40 Risks Everyone Should Take Before Turning 40

Updated: Dec. 03, 2020

As if 30 wasn't stressful enough—40 is now here and you might be grasping with the concept of a new decade. If so, consider this your permission slip, bucket list, checklist, and complete guide to taking the risks you were born to make.

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Say “no”

Though there is merit in saying “yes'” to things outside your comfort zone, Erica Korman, psychotherapist, psychic, and spiritual life expert, also stresses the importance of “no.” Even if you don’t know exactly why you don’t want to do something, work with a certain person, or have a specific experience—taking a risk in declining an opportunity builds character. “At mid-life it’s time to realize that life is short and there is not time to waste on things that don’t feel good or right to you,” she says. Start with learning these effective ways to say “no” without worrying that someone will think badly of you.

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Go for the promotion

Far too few people get out of a career rut and actually roll up their sleeves to earn the promotion they’re deserving of, says entrepreneur Toni Patillo. And it isn’t skill that’s holding them back—but confidence. Sound like someone you know? “Somewhere in your head, there is doubt and worry. Get out of your head and go to your heart to get clarity around what it is exactly that you want,” she says. Next, take action on it by writing it down, creating an affirmation around it, and saying it out loud. “Then set an appointment with the person who has the authority to make decisions and ask for what you want,” she advises. Read through these adventure quotes to inspire your inner risk-taker.

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Go skydiving

There is nothing quite like the rush, the thrill, and the good vibes that come from jumping out of an airplane. Since it is a literal risk, you will likely be afraid, but you also might come away with a new perspective, too. “In addition to having a lot of fun and creating a memory you will never forget, skydiving will give you a wealth of breakthroughs,” Patillo says. “Not only does it get you out of your comfort zone, you will learn how to deal with your fears,” she notes.

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Forgive yourself

If you have somehow made it to the ripe age of 40 and have zero regrets or no leftover angst from past decisions—you’re truly a rare breed. As you reach this new decade in your life, Jaclyn Mellone, business and life coach, urges you to move forward. “Drop the guilt, shame, and woulda-coulda-shouldas to give yourself some grace.” To do this, find the gratitude. “When you find the gratitude for each and every step along the way, especially the ones you regret, you will feel lighter, happier, and begin to appreciate your journey,” she advises.

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Travel as a local

Chances are good you’ve ridden many a renowned metro—from New York and San Francisco to London, Paris, and beyond. But if you’ve only toured these cities as a tourist, Mellone says it is time to take a new type of travel risk, and do as the locals do. “Instead of going to see the ‘sights’, find out where city dwellers spend their time. Steer clear of chains and overly commercialized restaurants and dine at a neighborhood favorite. A truly authentic experience will give you a much greater appreciation for these incredible cities,” she says. The risk here might not be evident—but it’s found about slowing down, enjoying the moment, and savoring the culture.

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Give a public talk

In our country there may be no higher anxiety than public speaking, according to Kristina Hallett, PhD, ABPP, certified clinical psychologist and executive coach. Even those with ripe experience worry about looking foolish, not doing a good job, or being judged—the same sorts of fears Hallett says we face in our personal life as well. “Facing your fear and doing it anyway allows you an opportunity to see that the world won’t end, you won’t have a heart attack, and you’re still a good person—no matter how the talk goes. This will bring you one step closer to taking other risks,” she shares.

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Go for your dream job, rather than the safe option

We all have a perspective on what is attainable and what is out of our league—from our love lives to our careers. But as you get closer to 40, it’s time to shoot for bigger and brighter and better than before. Hallett says far too many folks are unhappy and unfulfilled in their jobs but they’re too nervous to go after the dream position that they’re actually, probably, most likely, definitely qualified for. “Take the risk; shoot for the moon and apply,” she urges.

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Splurge on something you love

Yadda, yadda, yadda—we’ve all heard how important it is to contribute to our 401(k) and to stow away money for a rainy day (or a thunderstorm that does a number on your roof). But if you’ve never splurged on an overpriced, expensive item as a reward to yourself consider this your excuse to spend, baby, spend. Whether it is designer shoes or a watch, a piece of artwork or furniture, every once in a while—perhaps a 40th birthday gift to yourself?—go for the gusto.

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Take up a new sport or hobby

It’s never too late to try something new, especially in terms of hobbies or sports that could bring you joy. After all, children—if you have them—are tasked with new athletic ventures and lessons all the time. It’s tim to join their ranks, and hopefully take child-like glee in acquiring new skills. As Jane Hoffman, entrepreneur, suggests, “Doing something purely for enjoyment is a lost art in our fast-paced digital society. It’s wonderful for kids to see that hobbies, sports, and activities don’t have to be all about achievement, trophies, and being the best—sometimes life can just be fun.”

