When you think about things that were important to you in your teens or twenties, are they still as important now?
Or have your perspectives and priorities shifted over the years?
I don’t know about you, but I look back on things that were a priority for me years ago and wonder what I was thinking.
Below are some of the things that matter a lot less when you turn 40. These will obviously differ between people, but most of us can relate to several of these once our thirties draw to a close.
1. Other people’s opinions.
When we’re young, other people’s opinions tend to matter a great deal to us. These opinions don’t need to be about us, but also ideas on life, philosophy, current events, and so on.
After age 40, their opinions mean significantly less.
Yes, others are entitled to their opinions, but that doesn’t mean we care about them. If we want to hear their opinions, we’ll ask them.
Furthermore, we stand by our own ideas and convictions instead of being easily influenced by others. We can respect what they think, but we don’t have to agree with them or support them.
2. Expressing everything we think or feel.
Upon turning 40, we’re more inclined to speak truthfully when we’re asked about what we think or feel instead of worrying that we may upset others. That doesn’t mean that we’re intentionally cruel, but more that we feel confident in expressing ourselves honestly.
That said, we feel less of a need to express every random thought or feeling that comes to mind.
We’ve learned that sometimes, leaving things unspoken is the best course of action—not only so others don’t have ammunition to use against us, but also because being mature and having self-respect matters more than “feeling seen” by those who don’t matter to us.
3. Making others happy (especially at our own expense).
When we’re young, we often de-prioritize our own needs for the sake of making others happy. As a result, we may force ourselves to do things we don’t really want to do so that those we care about won’t be upset or disappointed.
After 40, greater emphasis is placed on taking care of our own physical and mental health, even if that means others will be upset by our actions.
Luckily, by this time, our life experience means that we can avoid things that we know are going to upset our health without upsetting others, and we can use diplomacy to nip any potential issues in the bud.
4. Tolerating other people’s crap.
When most of us were young, we were instructed to be tolerant of other people’s behaviors and bite our tongues when they said or did things that we found offensive.
This was especially true if those causing offense were older than us: the whole “respect your elders” situation.
After 40, you’re considered an elder, and have every opportunity to call people out on their sh*t.
This includes holding them to account for being intentionally insulting toward you, overstepping boundaries such as unwanted physical contact or disrespecting your property, or simply behaving in a manner that’s intolerable.
In addition to calling people out, you may simply not spend any time with them and focus on what you want to do instead.
5. Fitting in.
Young people often want to “fit in” with others so they don’t feel excluded or uncool. As such, they might change their fashion style, hobbies, even the way they speak, so as to fit in and not be considered the weird one.
Once 40 rolls around, we place far more importance on being authentic rather than adapting ourselves to suit others’ expectations of us.
We tend to question things more instead of flowing along so as not to cause waves. We’ll wear what we like best, enjoy hobbies unashamedly, speak up when we don’t agree with things, and generally won’t give a damn whether we fit into groups we don’t even like to begin with.
6. The spectacle.
As mentioned, priorities change a great deal as we age. As a result, we end up being much more discerning about how and where we spend our energy.
You may have noticed that most people readily immerse themselves in whatever mainstream media broadcasts to them. They listen to the music that’s popular on the radio, and talk about the latest gossip or crisis being splayed across their news channels.
Logic, critical thinking skills, deductive reasoning, and personal research fall by the wayside in favor of being able to join in conversations about which celebrity did what.
Not so when we turn 40. We tend to turn aside and focus our time and energy elsewhere.
7. The latest fad.
Once you hit 40, you’re unlikely to camp out at a shop to buy the Next Cool Thing before anyone else has it. Whatever it is, it isn’t worth getting up that early or having to deal with throngs of unwashed hordes to get to it. We can pick one up on a Tuesday afternoon when the store is quiet.
Furthermore, just because a band, movie, food “hack,” etc. goes viral overnight, doesn’t mean it’s good.
By the time you have four decades under your belt, you’ve noticed that fads burn brightly and then fade away just as quickly. I don’t think many of us are wearing jeans that sag beneath our backsides anymore, and if you ever had a Tamagotchi, it’s either long gone or languishing in a junk drawer.
8. Trends and brand names.
As we get older, we place greater priority on things we value, and invest in items that are important to us and are likely to last a long time.
This often involves investing in well-made, timeless pieces rather than cheap, mass-produced items that’ll be trendy for five minutes and then take up space at the back of the closet.
I would rather spend a few hundred dollars on well-made boots crafted by a master cobbler that’ll withstand 10 years of heavy use, than cheap trainers that’ll wear out after a season. The same goes for good steel kitchen implements, copper or cast-iron cookware, and so on.
