4o Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 40

December 29, 2011

in Life Lessons

Safran: The woman behind the famous list.

Pamela Redmond Satran wrote a list after her thirtieth birthday of what she wanted to tell younger women. It was a list of what Satran wished she knew before the big 3-0 milestone arrived. It is still wildly popular on the internet and is mistakenly credited to many, including Maya Angelou. Her list originally appeared in Glamour magazine in 1997 and is titled “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”

So many huge life changes happened for me months before reaching my fortieth birthday, with significant growth and discovery as a result. Recently writing out my own list of 40 things helped me to realize how much I have learned in these last several years. The challenges made me wiser; I am confident I would not have been able to add so many items to the list I find essential without the bumpy ride these last three years.

Enjoy the list, disagree with me, suggest other items, or make your own list. It’s a fun exercise that I found worthwhile. Surprisingly it wasn’t as easy as I would have expected.

By 40, you should have:

  1. An exercise regime.
  2. A passport with stamps in it.
  3. One fabulous, comfortable pair of high heels.
  4. A well-stocked pantry, making it possible to make a meal at a moment’s notice.
  5. A cordless drill and know how to use it.
  6. A bucket list and be checking things off now.
  7. A nice set of cloth napkins and actually use them.
  8. Experienced a bad relationship and raised the bar as a result.
  9. The perfect little black dress (or two).
  10. Respect for yourself and others.
  11. Laugh lines you are proud of earning.
  12. Appropriate outfits for a funeral, wedding, interview, and cocktail party.
  13. A mammogram annually–no excuses!
  14. Clearly defined boundaries.
  15. A standby meal you can whip up at a moment’s notice (from your well-stocked pantry).
  16. An understanding of who your true friends are, limiting your energy and time with the rest.
  17. A male friend for a guy’s perspective.
  18. A well-worn, go-to, dog-earred cookbook that you trust and know like a friend.
  19. An understanding of what you want out of life. And actually be working towards it.
  20. Enough memorable life experiences to write a memoir.

By 40, you should know:

  1. How to be happy.
  2. What it means to be beautiful.
  3. Who you are and embrace what makes you unique.
  4. How to say no without guilt.
  5. That money really doesn’t buy happiness.
  6. How to count blessings in challenging times.
  7. How to walk away from an unhealthy relationship (platonic or romantic).
  8. To live without regret.
  9. Perfection will never be attained and to be at peace with that.
  10. A person’s actions are more important than their words.
  11. Seemingly hopeless situations will improve with time.
  12. How to forgive and ask forgiveness.
  13. To embrace your past; it shaped who you are.
  14. People won’t change no matter how hard you try to make them.
  15. How to ask for help.
  16. Love is not enough for a successful relationship.
  17. To take responsibility for your actions.
  18. To buy the fabulous, impractical shoe on sale; it will haunt you otherwise.
  19. To avoid people who hold grudges, seek revenge, and cling to bitterness.
  20. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal.
What is missing from the list?
What do you disagree with on the list? 
Please share your comments!

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

StoriesAndSweetPotatoes December 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Those are amazing lists. In ways I’m ahead of the game because I’ve had far too much life experience for my age (26) and in ways I still need so much perspective.
StoriesAndSweetPotatoes recently posted..How Did I Get Here? – The SequelMy Profile


Naked Girl in a Dress December 30, 2011 at 8:15 am

That’s great! Being ahead means living a happier, more peaceful life (to me, at least).


Stephane Matos December 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I agree with lots of things, this is such a great list!
About number 14. “People won’t change no matter how hard you try to make them” – I believe we should not only know that, but also and most importantly ACCEPT that. I’m reaching my 3-0 milestone soon and I still struggle A LOT with this part…
Living without regret is definitely not easy, but it’s really a thing we NEED to learn how to do or it’ll eat you alive.
I would add one thing on the “should have” list: Everyone should have a hobby, something that gives you pleasure to do and that can take your mind off of all other things. Cooking, hiking, sailing, traveling, taking pictures or whatever. It’s a healthy escape!


Naked Girl in a Dress December 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

You are so right Stephanie! A hobby is a wonderful diversion, to lose ourselves in, when life gets crazy.


Karen Peterson December 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I love this list so much. I’m so close on a few of these, and so far on others. Good thing I still have 5 years!
Karen Peterson recently posted..My Year in Status–2011My Profile


Naked Girl in a Dress December 30, 2011 at 8:13 am

Maybe having the list with 5 years to go will help you be more prepared when you hit 40. That is my hope with publishing the piece.


Kimberly at Rubber Chicken Madness December 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I love this list! In fact, I’m printing it so that I can self-reflect on how well my life meets each item. Then, it’ll give me food for thought on the pieces where I might adjust.

It’s definitely thought provoking and uplifting because it points out the benefits of the journey of our lives and the willingness to continue to live and thrive into our 40’s.


Naked Girl in a Dress December 30, 2011 at 8:13 am

I honestly believe my 40’s is my best decade yet. Maybe I am crazy, but I am enjoying life, have made some fabulous life and career changes, and have edited down the people in my life to true friends only. A lot of the success and happiness in my 40’s so far has to do with the lessons I learned in previous decades. Self awareness is key.

I am honored this piece meant so much that you are printing it out and referencing back over time! I do hope it helps.


Kelli December 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I adore this post and especially the “By 40, you should know:” list. I’ve learned the “knowing” is far more important than the “having.”

I just found your blog through a shared link on Facebook and I love it. I’ll be coming back, soon!
Kelli recently posted..For Love of CakeMy Profile


Naked Girl in a Dress December 30, 2011 at 8:09 am

I completely agree that “know” is more important than “have” items. I tried to keep the “have” list to as few material things as possible as a result.

I am so happy you found my blog and will be visiting me again. Nice to “meet” you!


Amy December 30, 2011 at 5:58 am

I “Experienced a bad relationship” and WENT TO the bar as a result. Does that count?
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Naked Girl in a Dress December 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

If you didn’t go back to the loser after going to the bar, let’s call that a win.


Michelle Roman Higgins December 31, 2011 at 9:11 am

Great list! I think you should also know some practical things, too:

How to change a tire, how to change a diaper, how to administer CPR to an adult and a child, and how to handle all bills, estate taxes & wills for you and your parents. A woman should be nothing less than completely independent at 40.


Naked Girl in a Dress January 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

Thank you for adding these to the list Michelle. What great additions! And yes, women should be completely independent by 40.


Alison@Mama Wants This January 1, 2012 at 8:57 am

A great list! I’ll be 36 this year, and it’s assuring to know that I can check some of these things off my list, and I have 4 years left to make good on the others.


Naked Girl in a Dress January 1, 2012 at 9:03 am

Good to hear Alison! I enjoyed writing the list and reading readers’ ideas for more to accomplish by 40.


Jenn @therebelchick January 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I really, really loved these lists! Especial the last thing that you should know – life isn’t a dress rehearsal. Life is much more enjoyable when we are consciously living it.
Jenn @therebelchick recently posted..Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Line Up for 2012My Profile


Naked Girl in a Dress January 1, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I am glad the lists resonated for you Jenn! I enjoyed working on this post tremendously.


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