I’m getting close to my 40th birthday. Seeing those words doesn’t make sense. It seems as though they should be about someone else – not me. The years flash by faster and faster. I pinch myself when I realise I’m the guy with five kids (two in adolescence), and nearly two decades of marriage under my belt.
I figure I’m getting close to the halfway point of my life.
But have I learned half of the things I need to learn? Or done half of the things I need to do while I’m here?
As I come face to face with the beginnings of middle age, I’ve thought about the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life. I wanted to share them in the hope that they’ll resonate with you – or perhaps spark a search for meaning, or inspire a new habit or idea or quest.
Mostly, though, I’m hoping that my children will learn from this ‘hard-won wisdom’, that they’ll use it, and grow to be better than I’ll ever be because of it.
So Chanel, Abbie, Ella, Annie, and Lilli… this is for you.
Other People Matter
More than any other truth I have discovered, other people matter. Make sure that you treat everyone – everyone! – like they matter. Because they do. And your life and their life will be better because you did.
Try new things
The world is a magical place if you’re open to exploration and new experiences. Try new foods. Try new places. Try new activities, books, sports, whatever! So long as it doesn’t clash with your moral compass, try new things and be amazed by what you discover.
When you get something wrong, or when something doesn’t work out, be glad you tried. Learn from it. Try not to repeat the failure again. And go and be better because you tried.
Relationships are hard
To make a relationship work, you have to work. Hard. But if you put the hard work in – together – you won’t regret it.
The burden of discipline is far lighter than the burden of regret
Be where your feet are
Being in the here and now brings joy. So put your phone or device down and be where your feet are. Right here. Right now. Soak it in. Now is all you really have – so live it.
Only buy what you can afford
Credit cards and loans and ‘interest free’ make life easy now, but they make it harder later. Use your own money, rather than the bank’s money. Even for a car! Plus, the accomplishment of saving up and paying in full is a great feeling of accomplishment.
Judge intention, not behaviour
We want people to judge us by what we meant, not what we did. Everyone has struggles and everyone makes mistakes… but nearly everyone wants to do the right thing – whatever they perceive that to be.
Only dance like no one is watching if no one is watching
Otherwise, don’t dance.
Tell the truth – even when it’s going to hurt
Lies undermine trust and relationships. There is no greater compliment than to be trusted, not only by those who don’t know you well, but particularly by those who do.
Try – even when you don’t think you can
The world is full of stories about people who shouldn’t have been able to do what they have done. But they’ve done it because they had a vision of it, and they tried. Whether you want to be a doctor, or a photographer, or an astronaut, go for it. You’ll be amazed in the power that comes from starting something.
Do your assignments a week early.
You won’t believe the peace of mind that comes from being ready before you need to be.
Some hurts can be hard to let go of. But forgive fast, and move on. It will free you from the burden of carrying heavy baggage that weighs you down.
Grateful people are happier, healthier, have more friends, are more successful. Life is great when you’re grateful. Say thank you. Even – no, especially – when people don’t expect it. You’ll make their day, and yours. Be in awe of the ocean and mountains, of sunrises and sunsets. Be grateful for things that hurt because you’ll grow, and for things you get wrong, because you’ll learn. I don’t think anything can improve your life like gratitude. Count your blessings. Make a list. Be amazed.
Life is to be enjoyed. Remember to show it
Do what makes life meaningful
It’s nice to do fun things. It’s great to do things that make us feel good – boost our pleasure. But doing things that are meaningful will bring you more happiness than all of the fun and pleasure in the world. So find what makes life meaningful for you and follow that path. Hint: meaning is usually found in doing things for other people.