Today I turn 40. I have earned every single one of those years so I'm claiming all of them. I hope I've learned some valuable lessons along the way.
1. Don't give up on your dreams
It is good to dream. And dream big. Don't listen to any of the lies you will hear when you start pursuing your dreams. Just go for it.
2. Adapt and overcome
One of my high school English teachers always used to say "overcome adversity" anytime we had complaints about anything. That was some of the best advice I ever received and the constant repetition has made it stick in my head over the years. I accomplished things in that class I never thought I would like writing a book. Thanks Mrs. Smith for making AP English an actual AP English class.
Anytime you are faced with a challenge, don't complain about it. Don't gripe about it. Adapt to the new situation and find a way to overcome it to the best of your ability.
3. Live healthy
You only have one life, one body. Treat it right. Exercise. Eat healthy foods. Cheat on occasion responsibly.
4. Less is more
You don't need to have everything. Declutter. Get rid of the stuff you don't need. Scale back. Before you buy something new determine if you need it or just want it. If you do buy something new get rid of anything it replaces. Donate it or have a garage sale! *Does not apply to books. Or makeup. Possibly.
5. Have a modifiable self concept
People are constantly growing and changing. It is important to know who you are and know what your beliefs are. However, you also need to take into account that you will change based on events in your life and knowledge that you gain. You change when you have kids. You change when a relationship ends. You change when you realize something important about the world. Having a modifiable self-concept will help you to roll with the punches a lot better.
6. Sometimes its OK to fake the funk
The first day I started teaching, I honestly had no idea what to do so I faked it. I put on my best teacher hat and just did it. After a few classes, I was more confident and didn't have to fake it anymore. In that case, faking it got me through. I've had to fake being outgoing. Fake confidence in starting other jobs. Fake a smile. I've faked strength to support someone who needed it more than I did. I've faked that my feelings weren't hurt. Its ok to fake it until you can make it.
7. Love yourself
If you don't like yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?
8. It's never too late
Its not to late to change your mind. To change your attitude. To quit that bad habit. To start a good one. To say I'm sorry. To say I love you. To go back to school. To learn a new skill. To do anything at all.
9. Procrastination is bad.
Procrastination doesn't actually help. I used to think I'd do something later because I was exhausted. As it turns out, those things just pile up. If you do it now, it won't take long. The longer you put it off, the longer it will take to accomplish.
10. Don't be a victim
Be a survivor. Bad things happen. The second it is over, you are not a victim anymore. You are a survivor. Act like one. Don't dwell on the bad or on the the past. Focus your eyes forward and start moving.
11. Let go
After you move on, let go. Holding on to the past gives someone else control over you. Do you think they sit at home and think about you as much as you think about them? Put them out of your mind. Take your life back. It will save you lots of stress and all of the health problems that go with stress.
12. Trust yourself
You know more than you give yourself credit for. I promise.
13. Learn new skills
One of the best ways to stay young, to remain competitive in the job market, to be able to help your kids with homework, or just succeed in life is to never stop learning.
14. Have faith strong enough to be told no
This was a hard one to learn. There were a famous three that said go ahead and throw us into the fire. God will save us. But even if he doesn't, we still believe. The mortality rate of those who live on earth is 100%. Bad things are going to happen to everyone. Build a faith strong enough that you can handle it if God says no to your prayer.
15. Learn to entertain yourself
The words I'm bored make me cringe. I'm never bored. I always can find something to do. Get an e-reader and carry it with you. Get a hobby. Do something!
16. Change takes time
Don't be discouraged if you try something and don't see results right away. You didn't gain that weight all in a week. Its going to take more than a week to lose it. You didn't start thinking negatively one day because you decided to. It happened over time. It will take time to retrain yourself to think positively. Give yourself a break and keep at it.
17. Dream bigger
If your dreams don't scare you a little bit, you aren't dreaming big enough. They sky isn't the limit. Men have walked on the moon.
18. The world doesn't owe me anything
This world owes you nothing and you should expect that the world won't do you any favors. Do the right thing because its the right thing, not because you expect something in return.
19. Don't compromise
Be strong in your convictions. Keep an open mind. Be willing to hear the other side of an issue. Don't agree to do something just because you feel you should if you know you really shouldn't or can't or actually won't. Be who you are without apology.
Often. A lot. Loudly. Be silly. Enjoy yourself! Don't take life so seriously. No one will get out alive anyway.
21. Save Yourself
Learn to pick yourself up. Everyone fails. Sylvia Plath said, "I love my rejection slips. They show me I try." Be your own hero. There is no such thing as a knight in shining armor. Men are human just like you. If you can stand on your own two feet, your man can stand beside you and your relationship will be a whole lot stronger.
