Hello 40

40 Lessons from 40 Years | SusannahConway.com


It’s my 40th birthday today. Entering a new decade of my life feels like a big deal, and while I feel exactly the same as I did yesterday, there’s something bubbling in me — the no more rules I mentioned last week. Forty sounds really thoroughly grown-up and I like it.

Rather than compiling a list of things to do before I turn 41, I spent a leisurely few hours this afternoon putting together 40 lessons I’ve sussed out in the last 40 years. Sidenote: I only wanted to do things I love today, and blogging was definitely on the list. Still so grateful to have this space to play in. Happy Nutella Day!



1. Your relationship with your self is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. It forms the basis for every other relationship in your life, making you the mother, sister, partner and friend that you are.

2. On that note, there is nothing wrong with being ‘self-centred’. I’m a firm believer in putting your oxygen mask on first. If you can’t breathe you’re no use to anyone else. That doesn’t mean ignore everybody else — just don’t ignore you.

3. Only shop in shops with flattering lights in their fitting rooms. Life is too short to look like shit when shopping for a new bra.

4. Find the type of words you like to read. Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction, self-help, instruction manuals or comics — just find the pages you can’t wait to turn.

5. Anything anyone says about you or does to you is about them not you 99% of the time.

6. Invest some cash in a really fabulous handbag (men: find a really cool wallet) so no matter what you wear, you always looked pulled together. Ditto a good pair of boots.

7. Speaking of wallets, I bought a Fendi wallet 10 years ago. I’ve used it every day since and it still looks new = best £150 I’ve ever spent.

8. Take photographs every single day. Snap the things that catch your eye, the faces you love and the moments you want to remember. Records the bits of your day that you might forget — in years to come you’ll love this glimpse into your routine.

9. Play with digital and film. iPhones and Hasselblads. Canon and Nikon. Try everything to decide which translates your eye best. Learn a few rules so you know how to break them.

10. Always ALWAYS buy free-range eggs. Preferably organic if you can.

11. Figure yourself out. Investigate the Enneagram. Do the Myers-Briggs test. Get your tarot cards done. Get curious about yourself. Dig deeper!

12. On the other side of that, don’t bother drinking anyone else’s kool aid. Make your own concoction instead — it’ll always taste better.



13. Make the effort to protect your leather bags and boots with leather gel. Trust me on this.

14. Start a collection. It doesn’t matter what it is — buttons, cameras, art, first editions, model cars, retro lamp shades. When you collect something you’re more likely to keep your eyes open when you’re out & about in the world. You never know when you’ll find a treasure — life becomes a treasure hunt.

15. Learn how to enjoy your own company. Go on dates with yourself often. Watch this again for ideas.

16. Investigate poetry. Poems are like awesome word snacks that nourish your brain. Find the poets who transcribe your experience of the world. Then look for the ones who show you another side of life entirely.

17. Find the music that makes you get up and dance. Play it often, especially when you’re on your own.

18. If you’re self-employed, put aside more money for tax than you think you’ll need. I always save 40% of everything I earn. If your tax bill comes to less at the end of the year you’ll have a nice little nest egg to play with or enough to cover any earnings you “forgot” to save tax for. Either way you can’t lose and you’ll sleep better at night.

19. Everybody should get at least six months of therapy. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make in yourself.

20. “I believe that by being the best and most healed version of ourselves we can truly make a difference in the world. I’m not an activist or politician, and I’m not able to have any direct impact on the areas of the world where help is needed. But what I can do is make a difference in the small pocket of the world I call home. I can live with integrity and be honest about my feelings, even when they hurt. I can put my whole heart into my work and pay forward the generosity that was shown to me when my world fell apart. I can look after myself, knowing that by healing my own hurts I won’t be passing them on to anyone else. In a society like ours, filled with so many emotionally wounded people acting out their pain, this is possibly the most important work we could ever do—heal our hurts so we don’t pass them on.” From This I Know, page 271.

21. Slow down. Take a breath. Look again.

22. Your senses are the way back into the present moment. What can you smell right now? What do you see? What’s touching your skin? What tastes do you want to experience today? What can you hear? Pay attention. Give yourself over to this moment, right now.

23. Writing a book is exactly as hard as you think it will be. But it’s not impossible. Not at all.

24. Sharing your heart with people will make you feel vulnerable at times — most of the time, in fact — but it will help you feel less alone when you see that others feel the same. By hiding the truth about how we feel we isolate ourselves.

