A Rough Guide to Your 40s

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I turned 30 with relative ease. There was no existential crisis for me as there is for some. In fact, I felt like I’d reached my true age (an old soul in a young body maybe). Turning 35 was largely painless, turning 38 was more difficult, but turning 40… well, it did raise all sort of questions for me, my accomplishments and my future.

Here’s a question for you: If our 20’s, broadly speaking, are about establishing identity, setting out in life on our own, starting a career and perhaps finding someone to marry, and our 30’s are about deepening our career and potentially transitioning to parenthood, what are the 40’s about? What particular crises (good and bad) need to be faced, what opportunities do they bring, what is reaped in these years and what needs to be sown?

What are the 40’s for?

I asked my ever-wise Facebook friends the question and have distilled some of their answers into these four themes. Share your wisdom in the comments below too.

A Time of Hard Reckoning

The 40’s is a time of reckoning with life as it really is – in all its beauty and difficulty. The idealised dreams and expectations of the 20’s and 30’s are tempered by responsibility.

Vicki: You start coming to terms with being middle-aged and accepting you are no longer young – especially that you don’t physically bounce back as well as you did in your 20’s…

Jasmin: Paying the mortgage, getting the kids through school, wondering how to fund retirement, consolidating or changing careers, balancing work, family, church & community…

Barry: The death or retirement of parents, the jockeying for position in employment, the desire to leave an ethical legacy in your life… if you’re a parent your care of your child/ren is all consuming, to the detriment of your own interests and hobbies…

Kim: Finding yourself deep in relationship and financial commitment therefore limiting your wild and crazy dreams…

Sonja: For me it is a time to look back and realise that toil has got me sweat, blood has got me death, and tears, thank God, have got me Jesus’ shoulder. Then beyond the hill is Him. I just have to keep walking…

Gina: Losing your parents and thinking you’re not old enough for that yet…

A Time of Settled Identity

The 40’s can be a time of feeling settled about who you are, who you are not, and confidence in the gifts and abilities you have.

Bev: In your 40’s you start to get into your stride and become more confident with who you are and what you’re doing. If you’re a woman, you tend to stop saying “I can’t do that” and start saying “sure, I can” . There’s a surety in your decisions and choices…

Sue: The 40’s are about finding your groove: knowing who you are, tweaking the bits of you that are counterproductive, exploring your strengths and taking some career risks because you’re aware of the possibilities and your 50’s is a bit late to make the shift…

Vicki: The closer I got to 50 the less I cared about what people thought of me. It gave me a freedom to embrace myself, warts and all…

Wendy: The forties for me were about learning to be comfortable in my own skin…

A Time of Honest Reassessment

While there’s a sense of growing confidence, the 40’s can usher in a new crisis moment too: a time of reassessment and perhaps a mid-course correction.

John: In our early years we can focus so much on planning our ‘outside’ lives – our career, mortgage, etc – that we avoid going inside, dealing with emotions. Then in our 40s they start rising up, saying ”Hey, you forgot about me.”

Reneê: There is so much of my life that didn’t happen the way I expected it to. I do find myself contemplating whether I should accept the inevitable direction my life has taken and enjoy what lies ahead… 

Thomas: Most of my 20’s were about learning how to do things. In my 40’s I realised it was understanding why I did the things I did and do that was important…

Sharon: I think the 40’s are about a whole new identity – a grown up one – or maybe a reinvention of the old identity. It’s about taking stock of what you have and haven’t done – and why. It is about deciding what you want to do as you face the fact you are most definitely getting older…

Adrian: I think I’m still searching for answers about what it means to be Christian. I am definitely seeking wisdom from others. In some ways my 40s are about renewal of the mind, body and spirit…

Julia: My 40’s are about the ‘middle’. I often reflect on the apostle Paul’s words about running the race to the end. He wouldn’t write that if it were easy to keep running and not get distracted in the middle. I’ve been running for 20 years now. What is there to show? Is there ‘enough’ fruit? What happened to the fruit I expected? I remain committed to finishing the race, but this ‘middle’ makes me pause.