22. It's ok to say I Don't Know
Teaching, working in an office, raising kids, the truth is I am often asked questions I just don't know the answer to. It is much better to say I have no idea. Let me find out and get back to you than to give the wrong information.
23. Happiness is internal.
You can't expect people to make you happy. They are human. And humans will always fail you. It's the nature of being human. You can't expect things to make you happy. They get lost, break, expire, run out. Your happiness has to come from within.
24. Sing. Loudly.
It doesn't matter how crappy my day, how stressed, how mad, how sad. I can put on a good song, sing at the top of my lungs, and my mood improves. Try it!
It doesn't matter who did what to you or how bad it was. When you let someone keep hurting you, you have given them power over you. You are letting them control your emotions and therefore your life. Forgive them and move on. Do it for you, not for them.
26. I think, therefore I am.
It's a fundamental philosophical truth. But in all practicallity, it means that what you think is what you are. If you think you are worthless, good for nothing, lazy – you will be. Change your mind and change your life.
27. Learn to be alone.
While my home now is a bustling hub of activity all the time, it hasn't always been that way. I am so glad that I spent several years living alone. I recommend it to everyone. Learn to be alone. To deal with the silence. To be alone with yourself. You will know exactly who you are and be less swayed by outside influences.
28. Learn to walk away.
If you don't like what someone is saying, you can walk away. If you don't like the way someone treats, you, you can walk away. Get rid of unhealthy people in your life. You don't need to keep people around who are destroying you. And you don't need to destroy other people. Walk away if you are the poison in someone else's life.
29. Don't Worry.
Worrying is a complete waste of energy. You use up all your emotional and often even physical resources by working yourself into a worried state. Instead of just sitting there thinking and dwelling about something, take action. Make a plan. Or realize you have absolutely no control over the situation and try something I've already mentioned. Let it go, save yourself, walk away, don't give up on your dreams…
Love really can conquer all. So never stop believing in true love. Never stop giving your heart away. And when you love someone, do it fiercely. With intent. And make sure your loved one never doubt your love.
31. Know what you need.
The better you know yourself, the more you will know what you need. And that can help you in every aspect of your life.
32. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.
Need quite time every week to keep your stress down? Schedule it. Ask your family to help with this. Find out your love language and talk with your spouse about it. Tired of eating kid food all the time? Cook something you like. Ask your kids to try it. If you don't ask, you won't get it.
33. Try the impossible.
At some point in your life, try something you think is impossible. Even if it's just once. And don't get upset if you don't accomplish it. Trying is what matters.
34. Retain your integrity.
If someone, or some job, asks you to do something you are not comfortable doing or disagree with, say so. You have to live with yourself every day. They don't. There will be another job. Another friend. Another…whatever. But there is only one you.
35. Turn up the music.
I have found that in just about everything, turning up the music help. Sad? Blast those 80s ballads and cry it out. Need to stick to a workout? Play louder music. It helps your motivation. Mad? Get your metal on. Music can help you increase any emotion just by playing the right song. And sometimes feeling an emotion more intensely can help you achieve your goals (I write better when I listen to music without words) or bring those emotions to the surface so you can deal with them.
36. Grow up.
I can't tell you how many people I have met my age or older who just won't grow up. Take care of your responsibilities. Be an adult. It's well past time.
37. But know when to let go.
I am a big fan of letting go when the time is right. Play lava floor with your kids. Have nerf gun battles. Play that smack talking game of Clue (a favorite at our house).
38. Manage your money.
There are a lot of different systems out there. Find one that works for you or create your own (which is what I did). But make sure that you are in control of your finances. Don't spend next week's paycheck. Don't buy things you can't afford. Have money saved for emergencies. Check your credit report. Check every bill. Be the boss of your money.
39. Be patient.
We live in an instant gratification culture. Don't give in. Sure, I could charge that high end foundation to my credit card and end up paying twice as much for it. Or I can make a savings plan over a few paychecks and buy it. No, I do'nt get it right away, but it's so much sweeter when I do.
40. Life it short. If you don't look around once in a while, you could miss it. Ferris Bueller had it right. But I'm not talking about skipping school to be in a parade kind of look around. Sure, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it. But how I view that statement is that you constantly have to reevaluate your life. In order to be the best you, you have to change and grow. You have to look back at all these lessons and see where you need to make changes. Where can you apply those lessons today. My kids won't always want to play lava floor. So what do they want to do now? How can you improve your work/family/fitness/financial situations? How have your needs changed? Constantly look around. Constantly reevaluate. Constantly change. Because if you don't, you will get stuck. Left behind. Miss it.