorrow, I would be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far – although there is still much more for me to experience and offer. I’m grateful for my family: my husband and two beautiful children, the work I do every day to serve others, my education, our home, our friends and neighbours, and the amazing things I seen throughout my travels around the world.
As I grow more pensive in my “old age”, I love reflecting on the lessons I have learnt so far, and how these experiences have shaped my life. I think having children has provided me with some perspective about the most important things in life – what really matters.
I’ve put together a list I have been ruminating on for the last few weeks of the forty life lessons I’ve learnt so far, and am excited to share that list with you.
I wish I had started this list when I was ten, and continued to add to it at each decade. It would have been interesting to observe what lessons my twenty and thirty-year-old self recognised…maybe I will encourage my nine-year-old daughter to start her list when she turns ten next year. I am intrigued to see how my lessons evolve and change as I grow older – what will fifty, sixty and seventy-year-old Courtney have learnt?
1. This too shall pass
How many times do we find ourselves caught in a situation that we feel will last forever? Trust me it won’t, but some situations pass through naturally, and others need a gently nudge, so learn how to tell the difference so you don’t stay stuck in negative situations or thought patterns for too long.
2. Be generous. Always
When in doubt, take the generous path. If you’re splitting the bill at dinner pay a bit more. If you find the perfect gift for someone but it’s a little over your budget, spend a bit more to get the thing you know will make them smile. The other person might never know you spent more, but you will, and you’ll feel better about showing a generous spirit.
3. It’s ok to quit
Jobs, relationships, hobbies, situations. Trust your intuition when you know it’s time to move on.
4. Not every hobby or interest is a calling
But some are – and it’s ok to spend some time nurturing each interest to figure this out. Some passions and hobbies will fizzle out over time, but others will lead you to amazing places. This is the journey of life.
5. Life is about the journey, not the destination
My dad always schedules extra stops on road trips. He pours over the map in preparation for the journey, marking points of interest on route. Some people like to simply get from A to B as quickly as possible, but risk missing seeing something new, that conversation with an interesting person, or trying something delicious at the new café you discover. The journey is not about the destination.
6. Never pass up any opportunity to tell someone you love them
Time and time again we see how brief life can be. By sharing words of love with our nearest and dearest we remind them how much they mean to us.
7. Having kids is simultaneously the hardest and rewarding thing you’ll experience in life.
Nothing shines a mirror on the aspects of self you need to work on more than parenting. Raising children will push you to your limits like nothing else, but when your kids follow your example or advice, every challenging day or moment becomes completely worthwhile.
8. Love is at the heart of everything
No really, it is.
9. You can’t read too many books
Jim Rohn once said something similar, and I completely agree. All the knowledge of the world can be found in books. This is also why everyone should write a book – we all have our own unique experiences and perspectives of the world, and sharing knowledge with others helps them learn and grow too.
10. Don’t take yourself to seriously – try to laugh often
On most days, life’s not that bad for most people. But on the tough days it’s more important than ever to look for the humour. And it’s there – we just need to be intentional about seeing it.
11. Spend as much time in nature as possible
Nature has a positive impact on all of our senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, sound – and is healing on so many levels. Schedule time in nature every day with a walk, run, picnic, reading under a tree, swimming in the ocean or a lake – your body and mind will thank you for it.
12. Move your body everyday
The old saying of “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is so true when it comes to our muscle strength. Movement can be as simple as a walk, but also look for different ways to move and challenge your body: at the gym, in nature, in the garden, trying a new sport or exercise video on YouTube – the options are endless.
13. It’s ok to throw stuff out
For the majority of my life, I felt that throwing things out was wasteful. But after forty years, you realise how much stuff you have the potential to accumulate, and how much this “stuff” can weigh you down. Release it to allow space for new experiences to come into your life.
14. Silence is golden
The pure bliss of silence was something I recognised after having children. As wonderful as it is to hear my children laughing and playing, parenthood also comes with many moments of tension with crying and arguing. Continual sound and noise can also be over stimulating, so take some time to appreciate the quiet moments in your day.
15. Don’t compare yourself to others
This is not a helpful practice for anyone. We are all on different paths and are at different points on our journey. It’s best to ‘stay in our own lane’ and run our own race, because we all have different lessons to learn along the way.
16. Find a job you love
There is a beautiful quote from Pablo Picasso that reads: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” We all have unique gifts that we can share with the world, and part of our life’s journey is discovering what those are. We also spend too many hours of our life at work to be unhappy and unfulfilled, so invest time in finding work that not only pays the bills, but is meaningful to you.
17. Take care of your body and mind – they go hand in hand
The body and mind are interrelated, and therefore need to be nurtured simultaneously. This might look like regularly practicing yoga, which incorporates physical movement with mindfulness and meditation, or working on our mindset to make healthy food choices.