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Say “yes” to everything for a whole year

With the usual caveats in place—you will learn quite a bit from becoming your own “yes” man or woman for 365 days. Hoffman should know, since she did it herself. From agreeing to be a chaperon to doing more things by herself and joining clubs, she did it all and came away with much more than she anticipated. “By the end of the year, I found myself surrounded by an amazing group of women who had varied interests, talents, and careers,” she shares. “Saying ‘yes’ to everything is not sustainable long-term but, it can be a great starting point for finding your passion and moving toward a life that truly reflects your interests and calling.”

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Selfishly pursue one goal

By the time you reach 40, your responsibilities are likely more plentiful than when you were 20 years old. Mortgages, children, a marriage, a demanding career, and plenty of other must-do’s fill up your time—and then some. Ashley Hampton, PhD, licensed psychologist and business coach, says even when you’re busy, it is important to be selfish sometimes. “Whether the goal be a trip, an advanced degree, opening a business, or starting a family, be selfish in your desires and pursue that goal with great abandon,” she says.

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Release toxic people…

…like yesterday. In terms of how your energy is spent, Erin Wathen, life and wellness coach, says it is never smart to surround yourself with toxicity. Though it might be easy to spot a damaging love relationship, unsupportive friendships can be harder to discern and even more demoralizing. “The perpetrator could be your best friend from college, your boss, or even your brother. Don’t be scared to live by design and know you have to make space for people who truly get you,” she says.

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Set a physical goal

Not everyone is a runner, sure. And not everyone enjoys fitness. But once in your life, you should at least attempt to feel the high of an athletic job well done. From signing up for a half-marathon, triathlon, or a long bike race, part of the fun is training and watching your body get stronger. And crossing a finish line? Even if you’re dead last, there’s nothing like it.

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Speak your truth…finally

If you’ve been biting your tongue and deep breathing at family functions or college reunions for decades now, Marla Mattenson, relationship expert, says it is time to let it rip. This doesn’t mean you have to be mean or rude, but by the time you reach 40, knowing how to stand your ground, speak your piece, and say what you believe is important. Though it might feel uncomfortable at first, you’ll reap rewards in the long run. “If you want to learn how to grow in your life, to take more risks, and live the life you love, be bold and speak the truth everywhere you go. That way, people who resonate with what you say will naturally want to become friends, and those kind of friendships last a lifetime,” she says.

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Take a ‘plan-as-you-go’ vacation

You know you’ve always wanted to do it: Show up to the airport, pick a spot—and go. So what are you waiting for? Liana Corwin, travel expert for Hopper, has an easy way to get this adventure started. Purchase a plane ticket to one destination and a return from another, and then figure out the rest as you go. “There’s an incredible sense of possibility that comes from giving yourself the space to travel freely, and you’ll likely find that you’re more open to experiences that you might never have considered otherwise,” she says. “Having the return flight back helps provide the safety net most of us need to feel at ease enough for this to be more fun than stressful.” 

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Take a solo trip

While traveling alone will challenge your comfort zone, it will also force you to have experiences you might shy away from normally. “Give yourself a chance to rely on your own intuition—you’ll likely come away from the experience with mental clarity, increased confidence, and perhaps the realization that sometimes you need to give yourself permission to just do your own thing,” Corwin says.

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Fall in love

If you’re married, when was the last time you invested in deepening your connection? If you’re single, are you able to let go and allow yourself be vulnerable and transparent to one other person? The rewards are great. Toure Roberts, pastor, international thought leader, and author says there’s no risk more worth taking than love. “The only way to receive life changing love is to open your heart wide enough to release life changing love. Love is risky, but when you find the right one it will be worth all of the risk and pain you took to get there,” he shares. These quotes capture what it’s like to fall in love.

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Investigate what you believe

Regardless if you consider yourself religious or spiritual, a mix of the two, or nothing at all, Roberts says taking a stab at faith is worth exploring by the time you reach 40. This could be attending church, taking a class, reading books, or simply talking to those you trust about their own beliefs. Whatever the avenue, don’t be afraid to explore what speaks to you. “Many people all over the world put their trust in a God that they’ve come to believe in and experience significant happiness, fulfillment, a sense of purpose, and even miracles,” Roberts says.

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Have a professional photo shoot done

While plenty of people think they’re not photogenic—financial planner Reshell Smith, MBA, says it’s worth the confidence boost to have an experience where you finally feel attractive in images. “Buy the cutest dress, the hottest pair of shoes, and hire a great makeup artist and hairstylist,” she suggests. “You will not regret it. As we get older, we critique ourselves more—especially our appearance. While you are young and vibrant, capture a few moments in time that you will really appreciate in the future,” she says.

