10 Life Experiences You Should Check Off Before 40

These things will cultivate connection and foster a stronger relationship with the most important person in your life: you.

Whichever way you look at it, turning 40 is a big milestone — and there’s no doubt about it that entering your fifth decade is something to celebrate. After all, there ain’t no privilege quite like aging. For many of us our twenties and thirties were spent climbing the corporate ladder, proving ourselves in our careers and figuring out whether we wanted to focus on marriage and babies or freedom and flexibility. But by the time we hit our forties, we often know ourselves better than ever before, and have a certain wisdom and sense of self that may previously have seemed unthinkable.

And whether you’re fresh out of college or fast approaching the big 4-0, there are a few life experiences you should have under your belt by the time you leave your thirties behind. Rather than big, bucket-list holidays and once-in-a-lifetime events, we’re talking the kind of things that will help cultivate connection and foster a deeper love and appreciation for the most important person in your life: you.

From eliminating toxic people to learning how to nail a signature dish, we spoke to women from different walks of life, all of whom shared the advice they would want to impart onto their younger selves.

1. Learn to be selfish with your time

Allyson Wettengel, Group Director of Shopper Strategy & Sustainability at Orgain and yoga teacher at Spirit Bird Life, says that one of the best things you can do in your younger years is to learn how to be selfish with your time.

“Once you’re in your 40s, things can get very complex, with partners, babies, high-powered careers, and leading teams at work, so you need to be able to be selfish with your time, and know how to set boundaries,” Wettengel advises. “For me, that means a non-negotiable getting up at 5am and heading to the studio so I can fit in a yoga practice first thing. When I don’t get that, I get cranky, so I’ve learned how to build it in to my day without fail.”

 Whether it’s curling up for half an hour a day with a good book, a ten-minute morning meditation or a mile-long walk each afternoon, be sure to carve out the time and — most importantly — be fully present while you’re doing it, and free from worrying about others.

2. Live away from your home town

Woman Packing to Move
Diego Cervo/Shuttershock

There is much to see beyond the boundaries of what we know, and finding your feet in a new city might just be the beginning of a big adventure.

Wettengel, who spent five years living in Australia, miles away from her native Arkansas says, “Live away from your home town. Not for college but for a career move, not for a partner, but for a you move. Whether you go live in a foreign city, or whether you just go to the nearest big city from your small home town, living away from home was one of my greatest adventures, and I can guarantee it will be the same for others too.”

3. Start a regular yoga or Pilates practice

Mindset mentor coach Cazz LeMessurier believes that starting a regular yoga or pilates practice is one of the best things you can do for both your mind — and your body — as you get older.

“I’m all for HIIT training and sweating it out at Barry’s Bootcamp, but yoga and Pilates are both excellent full-body, low impact methods known to align and strengthen the structure of the body,” says LeMessurier. “It’s never too late to start a fitness practice that will better your fitness levels, and help calm your mind too.”

4. Cut ties with people (and things!) that don’t serve you

A hard lesson to learn, but ultimately one that will add value to your life, Wettengel says, is to cut ties when things don’t serve you.

“Don’t think you have to keep putting into a relationship,” she advises. “Whether it’s a parent, a toxic friend or a partner that no longer serves you, you only have limited time on this earth, something that becomes more apparent, the older you get. Spend it with people that matter doing things that are meaningful to you.”

5. Learn to cook

Woman Cooking
Dean Drobot/Shuttershock

We’re not talking Michelin-star quality cooking — particularly if you’re kitchen is more cramped galley than fine-dining cuisine. But as you approach your 40s, knowing how to cook is a skill worth its weight in gold.

“So many people don’t cook these days, which not only wastes a lot of money, but it also means that half the time you don’t know what you’re actually eating,” says Wettengel. “Learn 3 signature dishes so that you can learn how to not only properly feed yourself, but so that you can show up for — and hopefully impress — friends and family when the occasion allows!”

6. Start saving

Stop frivolous spending and start saving.

“If you haven’t done this by the time you’re approaching 40, it’s time to get started — and pronto,” says Wettengel.

7. Don’t let your biological clock dictate your decisions

“Don’t let your biological clock dictate how you make your decisions. There are so many ways to have a family, and if you focus on the ticking clock you may well miss out on opportunities for an incredible career, life-changing travel or for meeting new people who will change you for the better,” says Wettengel, who recently became the mother aged 41. “Do what you love and know that when the time is right, the perfect little family will come, and while it may not look like you thought it would, it will be even more of a masterpiece and the most beautiful chapter than you could ever have imagined.”

8. Get a plant you’re responsible for taking care of

Woman Gardening

We all know that plants around the home have a myriad benefits. As well as helping to reduce stress, they can also make us feel more at ease, and more comfortable in our environment. Colorado-based author Stephanie Harper also suggests that one life experience you should tick off before you turn 40 is, “getting a plant you’re responsible for taking care of.”

Whether you have a green thumb or not, having a plant to look after, particularly if you haven’t gone down the route of motherhood or dog-ownership, will help foster a sense of responsibility. And, believe it or not, this can actually help us form emotional bonds.

And, let’s face it, they also look pretty nice around the house!

9. Create a list of all the things that bring you joy and happiness and do one every day

LeMessurier says that learning to cultivate happiness is one of the most loving practices we can incorporate into our daily lives.

“Whether it’s a daily ocean swim, a morning yoga practice, or a lovingly cooked lunch each afternoon, make a list of every thing that brings you joy — no matter how small — and make you sure tick off at least one of them before the day is over. It’s the best act of self-love,” she says. 

10. Volunteer

“Find something you’re passionate about and volunteer,” says Wettengel. This will vary from person to person, but it could look like helping out at a homeless shelter, cheering on marathon runners for your favorite charity, or visiting an elderly person in your community — and it doesn’t have to take up too much time.

So few people do this, but it is so rich in driving purpose and meaning in your life, “it’s by far one of the best things I’ve done — for both myself and the wider good of others,” concludes Wettengel.

Lucy Pearson
Lucy Pearson is a freelance writer, book blogger and host of The Bondi Literary Salon based in Bondi. Read more
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