I think it’s natural to expect as we get older that we will become more introspective. You’ve heard all of the old adages — “youth is wasted on the young,” “age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel,” and so on. At their core, they’re all pithy observations about aging and, more specifically, reflections on how we spend our lives as we burn through the birthdays we’re given.
Occasionally when we pass some of the bigger milestones on our path, some of us get the urge to put a collection of these insights and nuggets together and offer them up for others’ perusal.
Our guest post author today turned 40 toward the end of last year and, in reflection, collected a list of thoughts and observations that are thought-provoking and reflective. Once you read, feel free to comment on which ones in particular resonated with you.
This post originally appeared on Financial Pilgrimage.
Next week is my 40th birthday. Last week I sat down and jotted down the first 40 reflections on life as they came to mind. Surprisingly the thoughts flowed fast and I was able to write the post below in my Notes app in a couple of sessions.
40 seems like a scary age. A bridge from being a young adult to whatever is on the other side. My 30s were a great decade. We dug out of debt, had two kids, and made great memories with our family. I can only hope that my 40s are equally as good.
I struggled to figure out what to title this post because these reflections aren’t really advice or lessons learned or really anything. They are just random thoughts. Some are words that I live by. Other are places where I question certain things that I have or haven’t done. Either way, these are straight from the heart so I hope you enjoy reading through them.
40 Reflections on Life for My 40th Birthday
1) Gratitude is powerful. It’s perspective-shifting. Whenever I’m feeling down, I try to think about how blessed I am by my family and health. Even the fact that we have easy access to running water, food, and shelter can be a powerful thought exercise.
2) Obsess less about money and more about what it does for your life. Does it provide you with flexibility and options? Does it allow you to help people in need? Money shouldn’t be a game where you’re just trying to accumulate as much as possible.
3) On raising kids, parents stress way too much about things that don’t matter. Screen time, what they eat for dinner, the school they go to. What matters most, in the end, is raising your children in a home with parents that love them unconditionally, are present, and create a safe space.
4) Following your passion is good advice, but not necessarily for a job. Sometimes working a job that allows you to follow your passions outside of the workplace is even better.
5) Depression is real and you don’t really understand it until you go through it. I used to think depression was for the weak-minded until I went through a spell myself in my early 20s for about a year. It was crippling but am grateful I got through it and haven’t had another bout since.
6) Being a dad is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. Nothing really comes close. My kids and my wife are my everything.
8) Going to college is absolutely still worth it today if you pick a school where you don’t have to go deep into debt. College teaches kids to think critically and acts as a bridge between adolescence and adulthood. I don’t know anyone personally that regrets going to college, but know quite a few that wish they went.
9) Debt is like a weight hanging around your neck that pulls you down. Not all debt is bad, but if it’s not mortgage-related or leverage to make money, then it needs to go. Even low-interest debt can pile up and weigh you down.
10) Fitness and finance are similar in that the concepts are actually remarkably easy but the doing is hard. Professionals make both seem overly complex. There are no shortcuts, you just need to do the work.
11) Around age 40 you can really tell who of your friends takes care of themselves and who doesn’t. People either look 30 years old or 50. There’s no in-between.
12) Most everything in moderation is okay. Drink the beer, have the dessert, stay up all night, skip the workout. But do those things sparingly. Stick to good habits 80% of the time and you’ll be fine.
13) Consistency is the most important aspect of success. Be the person that does the work day after day when nobody is watching.
14) I need to be more appreciative of the fact that I have two parents in their 60s that are still healthy and active. One day that’s going to get taken away so I need to appreciate my time with them more.
15) Servant leadership is the best kind of leadership. People will run through walls for you if you genuinely serve them first.
16) Working out for 30 minutes a day can completely change your life. Aim for a mix of strength, cardio, and stretching.
17) Too many people get worked up about many different causes and never do anything about it besides post on social media a few times. It’s better to go all-in on two or three causes you’re overly passionate about and try to make a real difference.
18) People grow personally and professionally when they are uncomfortable and stretched out of their comfort zones. If you don’t get butterflies in your stomach every once in a while you’re probably not growing.
19) Intermittent fasting and keto diets don’t work for 95% of the population unless you are extremely disciplined. For most these fads do more harm than good. If fact, most diets don’t work. You have to make a lifestyle change in the way you eat to become more healthy.
20) Tracking anything improves your chances of success. Track your calories to lose weight, track your spending to spend less, and track your workouts to improve continuously.
21) Success in corporate America is a mix of results and relationships. If you do one really well without the other you’ll have a hard time advancing.
22) Politics affect everyone. People that say they don’t care happen to not have a political issue that impacts them significantly. At the same time, be aware of the place from which you consume your political information. Cable news and other outlets are more entertainment than news and are downright poisonous.
23) Side hustles can certainly be a good thing but sometimes it’s better to spend your limited energy going all in at your day job.
24) Most great things in life come as a result of hard work. Parenting is no different. It’s exhausting but at the same time extremely rewarding.
25) Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the keys to being happy at work. Find work that you can do in your own way, that you’re good at, and you find meaningful.
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26) Nobody likes yellow Starburst candies, but they serve a purpose; they make you appreciate the other flavors more. Sometimes something mediocre or bad can make you appreciate the good things even more.
27) I don’t think it’s any coincidence that anxiety is at all-time highs while belief in God is at all-time lows.
28) The pandemic taught me two things about people. The first is many are bad at risk management. The second is that once people take a stance on an issue they are very resistant to change.
30) Living with your parents after college can be a good way to save money, but most would benefit more from moving out and learning to live independently. We all make mistakes when first trying to adult and better to make those in our early-to-mid 20s.
31) How do you know if you’ve had a mid-life crisis? I don’t think I’ve had one yet. Is it one of those things when you know you know?
32) Whenever I thought about my dream life as a teen it mostly revolved around having a great partner and a few awesome kids. I can say that I’m absolutely living the dream right now. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
33) Something I’ve changed my mind about during the past 10 years is spending money on experiences as opposed to things. Not sure if that’s because I’m a dad now, and experiences generally aren’t for me, but instead are for the whole family.
34) Drinking 100 ounces of water a day is one of the best things you can do for your health.
35) I struggled to get interest from women in high school and college until I learned that attraction isn’t a choice. I then spent months learning and practicing how to spark that attraction in the opposite sex and my dating life improved.
36) My mind always races a million miles a minute. Prayer and meditation help slow it but I need to do a better job living in the moment. I fear that some day I’ll look back at this and it will be my biggest regret.
37) Having close friends with whom you can have deep conversations is rare. I lost one of those friends years ago (he moved away and cut off contact) and I really miss our chats. We were very different people but he was one of the few men I’ve ever been able to really open up to.
38) Finding a great church that aligns with your beliefs is one of the best things you can do for your family. After 15 years of barely setting foot in church, we found one that is a great fit. The service and community groups have filled a gap in our lives. My faith in God is stronger today than ever. Going back to church has been one of the best things to happen in my life over the past 7 years.
39) My wife is the strongest person I know. She has gone through a lot. At age 10 her dad committed suicide, at age 14 she had an aneurysm that required brain surgery, and after the surgery, she had grand mal seizures for years (her last seizure happened on the day our oldest child was born more than 7 years ago; it’s truly a miracle she hasn’t had one since).
40) If I’m able to make it another 40 years my main goals are to raise good kids (and hopefully help with grandkids), make a positive impact on the lives of others, and look back never regretting not spending enough time with loved ones.
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What are some of your life reflections? What immediately comes to mind for you? Let us know below in the comments.