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Buy a piece of real estate

Even if fewer and fewer individuals and families purchase homes these days, Smith says there is value in investing in real estate, even if it’s a tiny house or a small plot of land. Sure, it is a financial risk, but one that could return tenfold. “Look for something that will provide a stream of income; it doesn’t have to be a big stream of income, just something to get you started in the real estate market,” she says. “Over time, you can add on pieces of real estate and use that income to fund your future retirement.”

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Conquer your fears

What is your greatest fear? Flying? Falling? Clowns? Whatever it is, Darleen Santore, coach, therapist, and author, says it’s time to stop overanalyzing and approach it, once-and-for-all. “Facing a fear won’t be as scary as you think, and once you do look that fear in the face and take that leap, you’re going to learn and grow like never before,” she says. First, find out what your fears say about your personality.

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Help children in some way

When you open your home or your heart to a child, especially those in need, it pushes you in a different way. It can be a leap of faith to volunteer, foster, or invest in a younger generation, and Santore says it will make a world of a difference not only to the children but also to you and your life. “You can become a big brother or big sister, provide foster care, offer to babysit a neighbor’s child… there are so many ways to enrich children.” If you’re not comfortable with children, she suggests volunteering at an after-school program where you’re with kids as well as other adults. “Kids need positive influences. You can be that for a child, and guess what? The return for you will be a more fulfilling life,” she says.

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Quit a job

Ever dream of quitting your unfulfilling, lackluster job, selling everything, and hitting the road? That’s exactly what Jessica Tatham, lead developer at DevelopHer Designs did before she decided to travel the world for a year. Not only was the move one that introduced her to countless cultures and lifelong travel buddies, but it helped turn her side hustle into a full-time career, where she is able to help female executives and entrepreneurs bring their companies online. “It was the best decision I ever made, and one I’m glad I did. I would recommend it to anyone, so let this be your push to turn that dream board into a reality. There’s no better time to do it at any point in your life, and especially before you turn 40,” she says.

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Sing in public

We can’t all win a Grammy, but we can all sing—yep, even in public. “Singing aloud is a powerful form of self-expression, and, done in public, it has the potential to be transformative,” says Arnie Kozak, Ph.D, clinical professor of psychiatry and author. “To open ourselves in song is both a courageous vulnerability and a claiming of our place in the world.” Whether you get behind the mic at a friend’s wedding, a karaoke bar, or singing in the car with your friends—choose a song and just go for it.

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Risk the consequences of taking action

To create change, you must take action—and that doesn’t come without some angst along the way. Whatever the big change you’ve been lusting after, clinical director Kevin Skinner, PhD, says to take the leap and start implementing action now. “Step outside of your comfort zone by just saying to yourself, finally, ‘today is the day.’ There will never be a better time than right now to risk it all for happiness,” he urges.

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Be honest with your parents

Even for those who had happy childhoods, it’s common to harbor some moment of resentment against their parents. Sarah Schewitz, PhD, says to break that ice already. Was it something they said or did or made you do or didn’t let you do? “Ask them why they behaved the way they did, not from a place of trying to change them but from a place of understanding them better,” she suggests. “Then tell them what you really need to hear is that they are proud of you and that you are good enough. I know for many that sounds scary, but you will feel so loved and so healed by having this type of conversation,” she explains.

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Eat something strange

We all have preferences, especially when it comes to food—if you have or know a toddler, they’re a testament to this. If you’ve never strayed outside your culinary comfort zone, it’s time to get snacking. Considering tastebuds change over time—as we age, they stop regenerating, plus our sense of smell dulls—you may be missing out on foods you might enjoy now. If you haven’t yet tried oysters, steak tartar, or heck, even eggplant, what are you waiting for?

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Go on a blind date

If you’ve reached 40 and you’re single, without ever having been on a blind date, start chatting up your friends ASAP, says Elizabeth Blasi, travel blogger. “Ask a friend or family member to set you up on a blind date with someone they think you would be compatible with. Not only is it the chance to meet someone new and have lovely conversation over dinner or drinks, but people closest to you may know you better than you think—and pick the one,” she says. Hey, it is how Meghan Markle and Prince Harry met, after all!

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Move to a new city

Though there is something to be said about loving your hometown—if you’ve never lived anywhere else, why not give it a try? While it will take some planning—like where to work and where to call home—even if it’s just for a few months, living someplace new will give you a new perspective on yourself, the country, and how you develop friendships.

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Reinvent yourself

It is never too late to become what you dream of. Ellyn Schinke, life coach and author, says there is power in finally deciding to be that person, whomever he or she is. “Our past and our limiting beliefs convince us that this is who we are and we can’t change. But sometimes we’re presented with opportunities where re-inventing ourselves and re-defining our labels is completely possible,” she explains. “We have to decide that the risk of re-inventing ourselves into the person we want to be is worth it—doing, saying, and becoming things that we’re not comfortable with or used to.”

