Wisdom//

9 People Share the Biggest Life Lessons They Learned in Each Decade of Their Life

No matter your age, you’ll want to read this.

Courtesy of Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

With each year and decade, we gain new wisdom that helps shape us into more evolved versions of ourselves. The more time we spend on earth, the more we learn.

We asked members of the Thrive Global community to share some of the most notable life lessons they learned in each decade of their lives. From the realization that it’s OK to switch careers to learning to protect your mental health, these hard-won pieces of advice are valuable for all of us, no matter our age.

Let go of everything that weighs you down

“My 20s taught me the true meaning of unconditional love with the birth of my two babies. Setting goals and working hard took on a whole new meaning when I became a mom.

My 30s taught me that it’s okay to put myself first sometimes. It taught me the importance of self-care for not only my own well-being, but for my children.

My 40s are teaching me to let go of everything that has been weighing me down (negative friendships, habits, etc.). The 40s have also taught me to stop worrying about what others think of me. Life is way too short… Spend it with people who love you for who you are.”

— Carrie McEachran, executive director, Mooretown, Ontario, Canada

Form good habits early on

“In my 20s, I learned a hard lesson about self love: It must come first. I attracted relationships looking to ‘complete’ myself, and they were toxic and damaging. I eventually learned that when you find love and fulfillment with yourself first, it brings more fulfilling and healthy relationships your way.

I’m officially in my mid-30s now, and what I am currently learning is that forming good habits is one of the most beneficial and instrumental ways to transform your life. I wish I had invested in forming very specific habits and disciplines into my life ages ago!”

— Kristen Boss, entrepreneurial coach and motivational speaker, Colorado Springs, CO

Check in with your needs rather than worrying about the opinions of others

“In my 30s I learned how self-care is vital to thriving as a working mother. I found when I take time for myself, I have more capacity to serve others.

In my 40s I am more self-interested than worrying about the opinions of others. I consistently check in with what I desire and feel more content than ever.”

— Kerry Wekelo, chief operating officer, Reston, VA

Prioritize your relationships

“20s: I married and had kids. I learned you don’t need a lot to give your kids a full childhood.

30s: I started a new career, ended up with fancy job and lots of hours, and forgot what I learned in my 20’s. I went back to smaller office and put the focus back on my family.

40s: My husband and I learned that we need to spend time on us and our marriage.  We started date nights and had fun, and our kids even enjoyed us more.

50s: I am 52. Not long after turning 50, I learned I need to take care of myself. I had gotten very lazy with caring for me over the years. I have lost 55 lbs and run, do yoga, strength training, and meditate and just eat healthy. I am happy and healthy and enjoy my marriage of 31 years, my kids, their spouses and my grandbaby.”

— Becky C., office manager, Huntsville, TX

Get to know the 3 Ds

“20s: I became acquainted with 3 Ds — drive, determination, and discipline.

30s: A great idea is not a business until you make the first sale.

40s: Resilience becomes a pillar in your strength.

50s: Opportunity is around every corner; you just have to be curious and open to the challenge.

What is in the future? Be authentic… You will always be rewarded.”

— Trish Tonaj, author, coach, and speaker, Toronto, Canada

Remember that drama is a waste of time

“20s: I learned that hard work does pay off and standing on my own feet was so satisfying and rewarding. Even with many struggles, it made me stronger and tougher.

30s: Giving up my career and taking a job to work from home and raise my boys was far more important and rewarding, especially when you see the fine men they have become. Kindness goes a long way. Live with no regrets.

40s: Every job I’ve ever worked, even if I hated it, was a skill needed and a stepping stone towards my future endeavors that lead me to my ultimate goals in life. Listen to your elders. They are very knowledgeable, and there’s so much you can learn from them.

50s: Life is so precious. Don’t take it for granted. All the drama and worry was nothing but valuable time wasted. Learn to live life to the fullest, love with all your heart, and give back to those in need.”

—  Kiki Dahlke, author, Tampa, FL

Know that you are stronger than you imagine

“In my 20s, I realized that I should have worked harder in school but that I will never stop learning, so I will work harder from now on.

In my 30s, I realized that I actually did know how to be a good, loving husband and daddy just by being myself.

In my 40s, I found a wisdom where I started to appreciate my parents more for how hard they tried to do their best.

In my 50s now, I realize that, with all those having gone — wife, parents, and kids — that I am in charge of me and stronger than I could have ever imagined.”

— Craig Dubecki, author, speaker, musician, contractor, and kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Realize you’re never too old to change careers

“20s: I learned how to provide for my family.

30s: I learned to open my eyes to life.

40s: I started the search for the meaning of life.

50s: I incorporated the lessons learned during that search.

60s: I learned that you’re never too old to change careers.

70s: I am learning patience.”

— Hani Hara, artist, Columbus, OH

Put your hard-won wisdom to use

“What I learned from one decade has always set the stage for the next decade.

During my teenage years, I learned the value of hard work and discipline, which helped me profusely during university and as I started my career in my 20s.

But my 20s taught me to be fearlessly independent — to get up on my feet, take risks, and face challenges, which invariably required hard work and discipline.

As I step into my 40s, the best learning from my 30s has been to consciously spend time on myself and those around me.”

— Sheranga Senanayake, group corporate communications, Colombo, Sri Lanka

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