18. Invest in a journal – it’s the cheapest form of therapy around
I have journaled since I was a child and this practice never grows old! You can use a journal in so many different ways, from simply debriefing your day, to setting goals and answering prompts to reflect and learn more about yourself. Invest in a nice book that feels great to write in, as well as a pen you love to use.
19. Collect experiences, not things
In the same way that money can’t buy happiness, nor can possessions. And we certainly can’t take them with us. Instead, focus on collecting happy memories, rather than things – you’ll be thankful when it comes time to downsize!
20. Learn how to manage your money
There is a simple equation when it comes to money: create more than you consume – or spend less than you earn. Managing money shouldn’t be hard, but in reality it is for so many of us, for so many different reasons. Often we inherit the relationship our parents had with money, because we don’t know any different. So we need to learn “different”. There is a plethora of books and resources on money available, so read a few and educate yourself. Money is money – it’s not good or bad, but merely our thinking that makes it so.
21. We never stop learning – be a student of life
Our ability to learn doesn’t cease the moment we leave school or university, but for many of us we get caught up in work, which often involves us doing the same tasks over and over again. Challenge yourself to learn something new as often as you can. You might feel frustrated and uncomfortable at first, but the benefits of mastering a new skill far outweigh the hurdles at the beginning.
22. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will
Confidence doesn’t come naturally for many people, but luckily it’s an acquired skill. Back yourself and your ability and you’ll be amazed how quickly others come along for the ride – faith and confidence in yourself is magnetic.
23. Failure is one of the greatest teachers – don’t shy away from it
Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose, I either win or I learn.” There really is no loss in failure, and you’ve never really failed unless you stop trying.
24. If you want something, just ask – especially the Universe
The worst that will happen is that you will be told no.
25. Appreciate the people who come into your life
Even the annoying people, because they provide the greatest lessons.
26. Other people don’t spend much time thinking about you – they’re too busy working out their own life.
Sometimes we get so fixated on what other people “might think” that we are paralysed to make change. Forget them – they’re too busy focused on number one – themselves!
27. Be grateful
Being grateful opens you to the beauty and little miracles surrounding us all the time. Expressing an attitude of gratitude also opens us up to abundance as instead of thinking, “I don’t deserve this”, we think, “Wow, I’m so happy and grateful to receive this!”
28. You can’t please everyone, and if you do you’re doing something wrong, because in doing so you’ll inevitably compromise your own values and beliefs.
29. Develop healthy habits
It’s as easy to cultivate healthy habits as it is bad ones. Habits can be as small as taking a few deeps breaths and brushing our teeth to exercising daily. They can be as small or large as you like, but cumulatively they all add up.
30. Feel the fear, but then do it anyway
Everyone is afraid sometimes and this is ok. Move through your fear and do the thing!
31. It’s ok to not be ok
Like fear, we all go through dark periods of life. It’s ok to sit with the feeling for a while, but know when to reach out for help.
32. Cut back on sugar
Sugar is responsible for so many health conditions today, and it’s super addictive. Use with caution!
33. Eat your veggies
You parents were right about something! Who knew? The health benefits of a varied diet of fresh fruit and vegetables are well-known, so get your five-a-day.
34. Trust your intuition – it’s got your back
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach before something goes wrong? Trust that feeling!
35. Sometimes you just need a PJ day
Some days we just need to take some time to chill and catch up, and that’s ok. The relaxing days are what give us energy to keep moving forward tomorrow.
36. Travel far and wide – it’s the greatest teacher
Travel introduces us to new people, cultures, cuisine, and environments. Broaden your horizons as often as you can.
37. Make time for fun
Life shouldn’t be all work and no play, after all, what are we working for? Schedule some time to have fun – on your own or with others and as often as you can.
38. Set goals, review them often and take tiny steps every day to achieve them
If you do this success is inevitable.
39. Life doesn’t have to be hard
We didn’t come here to be miserable, so let go of the struggle and martyrdom.
40. Watch as many sunrises and sunsets as possible.
Sunrise and sunset are magical times of the day for different reasons. The morning brings the promise of a new day and experiences, whilst sunset triggers a time to reflect and show gratitude for the day that has passed.
So, there you have it – my list of 40 life lessons from the last forty years. I plan to keep adding to this list each year, and will keep you posted on my progress!
Did any of these resonate with you? I encourage you to start your own list with a lesson for every year of your life, so if you’re thirty-five, aim for thirty-five lessons. You can start your list today – you don’t need to wait for a milestone birthday. Make your list as light-hearted or deep as you like. Either way, I guarantee once you start thinking about it, you’ll surprise yourself with the inner wisdom that comes out – it certainly surprised me!
e sure to share your list with your loved ones, especially your children. Goodness knows we could all do with some guidance in life. Even though we all travel our own path and therefore learn our own lessons, one of the many joys of being human is that we often share similar experiences and life lessons.
These lessons are also wonderful conversation starters over dinner, or even with random strangers. I dare you, ask someone tomorrow what the biggest lesson they learnt over the last year was. The answers will fascinate you, and be sure to reflect on your own answer too.