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40 Things I Know About Happiness As I Turn 40

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Saturday, February 6th, 2016
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One week from today, I turn the “Big 40.” When I was a teenager, I had a very different vision of how this birthday would feel. “Over the Hill” sentiments in card stores and movies depicting uncool, middle-aged parents had led me to believe that 40 marked some sort of beginning of the end — an age when you had already done all the great things you could do, had your fun, and were settling into an adventure-less existence for the remainder of your dwindling years.

Yet, seven days shy of this milestone, my heart still feels the same excitement for life and all its possibilities as it did at 14. And my mind is filled with the wisdom of 40 years of life lessons. I have had the pleasure of knowing people all the way up through their 90s who have an inextinguishable zest for life. Through my own experiences, and theirs, I have developed a sense of what truly matters in living a happy life.

Here are 40 lessons about what it takes to be truly happy on this awesome journey we call life.

  1. A well-lived life must be a balanced mix of planning, spontaneity, seriousness and silliness.
  2. You don’t have to cut your hair short when you grow older, nor for that matter, do lots of the other things we are told “grown” people have to do to “act our age.”
  3. Pride is not nearly as important as authenticity.
  4. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is stylish.
  5. Your heart is smarter than your head a lot of the time.
  6. Love is worth all the lessons.
  7. The process is as important, if not more important, than the outcome.
  8. Singing passionately in the car is worth all the stares from those driving past.
  9. We should make a practice of treating all people we encounter with the kindness and compassion we’d show someone who was having a bad day.
  10. People are mostly good if we let ourselves really see them.
  11. All living creatures — human, animal, and insect — deserve our kindness and respect.
  12. Our strengths and passions are meant to be shared.
  13. An important part of our journey is discovering and living our greater purpose.
  14. Everything we need to be happy is within us, not outside of us.
  15. We don’t need others’ thoughts, feelings, or actions to change in order to change our own.
  16. Kindness is never wasted — an intermittent “thank you” here and there is simply a nice perk.
  17. God speaks to us constantly, we just have to learn to listen.
  18. A diet can include some wine and chocolate if done right.
  19. Even if you get a little nauseous, a roller coaster ride every once in a while is good for the soul.
  20. Forgiveness is much easier when you realize we all make bad choices sometimes.
  21. Things and possessions make us happy for a day or two, wearing off and leaving us wanting more, but positive experiences and generosity have an ongoing, multiplying effect on our happiness.
  22. Good food, friends, family, and moments need to be fully experienced and savored.
  23. When we don’t get what we want now, it always makes sense why later.
  24. Making a practice of saying “thank you” to all those who provide us a service — a cashier, server, mail carrier, doctor, police officer — helps us appreciate the luxuries we sometimes take for granted.
  25. Smiling at everyone you pass by doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you happier.
  26. Laughingly loudly and joyously in public is worth embarrassing a few friends who are in your company.
  27. When you stop trying to hide your perceived mistakes, flaws, quirks, and eccentricities, you finally open yourself up to being loved — by others and yourself.
  28. It’s always better to bring others up than to drag them down.
  29. Envy and materialism magically vanish when we allow ourselves to truly see all we already have.
  30. Fully immersing yourself in the beauty of nature – the birds singing, flowers blooming, breeze blowing — is both awe inspiring and immensely therapeutic.
  31. We must constantly craft actionable goals inspired by our strengths, passions, and purpose in order to evolve and thrive.
  32. Productivity includes giving ourselves permission and ample time to rest, relax, take a day trip, take a vacation and simply be.
  33. We can transform how we feel about and react to anything and anyone by being aware of our thoughts and intentionally challenging and changing them.
  34. Occasionally venting frustrations creates relief, regularly complaining about frustrations creates more frustrations.
  35. Love and connection are more important than all the other things we think are so important.
  36. Through what they say and what they do, our children can teach us the most valuable lessons about ourselves, motivating us to do more of what we do well and work on areas for growth.
  37. Our words really do create our worlds — both the ones we speak out loud to others and the ones we say internally to ourselves.
  38. Acknowledging what we don’t know, admitting when we’ve messed up, allowing vulnerability, and saying “I’m sorry” releases us from the prison of perfection seeking.
  39. The practice of gratitude can heal nearly every wound and ailment — spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.
  40. You can never be happy all of the time, but you can be happy a lot of the time if you decide to be.

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