51 Life Lessons from a 51 Year Old Woman

This year I turned 51 (ARGH!) and I remember being 21 like yesterday (note to self invest in great eye cream).

What have been my greatest life lessons? Who do I want to be? What do I want to stand for with this limited time left in my life (I am still young!)? How can I call into my courage and kindness each day?

I think about these questions every day.

Now, what would I tell my younger leadership self?

I would tell her many different things and here are my greatest life lessons.

In a nutshell here are my 51 big lessons (and I have stuffed up plenty too!) –

  1. Life goes past so quickly; lead and life an authentic, amazing, brave, challenging and fun life everyday.
  2. Do one thing each day that makes your heart sing.
  3. Don’t wait for the right time to do something, just do it.
  4. You will lose friends in your life and do it sooner if they are putting holes in your rowboat.
  5. You will grow more if you don’t take things personally.
  6. Learn from people who have already created a great life, business and career. Get a coach and mentor too!
  7. All you need is action and perseverance – and self-discipline.
  8. Learn to love yourself completely and embrace your own company.
  9. Know your values and live and breath them.
  10. Focusing on your dreams can be difficult however just do it!
  11. Be trustworthy always.
  12. Fake it until you become it.
  13. Practice self-reflection everyday.
  14. Choose your life partner and those job roles carefully.
  15. Always be hopeful and compassionate.
  16. Be the best, most empowering and positive person you know.
  17. Don’t ruminate over the small stuff as it will pass.
  18. Leave the phone alone for important meetings and moments.
  19. Be humble always. This is fundamental.
  20. Treat people how you want to be treated.
  21. No regrets. No failure. Only lessons and learnings.
  22. Be courageous. When you look back on life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
  23. Celebrate the small achievements and success.
  24. Focus on what is in your circles of control and influence only.
  25. Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.
  26. Leadership isn’t a title, it is a choice and attitude.
  27. Have the best attitude every day. You choose your attitude.
  28. Learn and open yourself to who you truly are. This self-discovery journey never ends.
  29. Pick up a great book and start reading it. I still read 100’s of books on leadership every year!
  30. Learn about yourself. Self-awareness is the greatest capability.
  31. Integrity is central to everything. Lead by example.
  32. Own your story. It does not define you, but your story makes you who you are.
  33. Own what makes you different and unique and just rock it!
  34. Trust your natural ability – you can do it.
  35. Believe in yourself – confidence truly does rocks.
  36. Don’t take no for an answer. If they say no, go to the next. Find that yes.
  37. Surround yourself with empowering people who lift you higher and you can learn from.
  38. Give more to others. If you are successful, don’t forget to send the elevator down for others to ride up in.
  39. Leadership and life is about supporting others to do more, learn more and be more.
  40. Talk to strangers and connect more to others. A simple hello can go a long way.
  41. Ask great questions and listen. Great curiosity is the key.
  42. Embrace vulnerability and ask for help. Offer help where you can and it is totally okay to cry.
  43. Never stop learning and invest in yourself. Growth mindset is key however Benefit mindset is even greater.
  44. Remember even the tougher of times can teach us something. See learnings in everything.
  45. Never lose an opportunity to say thank you, or I love you.
  46. Kindness is an absolute superpower.
  47. Follow your instincts, but don’t discount others’ opinions. 
  48. Be respectful, always.
  49. Be the model of what you expect from others.
  50. Start your day with positive affirmations, visualisations and positive focus.
  51. Be willing to do what is right, even when others don’t agree.

Finally talk to yourself like someone you truly adore and admire…

There is so much more I would say to her….maybe when I get to 100, I will have my 100 life lessons. Remember life is a compilation of lessons and stories – embrace them.

I want to say thank you to the leadership community and tribe who read and watch my posts, articles and insights.

I have been doing this now for 15 years (15 years since I launched LeadershipHQ) and 30 years in the leadership, people and culture space. I could not do this without my daughter, team and you all.

We have helped 1000’s of organisations, workplaces, leaders and people – and we have seen, experienced and navigated the adversities, joys and incredible impacts of being a leader, parent, CEO, team and business like many of you.

I want to say a wholehearted thank you for your support, courage and kindness as we do this for YOU.

All I want and ask if you are reading this to to live and lead a life of courage and kindness.

Since I was little I loved to write and teach. Funnily enough I wanted to be a teacher and my teachers told me I was too smart to be a teacher. I wish I didn’t listen to them. Maybe in hindsight it is good I didn’t as I have come full circle.

I would love you all to call into your inner child and do those things you loved to do whether it is painting, dancing like no one is watching, writing those stories that inspire you, collecting rocks or jumping into that cold and blue water from a cliff.

I wish you all an amazing Christmas with your loved ones and only want happiness, love and health for you in 2023.

Think about your words and mantras for 2023?

My mantra and words are to always be a Brave and Kind and empower brave and kind leaders and human around me and across the world. Research had shown that Kindness is a strength for leaders and that being kind makes us happier and our employees more productive!

My 7 laws for being a kind leader –

1. Kindly be Present – The best gift you can give yourself and others is to be truly there.

2. Kindly be Compassionate – Be kind to yourself first and foremost and compassionate to others.

3. Kindly show you Care – People want to be cared about and by showing you care about others at work and in the community makes a difference.

4. Kindly show Gratitude – Always saying thank you to everyone who did something that you are grateful for whether it’s your team for doing great work or cafe worker making your coffee.

5. Kindly help Others – If you someone is struggling or needs support of guidance, offer your help.

6. Kindly show Respect – Accept everyone for who they are no matter what and respect them as human beings.

7. Kindly be Kind – Ralph Waldo Emerson may have said it best. “You can not do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

If you would love to know more about how to be a kind and courageous leader or hear me speak at your event or organisation, please contact me at sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

Sonia McDonald is the best motivational speaker in Australia, Keynote speakers in Australia, guest speakers Australia, Leadership Speakers Australia

By Sonia McDonald – CEO Of LeadershipHQ And McDonald Inc. Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO And Award Winning Author.

+61 424 447 616

31/44 Sturgeon Street, Ormiston QLD 4160


Sonia is passionate about her voice. When Sonia speaks, everyone in the room feels like she is having a conversation with them as her audience will feel as if they are the only one in the room. She speaks from the heart. She is brave. She wants everyone to be brave. She is an impactful and motivational leadership expert and speaker that creates a life-changing experience. People call Sonia sassy, inspirational, real and a speaker who leaves a lasting impression. Her high-energy, authenticity and humour combined with actionable and practical advice, empowers her audience and provides them with great drive and confidence to take courageous actions and inspire great leadership in all aspects of their lives.

Sonia also is founder of LeadershipHQ and McDonald Inc. and is also a renowned and award-winning author, having written several of her own books, Leadership Attitude, Just Rock It! and First Comes Courage as well as being a regular contributor in The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. She was named as one of the Top 250 Influential Women in the world as well as Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs by Richtopia.

Through her leadership advisory and coaching work at LeadershipHQ, and founding the Outstanding Leadership Awards, Sonia is internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and culture, organisational development, neuroscience, kindness, and courage.

Sonia is also a full-time single parent and has a passion for women in business and teenage mental health. Sonia travels and speaks across Australia and Globe, and she is on a mission to building a world of great leaders and leadership.