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Spend more time alone

You might not be awarded with much of it these days, especially if you have kiddos in the house, but Koffman stresses the importance of solo adventuring, even if, hey, it just means locking the bathroom door and listening to a podcast or taking an extra hour for a coffee and reading a book while you’re off the hook during a playdate. This helps you be who you are—and value the qualities that make you, you. “By age 40 everyone should learn to enjoy their own company and love their alone time,” she says.

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Make a difference

You don’t need a grandiose plan to overhaul the nation or the world, but if you have an inkling of how to help a community in need, now is the time to get started. As Hoffman says, you have to believe in your power to make a difference if you actually want to make one. Research volunteer opportunities and allow yourself to dig deep and get in touch with your compassionate spirit. Get started by checking out these creative ways to volunteer.

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Get honest about your health

The greatest risk in caring for your health is facing your shortcomings, Wathen says. We all have areas that need improvement—overcoming a late-night binge habit or a regular lack of exercise—but as we get closer to 40, being smart about our bodies becomes a priority. “Maintaining a healthy weight; eating real, unprocessed food; drinking water; getting enough sleep; and developing long term habits now will help you prevent chronic disease—and feel better on a daily basis now,” she urges. Here are the health tweaks everyone needs to make after hitting the big 4-0.

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Start your own side hustle—or business

You might not have entrepreneurial dreams, but you likely have at least one “side gig” that brings you happiness, be it baking your signature brownies or creating art out of found objects. By the time you’re 40, Turner says it’s worth exploring how big your business could be. “With the emergence of the internet and the bustling world economy there has never been a time where there are more opportunities for entrepreneurs,” he says.

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Reconnect with an ex

And we don’t mean to rekindle—unless you’re both single, of course. Say there is someone in your past who you have unfinished business with or a relationship that ended on a down note or even someone you are still left wondering about, now is the moment to risk asking “Why?” By getting this closure, you may open yourself up to new opportunities, a new attitude toward relationships, and plenty of feel-good vibes.

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Be silent for a week

If you can get away for a silent meditation retreat, the peace and quiet of just sitting with your thoughts can be life-altering. But if you can’t get away, try your best to be as quiet as possible for one week, letting others have their full say before you chime in. This requires you to listen more often and tune in to yourself, your reactions, and your thoughts. “Our existence is narrated by our sense of self—we like some things, we don’t like other things, we reach for the good things and try to make them stay, and push away the bad things—which makes us spend time in the future and the past, instead of fully appreciating the present moment,” he notes. “A silent meditation retreat will give you ample opportunities to set self aside and experience being present in the moment.”

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Get real about what makes you happy

Many people struggle with prioritizing their happiness above the happiness of others, especially that of family members, children, or spouses, but Dr. Skinner stresses the importance of seeking this sense of contentment without considering another human. “You are the hero of your story. It’s critical that you understand you can’t help anyone else until you help yourself. Making sure that you treat yourself kindly and allow for your own light to shine before guiding others is one of the most important risks you can take,” he adds.

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Try every move in the Kama Sutra

If you have a few years before 40—get started ASAP! Antonia Hall, PhD and sex expert, says for any long-term love affair, adding a bit of experimentation and kink into the bedroom has a way of brightening your life. “While you are unlikely to actually be able to do all of the positions in the Kama Sutra, you’ll have a lot of fun trying. Do it while you’re young, flexible, and have the time and energy for it, and you’ll find that it also fosters a healthy relationship with your body, pleasure, and sexuality that lasts a lifetime,” she says. Read on to find out everything you need to know about sex in your 40s.

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Say “no” to your boss

Not all the time—but when it makes a difference in your work-life balance, according Amy Cooper Hakim, career expert. “As we grow older, we often make calculated choices in order to move up at work or to gain certain social connections. Sometimes, we neglect important relationships in the process. It’s healthy to say ‘no’ sometimes to such requests so that you may spend your free time with those who find you irreplaceable,” she says.

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Stop trying to control your weight

It might feel risky to let go of that size you’ve always wanted to be—and likely punished yourself for not being—but Kaleigh McMordie, RD, says to stop it already. As she explains, a diet-obsessed culture means we’re always thinking about our weight, instead of living and enjoying our lives. This doesn’t mean being unhealthy—but it does mean having a positive mindset toward your body. “There is very little you can actually do to control your body size and shape, and you’re already worthy just the way you are, so start living like it! Once you stop trying to restrict foods and control your body, you stop obsessing over food and exercise and find so much more room in life for relationships, pursuing passions, and joy,” she says. Here are 12 proven ways to boost your body image in under 10 minutes.