“Am I that old?”
“Do I look that old?”
The first time it happened, I was in shock. The second time, I started taking notice of who I was.
And I’ve been making changes in my life ever since.
As a society, we think of midlife as that period where you move into a slower, less productive you. Yet I know from experience that midlife is anything but a uniformed approach to aging. I know 40-somethings that have a lot of health problems. And I know 80-somethings that are scaling the top mountains in the world.
You can’t define midlife with one static definition. Because I’ll never accept that in my fifties, my best has already happened. And some people do.
What’s the difference?
Midlife brings on a change in your responsibilities. For me, that happened in several ways.
The empty nest meant my daughter moved away and started living her life on her terms. Though we’ll always be close, I no longer have the everyday responsibility of her safety like I did when she was younger.
This gives me time to discover what I want to do with my time, morning, noon, and night.
Instead of falling into the trap of filling the space with nothing, I’ve filled it with bettering me. I have more interests. I join more groups. I look for ways to connect with like-minded people in a more meaningful way.
There’s a saying in our house that both my husband and I subscribe to: 50 to 60. On his 50th birthday, we sat down and created a plan. We wrote down what we wanted to achieve to have a happy and healthy life for the next 10 years.
Every life choice, every decision, every new opportunity that presents ourselves we ask a question first: how does this fit into our 50 to 60 plan?
And only if it fits within our plan do we move forward. I “see” my future and I’m defining it clearly every day.
Focus and clarity are two keywords in my vocabulary. So much so I wear a bracelet to remind myself.
I know where I’ve come from. And more importantly, I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going. But that doesn’t mean new opportunities don’t hit me with abundance. Focus comes into play to ensure I stick with my chosen path.
I leave room to explore. But in my fifties, I know where my interests lie. I know who I am and what gives me the most meaning. I ensure that every step leads me down the right path.
Short term decisions rarely push you to your true potential. I get lost in ideas all the time – I’m an idea person.
Just this year, I’ve come up with about a half-dozen new business models, everything from a food business to a retail store.
Sure, they’re all great ideas. And I could probably make any of them a success.
But then I ask myself what matters most. And for me, I define it in the most meaningful way for me. Flexibility. Freedom. Financially fit. Those are my top three goals for my 50 to 60 plan. If I invest in a retail location, I won’t have flexibility, and I definitely won’t have freedom to do as I choose, every day.
Choosing what matters most keeps the real you in sight. It helps you fall in love with new opportunities while figuring out a way to put them into your well-defined life.
Or not! And that’s okay too. Because when you have a well-defined plan, it helps you choose what matters most.
I remember the day we put our house up for sale and planned a move from a 3300 square foot home down to a 1200 square foot apartment. Terror is a good descriptive. How would I get rid of all my stuff?
The first piece was difficult; it held meaning. The tenth piece was freedom; I discovered I didn’t really have an attachment.
The more I simplified, the more clear my life and goals became. I started living for me rather than living for everything around me.
I currently live in a rental with about 1100 square feet. But I could downsize more if I had to. Because I have very little attachment to the things in my life, and only have feelings for the simple things around me.
The less I have in my life, the more meaning the things I choose to keep really have.
You have two choices: play it safe or take a risk. Me, I’m a risk taker.
But what truly is risk? I started looking at it differently back in my twenties when I watched my father reinterview for his position, over and over again for seven years of his life. Is it riskier to accept the fate of working for a company that can pink slip you or hold off giving you raises? Or is it riskier jumping into your own business and controlling how much income you derive?
Fear comes from the unknown. But there is always someone who has “been there done that” before. Find them. Use them as guides. And discover all you can.
When you recognize fear for what it is, you can use all you have inside of you to overcome it and move towards a brighter future.
Right here in my fifties, I know I have 30 solid years of experience behind me, doing everything from raising a family to starting a business, to selling that business for a healthy profit. Those things were once scary. I overcame them.
So why let anything stand in my way?
Want to stay young? Find a way to challenge yourself.
Give yourself a new task or quest. Look for ways to see and do something new.
It doesn’t have to be huge; in fact, it can be anything at all. Including things in your local area. We’ve set goals to see every covered bridge in Oregon. We’ve also set a goal to travel Highway 101 from the Canadian to the Mexican border. One stretch in California eludes us; we are heading out and accomplishing it this year.
I have challenges in every aspect of my life: hobbies, business, even relationships. It’s what keeps me young. It’s what keeps me alive.
Midlife often finds you in the middle of a marriage you’ve put on autopilot for a long time. With kids to raise, and caregiving tasks, and jobs that have a ton of demands, you often look at each other and wonder what’s left. I don’t know any couple married for any length of time that hasn’t looked at each other and thought, “hmmm.”
At some point, I put it into my mind that I wouldn’t get a divorce. It wasn’t an option; I took it off the table. So even when we did more on our own than together, even when we fought more than we talked, we would always come home and deal with each other in some way.
We put us first at one point and worked out what we wanted, together, for our future. And we started to explore that future, together, a little bit more.
We love getting lost. We’ve yelled our way through getting on the wrong trains in Italy. We’ve sweated about possibly running out of gas on the back roads of nowhere. But when we come out the other side, together, it’s like we’re a little bit closer because we’re having the time of our lives in the process.
It doesn’t take much. It takes wanting to make midlife even greater than what you’ve had before.
And with all the knowledge accumulated thus far, anything is possible.
Originally published at visionofsuccess.com
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