40 Things to Let Go of in Your 40s
If you haven't eased up on this stuff, start now. Your life will be immeasurably better for it.
Don’t get us wrong — the time between college graduation and your first scheduled prostate exam can be a lot of fun. It’s a time to make some moves, and probably a few messes. Reaching our 40s is a great time, too. It’s time to check in with ourselves, to ensure that all the questionable and unhealthy behaviors from our first act of adulthood have been jettisoned — or at least smoothed out. Here’s a list of 40 behaviors that you should consign to history before your grays start coming in. And be sure to check out the report that’s changed thousands of lives: 100 Ways to Live to 100!
Being ruled by fear
Fear is a feeling that’s rarely based in reality, a primitive sense that was useful when we had to make a decision to wield a spear or climb a tree as a hungry lion prowled the area for food. Now that you have some judgment and wisdom, you can overcome the reptilian part of your brain when making choices for your life.
Behaving like a jackass
Chances are, you were somewhat of a jerk in your younger years (or at least showed some jerky qualities). You’ve been busy accruing accolades, wealth, anecdotes and assets, but if you’ve been paying attention, it’s likely that you’ve picked up some humility along the way and have settled into being a kinder, more compassionate you. For tips on how to get ahead without being evil, check out these amazing 25 Life-Changing Lessons from Super-Successful Men!
Allowing others to define who you are
When we’re younger, our identity is a witch’s brew of ideas, many of them authored, held and perpetuated by other people. Age allows us to get a grip on our true feelings, beliefs and motivations. The net result? We get to be the masters of our own narrative, less encumbered than ever before by what anyone else thinks. Your 40s are a great time to reacquaint yourself with what those thoughts, feelings and beliefs are and get to know yourself better than you ever have before.
Carrying a grudge
At this stage in your life, feeling butt-hurt about something someone did to you is beneath you. Letting them know that you’re over it is the ultimate big-balls move. In one fell swoop, you’ll free the bandwidth their infraction has been taking up in your brain ever since they drunkenly propositioned your ex-girlfriend, and reclaim the power they’ve had over you ever since. That’s just one of the 25 Ways to Be Happier Now!
Being your own worst critic
In our younger years, without a long list of achievements to suggest otherwise, we can be hard on ourselves and, in so doing, create a swirl of low self-esteem. By the time we get to our 40s, most of us have figured out that when we’re feeling down on ourselves, we can offset that feeling by focusing on an aspect of ourselves that we feel really good about. It’s imperative to focus on what makes us feel good about who we are.
Doing things out of obligation
Oh, the power of a good, solid “no.” In our 40s, we really realize the power of this word, and we aren’t so shy about using it when we’re asked to put time, money or effort into something that doesn’t light us up. Make that one of these 40 Things You Must Do in Your 40s!
Falling foul of the sunk-cost bias
The summer home you don’t use, the friendship that takes way more than it gives, the country-club membership you got in the hopes that you’d discover a love of golf. In your 40s, you’re quicker to jettison what’s not bringing value to your life.
Putting others down who don’t share your beliefs
If social media has taught us anything, it’s that people can have extreme reactions to people who have beliefs that aren’t in line with their own. At 40, we know that although a healthy disagreement is positive, name-calling, putting people down, and shaming are something that should have been purged for your system during the carelessness of youth. Developing generosity is one of the 40 Best Things About Being in Your 40s!
Feeling hamstrung by your “weaknesses”
Richard Branson, the British business tycoon and founder of the Virgin Group, used his own weakness — dyslexia — to form one of his greatest strengths: The art of communication and delegation. In our 40s, we’re in a prime spot to reflect on how we overcame what bedeviled our progress in our 20s and 30s and think of it as a superpower that we acquired through adversity.
Stifling your silliness
It’s ironic that by the time we have a lot to lose in life, we’re learning to not take ourselves so seriously. You’ve got nothing to prove to anyone so how you’re seen by others isn’t something you give too much thought to. Dance like no one’s watching and all that. To make the most of every day, get going on these 50 Things You Must Do Before You Die!
Taking things personally
At 40, when people say something about you that you don’t want to hear, you have the wisdom and experience to realize that they may be talking about themselves more than they’re talking about you. Take a second to confirm that you haven’t been behaving like a jackass. Then waste no more time on wondering what you might have done.
Keeping up with fashion trends
Your 20s were a time to experiment with personal style. Your 30s were a time to get comfortable with your look while making important life moves. Your 40s are time to take the results of that success and reinvest it in you. For more on that, check out this essential list of 15 Items Every Man Should Have in His Closet!
