I’ll be 42 tomorrow.

All week I’ve received early birthday wishes on Facebook and several gracious gifts have arrived in the mail.

torylaurie1Perhaps my favorite note came Tuesday night via email from my friend Laurie Baggett. She wrote, “Since I’ve met you, you’ve looked younger every year, accomplished even greater things, and changed more lives.”

Hard to beat a compliment like that.

More importantly, that gracious note caused a sudden shift in my head from “yikes” to “yay” – the angst of getting older was instantly replaced with exhilaration, especially, if, according to Laurie, I’m improving with age.

Huge relief, given that none of us can turn back the clock.

I’ve come to value today — honoring the power of the present, which means not pining for the past or longing for the future, but really enjoying the here and now.

I pulled out the journal I use to record milestones and I created a list of why now is not only my time to shine, but perhaps yours, too.

Here are my nine “ah ha” realities.

1. Confidence and candor. I’m more sure of myself and my strengths than ever before. That doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous or that I’m without plenty of insecurities. But I proactively share what’s on my mind and I mean what I say — no sugarcoating or beating around the bush. Instead of waiting for permission to speak up, choose to use the power of your voice for good.

2. Extraordinary career satisfaction. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do what I absolutely love. Then I realize I created this career. All of us have the ability to steer the ship on our desired course and finally become a master at making smart choices, shifting gears as needed and adapting with the times.

3. Endless curiosity. Fear of rejection has been replaced with FOMO — fear of missing out. I’m more daring, never reckless — willing to try, instead of pass, and always appreciative of the experience. Be picky as you guard your time — choosing to focus primarily on the stuff that allows us to give and grow.

4. Loyalty and integrity reign. A busy life brings exposure to all sorts of people and opportunities. When the noise fades, the quiet moments reveal the real stars among us. I’ve come to treasure the people who are genuine and true, which sadly isn’t a given in everyone we know. Weeding out clutter becomes easier when you know without reservation who has your back and you’re clear on what matters most.

5. Joy from super simple pleasures. Last month I discovered the sweetest, most succulent yellow grape tomatoes. I enthusiastically got my family hooked, too. That led to experimenting with unusual varieties of berries to beans — while savoring each bite. A glorious sunrise, getting an extra hour of sleep, discovering something new while reading a favorite magazine, making a manicure last a little bit longer — gotta love the little things.

6. A tad more patience*. Only a tad. While I’m still wildly impatient, I’ve gotten much better at accepting that things rarely happen on my timetable and I’m more at ease going with the flow and allowing processes to take their natural course. (*This is most definitely a work in progress. Maybe by 50 I’ll be there.)

7. Financial savvy. In my early twenties, I naively cashed in my 401k to buy a car. Retirement was a foreign concept and I figured I had a lifetime ahead of me to save. It’s essential to sock away something every single day, no matter how small, because time passes quickly and it’s nearly impossible to make up for it.

8. Fall in love with Instagram. Filters on photographs give everyone a gorgeous glow. With just a couple of clicks, you’ll be as addicted as I am to capturing meaningful moments and sharing pictures with fans, followers, family and friends. 
If you’re already a believer, join me @toryjohnson.

9. Happiness is a choice. Perhaps the greatest “ah ha” of all is the realization that we control our mood and mindset. We choose the emotions that fill our days and the energies that we give out. That’s an awesome responsibility and a freedom unlike any other — embrace it to your benefit at all times.