Something happens to a woman when she turns 50. Call it an awakening of sorts—a tipping point. For me, it was as if a cloud had been lifted and I could finally see what really mattered in life. The realization hit me hard. I'd been on this earth for a half a century and my time was limited. This coming of age, for me, came with a feeling of freedom and urgency.
It's a time to take stock of your life: where you've succeeded and where you've failed, opportunities you've passed up and those you've taken advantage of. Ask yourself what you love and what you want to change. How do you want to journey through this next phase of your life?
Reflecting on my younger years, I wished an older, wiser woman had taken the time to help me create a road map for a life of meaning, creativity, and joy.
It would have saved me a lot of time, confusion, and worry. And it would have given me clarity, a sense of calm, focus, and self-assuredness as I journeyed through this very complex world of ours. With that in mind, here are some of the things I would've liked to tell myself a few decades ago:
1. You have to be your own top priority.
If you tend to your own well-being first, you'll have much more energy to help others. Because women have historically taken on the role of caretakers, it's something we do reflexively. Remember that practicing self-care is not selfish. It's a necessity if you want to lead a rich and productive life.
2. Nothing is worth sacrificing your health.
Although our culture talks a lot about de-stressing, the majority of us are still leading stressful lives. When you realize that most diseases are related to lifestyle choices, you might get serious about integrating exercise, nutrition, and relationships into your daily life. You'll be astounded by how much more productive, positive, and healthy you feel.
3. The people around you should be those who love you and support your growth.
How many times have you spent time with a friend or family member who is negative, judgmental, or an energy vampire? Stop making excuses for the toxic people in your life. Anyone who is consistently negative needs to be kept at a distance. Your five closest friends are a mirror of what you truly think of yourself. Make sure that they embody attributes and values you cherish.
4. To get anywhere, you have to get comfortable with saying no.
It takes practice to catch yourself if you tend to say yes out of habit. But once you get the hang of it, you'll be delighted to see how much time and energy you have to pursue your passions.
5. Don't let anyone else's perception influence your choices.
People who fill their lives up with stuff they think they "should" do rarely feel fulfilled. Replace "I should" with "I choose to" or "I want" and see what you come up with. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results. Spending time chasing the approval of others will not only drain your energy but will keep you from uncovering the best parts of yourself. When you catch yourself in self-doubt, call on your wise inner self to remind yourself that you only need to please and receive approval from yourself—no one else.
6. Doubts hold you back; affirmations propel you forward.
Women spend so much time questioning whether or not they're good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. As soon as you hear that inner critic, replace that voice with the phrase, "I am enough" or "I am the artist of my life." I can't tell you how many clients have tried this technique with astounding results. They report back to me that they feel like a weight has been lifted off of their shoulders and that their self-perception has been dramatically improved.
7. There's always time to be still.
Our culture places a high priority on productivity and keeping busy. If you give yourself 15 minutes of quiet time the morning, you'll start your day from a centered, calm state, so that no matter what happens you'll be able to respond thoughtfully rather than react instinctively.
8. You need to become a person you can love before you try to love anyone else.
Look at yourself in your bathroom mirror each morning and say "Good morning. I love you." It may sound hokey, but the more you do it, the more you'll come to appreciate who you really are. You'll discover internal beauty and great self-love by making this one small change.
9. Gratitude really does change your life.
Develop a daily gratitude practice. It takes five minutes. I love sitting with a notebook and taking stock of what I'm grateful for each morning. Whatever comes to my mind, I write down in a quick list format. The key is to allow yourself to experience the feeling of gratitude. For example, if you're truly grateful for the delicious cup of coffee you're drinking, take a deep breath and sink into the sensation of appreciation you feel for that cup of coffee.
10. It's cool to be your own best friend.
Becoming familiar with your moods, motivations, and deepest desires is critical if you want to live a meaningful, abundant, and productive life. Rather than walking through your day mindlessly, check in with yourself every few hours. How do you feel? If you have a strong negative reaction to something, take note of it. Figure out why. Notice when you feel pleasure, fun, joy, spirituality, and creativity: Being aware of these positive experiences means you can find ways to incorporate more of them into your life.
11. You are responsible for yourself—and only yourself.
Blaming external circumstances for your unhappiness will only perpetuate it. Instead, when you find yourself bemoaning the state of the world, affirm to yourself, "I am responsible for my own life and I choose to create an extraordinary one."
12. You need to believe in your own abilities.
Once you own that you have the power and ability to create a life that you deeply desire, you'll experience—deep in your soul—the power you possess, which, in turn, will inspire you to make changes. You'll also understand that there is a solution to practically every issue and that you have the ability to figure out what that solution is.
13. You'll always learn more from listening than you will from talking.
Whether with an old friend, a stranger, a family member, or in business, learn the art of listening. Becoming an excellent listener will enable you to develop more intimate and deeper connections. You'll also have more interesting conversations and it will keep your mind active and growing.
14. Curiosity is the key to never being bored (or obsolete).
We live in a culture that places a high priority on expertise and productivity. If you want to live a rich, creative life, you need to expose yourself to new concepts and practices. And even in areas you've been exploring for years, there's always more to learn. Let go of perfectionism. Be willing to fail. It will reveal so many possibilities.
15. Hatred costs everything. Forgiveness costs nothing.
So many of us hold deep grudges indefinitely. Often, an inability to forgive others is a sign you struggle to forgive yourself. Catch your inner voice making critical or angry comments about others, and acknowledge that what you're feeling toward them is actually a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Just by noting these feelings and reminding yourself to let them go, you'll begin to dissolve these feelings of anger and judgment. You'll experience a rush of positive energy, relief, openheartedness, and compassion.
16. Spending 20 minutes a day in nature is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
It's a profound way to de-stress, clear your mind of clutter, jump-start creativity, and experience feelings of well-being, calm, and awe. Take just a few minutes a day to awaken your senses and you'll reap magical benefits in all areas of your life.
17. You're much better off doing one thing really well than three things poorly.
We've been led to believe that success means multitasking all day long. When you slow down and practice being present and focused each moment, you'll experience a deeper, richer, and more meaningful life. Try this: Stop whatever you're doing, sit still, clear your mind, and take three deep breaths. Then start again.
18. "Life is far too important to be taken seriously."
OK, so I borrowed that one from Oscar Wilde. Life is a paradox. Knowing how to integrate fun, laughter, and playfulness into your pursuit of a meaningful life will jump-start your creativity and enable you to develop deeper connections. Think about it: After you've had a good laugh, don't you feel more light-hearted, happier, and able to continue your day with more ease?
19. Your job here is simple: to create the life of your dreams.
We all have moments of self-doubt. In those moments, let your wiser self remind you that you're highly intelligent and creative. All it takes to make a difference is the desire and drive to keep making it happen. If you set your mind to it, believe in yourself, and take action, you'll always find a way to create an extraordinary life. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.