Neglecting your physical health
Your health really is everything. That phrase doesn’t really land with someone in their 20s or 30s, because for the most part, they haven’t been in ill health. By the time we get to 40, however, the wheels are beginning to come off the wagon to one extent or another. That realization, and the perspective it engenders, simply means that eating poorly, being sedentary and not scheduling regular primary-care checkups is a thing of the past.
Feeling envious of others’ successes
By the time we reach 40, we have faith in the idea that a rising tide raises all ships. In fact, there’s some scientific basis for that assertion. Studies have shown that as people in our networks become wealthier, fitter and happier, we stand to earn more too. It’s a matter of the people closest to us setting new norms. Don’t hate, celebrate! It’s just one of these 25 Ways to be Happier Now!
Taking your partner for granted
If you’re in a relationship and you love this person, make them the centerpiece of your life. Really. Do something every day to show them how much you love them. Put the relationship first and let everything else fall behind it. If your relationship is empty or unhappy, so will your life be.
Drinking and eating too much
In our younger years, many of us exhibit a tendency to consume food and alcohol like someone is about to take it away from us. As we get older, however, experience dictates by employing restraint, we can mindfully savor our consumption of fine food and drink, thereby realizing their true value. Life is good. Now’s the time to sip, not guzzle. And stock your kitchen with these 25 Foods That’ll Keep You Young Forever!
Being bad in bed
The 10,000-hour rule refers to the amount of time it takes to master something. By the time you’re in your 40’s, you’ve likely logged up some serious love hours and all that experience is paying off for you and your partners.
Unnecessary relationship drama
Stormy arguments, passive-aggressive standoffs, taking actions intended to screw with your partner’s head. By the time you’re in your 40s, your tolerance for drama should have hit absolute zero, and you’ll be much happier for it. To keep the home fires burning, check out our exclusive guide to the Secrets of the Best Relationships!
Being useless at flirting
A funny thing happens when you get to 40. You start to feel very comfortable in your own skin (especially if you adhere to the advice contained within this handy list). That ease is appreciated more than you’d think, especially by women a few years younger. As are your high-quality, well-fitting clothes, your experienced face, your fit physique, your depth of knowledge and your humility. Realize that you now have many qualities that are extremely appealing to women, even those you considered out of your league when you were younger. So give a compliment, make a joke, ask for a number (if you’re single). Guys their age have yet to figure out what you have.
Not asking for what you want
With confidence and experience piling up and your dotage drawing ever closer, you realize that it’s time to get real about what you want out of life, and you’re more likely to vocalize it. Tick-tock and all that. With your hard-earned confidence, learn How to Negotiate Anything and Win!
Procrastinating on an important project
In our young adulthood, procrastination could almost be worn as a badge of pride. Back then, we could dig deep, stay up all night to deliver a presentation at the eleventh hour. It’s highly likely that life has gotten a little more complex since then. Nowadays, we’ve realized that scheduling time to get projects done is a great antidote to that uncomfortable feeling of being unprepared.
Thinking that things can make you happy
Now that you own property, a car or two, even a boat or a second home, you come to the realization that although it’s nice to have things, their true value is really the enjoyment that you get out of them. Instead of another car, why not spend your money on these 25 Adventures Every Man Should Have?
Being a know-it-all
A major part of being human is our capacity to challenge our beliefs and assumptions and be willing to stay open to new ideas. Thinking that you know best only highlights the fact that maybe you don’t.
Carrying credit card debt
Recent data shows that when we enter our 40s, the amount of credit card debt we carry falls off sharply. People aged 25-34 have, on average, $10,400 in credit card debt, but in the 35-44 age bracket, that number drops to $6,200. That leaves you more for these 31 Best Ways to Save for Retirement — they’ll make your golden years platinum!
Trying to be somebody you’re not
By our fifth decade, we’ve formed our identity from the narrative we tell ourselves and others about who we are. Although we’re proud of our strengths, we’re ever more accepting of our weaknesses and have become kinder to ourselves about them. In short, we own who we are. We stop striving to be someone whom, deep down, we know we’re not.
Not listening to your gut
In decades gone by, you’ve no doubt made a decision that was more about presented “facts” rather than how you felt about a person or an endeavor. You’ve been right and you’ve been wrong, but that process has been incredibly helpful in sharpening your spidey senses — now, you can more readily trust them. Knowing when to trust your gut is just one of the 20 New Rules for Successful Entrepreneurs!
