"Rest and laziness are two different things." 5 things that took me 40 years to learn.

They say nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. Well, call me a slow learner but there’s a few things in life that have taken me a little longer to get a handle on than others. I’m talking about the things that annoyingly keep showing up and showing up until the penny – for the love of God – finally drops.

Of course, there’s no beginning or end when it comes to our learning, it’s obviously a lifelong process. You don’t know what you don’t know – but you sure know it afterwards. 

So, in the interest of saving anyone else out there some time or frustration, I’m going to share a few of the things that have personally taken me the longest to learn.

Watch: The horoscopes working out. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

1. Exercise regularly but find something you enjoy.  

Consistency is everything with exercise, but ya gotta find something that feels good to you and your body, otherwise it’s just not going to be sustainable. One of the best things about getting older is that you get clearer on what is for you and maybe even more importantly, what really isn’t. 

There’s a lot of experimenting and trying things on in your 20s and 30s – people, jobs, homes, and hem lengths – but by 40 I can confidently say, you couldn’t pay me to do another boot camp fitness class.


I do not need to work out to the point that I feel like I’m going to throw up to "maintain my fitness". I do not need to be yelled at by an aggressive PT to "push myself". I do not need to get up in the fives and drag myself to a park in the dark with a bunch of strangers to "stay motivated". No, thank you. F*ck. That. Sh*t. 

There’s a real freedom that comes with figuring these things out about yourself. Freedom, and relief, because now you know that it's not for you, you can let it go and get on with the good stuff. 

These days my exercise routine isn’t set in stone, because I am motivated by variety (and my mental health and those feel-good endorphins), but it usually includes a mix of Pilates, jogging, walking, or at-home HIIT or yoga – not a screaming instructor in sight.  

2. Rest and laziness are two different things.

This might sound obvious to our Gen Z friends who seem to intrinsically understand this, but for us millennials – even the geriatric kind such as myself – it’s actually kinda confusing. 

You see, we were raised on a girl boss diet of grinding and hustling and all those things that are considered so embarrassingly cheugy these days. I mean, back in 2013 when Britney told us, 'Now get to work, bitch' we seemed to have taken it literally. Not only that, but we lived in constant fear that if we didn’t, we’d easily be replaced because there was always someone behind us hungrier for it and willing to do whatever and however many hours it took. 


And so, when the wellness movement took off and Gen Z showed up with their own f*ck this sh*t attitude, it was a little de-stabilising. Like, can you actually do that? It’s not easy to untangle yourself from the idea that you should constantly be productive or busy.

It’s taken me a really long time to learn that I’m absolutely no use to anyone when I’m tired. Taking care of yourself and prioritising rest does not mean that you’re lazy. (Say it again with me, millennials.) Rest is an essential and necessary part of life, not just something you prioritise once a year on your annual holiday.

As parents, my husband and I are trying to model this to our kids. On the weekends, we try to carve out a few hours dedicated to just 'doing nothing'. We nap or we read or we watch a movie and we let our bodies rest without feeling bad about it or labelling it as 'lazy' because it’s not, it’s vital. 

3. Stop saying yes when you know you should say no.

Without a doubt, this has been one of the hardest lessons of all for me to learn. The people pleaser in me, who also hates conflict, has a really hard time putting this into practice. 

Largely, I think, because I want to be the type of person who says yes, who contributes and engages and doesn’t sit on the sidelines. However, as I’ve been forced to learn over and over and OVER again, you can’t do everything.  


I don’t have the time or energy for all the things, even if I happen to have the desire. There are only so many hours in a day – a fact you feel so much more acutely when you have kids – so you must be discerning with how you spend it.

Additionally, I’ve found that agreeing to do things when I don’t have the bandwidth for them always ends up going pear-shaped at some point. Over-committing and doing things out of obligation tends to breed a lot of ill will and resentment, none more so than towards myself. So, I try to keep this in mind when the situation arises.

Some other things that help with this include remembering that "no" is a full sentence, no explanation required. Having blanket no rules or to-don’t lists. Reminding myself that time is finite, and you won’t be able to say yes to the things you really want to do if you don’t say no to the things you feel only so/so about. 

Listen to Fill My Cup. On this episode, Allira gives the floor to Psychologist Chris Cheers. He shares with us how we can find mindfulness in the small things: listening to music, walking to work, and showering. Post continues below.

4. Differentiating between anxiety and intuition.

As women, we’re often told to "listen to our intuition" or "go with our gut" and for good reason. We seem to live so much in our heads these days, but our bodies are such a great source of wisdom. You cannot intellectualise everything, sometimes you literally have to feel your way through it.

The thing is though, if you’re an anxious type, like me, your body can tell you all sorts of things that aren’t necessarily truthful, or helpful. So, how do you tell the difference? Well, I’m not a psychologist or any kind of mental health expert, but from my experience, it comes down to fear. 


If the feeling or thoughts I’m having are laden with fear and accompanied by copious amounts of overthinking towards past or future events, then I know that’s not my intuition speaking to me – that’s my anxiety wreaking havoc. When it comes to my intuition, it presents itself more like a calm sense of knowing that feels spacious or freeing and it settles easily in my body. It’s not at all constricting or agitating the way my anxiety is. 

Learning to differentiate between these two things has not been easy and still trips me up sometimes but having awareness about how they present within my body has helped enormously. 

5. Don't fear failure, fear regret. 

When I was younger, I used to get really worried about trying something and failing at it. So much so, that it often prevented me from pursuing things I really wanted because, gasp, what if it didn't work out? Or, what if everyone saw me fall flat on my face? But also, what if it actually did work out? Then what?!

As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve come to realise that this was misplaced fear. It’s not the trying and failing that you need to be scared of, it’s the regret of never having given it a shot that’s much more terrifying. While putting yourself out there and doing something different can be very uncomfortable, in my opinion, it pales in comparison to living with the regret of never having tried. 


There’s a saying by Jim Rohn, "We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons."

The older I get, the more this rings true, especially now at a mid-life point where you don’t have forever stretching out in front of you anymore. You have however much remains, which I would argue is all the more reason to really go for it. 

No matter the outcome, you’re bound to learn something along the way. Plus, you’ll never have to wonder about what might have been if only you'd given it a go. 

Of course, there are many more things I’m still learning to navigate – self-love, time management, body image (I was a teenager in the 90s after all) – because that’s just the way it goes. No matter how old we are, we're all still working on something because just like the old adage goes: you live and you learn.

I’m curious to know, what are some of the life lessons that have taken you the longest to learn? Do us all a favour and share them in the comments below.

Emily McGrorey is a full-time reader, part-time procrastinator, freelance writer, casual Pilates student and aspiring author. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Love all-things beauty? Take this short survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!