25. The camera is only a tool — it’s your eye that really matters.



26. You can’t THINK your way out of depression. If you’re an over-thinker like me you will try very hard to do this but it won’t work. Explore all paths to find your way through the storm. Be gentle with yourself.

25. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs, and it will tell you what it doesn’t need, too.

26. Try to remember that everybody is doing their best with the tools they have and life experiences they’ve had. You never know what happened that morning, that day, that month or that year. You never know when somebody is putting a brave face on something that’s making them crumble inside. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

27. “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” – Iris Murdoch

28. Kill your expectations and assumptions. They are such a phenomenal waste of time. Most of the disappointments in my life were the result of expectations and assumptions. Keeping these in check is a life-long practice.

29. You can’t change anyone, no matter how much you want to. But you can lead by example. You can inspire them to want to change.

30. Celebrate your sensuality. Take hot scented baths and sunbathe nude in your garden. Buy lingerie that delights you and wear more silk. Take pleasure in your body.

31. If, like me, you can’t wear wool (itchy nightmare!) invest in a cashmere sweater every couple of years. If you look after them properly these babies will just get softer and softer and keep you warm for years to come. I like Brora.

32. Breathe in the sea air every chance you get.



33. It’s okay to protect yourself from the people who trigger you. Unsubscribe. Unfollow. Avoid. Make your excuses. Sometimes we just have to protect our hearts, and if there’s someone who makes you feel crap you don’t have to let them into your world.

34. Having said that, be sure to look at WHY they trigger you once you’ve filtered them out of your day-to-day. We can learn a lot from feeling uncomfortable — what’s the bigger message here?

35. When you look in the mirror, try smiling at yourself. Especially first thing in the morning.

36. Show yourself a little kindness every day. Find ten minutes to read a chapter. Listen to your favourite song in the car. Savour a cup of coffee in the garden. Lock yourself in the bathroom and do yoga on the floor. Whatever it takes.

37. Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts. Make lists. Draw mind maps. Stick in pictures that make you dream. Write when you feel inspired. Write when you feel sad. Write when you want to remember. Write when you don’t know. Just write it out.

38. Believe in something. Whether it’s science, nature, god, spirit, kindness, gratitude, politics, the universe, atoms or love, believe in something.

39. Believe in yourself. There’s nobody else in the entire world like you.

40. Go gently.

108 responses
  1. Lindsey

    Oh, I love these 40 lessons. Such wisdom, distilled here. Thank you so much. And happy, happy, happiest of birthdays. xox

  2. Michelle mcgrath

    Love it Susannah! Wonderful insights, I totally resonate with. I’m 41 and have to say was very happy to leave my 30’s behind and step into much deeper self-acceptance.
    Happy birthday to you and may your year be filled with much love, laughter and self-loving kindness love Mxxx

  3. natalie

    Oh my what a list, I am going to print it and keep it on my fridge! Thank you x

  4. amy

    wise, lovely words! x

  5. Sharon

    An amazing set of lessons for many of us to consider, thank you. Have a wonderful birthday :-) xx

  6. Stacy

    “kill your expectations and assumptions”. Oh how I’ve been working on this. Beautiful list. I will be coming back to this. Happiest of birthdays! To ‘no more rules’!

  7. morgan

    GREAT life lessons! Thanks for sharing. Happy Nutella/Birth day :)

  8. emily

    glorious list. beautiful you. thank you for these bits of wisdom – important reminders every day. wishing you many happy returns of the day, susannah. xo.

  9. Jessie

    Happy Birthday Susannah!! Love your 40 lessons!! Thanks for sharing!

  10. SuZie Lambert

    Holy wow – truly one of your best posts, ever!! Thank you so much for sharing.
    Happy Birthday Susannah!!

  11. TJ Wood

    Thanks for this gift of a post–and it’s YOUR birthday, but you are giving so much here. Thank you. Wishing you a joy and adventure filled year ahead! P.S. I couldn’t wait to be 40 a couple years ago and yes…life just keeps getting better :)

  12. Angela Vular

    Great insight! Love these life lessons.
    Happy Birthday and may all your wishes come true!

  13. Shannon Rosan

    Just beautiful :) Happy Birthday!

