40 things I’ve learned by my 40th birthday

40 things I’ve learned by my 40th birthday

A couple of weekends ago, on December 23rd, I turned 40 years old.

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-3

Although I was excited for the day and had the entire day planned out, I ended up waking up really sick. My mom was also very sick and in the hospital, and frankly, it was an awful day. As much as it killed me to do so, I had to call off my birthday party that night (that Dave and my girlfriends had put together for me). While my actual birthday was pretty much a complete bummer, I’m happy to say that I was able to celebrate this past weekend and essentially redo the day. Once we could tell that my birthday was a wash on the day of, we decided to just “move it” to the future. And that worked for me. Moving my birthday due to illness is just something that happens in life, right? You’ve got to be flexible, because you never know what can happen.

So how do I feel about turning 40? Good! It will take me a while to remember that I’m 40, not only when people ask me how old I am, but also because it’s hard for me to believe. My memories are so vivid of nearly every year, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was in my twenties. I remember wondering when I would one day feel older, and well, I’m now 40, and I don’t feel any older at all. If anything, I feel even better than I used to feel when I was younger. I feel strong. I have energy. I like my routine. I like my work. I love my family. My house. My friends. You name it. Things are good. 

On all other birthdays I’ve ever had, there have been questions looming about my future. And while I don’t have everything figured out, nor do I have a crystal ball, my 40th birthday was one where so many big life things are set. I can remember many birthdays in the past where I would be thinking “once I change XYZ, then I’ll really have my life in order.” And this year, I don’t feel that way. Sure, there are always things I want to improve on, more money to be made, and little things worth adjusting. But I’ve decided I will never again say … “once I change XYZ, then I’ll be good.” Because if you get into a habit of doing that, you’ll be spending your life waiting to be happy. Waiting to be content. I’m not saying we can’t wish for better and for different, because we can. But we can’t delay living our present life only because we want a different future. That’s one of my greatest lessons I’ve learned here at 40. I’m not exactly where I hope to be one day, but I’m really good with where I’m at. Because at some point, you need to start appreciating the here and now.

Today, a couple weeks into my 40s, I thought it would be fun to share some things I’ve learned along the way to this great age and share some pictures from my rescheduled 40th birthday party too …

40 things I’ve learned by my 40th birthday

40 things I've learned by my 40th birthday by A Lady Goes West

1. Your appearance is not the most interesting thing about you. A good personality and good energy is way more important than what you see in the mirror.

2. People remember how you made them feel. When you know that simple fact, you can leave your mark on the world in a good way or a bad way.

3. Don’t look at your phone in your bed. Really, just don’t. There’s no benefit to early morning or late-night scrolling.

4. When you travel, it makes you want to travel even more. And when you go away to somewhere new, try the local stuff. Don’t just go there and follow your same old routine in a different location.

5. You can either fixate on your insecurities or appreciate your best features. It’s a million times more beneficial to appreciate your best features.

6. Stand up straight. Your posture matters.

7. You won’t always feel like exercising, but you’re always glad once you’ve done it. Move more.

8. Pounding away on the treadmill, bike or other cardio machine should not be your primary mode of movement. Lift weights, with your feet on the floor (if you’re able), and move in all directions.

9. You have to be a good friend to have good friends. 

10. If you learn to truly listen to people (not just prepare your response in your head while they’re talking), you’ll create deeper relationships. 

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-2

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-1

11. Don’t interrupt. It’s rude. No matter how good what you’re going to say is, you need to let people finish.

12. Make a habit of smiling at someone when they aren’t expecting it, because it can change their day. 

13. Most of the time, keep it simple. Everything doesn’t have to be so complicated.

14. If someone you don’t know is rude to you and hurts your feelings, brush it off. It’s usually not about you, it’s about them.

15. Take really good care of your teeth. 

16. Make your bedroom as dark and as cold as you can each night, because it sure helps you sleep better. And while you’re at it, wear a slumber mask.

17. Eat more protein. You’re probably not getting enough. I probably didn’t start getting enough protein until my 39th year of life, for real.

18. Never look at your phone while someone is talking to you. It’s really disrespectful.

19. Two of the best ways to change your mood are to move your body and change your environment. Sad? Try a workout. Stressed? Try a walk outside. Anxious? How about some stretching?

20. People are not thinking about you nearly as much as you think they’re thinking about you. You know what people are thinking about? Themselves.

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-9

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-10

21. Never answer a phone call while sitting at a table with other people. Pass on the call or get up from the table.

22. Nobody’s life is perfect. Life is not about being perfect. Life is not about trying to pretend your life is perfect. Perfect is so very boring.

