As I approach the last of my 40’s, I’m awed by the pace of time. It’s hard to believe I’m 49, but I’m also grateful for the days and adventures that lay ahead. Using the alphabet as a guide, I decided to find 49 words that define what I’ve learned in life so far.  I’d love to see your thoughts on additional words!

Ability

We all have different abilities. Stop focusing on what you “can’t do” and focus on what you CAN. What we first see as a limitation is an opportunity to grow and think differently.

Acceptance

We only learn to accept others after we accept ourselves. Toss that inner judge aside. Replace the word “failure” with “learning opportunity” and embrace your imperfections.

Action

Are you a chronic complainer? Do something proactive and positive. Join a movement, spread the word, or donate your money to a worthy cause. Turn a negative thought into a powerful, positive contribution to our society.

Attitude and Affirmations

Worrying and negative thoughts can hijack our focus and stop us from moving forward. Take a step back and ask yourself what you want from life. Make a conscious choice to be positive and proactive. Remember and appreciate your strengths! Speak the affirmation out loud, or write it down!

Barriers

What are your personal barriers? When you say “can’t,” “should not,” “must not,” or “limits,” are you restricting an opportunity to grow? Replace those thoughts with positive affirmations (see above).

Honor Your Being

Have you considered that your job, your looks and your “stuff” don’t define you? Look deeply inside and praise the jewel within.

Breathe Mindfully

The way we breathe reflects and emphasizes the way we feel. Notice how you feel in a tense situation. Are you holding your breath? Do you hyperventilate? Breathe deeply and slowly when you are stressed, and you’ll notice a difference!

Calm and Center Yourself

It takes practice to calm yourself, especially if you are a Type-A individual. Not everything is bad, an emergency or a threat. Take deep, slow relaxing breaths to center yourself. Mindful breathing also lessens the severity of your future reactions.

Celebrate

We all experience loss or frustration, but we also celebrate wonder, magic and adventure. Celebrate the tiniest moments and achievements. See more on Attitude/Affirmations, Feelings, Gratitude and Generosity.

Change is Constant

Relationships, home, jobs, purpose. These never stay the same. If you resist, you may feel frustrated, angry, or sad. If you choose to Let Go of things beyond your control and go with the flow, you might feel freer, happier, accepting and excited. Change isn’t always easy, but it encourages us to grow and opens us to new opportunities.

Compassion

In order be compassionate toward others, we need to nurture Self-Compassion. Judge less, praise more, forgive often. Also refer to Connection.

Connection

The internet, 24-hour news, and our over-scheduled days have influenced a society that is more polarized, isolated and contentious. We need to reconnect with others, even if we don’t fully agree on issues. If not, how do we learn to understand and have Compassion for one another? Volunteer in your community. Consider turning off or limiting your cell phone or internet access. Join a club or cause. Refer to Action, Acceptance, and Zee/Zed.

Daily Commitments and Devotion to Yourself Move You Forward

If you want to make a positive change in your life, commit to taking those big or small steps toward your goal. Congratulate yourself on the smallest goals – they all lead to something bigger.

You are the most important person in your life. Use some of that daily practice to honor yourself in small ways. Enjoy a long bath or shower. Allow yourself short breaks at work. Take a long walk. These respites will ease stress levels and refresh your mind! I’ve found a new appreciation for myself – can you?

Diet

According to freedieting.com, there are over 600 diets. Ironically, we are a nation with skyrocketing rates of obesity and eating disorders. Diet is a funny word with powerful influence on our self-image and self-esteem. I prefer the word nourish. “Nourish” focuses on our well-being rather than a magic number on the scale. Refer to Health, Healing, Enough, Forgiveness, Exercise, Calm and Being.

Enough

Success is wonderful, but do you push yourself to exhaustion? Learn when to say “enough.” Appreciate the intangibles like time, relationships, adventure and happiness.