  14. Lauren Burkitt

    Thank you for sharing. My favourites are 16, 22, & 36. You always make me laugh and leave me feeling inspired to follow my passions. I hope you have a wonderful day and a year full of happiness ahead! Happy 40th Birthday.
    Smiles from Vancouver,

  15. Rach

    This is beautiful Susannah, really spoke to me – thank you for sharing. Will definitely be bookmarking. Sending you the warmest of wishes for your very special day! x

  16. Katrina

    So beautiful!!! Happy, happy birthday!

  17. gotham girl

    Just beautiful! Happy Birthday!

  18. Donna

    SO, SO beautiful and wise. I am saving your words to look at again this year (my 6oth).

  19. Marisa Anne

    happy birthday my twin! I love this list. happy and honored to share this transition with you too – to be walking right alongside you on this journey is a gift. xoxo

  20. Diane

    Happy Birthday Susannah.

    Thank you for your wonderful thoughtful list.

    You shine!

  21. sheila

    Happy Birthday! 40 is good. :) Thank you for your list, for this post, for your writing in general as well. You’ve touched me, and have made me think, and want to know and learn more. Thank-you.


  22. Alexis Zinkerman

    Hope your 40th is all you dream it to be. You’ve gained a lot of wisdom, light , love and laughter in the last 40.

  23. Stacie

    You knocked this out of the ballpark…great lessons and Happy Birthday! My 40’s have been the best!!

  24. rebecca

    Love this post.
    Happy Birthday!

  25. Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

    ~Sweet & Joyous Birthday Susannah~

    You wear 40 so beautifully! Enjoy!

  26. LIz K

    Happy birthday! I hope it’s a wonderful.

  27. Gerri Smalley

    Happy Birthday Hon! xxO
    Loving these lessons, I must share. ;)

  28. maria

    Happy 40th! Savor every moment. I know for your posts you haven’t had the easiest few months, but the rough seas pave our way for insight, gratitude and growth. I try to welcome the difficult phases, knowing a burst of growth will be waiting for me on the other side. Wishing you a truly wonderful 40th year filled with love and joy. xo

  29. Rebecca Lovell

    This is beautiful!! Have a lovely birthday!!!

  30. cat chin Schwartz

    HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LOVELY! I hope that you have had a wonderful day :) Thanks for sharing your list, and now that I have discovered your blog (thanks to Gerri’s mention on FB), I will definitely be back to visit. love and peace in your 40th year.

  31. Lydia Kimble-wright

    Happy “you” day! Everything that you do should be about beautiful, unique and irresistible you. Remember “40” is the new “20,” with all the wisdom, life experiences and lessons learned. Blessings and love.

  32. Zarina Ávila

    Happy birthday, sweet Susannah!!

  33. CLarice

    Happy Birthday, Susannah! Thanks for giving your readers such a great gift. I look forward to spending time with this list.

  34. tea_austen

    Happy Birthday, Susannah! I hope it is a wonderful day, and joyful year to come. Thank you for sharing your gentle wisdom with us. Today and always. x

  35. Marilyn

    Happy, happy birthday, Susannah. I hope you love being 40. I was so excited to turn 40 and so far it’s been a great decade. Thanks for sharing such inspiring, wide-ranging lessons.

  36. Stacy

    Well said. And happy birthday!!! Hope it was delightful.

  37. Alexis

    I know it’s not the same, but I’m facing 30 and feeling so much pressure. Your words always make me feel more welcome in my world. You’re one of the most beautiful people I have *never met*. Happy birthday, may it bring you joy and love.

  38. Nichoel

    I’ve just found you but, when I read your writings, it feels as if I’ve known you forever. Thank you for sharing so authentically. And Happy Birthday:)

  39. Marcela

    Happy birthday Susannah!
    My mom and my God mother always told me that the 40s were the best decade in a woman’s life, so I always looked forward to them…now you are there! May your new year bring you unexpected joys, plenty of laughter and love, love, lots of love.

  40. Marie

    Love this! Thank you so much for posting.
    Happy birthday, Susannah!! Hugs from Seattle

  41. jane

    41. you are beautiful xxx happy birthday shining one <3

  42. Alice

    Happy Birthday. Hope you enjoy whatever you do.

  43. Ghita

    Wonderful post and a very happy birthday to you!

  44. antonella

    Buon compleanno, di cuore!
    I’ve been reading your words and admiring your photos for a while, never leaving a comment but I might write you an email in the near future.
    And… Happy Nutella Day to you too!