23. If you make a mistake, learn from it. If you never make mistakes, then you’re not trying enough stuff in your life.

24. If you’re constantly craving sugary things, you’re probably not eating enough real-food nutrients throughout the day. 

25. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. In any area of life.

26. You’ll meet some people in life that you just connect with immediately. Keep in touch with those people, because you’re meant to be friends.

27. The ingredients in the products you put on your skin seep into your bloodstream, so choose your skincare products wisely. (But, if you need a mental/emotional boost, treat yourself to the occasional chemical-laden spray tan, because dang … it feels good, you know?)

28. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. In fact, when you take care of yourself, you have the ability to do better for those around you.

29 .You probably don’t need as much “stuff” as you have. It feels really good to live a little more minimally when you can.

30. Never hang on to relationships with people who have shown you they aren’t for you. Move on. Life is too short to wait around to see if someone really cares about you or has good intentions.

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-11

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-8

31. Being in college is a total blast, but there is still a lot of fun to be had into your adulthood, so don’t think the fun is over. Honestly, so much of life can be a blast, especially when you have a little comedian living in your house.

32. Cold white wine and carrot cake can (and are) part of a healthy lifestyle, when consumed in moderation.

33. Speaking of moderation, unless you’re allergic to a certain food, you don’t need to swear off a food group. Carbs are a completely essential part of a healthy diet, (especially for fitness performance) and if you don’t eat enough of them, you’ll risk low energy and low performance.

34. If you want to get more fit, you need to do a certain amount of repetition. Try the same handful of exercises, do them really well, increase the weight you can use while you do them, and then move on to another set of exercises. This is an over-simplification of a tried-and-true training method, but overall — repetition matters. 

35. You are on your own journey, and you can’t compare your life to anyone else’s. Ever. Keep your eyes on your own paper, always.

36. You probably shouldn’t be wearing shoes in your house. A shoe-free house is much cleaner and people always understand this simple request when they visit.

37. Life is about relationships. Feeling a full and happy heart from the people in your life is the greatest feeling in the world. Much greater than having nice things or having a lot of money.

38. You can start over or reinvent yourself whenever you want. It’s never too late. And you are never tied to an identity, relationship, city or occupation you don’t want any longer.

39. Decisions are freeing. If something has been taking up too much space in your mind for too long, make a decision.

40. Life goes by pretty quickly. Make sure you’re appreciating where you are right now, and get the most joy you can out of everything you do.

40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-14
40th birthday party by A Lady Goes West-5

(Here’s my party dress.)

And that concludes my list of 40 things I’ve learned by my 40th birthday. I hope you liked it!

If you want to see a video from my 40th birthday party, head here.

Thank you for being here to read my thoughts. I’m sending you love and light for an amazing day and week. Be well, friend! xoxo

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  1. Happy 40th! Totally agree with you on stopping the “my life will be better if I do xyz”. I’ve done this on my birthdays and it’s never a good feeling. I also agree with the no shoes in the house lol! Especially with little kids who are playing on the floor.

  2. 40′ ROCK!
    I am 45, will be 46 in April.
    Someone told me once how much my 30’s would be awesome but I gotta say, 40’s are amazing.
    The only thing(and I am not a fitness person at all, so this may not apply to those who are) is that my body went through some real changes between around 41 and now…I wish someone had told me that was coming.

    I feel like I know myself better than ever, I tolerate less BS/less bad people/less bad relationships.
    I have wisdom I did not have 10 years ago.
    I know my style, what clothes work and dont work and I can still try new things, but I am very grounded in how I want to dress for ME and not for others or a trend(even though Ill still try a new trend)

    I advocate for myself, both in what i want, but more importantly when I dont want something.

    I feel like I have more freedom simply because I give less F*cks

    The humans in my life are there by choice, a reason, a season and a lifetime.
    Those that are around and I have no choice(work people sometimes, family sometimes) I do have a choice in how I interact with them.

    I feel like I have permission to be who I am and do what I want. It’s GLORIOUS

    Welcome to your new decade, Ashley, it’s gonna be INCREDIBLE!

    p.s. I hope your mom is doing ok and all health things are by the wayside.
    Happy Birthday

    1. Sabrina! This is one of the best comments EVER in the history of the blog! I LOVE how empowered and wise you are and I hope to be just like that in my 40s and beyond! 🙂 xoxoxox (My mom is doing great, thank you!)

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