When you’re young, you think you know everything. Now, I know that may sound all cranky, in a get-off-my-porch-you-whippersnapper kind of way, but it’s actually supported by research. According to a recent study of 1,000 members of Generation Z (people currently aged between 16 and 24) conducted by the firm Lucozade Energy, the latest wave of young people coming of age believe they are more “world wise” than those of previous generations.
But as anyone north of 40 knows, that’s totally bogus. Nothing teaches you about the ways of the world quite like living in it, rolling with the punches, and growing as a person with each passing year. That said, here are 40 things that you need to be well into your fifth decade to truly understand and appreciate. And for more great life advice, check out how These Personality Traits Will Extend Your Life.
Risks are a necessary part of life
When you’re just out of college, you think you’re on top of the world. And in some ways you are. But you quickly learn that support systems, mentors, parents, and other people in your corner will only take you so far in life. At some point, you and you alone have to encounter risky, uncomfortable situations to succeed.
When you’re over 40, you’ve been through enough to know which ventures often bring the highest rewards—and how to handle the pressure. And for more ways to embrace change, start your year off on a daring note with our 12 Creative New Year’s Resolution Ideas.
You shouldn’t take yourself too seriously
So you graduated top of your class. But newsflash: Unless you’re an academic, just about no one cares after the age of 30. And for more helpful aging tips, here are 40 Ways Your Body Changes After 40.
The details matter more than you realize
Big-picture thinking is important for fully grasping a project or a long-term goal, but the details are more important than you may realize. Once you realize that no detail is “beneath” you, it will serve you for the rest of your life. And for more ways of improving yourself, check out the 7 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power After 40.
Fun is productive
Don’t just hole up in your cubicle or dank home office for hours and days and weeks on end to try and pound code for the next great app or killer concept. Getting out and playing is essential for long-term health and success. And to ensure you’re leading a well-balanced life, check out the 40 Best Ways to Keep New Habits.
A good night’s sleep is never to be underestimated
Studies have shown that restful and restorative sleep is one of the most important indicators of good health and clear thinking. It’s when your body rebuilds and recharges, so make sure you are getting 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Not getting enough these days? Don’t miss these 65 Tips for Your Best Sleep Ever.
It’s the journey that truly counts
We get it: You want to be successful and own your own business by age 28. But it’s far more important to take a moment to appreciate what you have, what you are doing, the relationships in your life, and enjoy it all. Life comes at you fast. And to make sure you make the most of it, follow these 100 Ways to Live to 100.
A hideout is the key to a happy marriage
You need a space of your own, whether it’s a backyard shed set up for hanging out or a sewing or a craft room for being creative. You and your significant other are going to be around each other a lot—and a cozy place for alone time is key. And for more relationship tips, here’s the Single Best Way to Revitalize Your Marriage.
Your relationships are more important than you think
That “weird” guy you met in your internship program from your first job? Well, I’ve got news for you: You’re going to run into him a lot over the course of your career. Chances are, your industry is way smaller than you think. So be nice, make connections, and never burn bridges. You never know when you’ll cross paths again.
Weekend benders are not wise
Sure, going out with your friends and getting sloshed is fun and has its time and place, but the older you get, the more time it takes to recover from benders. Save them for the right time and place because a bad hangover will only get harder to shrug off as time goes on. And for great ways to bounce back, here’s the Secret Trick That Will Improve Your Sleep.
Your comfort zone will always hold you back
It’s easy to be complacent when you’re young. Always be sure to challenge yourself to get out and try new things to become a better and more well-rounded person. To learn more about the effects of aging, here are the 40 Worst Things About Turning 40.
Your career won’t be linear
Most images young adults have of a career is a ladder shooting up into the C-suite. But, especially now, career paths are fluid and ever-twisting like a river’s delta. And, in many cases, the new job is actually multiple jobs. Don’t lock yourself into one idea of what you have to do to make money during your life.
You need to eat better food
Pizza and chips and snacks are fine when you are pulling all-nighters in college, but it’s time to eat like an adult. Junk food and cheat meals are fine every now and then, but don’t make it a habit. Eat clean, fresh whole foods.
100% self-assurance is a myth
We all have fragile egos that can crack at the wrong word or a particularly cutting remark, so don’t think anyone is always 100 percent confident in anything. Embrace your frailty. As Socrates once said: “All I know is that I know nothing.”
Talent is overrated
Sure, you coasted through high school and college with great grades, won accolades in your field your whole life, and killed it each week on whatever sports field you excelled at. But talent doesn’t mean squat without drive behind it. The world is littered with wasted potential. Don’t waste yours.
Time is limited
You start off life with boundless amounts of time, but literally each second it is siphoned away as the earth continues spinning around the sun. Build a sense of urgency by grabbing opportunities available today.
Different perspectives are worth exploring
Your world is small. Expose yourself to others and be open to experiencing life from their perspective. After all, how else will you possibly improve yourself and gain knowledge?