A Time of Contribution and Opportunity

While the 40’s can be a time difficult reassessment and crisis, the encouraging note is that they can be a time of hitting your ‘sweet spot’. You’ve had enough experience to develop your talents and abilities, and have lived enough life to offer wisdom to others.

Bevan: The 40’s can be a time of influence. There’s a mix of wisdom and energy but a feeling of responsibility to influence for the greater good, not just for yourself…

Kathy: Our 40’s were about realising we had real wisdom to offer people. It’s a wonderful time of still learning but also being able to sow into others’ lives from what you have learnt…

Andrew: You spend the first half of your working life trying to achieve and climb the ladder. The second half needs to be about giving back. The bit in the middle is a time of reflection and self analysis that US author Bob Buford calls ‘half time’… 

Julie: My 30s have been years of stretching, pain and major growth. I still have lots to learn and I’m sure there are more lessons ahead, but I’m looking forward to my 40’s and having opportunities to live out what I’ve learnt over the last 10 years…

Sally: My prayer for the decade of my 40’s was for Holiness and Courage. Holiness because I had realised I would always fall short of what I was created to be; Courage because despite that realisation, there were new heights to reach for…


I’ve found this exercise to be deeply encouraging. Yes, the 40’s can be a time of hard reassessment and perhaps adjustment to some broken and unfulfilled dreams. But they are also a time of deep contribution and effectiveness, and even deeper wisdom and relationship with God. One final word from Vicki before handing the conversation over to you:

I’m almost 51 and love being my age. Each decade has been better than the last in the growth of my faith and my own personal development. Though the body is definitely falling apart, I actually look forward to this new era of my life because I’m excited to see where God is going to take me.


Over to you: What are the 40’s for? If you’re 40+ give me your wisdom! If you’re under 40, take a guess. Share now


  • February 18, 2014
    Louise New

    Sheridan, I’d love to hear your reflection of the 40s.

    • February 18, 2014

      I’m only a year and a bit into it so I’m no expert yet :). As Resurrection Year probably intimates, I can resonate with the ‘reassessment’ theme significantly, especially after leaving all that I was involved with in Australia. I can also sense the ‘contribution’ theme too, but these last two years have brought about a slight change in direction as to how that contribution is offered. All told, while I’ve wondered what shape my life was to take after coming to the UK, I’m excited by all the new things God is opening up for me to do.

  • February 18, 2014
    Lisa Cherrett

    40 wasn’t an issue for me, but at about 47 I started realising, ‘If I’d known such-and-such about myself in my 20s, I’d have made some different decisions.’ That sort of revelation can be very painful! But it’s also an opportunity to make a deliberate transition to a more creative, spontaneous, joyful attitude. At 50 (just), I trust my instincts more, care less what people think of me, worry less about the ‘significance’ of my life (I leave that to God to know) and invest energy in the activities and people that inspire me. Some options may be closed to me, but many more are wide open, and God is a God of surprises 🙂

    • February 19, 2014

      Love this, Lisa. That second-last sentence sounds full of God’s contentment in your life, and the last sentence full of triumph!

      • February 19, 2014
        Lisa Cherrett

        Yes, I’m in a better place these days! Could I recommend a couple of books – ‘Falling Upward’ by Richard Rohr is really helpful on midlife issues, and there’s some good stuff in Rowan Williams’ ‘The Lion’s World’, too (especially Chapter 4).

        • February 20, 2014

          The Lion’s World is excellent. Still need to read Falling Upward.

  • March 3, 2018
    Christine Rigden

    At 40 I had recently graduated and embarked on a new career so my 40s were filled with new experiences. At the same time I was struggling to understand who I was and how to understand God’s will among the new constraints of life and the changes implicit in the “empty nest”.

    Turning 40 didn’t worry me, nor even 50. I think 60 was the first birthday that gave me pause for thought. I continue to feel that older is better (well, maybe aside from thinner hair!), and have never wanted to be a teen or even 20s or 30s again. Each decade has its lessons and gifts. 🙂


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