So my 40th birthday is this month. And I’m not gonna lie — I was feeling a little nervous about it at first. As if it was this huge milestone when I’m supposed to have it all figured out. When I’m supposed to be on top of my game. At the peak of my career.
And, although I am very happy with where my life is at and I feel truly blessed, I realized that with this big birthday approaching I had set some unrealistic expectations for myself.
Because the truth is — there is no “should”. There is no “supposed to”. There is no point in our lives when we are supposed to be or do anything… other than what we truly want for ourselves.
And what we are actually ready for.
With that said, this milestone of me turning 40 gave me a good reason to take a good look at my life so far and share some important life lessons I’ve learned along the way.
(If you prefer to watch a video on this, you can do that here:)
Soak Up the Experiences
Do you want to know what my biggest regret in my life is so far? It’s not taking in all the different experiences. Not fully, at least.
At a young age, I was a fashion model in Milan, Italy. It was one of the most beautiful, exquisite, colorful experiences of my life. Only, I didn’t know it at the time.
In fact, I hated it.
At the time, I was so focused on the negative aspects of it all. Like being away from home and my friends; dealing with body image issues, and all the other hardships of the fashion industry and a high-stress environment.
I was so focused on all the negative things that I completely missed out on all the great stuff about it. Only now — 20 years later — I have realized how amazing this experience truly was. And how much it has given me.
I have come to realize that it’s all the different experiences that give life its true taste.
And I mean — all the experiences. The good and the bad. The pleasant and the painful. The easy and the hard. That’s how we experience life. In all its colors. In all its richness.
That’s how we learn. That’s how we evolve.
So take a deep breath. Engage all of your senses, look around and soak up the different experiences life presents you with. Even if you don’t see the beauty in it. Even if you don’t see any sense in it.
Your Worth Has Nothing to Do With Your Success
Or any other outside factors, for that matter.
Your worth as a human being is not dictated by your job title, your credit score, your education, your social status, your relationship, your bank account, or anything else that lies outside of you.
I consider myself lucky. I’ve had all the good things in life — I have a beautiful family and a happy marriage, a nice house, a successful career, good health, a sense of fulfillment, and inspiration from the job I do. And I’ve also had my fair share of hardships — my first marriage failed; my first business went bankrupt (leaving me with a huge debt); I struggled to get pregnant for 5 years, and I have had periods of depression and feeling completely lost.
Through all that, I’ve learned a lot. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, though, is that my worth as a human being is not reflected in any of that.
That my worth as a human being is an inner feeling that has nothing to do with anything other than my perception of it. And that there’s only one person in this world who can tell me what my worth is. Or whose opinion on this should really count.
You know who that is, don’t you?
Investment in Yourself Is the Smartest Choice You Can Make
If 2020 has taught us something — it’s that life is unpredictable. And not only life is unpredictable, but the world is constantly changing. New trends emerge every day.
The smartest choice you can make in all the unpredictability? Invest in yourself. And no, I don’t mean botox (although, by all means - if it makes you feel better, go for it).
What I’m talking about is personal growth. What I’m talking about is self-discovery. Obtaining new knowledge or really anything that expands and evolves your “toolbox” as a professional; or as a human being.
If your job title or the career you have chosen for yourself becomes your whole identity — what happens if it’s taken away from you one day? What happens if you get fired? Or the company you work for goes out of business? What happens if maybe you yourself realize you are not as successful, not as happy, as content in your job as you would like to be?
With some professions slowly disappearing and new professions constantly emerging, it’s very liberating to know that there are in fact so many different career paths you can take to express your potential and be successful.
If you invest in your skillset, your personal growth, your self-awareness, your creativity — no one can take that away from you. You become your own greatest asset.
If you invest in yourself and develop an understanding that you are so much more than your job title, you become much more ready to take on any challenge life throws your way, and recognize new possibilities that might emerge. And that may be even better for you.