You should’ve eaten those strange foods
It’s fine to be picky when you’re a little kid and unsure about new tastes and flavors, but c’mon! You’re an adult now. Try that new part of the cow or some smelly French cheese—you’ll never regret adventurous experiences.
Proactivity is the key to success
Don’t be that person who sits around and waits for instructions or responsibilities to be given to them. Step up and think of ways you can help make someone else’s job easier or find solutions to problems with out being asked. Every boss wants you to make his or her day. Now that you know that, you won’t have to wait for them to tell you what to do.
Don’t wallow in regret
So maybe you haven’t followed any of these tips throughout your life. It’s okay. Looking back in regret is not going to get you anywhere except depressed. Forge ahead, no matter your age.
Your gut instinct is more important than you think
The uneasy feeling you get in your gut when you’re making a big decision is a great indicator of something not-quite-right about the deal—so don’t discount it. It’s not always correct, of course, but it’s important to pay attention to your body and emotions.
You have to take more responsibility
You will make mistakes, and you’ve probably already made a boatload in your life, but what separates a mature, well-functioning human from someone else is the ability to accept that you messed up and own it. Remember: When things go wrong, your higher-ups want to figure out what went wrong and how to move past it—not chastise you.
Your wardrobe matters
Standards of dress have slipped in the last 40 years, which is fine. But don’t let that make you lazy about dressing. A sharp suit or well put-together outfit will make you stand out and garner more approval than you just showing up looking like a slob.
Trash talk is never worth it
If there are problems at work or in relationships, don’t gossip. Speak up and communicate what your concerns are directly with your colleague—or your manager—and you’ll be surprised that people will usually listen and help you find solutions.
Listening is more important than talking
Sometimes it helps to sit back and just listen. If you let other people voice their problems or concerns to you, not only will you learn more but also you’ll earn their respect.
Your failures are important
If you aren’t failing on occasion, you aren’t trying hard enough. Savor the disappointments for their learning potential and then move on.
Your social media really isn’t that important
When you’re over 40, you know the feeling of tucking into a great book. You also know the feeling of scrolling through Instagram. Thankfully, you know which of those activities feels better.
Canceling plans is great
Sometimes it’s fine to stay in and relax. And if you’ve got something on your social calendar you’re not excited about, guess what? You don’t have to go!
What you learned in college doesn’t always apply
Pretty much everything you learned in college will not be a big part of your life (unless you ended up going for a Ph.D.). What seemed super important and life-changing in the midst of your four years in school will quickly fade away in the real world. Instead of remembering details from Ancient History, remember what it’s like to work, to think strongly, to complete tasks, and to know what it’s like to challenge yourself and take instruction.
You need to ask more questions
The most successful people in the world are forever curious and never stop asking questions. You’ll learn more, build relationships, and become a better communicator—all at once!
So much of your stress isn’t worth it
There are times when stress will take over your life, but the key is not to make it an overriding theme. If you learn some relaxation tips or meditation techniques to erase stress when it get’s overwhelming, it can save your life in the long run.
You should wear sunscreen every single day
Skin cancer is one of the leading causes of preventable death, so put on sunscreen often. It will also help your skin stay looking young and reduce the amount of wrinkles that crop up as you age.
Everything’s going to be OK
All right, so everything is not going to always be OK all of the time, but some things aren’t worth stressing over so much in the moment. Take a deep breath and tell yourself that things usually end up working out for the best.
You need to choose your battles wisely
Knowing when to stand up and fight and when to back down and let the battle pass you by is an important indicator of a mature person. Thinking strategically and methodically will win you more victories than charging recklessly into every fight.
Risk is often overblown
People commonly misread risk and assign way more import to it than situations warrant. Try to seriously weigh the pros and cons of a supposedly risky situation and then act, leaving out as much emotion as possible.
Well-written letters are important
Take the time to write letters to people in your life that mean something too you. In this digital world, the simple act of putting words to paper is such an anachronism for some that receiving a hand-written letter or a thank-you note can be incredibly moving.
Your knowledge is in your hands
You should never coast on your job and think that other, more knowledgeable people will pick up the slack. Be sure to be the most-knowledgeable person in the room.
You can focus on what you want to do
The only person you’re accountable for is yourself, so don’t make your life a series of compromises for what others want.
It’s never too early to plan for the long-term
If no one has told you yet, your youth is the time to invest, build wealth, and think about what you want when you are 40, 50, 60, and older.
Exercise is not to be underestimated
The last decade or so has shown that for almost all of the modern Western world’s aliments, consistent and regular exercise can cure or mitigate them. From heart disease and stroke to stress and obesity, working out is essentially all you need.
Realize that your time is precious
It’s time to know that life is a gift that will end sooner than you will want. Pursue living life to the fullest now, because time will not wait for you.
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