February 25, 2024
My Thoughts on Turning 40 and the Best Lessons I’ve Learned in 40 Years | Wit & Delight



A photo of a woman who's turning 40 sitting on her front step and smiling into the camera.

I’m turning forty at the start of November. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what this birthday means to me. A lot of what’s happened in the past fifteen years of my life has culminated in a search for understanding. In those years, I’ve found myself grappling with what it means to be so in my head. I’ve been looking for meaning in my internal world to understand who I am. Sometimes we get so caught up in searching that we forget so much of life is about letting go. 

I’ve heard many times that life begins at forty. There’s something about the striving and chasing and needing to be seen that’s so inherent in our younger years. I spent the first twenty-plus years of my life playing by rules I thought would give me peace, security, and acceptance, only to find that I could achieve a lot of things and still feel lost. I’ve gotten to a place where I can see that lifestyle for the trap it is and recognize what I’ve had to give up to participate in that kind of society. These days, I’m trying to live life by my own rules. 

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on turning forty next month and the lessons that are the foundation of what I’ve learned in the past forty years.

I always find these pieces of content really inspiring to read. The wisdom within feels like a launch pad for forward motion in the right direction. I hope this post resonates with you.

On Turning 40 and the Best Lessons I’ve Learned in 40 Years

1. Trusting your gut instinct takes practice. Sometimes it’s the process of listening to your gut—often over and over again—that helps you figure out how to trust it. If your gut screams no, do not keep going (yes, even if it’s the day before your wedding). 

2. Life is meant to be experienced. Enjoy as many foods, flavors, and moments of delight as possible. Go to the show, wear the bright colors, and move toward what draws you in. 

3. Connection is an elixir for a lot of the questions you have about the meaning of life. When you find yourself thinking, What’s the point?, remember that it’s not only about you.

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4. Most things you do are about feeling happy, being safe, and trying to survive. When you recognize this, you begin to realize it isn’t actually about acquiring the house, the job, or the money. 

5. We are all incredibly creative, but it takes courage to let that part of ourselves out. Be brave. 

6. Live in the season you’re in. If it’s tomato season, eat a tomato. If it’s a season of rest, rest more often. Give yourself more of what you need most in each season of the year and in each season of life. This approach is a wonderful way of finding presence. 

7. You are not something to be punished. Don’t punish your body by restricting things it needs. Do not punish yourself into success. 

8. Whenever possible, do the hard thing. Do it as soon as possible. There are times when you won’t have it in you to follow through on this, but you must be able to recognize the difference between when you need to give yourself grace and when you need to buck up.

9. Don’t let other people talk you out of things you know to be true, even if they’re incredibly convincing. People who try to talk you out of doing something big and scary are often just afraid for you. That’s their own thing.

10. Invite people into your home without worrying about how it will be received. Life is too short to waste your energy on the impossible task of trying to control other people’s opinions of you. 

11. Be aware of your bubble. Talk to people who are not like you, especially if you find yourself judging others or jumping to the impression that they’re “wrong” or “bad.” 

12. Buy clothes that feel comfortable on your body. Do not think about the size—it doesn’t matter. 

13. When you’re ready to burn shit down, ask what you need. Usually, it’s that you’re hungry, thirsty, tired, in need of a shower, or in need of a few deep breaths. 

14. Writing things down and making a plan—even if it’s loose—is crucial. When you do this at night, you’ll feel so much better the next day.

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15. The worst-case scenario rarely happens. You think about it because you want to be prepared in the event it does happen, but doing so only puts you in a prolonged state of worry. 

16. Don’t force anything. If the thing doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. This applies to everything—partnerships, jobs, friendships, and more.

17. Movement is crucial. You always feel better after dancing or going for a walk.

18. Shame is something a lot of people use to try to control others and keep them small. Get good at recognizing it. You don’t have to subscribe to that. 

19. Don’t suppress the big emotions. Let yourself cry. Let yourself laugh.

20. We learn most of the important things in life as children when we have an innate sense of curiosity about the world. We’re open to new ideas. We have fewer beliefs about “how things should be.” It’s so easy to lose that outlook as we grow up. Don’t. 

21. Surround yourself with beauty. Always.

22. Be honest with yourself about how you get in your own way. 

23. It’s not your job to make other people comfortable. Other people’s bad moods and bad behavior often have nothing to do with you.

24. It’s also not your job to fix people. It’s not your job to pass judgment, ridicule, or assume you know what they are going through. 

25. The act of practicing gratitude has a profound impact on your mental health. 

26. Late blooming is a wonderful thing. Don’t be afraid of it.

27. Sleep is crucial. Protect your rest. 

28. Enjoy the things you’ve brought into your home. Use the nice candles. Put out the nice throw blankets. Set the table with the good dishes. What are you waiting for?

29. Don’t be connected all the time. Spend time offline and spend time alone.

30. You can’t necessarily therapize your way into believing in yourself. You have to face yourself and consistently show up for yourself in order to build that kind of confidence.

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31. There’s a reason why listening to music makes you feel something. Putting on a good playlist makes you feel at home in your body. 

32. There comes a time when you have to let go of the hard things that have happened to you in order to move forward. You won’t make sense of it all but you will gain a sense of freedom from it.

33. Lighting makes all the difference. Don’t use the overhead lights. Put dimmers on everything. Never buy daylight lightbulbs.

34. True connection always requires vulnerability. Show up with the intention to be true to yourself and give of yourself—without trying to control the way people feel about you.

35. Don’t be afraid of discomfort. It’s often a gift—use it.

36. Everything passes.

37. Getting dressed every day makes you feel better—especially when you relax into your unique sense of style. For someone who’s always felt uncomfortable in their own skin, this is a welcome surprise.

38. People who are truly honest are very rare to find. That doesn’t mean you can’t trust people. Trust that people have the best intentions but don’t put yourself in a situation where they’re able to take advantage of you.

39. You are capable of more than you realize. Most of what you want requires courage, which means you must feel the fear and trust yourself as you move through it. 

40. Forty isn’t old. There’s still time for you to be who you want to be. There’s still so much time to enjoy this life. The biggest thing I’m afraid of when I think about getting older is that I’ll look back and feel like I blinked and it was gone. I want to move forward into this next decade and beyond with eyes wide open, taking in every moment as it comes.

P.S. If you liked this post, read this article from last year next: “39 Personal Truths About Life I’ve Learned in 39 Years.”

Kate is the founder of Wit & Delight. She is currently learning how to play tennis and is forever testing the boundaries of her creative muscle. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.