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.

How to Know When to Quit

After my first book was published in 2000, I spent two and a half years writing a novel. But it never felt right. I didn't even name it—it was the poor, misshapen beast child I kept hidden under my bed. Then I showed it to my agent. "None of the things you do well are in evidence here," she said. I was devastated, then relieved: I had failed, and now I could stop. If you don't feel a shiver of excitement or fear, if there's no emotional risk involved, let it go. You can't discount how hard it will be to leave your bad marriage or stop writing your bad book, but if you're unhappy, nothing can get better as long as the status quo stays the status quo.

—Elissa Schappell, author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls

How to Listen Better

Start by doing everything you can to fire up the "mirror neurons" in your brain, which mimic what others are experiencing. You can subtly imitate the other person's posture, even match the pace and depth of their breathing. Your words can also mirror what the other person is telling you. For example, you might say, "What I'm hearing is that it distresses you when your husband wears his tiara in public" or "Wow, I can tell just from your voice that you're under serious pressure." Don't add advice or commentary—just reflect. If you simply must add something, ask the speaker to disconfirm what you say. In other words, ask to be told where you're mistaken—and mean it. "I'm thinking it's not so much that you're embarrassed as that you want a tiara of your own—am I wrong about that?" Do not ask to be told that you're right; it turns a listening ear into a bid for authority, and no one will want to talk to you then.

—Martha Beck, O's resident life coach and author of Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

How to Get Past Emotional Pain

Everything we experience—no matter how unpleasant—comes into our lives to teach us something. To move on from something difficult, look for the lesson. Start by asking yourself: "If this is the way things are supposed to be, what can I learn from it?" Think about how you may have contributed to the painful experience, or if there was anything you could have done to prevent it. Often we don't realize the lesson because we'd rather avoid reliving the pain. But once you allow yourself to reflect on the sadness, anger, guilt, or shame you've been hiding, those feelings will begin to subside. Yes, someone hurt you. Once you've forgiven them and let go, you can move forward and begin creating the life you desire.

—Iyanla Vanzant, host of OWN's Iyanla, Fix My Life

How to Buy Great Wine

See if an expensive wine's producer also makes a value bottle—it's likely to be crafted with the same care.

Serve wine with food from its region. For pasta, look to an Italian bottle. For paella, go Spanish.

If all else fails, try Malbec from Argentina, Merlot from France, Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy, and Chardonnay from Australia. Pinot Noir pairs with almost anything. And you can't go wrong with bubbly.

—Sheri Sauter Morano, Institute of Masters of Wine

How to Laugh at Life

The tap water hits a spoon in the sink and sprays you. You pull a window shade and it just keeps going and going. You can't roll up a garden hose in any dignified way. You have to become a connoisseur of these events—"Wow, look at that, that's great." You have to hope that a higher power is saying, "That was a good one!" And that you're sharing the divine pleasure it's taking in your misfortune.
—Ian Frazier, author of The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days

Keep Reading: O's 101 pieces of advice