20 Things Everyone Should Master by Age 40

The right advice can help you change things up, figure things out, and see things differently. Here's the most valuable counsel once you've reached a certain point in your life.

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How to Forgive Yourself


You have to find a way forward. You can say, "I'm going to work to improve myself so I never hurt another person that way." And then you need to atone, to make the lesson you learned mean something. Do this, and you will be able to look in the mirror again.

—Jennifer Thompson, rape victim whose testimony sent the wrong man to prison for ten years

How to Tell a Secret


Find someone who revealed something similar and survived, and talk to them about how they did it. No matter what your secret is, someone out there shares it.

Make sure the first person you tell will accept you and your secret—you don't want to take a risk right away.

Be short and sweet. All I had to say to get my point across was "Dad, I'm gay."

—Randy Phillips, airman and formerly anonymous video blogger who came out to his dad after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Simple Ways to Look Polished


Start with a great haircut, neat nails, and well-shaped eyebrows (if eyes are the windows to the soul, eyebrows are the frames). Invest in a tailor—and in a few no-fail items that will help you look pulled together: a crisp white shirt, a pencil skirt, a great-fitting shift dress (just add shoes and go!), a tissue-weight scarf, and the perfect jacket. Whether it's a black blazer with a structured shoulder and nipped-in waist or a little leather jacket that looks great over anything, the right jacket projects confidence. And isn't that what polished really means?

—Adam Glassman, O creative director

How to Let Go of Anger


Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath. Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body. Then look at, or think of, the person triggering this emotion: With mindfulness, you can see that she is unhappy, that she is suffering. You can see her wrong perceptions. You can see that she is not beautiful when she says things that are unkind. You can also see that you don't want to be like her. You'll feel motivated by a desire to say or do something nice—to help the other person suffer less. This means compassionate energy has been born in your heart. And when compassion appears, anger is deleted.

—Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and author of Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Next: 10 life lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh

How to Say Goodbye to a Loved One


First and most important: Meet the dying person where she is. She may be in denial, and denial is a fabulous crutch. You don't pull a crutch out from under somebody. Try to validate the feelings behind the denial. So imagine your aunt says, "Let's reserve a house at the lake this summer. I loved the weeks we used to spend there." You don't rush out to make a reservation; you reminisce with her about those good times. She's living in memories much kinder than her reality.

But let's say she tells you, "You know, I'm not going to live much longer." The door's open. Be honest, direct. Tell her you hate that this is happening. Tell her it mattered that she was here. Tell her how she enriched your life, that she won't be forgotten. This is no time to pussyfoot. For God's sake, don't tell her she looks great, or that she'll pull through. Pretending creates a chasm of loneliness for the dying. Can you imagine if you were in labor, and no one in the room would acknowledge that you were giving birth?

Toward the end, dying people tend to withdraw. You know how when you drop a pebble in a pond, the rings ripple out? For a dying person, the rings go in. It doesn't matter what's happening in politics or sports or the next room. Eventually all that matters is I'm hot. I'm cold. I love you. Do you love me? At that point, all that's required is your presence. Be quiet. Put your hands on hers. That's it.

—Maggie Callanan, hospice nurse since 1981 and coauthor of the celebrated book Final Gifts

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