THE BLOG
08/30/2014 09:33 am ET | Updated Oct 30, 2014

To My Sons: 20 Lessons for a Meaningful Life (That I Wish I Knew When I Was Your Age)

Author and artist Austin Kleon writes that when people give advice, they're really just talking to themselves in the past. I'll buy that. And by midlife, there's plenty of the past to draw from in the advice department. Because there are no do-overs (and how we sometimes wish there were), the closest we can come is to offer what we've learned to our children.

Midlife is typically a time of reflection. Would I do it the same way over again? What would I change? Too often, our answers start with, "If only I'd..." or "Knowing what I know now..."

So, here's my advice to my sons (and, yes, to my past self) on how to best mitigate life's coulda-woulda-shoulda's:

1. Define your life's credo; then live by it.

2. There's no mistaking what love feels like. If it doesn't feel good, it's not love.

3. Being truly happy for others is a gift you give yourself.

4. If you're feeling guilty, you're probably doing something you shouldn't.

5. Your gut is trying to tell you something. Listen to it.

6. Peace and quiet are the cures for a lot of things.

7. You really don't need to keep asking. You already know the answer.

8. The value of living an honest life cannot be overestimated.

9. Loving yourself is the foundation for all your healthy relationships.

10. Fear and bitterness will cripple you. Get out ahead of them.

11. Nothing in life feels better than being where you're supposed to be with the people you're supposed to be with. Nothing.

12. In relationships, the good stuff shows up when you stop running.

13. People can't always change but they can change their behaviors. And often, that's enough.

14. When all else fails, hold up your end of the bargain.

15. Forgiveness will cure what ails you.

16. The people you fear or admire put their pants on one leg at a time, too.

17. Hold your siblings close. Sometimes they will be the only ones who understand.

18. Throwing money at it won't make it go away.

19. No feeling or situation is permanent. If you're despairing, get help.

20. The love you have for your children is exponentially different from any other you'll experience. Don't miss it.