We don’t need to impress strangers by broadcasting that we’re wearing Prada or Burberry. Those amazing leather boots that were crafted by Jaroslav the Czech bootmaker will be of higher quality than any pretentious brand name, and I feel good knowing that I’ve invested in an individual craftsman’s work, rather than a faceless corporation.
9. Old extraneous desires and dreams.
As we’ve already mentioned, what was important to us in our teens or twenties isn’t necessarily top priority when we hit 40. Some goals and affinities will stick around of course, but how we approach them and what roles they play in our lives may look very different.
For instance, we may have entertained dreams of fame and glory when we were younger, but now we’d rather have peace and contentment. While the idea of being swarmed by adoring fans might have been great in the past, now we find immense joy in sincere friendships with a handful of people, and in having a cup of coffee on the patio, watching the sun rise over a lake.
Your dreams and aspirations change significantly around the middle of your life, and you may find yourself on a new journey that your 20-year-old self never imagined. These may be related to things you enjoyed when you were young, but may also be total opposites.
10. Partying hard.
When we’re young, staying up all night drinking and then feeling like crap the next day was considered part of a fun weekend. We traded stories about waking up in random cow fields or forest glades, wearing scrapes and bruises like badges of honor.
After 40, far more pleasure is taken in savoring a glass of good wine or whiskey than belting back as many lagers as possible before we pass out.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to groan on the floor for a day or two until the hangover recedes anymore: we have responsibilities that won’t take care of themselves if we’re incapacitated. Livestock and children need to be tended to, work deadlines are looming, wood won’t chop itself.
Besides, the aftermath of said hangovers lingers around longer as you get older, and does more damage. We only have so many brain cells left—let’s not annihilate them with Jager bombs.
11. Physical fitness and attractiveness for other people’s sake.
Most of us placed a great deal of importance on physical appearance when we were younger, and understandably so. When we’re in our most fertile years, being fit, healthy, and attractive increases our chances of mating successfully and producing strong, healthy offspring.
As we get older, however, priorities change. Most of us care less about what others think about us (as mentioned earlier), and place more emphasis on how we feel about ourselves.
Younger people work out so others find them sexually appealing. The hotter you look, the more likely you’ll be able to attract a super-hot partner to frolic with, etc.
In contrast, older folks tend to work out for personal health and wellbeing, not other people’s eyes. Either they’ve already found a partner and thus aren’t advertising for a new one, or they simply want to be as strong and healthy for as long as humanly possible.
They don’t do yoga so they can keep wearing Lululemon, but so that their joints stay flexible and agile. They’re not weight training to impress beach babes, but so they can keep chopping wood and building things until they’re well into their 80s.
12. Other people’s appearances.
On a similar note, in the same way that we don’t place quite as much importance on our own attractiveness after 40, we also don’t judge how other people look the same way we did when we were younger.
Our perceptions and values change as we age, especially after firsthand experience with different life situations.
At 25, we might have looked at someone who wasn’t as fit as they could have been and decided that they “let themselves go.”
Now, we’re more likely to look upon them with compassion, considering that they might be exhausted from taking care of kids, or dealing with a chronic illness. There’s less judgement and more empathy overall.
Furthermore, when it comes to choosing romantic partners, we tend to focus more on who they are, rather than how they look. We know firsthand how the aging process works, and that none of us will be able to maintain youth’s rosy glow indefinitely.
That isn’t to say that appearances don’t matter at all: we all have our personal preferences and if there are traits we don’t find attractive, that’s absolutely valid.
But we also know that fun, intelligent partners with loyalty and integrity, who’d have our backs during a zombie apocalypse, are worth far more than a temporarily perfect bottom or six-pack abs.
13. Being alone.
Many young people have a very difficult time being alone. They often want to be in the company of their friends, or they need to have a significant other at all times. In fact, many are serial monogamists who are absolutely devastated if and when they’re ever single.
After 40, we become much more comfortable being alone. That doesn’t mean that we don’t get lonely or that we wouldn’t prefer to have someone to share our lives with, but rather that we’re okay with being alone if we need to.
In fact, most people over 40 would rather be solitary than be partnered with someone who isn’t a great fit. There’s no need to compromise, and no stress or drama from arguments over insignificant matters. We’re comfortable in our own company and don’t need to be distracted from our own thoughts.
Whether you’ve already hit 40 or you’re approaching it quickly, congratulations! You’ll feel a lot more comfortable in yourself from here on out, and you’ll know yourself far better than you ever have before. Enjoy it!
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