Envy

If you feel jealousy, ask yourself why. Refer to Acceptive, Honor Your Being, Enough and Gratitude. We often look for external rewards when we aren’t comfortable with ourselves. We all have much to offer and value.

Exercise

We know that exercise is good for us. Find what works for you and your body’s abilities. Take a walk, Get out in nature. Garden. Do something that inspires you.

Family

Families are complex and always in transition. They also come in many forms, like the ones we choose with our friends. We are never alone.

Fear

Fear is a powerful emotion. It keeps us safe from dangerous situations. Other times, it feels like we’re standing on a diving board peering into the deep waters, paralyzed by “what ifs.” We fear failure, so we set up personal Barriers that may stop us from reaching our dreams. Take a deep breath, and dive in!

Feelings

When asked, people commonly mention negative emotions over positive ones. How do you want to feel every day? Make a concerted effort with positive affirmations. When you need to process a negative emotion, give it time and Self-compassion.

Forgiveness

See Let it Go.

Generosity is Good for Others – and Ourselves

Being generous triggers positive changes in the brain, and it doesn’t have to cost you anything! Open a door for a mother carrying small children. Let that person with one item go before you in the grocery line. Deliver a meal to a sick neighbor. Donate old magazines to a senior center. Feel good and pay it forward.

Gratitude Builds Positivity

No matter how good or down you feel, practice gratitude daily. Go to the bargain aisle of any bookstore and buy an inspirational journal. Draw or write something you are grateful for every day, even if you think of a simple word. With practice, you’ll notice a shift in your thinking – and possibly the start to a great story or novel! Scientific studies link the practice of gratitude to positive physical changes in the brain.

Healing

According to Psychology Today, healing means becoming whole, while curing means “eliminating all evidence of disease.” Referring to Change, some of us have experienced illnesses, accidents and disabilities that have altered our bodies, and we mourn. We will heal if we accept that our new condition doesn’t restrict us – it’s only a physical change requiring creative thinking. I’m still Shirley – how about you?

Health

Ask yourself how you honor your health. Do you eat healthy foods that nourish you? Do you find ways to Calm and Center yourself? Do you Exercise? If you aren’t sure where to start, ask a friend  or personal coach to support you. Celebrate each step, big or small, as a success.

Hope

Do you see life through a half-empty glass or a half-filled one? Turn off the news and give social media a break. Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Refer to Action.

Imagination

Albert Einstein said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Past and current innovators have relied on their imagination to create wonderful inventions, theories and medicines. On a lighter note, imagination does wonders for relaxation. Color. Watch a movie. Write a clever poem. Draw a picture. Tweak a recipe. You don’t need to be an artistic master to enjoy your personal creativity.

Learn

Learning goes beyond our formal education. We grow from new challenges, experiences and the people we meet. Continued learning also keeps our brains healthy. Register for classes at a community college or recreation center. Start a book club. Learn to swim or play cards.

Let it Go

Letting go doesn’t mean giving up on dreams or standing up for what is right. Think of ongoing arguments, painful situations and hurtful relationships that will never change. We don’t and can’t always fix what is broken. That’s the true lesson.

Juggling

If you juggle too many things in your life, ask yourself why. We certainly need to cover the basics like food, clothing and shelter. Beyond that, are we searching to satisfy an unmet emotional need? It’s okay to simplify (see Enough).

Kale

It’s not the only “miracle food” out there. Get over it! All fresh food and produce beat junk food. Occasional treats are okay.  Enjoy and move on.

Labels

We are quick to label and judge everything. If you catch yourself labeling, ask yourself if the outcome will hurt or help you or others. Pick the latter and refer to Observe.

Life is a Journey

Cliché aside, we will always encounter twists and turns. No matter how I thought I could “defy the odds,” I’ve learned to adapt and sometimes just weather the bumps. It’s not always easy, but I continue to learn about letting go and “going with the flow.” Life isn’t as painful or difficult when we learn to let go of things beyond our control. See Let it Go, Healing, Learn and Self-Compassion.

