There are some things in life which are useful to know.
Then there are other things that everyone should know, preferably sooner than later. These are the critical lessons that can and will dictate the entire quality of your life from now (whatever your age) until you’re grey and old.
Be my guest and write these off if you will, but I can tell you with more certainty that I can say most things that ignoring any single one of these lessons can have huge consequences for your life as a whole.
On the flip side, if you jump on these things now you can literally transform your life from top to bottom, from your professional success to your personal life and everything in between.
Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.
– Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Here are ten things everyone should know by the time they hit 40.
1. How to communicate effectively
However, more than just having to communicate, you need to communicate effectively.
Most notably, that means learning to listen. I mean really listen to what they have to say, consider their point of view, and respond in a way that respects that perspective.
And then, when you do speak, it means asking the right questions, balancing the give and take (don’t talk about yourself too much but interrogate them), and being authentic.
2. What your life’s great passion is
If you’re like most people, the lion’s share of your time spent on Earth will be spent working.
That is, working at something whether that be clocking in nine-to-five and sitting in a cubicle for tens of thousands of hours over your lifetime or pursuing a white-hot passion for adventure, maximizing your personal potential, helping others, or storytelling (or all of the above).
Ultimately, it’s up to you what you spent your time doing but you need to do everything you can to discover what you’re passionate about. Once you do, your entire life will be infused with meaning and purpose.
3. How you’re saving for retirement
This might sound basic, but…are you saving for retirement? For most people that answer is no.
And what often happens when we put money aside is our lifestyle adjusts just enough to where we have wouldn’t notice it anyway, so you might as well bite the bullet and start now.
After all, when you start getting close to sixty-five (or whenever you’d like to retire), you’re really going to hope you had put something away.
4. How to say no
Some people don’t have a problem saying no. If that’s you, feel free to skip this one.
However, many of us have a real problem saying no to some things, so much so that the inability to turn people away has a huge impact on the quality of their life for years (even decades). If that’s you, it’s time to make a change.
No, you’re not a bad person for telling them no. Yes, your guilt is a positive natural reaction to dealing with people that proves that you can feel empathy. But no, saying yes to everything doesn’t help you or even those around you.
Whether it’s telling someone it’s over or letting a coworker know you can’t help them finish their project over the weekend because you’re working on your own passion project (or just need some me time), start practicing with little no’s and see what a difference makes in your life overall.
5. The importance of friends and family (nurture your relationships)
You probably have your friends and family around you so often that it can be easy to forget how much they mean to you.
For most of us, those people are our life. Without them, you’d feel you have no reason to live. But day-to-day they annoy us, bother us, and overall are just, well…there like they always are.
Take a moment to imagine what your life would be like if they were instantly gone, never to come back again. Once you’ve done that, take some time to let them know that you care about and appreciate them.
And moving forward, actively seek to make the other person feel valued and appreciated to further nurture those relationships and keep them strong. It will make all the difference over the long run.
6. That failure is necessary for success
Growing up, I was never taught the value of failure. I ran as far as I could as soon as I thought I might fail at something and when I did I thought I was worthless.
But failure is necessary for success. In fact, the most successful people in the world throughout history and from all professions and walks of life met failure time and time again before they became the person you now know them to be.
The next time you fail, know that this isn’t the end of the line. Each time you get back up you’re stronger, smarter, and better every way. Use each successive failure as a stepping stone to accomplish what you’re doing as opposed to letting it discourage you.
7. How to manage stress and difficult emotions
Because of that, it reasons that you should spend time learning to manage and preferably control those feelings. However, most people never do anything about it- and it shows in the quality of their life.
Stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, and shame are all feelings you can come to manage with a little work and in doing so you’ll improve the quality of your life tremendously.
8. The finite nature of time (and how to spend yours intentionally)
Most of us live the first half of our life as though we have all the time in the world and the second half catching up for all that time we wasted.
Instead, realize now later that you have a finite amount of time to spend alive in this body and seek the make the most of it. Be intentional with your time and know not only what you’re doing with your life but why you’re doing it.
Be aware of where you are, where you want to go, and keep yourself on track to getting there to make the most of the time that’s been given to you.
9. The power of gratitude
The power of gratitude is now so well documented that it’s practically a superpower.
A simple gratitude exercise, such as writing down three things you’re grateful for each day, can make you happier by reminding you of all the things you have to be thankful for in addition to reducing stress and anxiety.
However, gratitude is also powerful because it pulls the mind away from focusing so heavily on what you don’t have to appreciate what you do have now. This can slowly begin to decondition a scarcity mindset which can be a great professional killer.
10. How to be your own best friend
Finally, one of the single most important things everyone needs to know by the time they turn forty (preferably much earlier) is how to be your own best friend.
Most of us are our own worst enemy, spewing negative self-talk at ourselves unconsciously each and every day. Deep down, we have very little self-worth because past experiences have convinced us that we’re inept and worthless.