  45. Caroline

    Happy Birthday x

  46. Steph

    I recall my literature teacher telling me years ago that one’s thirties are always fraught, while the forties are a fantastic decade. Gone are the insecurities that marred our first youth and embraced are self-assurance and, indeed, the principle of no more stupid rules (written by others, for the most part). I think I tell you this every year on your birthday… how wonderful! A February birthday! It’s my favourite month! Enjoy! Hahaha! I know you’ve felt a little bit wistful as of late, at least judging by what I read online, but I think there’s a lot going in your life as-is. And lest you forget, you enrich ours as readers and that’s a GIFT. Many hugs and many happy returns!

  47. Becs

    Happy birthday. Very wise, beautiful list. Thank you for sharing it.

  48. ginny

    Wishing you a very Happy Birthday x

  49. Katherine

    Wise, wise, words. One of my favorite posts! Happy Birthday!!

  50. nini

    So well written that I will be reading this post over and over again. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.

    And a very happy, cosy and warm birthday!

  51. Shauna

    So much wisdom and elegance in this list, thank you so much for sharing. Wishing you a very happy birthday and how fab to share it with the holiest of days, Nutella Day :)

  52. Vickie

    Happy Birthday Susannah!

  53. Eileen Weigand

    I adore this list!! So true… every one of them…xoxo

  54. Rhianne

    Dear Susannah, even with your book and courses, I think you underestimate the impact you have on other peoples lives. You manage to inspire me or share something that inspires me everyday so I hope you had a truly wonderful day celebrating, you deserve it :)

    p.s. I love number 6 on this list and 13 too actually x

  55. ERIKA

    These are really great lessons! I’m taking note… for some of them I have begun to learn and others are on my peripheral… :) HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  56. Alelita

    Happy birthday!!!!!!! :-)

  57. Vicki

    Happy Birthday! May all your birthday wishes come true!!

  58. Helen

    What a wonderful list. Thank you for sharing these, it is like being sent extra pages from your book. I love number 6 & numbers 33 and 34 made me feel a sense of calm and rightness about some recent decisions I’ve had to make and also told me something more about me too. Wishing you a little extra light in your day x

  59. Mia

    What an extraordinary list and an exceptional way to honor the past 39 years and everything that has brought you to this life and this place. Happiest of birthdays. Wishing you dreams come true this year.

  60. Kylie

    Oh, what a gorgeous list of learnings. SUCH a happy belated birthday to you, dear Susannah. I hope yesterday was a magical (and Nutella-filled) springboard into your year.

  61. Sam

    Happy Birthday! Hope you had a wonderful day!

  62. julia

    wonderful lessons, for all of us . thank you for sharing your words here with all of us. and happy birthday beautiful!

  63. Maria

    Thank you for your gentle wisdom and warmth. Happy birthday and happy decade.

  64. Carin

    Such a beautiful list! I loved turning 40 last summer, I really felt like I was coming into my own, and your list fits in so well with my own lessons. Happy birthday again gorgeous!

  65. keishua

    happy birthday…fellow Aquarius! Such a great list. so many gems of wisdom. I wish you a year of your heart’s desire. Many blessings.

  66. kolleen

    such insightful beauty.

    thank you.

    happy happy magical love filled day to you.


  67. Michele

    A belated but heartfelt happy birthday to you – do hope your day was special and wonderful and all the good things you deserve. Thank you for all your generosity to those who read your words, even on your birthday :)

  68. Laura M.

    So wise, and so generous! Thanks for this birthday present! happy day, and happy year to you —

  69. michelle

    happy birthday to you.

  70. joyful.mara

    Happy Birthday! and thank you for sharing these wonderful reminders. Some of them I love to hear regularly, others are new to me, and many of them were much needed at this time. Thank you!

  71. Suzanne K

    I really enjoyed reading your lessons and will definitely take them to heart. I especially liked #16. “Poems are like awesome word snacks that nourish your brain.” ~ Quite possibly my favourite sentence ever.

    Wishing you the happiest of happy birthdays, Susannah.

  72. Heather

    lovely, Happy birthday! enjoy!

  73. Shan

    A warm, happy birthday Susannah. Your wisdom and strength is most admired.

  74. Mathilda

    Hey Susannah!
    I know I’m late but I didn’t want to miss your birthday post to say that I love your blog and I wish you all the best for your life and the next steps you’ll take.

  75. Sombra

    Absolutely inspiring and worth to read.Thanks for this 40 point.You made my day ;). Happy happy birthday Susannah!!

