real life

"The 40 lessons I (finally) learned in my 40s."

I’ll be 42 in July.

I don’t feel old. I don’t feel young. I see the forehead lines and sunspots in the mirror and I feel the stiff joints some mornings. I think I’m a ‘fun, with-it’ mum to my two teenagers, but I don’t understand selfies, Snapchat or coding. I practice mindfulness but still fret over yesterday and tomorrow. I try to exercise daily but still have ‘couchflix’ (Netflix + the couch) days. I’m a perfectionist who knows that perfection does not exist. I have endless compassion for others, but am too hard on myself. I become tragically excited by a well organised pantry or wardrobe. I am a people-pleaser trying hard not to be a people-pleaser but worried that people won’t be pleased with me if I’m not people pleasing.

I’m a terrible cook but I love to eat. I struggle with anxiety and depression despite eating well, walking, therapy, sunshine, lots of love in my life and medication. I constantly battle being both an introvert extrovert and I am far too sensitive, soft and ‘feely’… Yep, I still have much to learn and much to work on – but there are some lessons that I have learned in my almost 42 years (some are still a work in progress!) and here they are:

1. Clutter, excess and mess take away our peace, our time and our ability to be fully present.

2. It really is all about what’s on the inside. Many of us spend our teens, twenties and thirties agonising over our appearance, thigh gap, photo fabulousness… but you hit forty and gravity slides, lines appear, greys pop and you realise it just doesn’t matter all that much. We may still colour the hair, slap on the anti-wrinkle creams and lament the double-chin in photos, but we realise that what truly matters is love, family, friends, purpose, giving back and living authentically.

3. It’s okay to say no and there is no explanation or justification needed – ever.

4. What others think of us is none of our business.

5. We are the average of the five people that we spend the most time with (as motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said).

6. Dogs make the world a better place and make the bad days better. Four-legged little furballs of happiness, bliss and unconditional love.

7. We don’t need lots of friends, just a few really good ones. The ones you can call with anything from: I hate my job; I want to stab my hubby with a fork; have you seen Reese Witherspoon’s new haircut; power-walk tomorrow; can I sleep on your couch tonight; wanna swap kids for a week; let’s do a detox together but first eat four pizzas together; I’ve made a huge mistake; I’m so glad you’re my friend; help, my parents/in-laws are coming to stay; who died and who slept with who on Game of Thrones last night; I think I overplucked; can I borrow that dress; thanks for the cuppa therapy; are my boobs lopsided; I had that dream again about me, Ellen & Gywneth; let’s just run away; OMG did you hear what Trump did this time; can you believe how expensive avocados are at the moment; to; how do I bring the kid’s fish back to life!?!

Woman walking through flowers
"I still have much to learn and much to work on – but there are some lessons that I have learned in my almost 42 years." Image: Getty Images

8. Cliche I know, but we have to love ourselves before we can truly love or accept love from others. It took me 40 years but I can honestly say that I like and love me today, and if I can achieve this then so can you!

9. Mean, rude people are always hurt, sad people.

10. Do what you love. Even if you can’t change your career, find hobbies and activities that fulfil and nurture you.

11. The missing socks, lids and hairbands are never, ever coming home.

12. Money doesn’t buy happiness but it’s a necessary part of life and needs to be respected. Don’t waste money, know what is coming in and going out, give to others and keep your wallet ordered and tidy.

13. The 'stuff' – the big TV, the shiny car, the red sole shoes, the Botox, the bling, the latest phone… never ever give us lasting happiness, peace or fulfilment.


14. The more we give to others and to life, the more we get back from others and from life. More giving equals more living.

15. What we eat and drink has a HUGE impact on our physical and mental health and our overall well-being. Having as much water, green tea and plant-based meals as possible should be the goal.

16. Parenting is the best and the hardest job in the world.

17. Always "listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply" – Stephen Covey. This one is harder than it sounds and is super important, especially in our relationships with our spouses and our kids.

18. Deep breathing can literally save us in those stressful, overwhelming times. Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for four seconds, deep breath out for four and repeat…

19. We can only be truly happy if we are authentic and honest. We have to let go of people pleasing (big, no HUGE, note to self!), speak our truth, follow our hearts and be ourselves.

20. One should never ever attempt to DIY the following – hair lightening, electrical works or a Brazilian wax. Just saying!

21. Things that bother us in others are always things that we need to address in our own lives or selves. Always.

22. "Where focus goes, energy flows" - Tony Robbins. It’s true, what we focus on grows and shows up in our lives. So if we live in fear or resentment, then that is what we’ll attract. Every time.

23. We need to move every single day and get the heart rate up, even when it’s the last thing we feel like doing (another note to self!). You will never, ever regret a workout or walk along the beach

24. Screen time needs to be limited. If screens and technology are running your life and you’re permanently connected, then it’s ruining your life and you're permanently disconnected.

LISTEN: Justine Clarke: "No one wants to f*ck Betty Heslop". Post continues below.

25. If you push feelings and issues down and don’t deal with them, they will come out later as physical health issues, mental health issues and/or addictions.

26. We are what we repeatedly do.

27. We do NOT need anything that someone is trying to sell us on a TV infomercial at 2am (note to hubby!).


28. We can either make excuses in life or we can get results and changes, but we can’t have both.

29. Compassion and kindness are the two most admirable qualities a person can possess.

30. Don’t let one bad day, week or month derail your whole world or your goals. Get up, get back on course and get going. You ate cinnamon donuts for two days straight and your only exercise was lifting the Netflix remote? No worries. Today get up off the couch, dust off that cinnamon sugar from your lips, drink a load of lemon water, have a hearty fresh juice or salad and get out for a long power walk in the sunshine. Don’t beat yourself up.

31. In any intimate relationship our job is to love, support, nurture, encourage and respect the other person. If we’re not doing that and/or not getting that, something needs to change ASAP.

32. Admitting that you’re wrong, saying that you’re sorry and acknowledging when you don’t know something are signs of strength and character not of weakness.

33. Freshly picked flowers or greens in a vase or jar instantly make a home happier, healthier and brighter.

34. Our time is so incredibly valuable and precious. Don’t waste it on things or people who you don’t love, cherish or care deeply about you.

35. Exercise, sunshine, H20, fruit & veggies, sleep, sex, mindfulness, pets, hugs, laughter and love are the ultimate therapy, medicine and antidepressants.

36. We never need as much as we think we do, and less is almost always more.

37. Knowledge is great, but goals followed up with action are what makes things happen.

38. Nobody has the "perfect" life, and the lives we showcase on Facebook and Instagram are not real, they are the very edited "highlights". Don’t compare your life to others. On that note, never forget that there will ALWAYS be someone prettier, smarter, fitter, funnier, fatter, thinner, faster, taller, shorter, richer… than you. You just need to worry about being your best you.

39. Appreciating and respecting what we have and practicing gratitude will set you up for a great life. Every day before you go to sleep, write down three things that you’re grateful for and watch your life transform.

40. Travel, books, mistakes and children are life’s best teachers.