Before having kids I had a successful career in HR. And after being a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years, I wanted to start working again. I knew I had an opportunity to return to being an HR professional. But I also knew that it’s not what I wanted. That I wanted to do something different with my life.
The problem was — I didn’t know what it was.
For a good couple of months, I felt lost. If I’m not an HR professional… if I’m not a stay-at-home mom, then who am I?
But then I realized I have my skillset. I have my whole professional and life experience. Turns out — there’s so much I can do with it! And not only that. I can keep adding new skills, new experiences, new understanding to that whenever I want.
I have now become a life and career coach, I’ve started my Youtube channel, I plan on launching a podcast soon, and I’m happiest I’ve ever been.
Be honest with others but — most importantly — be honest with yourself. If you are not sure the job you do is right for you: be honest with yourself about that. If the relationship you’re in is not working for you: be honest with yourself.
Sometimes admitting this to yourself is the hardest part.
But it’s the much-needed first step in being able to change something. That doesn’t mean you need to change careers or that you should end the relationship. But when you are honest with yourself, you can do something about it. You can ask your boss for an opportunity to participate in a new project. You can sign up for a masterclass or buy a book. You can start a side hustle or begin looking for a new job.
You can go to couples therapy or learn how to ask for what you need in a relationship. Everybody involved will benefit from that.
Could I have kept convincing myself the HR job was working just fine for me? Sure! That’s what I had been doing for years. Had I ever become as happy as I am now if had continued doing that to myself, though? Definitely not.
When you are honest with yourself you can learn what it is that you actually need in order for you to feel good. And how to ask for it. How to make it happen.
I now know I feel best when I wake up at least an hour before everybody else gets up, to have some quiet time for myself and what’s important for me. I’m telling you — with 3 small kids this is gold! :) So I make sure I do that. I use that time to exercise, journal, meditate and learn something new.
I have also learned that a simple daily gratitude practice has a huge impact on my overall sense of happiness.
What do you need for you to feel good? Are you being honest with yourself?
Your Inner State Is Key
When I first got clarity on what my big future vision was, I got caught up in chasing it. One day I recognized how stressed out and intensely zoned in on it had been lately.
I was so absorbed by working towards this goal that I had lost all joy and appreciation for everything around me. I was not enjoying my time with kids anymore, and I was becoming snappy with my husband.
But not only that. I noticed that my project was not going as smoothly as it had been at the beginning.
I had caught myself in the If… then… trap. If my Youtube channel is successful, then I will be happy. If my project goes well, then I will be content. If I get a chance to write a book, then I will be able to fully enjoy life.
It’s a trap. Because it doesn’t work like that. What usually happens is — when you reach one “if”, you immediately have another one in mind. And you are never truly happy and truly content with a mindset like that.
I remembered a valuable lesson I had learned from Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley, as well as other authors I have a deep respect for:
Your inner state is key.
Yes, it’s very important to have a future vision, a correctly set goal that you can work towards. But it’s at least as important to feel gratitude and appreciation right here and now.
Feeling happiness and gratitude right here and now WHILE working step by step towards a future vision is key. That’s when things really start happening for you.
And not only that. The road is just simply so much more enjoyable that way.
A simple reminder of that was enough for me to start getting back on track. What helped me even further was the practice of deliberate gratitude, journaling, and just working on being present here and now.
So when I play with my kids, I remind myself to be fully present. To fully engage in the moment with them. And it’s not always easy. But even if I sometimes only manage to do that for 10 or 30 seconds — before my thoughts start drifting — it has a huge impact, both, on my level of happiness, as well as our relationship.
I will be celebrating my 40 year birthday this month. And I will be doing it with a great deal of joy and appreciation. But — even more than that — I will be doing it with a sense of freedom. With an understanding that there is no point in our lives when we are supposed to have it all figured out.
In fact, I love keeping figuring things out. And adding new layers to an understanding of what that even means.
We are always a work in progress. And that’s what’s so beautiful about life.