  76. Jane Cornwell

    Wonderful list, wonderful you! Thank you for your kind and generous spirit – may you have a wonderful year and new decade ahead!!

  77. La plume et la page

    Happy birthday Susannah! (Im’ late…)
    I share with you number: 3/15/21/24/26/30/32/33/36/37/39.
    I can tell you that never more I’ll let someone makes me feel crap! And since few weeks I try to write down my thougts and to make lists… A great exercice!

  78. Sue

    Happy birthday Sussanah. Sending you hugs and hoping all your dreams come true in this decade x

  79. Rosemary

    It’s my 40th today! I feel a real sense of wanting to come “back to life”, join the land of the living, breathe real, fresh air. My 30’s felt like I’ve been waiting…for something, for anything,for who knows what. Something inside is telling me not to wait any more, that the world is out there waiting for me. Thank-you for sharing.

  80. C.D. Beatrice Clay

    So much beautiful loving WISDOM! Thank you so much for sharing this. Have a happy happy blessed beyond measure birthday!

  81. Caryn

    Lovely post, Susannah. Thank you, as always, for sharing your wisdom and insights with us. As someone who is now pushing 50 (omg!) I can happily attest to the fact that one’s 40s can be a wonderful decade full of self-discovery, adventure, confidence, creativity, and (and for me, anyway) unprecedented peace of mind. Happy (belated) Birthday!

  82. Josephine

    Felicitations! It’s a beautiful list you have made. Thank you for sharing bits of yourself here, it’s always a pleasure to visit this space. I hope amazing things cross your path this year :-)

  83. Parisa

    Susannah, you are a jewel!
    Happy belated birthday!


  84. Sheila Bergquist

    Happy Birthday! I wish you a peace filled year. I love your list! I liked #29…I never thought about it that way before. You fill my mind with so many new ways of looking at things…it’s a wonderful gift you have.

  85. Catalina

    Happy Birthday lovely girl! thank you for everything Susannah! XX

  86. jade

    Gelukkige verjaardag! a bit late, but better late than never – thank you for sharing your list – I agree with many of the above, especially the person saying you’re a jewel. You’re a rock as well. And a refreshing wave. And a sweet breeze. Very happy to have found your blog one day. Enjoy the next year in your life. You deserve it.

  87. SweetMarie83

    How did you get to be so beautiful and so wise? :-) Love these – I found myself nodding along with many, and writing down others to remind myself. Thank you for sharing this. <3

  88. Priya

    Well put! I’m going to share this with a few family and friends. Hope you had a lovely Birthday, Susannah!

  89. thefisherlady

    what a grand idea… I am at 57… I will give this a try

    enjoy your next forty :)

  90. Rachel

    Wise words from a wise woman. Happy Birthday, Susannah! You’re a rock star!

  91. An

    Love this list – resonates so much. xo

  92. Sharon

    Thanks for all your wisdom. I’m 20 years older than you and I read and reread and printed your words to reread again. Thanks. I enjoy your blog.

  93. Janice

    happy birthday; I like #36, show yourself a little kindness each day! I found my love at 40, and looking back on the almost 15 wonderful years together, it was the beginning of a great time. I hope your 40 is all you want it to be.

  94. Mary in VA

    Happy Birthday! I always believed that life begins at 40 when we’re through all the crap of our 20’s & 30’s. Looking back at 40, I can definitely say that is true! I hope you find it so as well.

  95. Naomi Wittlin

    What LIVING you have done, Susannah! May the next 40 years be just as meaningful and revelatory but hopefully EASIER! Happy 40th!

  96. Vinita

    Belated Happy Birthday!! Thanks for sharing this! Welcome to the 40’s, I’ve experienced it to be the most enlightening time in my life…

  97. Cristina

    Thank you my dear…xx

  98. Kaylin Lydia

    “26. You can’t THINK your way out of depression. If you’re an over-thinker like me you will try very hard to do this but it won’t work. Explore all paths to find your way through the storm. Be gentle with yourself.”

    How true this is! Thanks for your kind and beautiful words.

  99. Run.

    Dear Susannah,
    I wanted to thank you for sharing your path and these 40 lessons. I found number 11 very helpful – I went on and investigated myself, my personality and did multiple tests, also the Enneagram one and I feel so enlightened now. The test opened my heart and spirit in a new way and although I’m not completely unraveled yet, I want to thank you for giving us tips and tricks.

  100. Iris Ztarr

    lovely, lovely post! thank you

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