Keeping friends around whom you’ve outgrown
Some friends are friends simply because they’ve been our friends for a very long time. When you look at your friendships on merit, however, you may find that this person or people don’t bring value and even take up time you’d rather be spending elsewhere. Now’s a good time to phase them out. Make more space for the present you; don’t let the ’90s You decide whom you spend this decade with.
…and spending money on things you don’t
By the same token, you realize that the difference between a $300 mattress and a $3,000 one is negligible and that you can’t taste the difference between a $30 bottle of wine and one that costs ten times as much. Although experience drives you to spend more in some areas, your net outlay should stay more or less the same as you cut back elsewhere. But don’t forget to have the fun you deserve. These are the 40 Best Ways to Spend Money in Retirement!
Scrimping on things you’ve grown to value
Bedsheets, towels, wine. With experience, you realize that there are some things that should never be scrimped on, and what those things are is completely unique to you.
Being undiscerning with your time
Confidence, experience, wisdom and knowing what you care about converge in our 40s. That has the cumulative effect of making us devote far less time, effort or energy to that which we realize is banal, superficial or uninteresting — like a good amount of contemporary pop culture. To live your life to the absolute fullest, start checking off these 40 Things You Must Do in Your 40s!
Preoccupation with pop culture
A new album dropping, a celebrity feud, an intoxicated red-carpet appearance, a wardrobe malfunction… Incredibly, at some point all this stuff sort of mattered on some level, and maybe, occasionally something someone made, did or said will pique your interest, but in your 40s you realize there are other things worth devoting that time to.
Trying to cram too much in your schedule
Having been around the sun a few times allows us to differentiate between things we want to do, have to do and neither want nor have to do. Once you know what floats your boat, feel good about cutting out everything you do out of a sense of obligation. Part of being a seasoned gent means that you get to call the tune. For more success tips from people who know, follow these 25 Things Rich People Always Do!
Assuming you can’t
When you stopped assuming and start trying your hand at a new thing, you’ve taken the most important step to being successful at it. At 40, we need to look back on all that we’ve done, assume that we can do the thing we want to try and let hard work and dedication do the rest.
Letting opportunities move you around the map
Our 20s and 30s can be a transient time, as career opportunities and romantic entanglements push us all over the place. Now that you’re in your 40s and have established yourself in a career or started a family, the stress and expense of relocating is something we’re less likely to do. Now that you’re settled, don’t miss out on these incredible 50 Things to Do Before You Die!
Avoidance of difficult conversations
Unless you’re a sadist, you know that telling someone something they really don’t want to hear isn’t a good time. When we’re younger, we let that hinder our ability to sit Brian down and tell him that he’s hitting the sauce a little too hard and too often. The next thing you know, Brian’s in a predicament that you could have helped him avoid. Being a man means not procrastinating on confrontation.
Obsessing about the future
Although there’s plenty of life to look forward to when we’re in our 40s, the fact is that a lot of big life decisions are already behind us. It’s highly likely that, in our fifth decade, we already have a career, a partner and have decided whether to start a family. You’re in the groove. With your newfound freedom, start doing these 40 Things You Must Do in Your 40s!
You probably like being liked as much as you did in your 20s and 30s but at 40 it’s incumbent upon us to realize that pleasing people at our own expense is a seriously unhealthy behavior.
Lacking a retirement plan
As time ticks on, you should move the allocations in your 401k or IRA from aggressive (stocks) toward the more conservative (bonds). Your 40s are the time to start. The golden rule: Subtract your age from 110 or 120. That’s the percentage of your retirement fund that should be in stocks. To set aside enough cash, use one of these 6 Great Personal Finance Apps!
Trying to have a trendy haircut
You’ve been through several decades of men’s hair trends. By now, you’ve got a pretty good grasp of a style that fits who you are and best frames your face. From here on out, the only thing you need say to your barber is “the usual.” (Just make sure you’re following these 25 New Rules of Professional Style.) You deserve it.
Regretting the past
Regrets: had a few? Well, once you hit your 40s, it’s time to reimagine these choices as valuable learning tools that made you the man you are today. The past is dead. No amount of stewing about it will change anything. Just make sure you’re working through these incredible 50 Things to Do Before You Die, and you’ll have no regrets!
For more amazing advice for living smarter, looking better, feeling younger, and playing harder, sign up for our newsletter—delivered every day!