Mistakes Aren’t Mistakes

We will always face challenges. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.

Nature

Numerous studies point to the benefits of being in nature. Take a hike or meander through a park. Garden. Sit on the grass. Stick your toes in the sand. Look for wildlife. Wade barefoot in a stream. Make the conscious effort to enjoy the outdoors with no particular purpose in mind.

Negativity

Did you know that negative words release stress hormones in the body? If we mindfully substitute negative language with neutral or positive words, we have the power to physically change our brains (neuroplasticity!). I vote for positivity.

Observe

How often do you judge something? Ask yourself if you say “this is my/a BAD…” or “this is a right/wrong way….” Challenge yourself to observe without judgmental labels. That “bad ankle” becomes “the ankle that is more wobbly than my other ankle.” That “terrible grade on a test” becomes “an opportunity for me to learn more about…” For reasons why, refer to Negativity, Healing, Self-Compassion, and Strength.

Perseverance

We learn to let go when we’ve either learned a lesson or realize that change is no longer an option. We persevere with experiences that allow us to learn and continue growing.

Everyone Needs Quiet

Our mental chatter sometimes seems louder or more distracting when we want silence. Try ambient meditative music or natural white noise (running water, ocean waves, rain, etc.). Those mindful moments help restore my sanity and balance during stressful moments.

Risks Have Rewards

Risk-takers ignore their fears for greater rewards. Thanks to my risk-taking, I’ve traveled, made new friends, developed new skills, and learned to swim as an adult. Refer to Attitude, Fear, Mistakes, Negativity, and Learn.

Self-Compassion isn’t Selfishness

Refer to Acceptance, Attitude and Affirmations. Dr. Kristin Neff notes the importance of caring for and understanding ourselves when we hurt. The sooner we nurse our wounds, the faster we heal.

Strength Comes in Many Forms

We develop strength when we persevere despite our uncertainties. We are more than survivors and we aren’t victims. We are people experiencing incidents that sometimes defy explanation, but we have the free will to persist and flourish.

Time

Time feels slower when we want change, and faster when we don’t. Honor and live for NOW. Watch the magic happen when you stop hastening or lingering.

Unfulfilled?

Don’t let fear or excuses stop you from realizing your dreams. If you need more incentive, review Action, Barriers, Daily Commitment, Fear, Hope, Imagination, Learn and Perseverance.

Variety Keeps Life Exciting

Routines are wonderful and comforting, but familiarity can breed boredom. Read a new book. Join a new club. Visit a new place (it doesn’t have to be far). Taste a new cuisine, learn a new language, or try a new hobby. You may unearth a passion dying to be expressed!

Wisdom

Refer to Learn. Life Hack defines wisdom as the ability to discern which parts of knowledge are correct, lasting and applicable to life. On a deeper level, we develop insight and meaning. What we viewed with hope and positivity in our youth matures into wisdom accumulated from our experiences. Because of this fact, I am grateful for the elders who have taught me so much.

Xeriscape

This British noun and verb refers to landscaping that conserves water in arid regions. How does this relate to personal growth? We always have opportunities to learn new words and concepts. See Learning, Imagination, and Zee/Zed.

Yes Instead of No

See Fear. When mistrust grips you, dare yourself to say “yes.” Taking precautions is important, but it can also be restrictive. Go skydiving. Learn to swim. Study a new language. Meet a new neighbor. Try something beyond your comfort zone.

Zee or Zed?

While Americans say “Zee,” British-English speakers say “Zed.” Eskimos have 50 words for “snow.” Through language and culture, people around the globe experience life and the world through different, exciting lenses. Many people I’ve met see a world in colors, thoughts and words that go beyond my tiny place on this planet. We have so much to learn from others, whether they are from different neighborhoods, cities, countries, races, religions or socio-economic conditions. Our common ground is our humanity. See Compassion, Connection and Learn.