40 profound life lessons that a heart attack can teach you


by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Some heart attack survivors I’ve met will readily describe, surprisingly, how their heart disease diagnosis has actually been a “gift”, which sounds positively goofy to me

This “gift” can be appreciated only from the distance of willing hindsight, enhanced by the gratitude of surviving what many do not. For example, I often look back at my ‘normal’ running-around-with-my-hair-on-fire, over-committed and chronically exhausted self, pre-heart attack, and wonder what I thought was so important back then. As one of my Mayo Clinic heart sisters said:

“I have more balance in my life now – because I have to!”

Like many diagnosed with a chronic, progressive illness, I’ve been mulling over some of the many lessons to be learned from having a heart attack. I’m still not saying that a cardiac event is a gift, but please don’t wait until you have a catastrophic health event to mull these over yourself.  Here are 40 to start you off:

  1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
  2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
  3. Your job won’t take care of you after your heart attack. Your friends and family will.  Stay in touch.
  4. Pay off your credit cards every month.
  5. You don’t have to win every argument.  Agree to disagree.
  6. Saving for retirement starts with your first paycheque.
  7. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
  8. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
  9. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  10. Don’t compare your life to others.  You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  11. Very few things in life are worth getting that upset over.
  12. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. Take a deep breath.  It calms the mind.
  13. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful in your life. (Thanks, William Morris!)
  14. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or not.
  15. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.  But the second one is up to you and no one else.
  16. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take NO for an answer.
  17. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save them for a special occasion.  Today is special.
  18. Over-prepare, then go with the flow.
  19. Be eccentric now.  Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
  20. The most important sex organ is the brain.
  21. No one is in charge of your happiness but YOU.
  22. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ‘In five years, will this even matter?’
  23. Always choose life.
  24. Forgive everyone everything.
  25. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  26. Time heals almost everything.  Give time time.
  27. It’s okay to let your children see you cry.
  28. Don’t take yourself so seriously.  No one else does.
  29. Don’t take things so personally.
  30. Don’t audit life.  Show up and make the most of it now.
  31. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.
  32. Your children get only one childhood.
  33. As James Taylor says: “Shower the people you love with love”.
  34. Get outside in the fresh air every day.  Miracles are waiting everywhere.
  35. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
  36. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
  37. The best is yet to come.
  38. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  39. Yield.
  40. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.
* inspired by 90-year old Regina Brett writing in The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Do you have another life lesson to add to this list?


2 thoughts on “40 profound life lessons that a heart attack can teach you

  1. I have to say that your article was so ‘right on’. I’m 69, have 3 sons, 5 grandchildren, and all through my mothering years, (which were the best of the lot) I totally enjoyed every minute being a stay at home mom. Even my boys now tell me how important it was for me to be home for them. I couldn’t have possibly stuck them in a day care. My husband and I just got by with what we had. I strongly suggest to women to NOT read all these silly self centered books about how to be happy. Just do it!! With no GUILT. The most inspiring writers for me were Norman Vincent Peale (most of you probably don’t know him) but my oh my, his advice to me was inspirational. That was my bible for night time reading. So, all you wonderful women out there, just enjoy your children, family and if you have a job, just do what you can and leave the rest for the next day. The world won’t collapse. Good Luck!!


  2. Dear Carolyn,
    I saw your link on HuffPost, so I wanted to check it out. I loved the 40 Profound Lessons…thank you for the compilation of these wonderful reminders of everyday living. We all are too quick to forget. I plan on passing it along to my family and friends (and I’ll give full credit to your site).

    I hope this finds you happy and healthy!

    Kind regards,


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