“I thought getting older would take longer,” she wailed.
My friend had a big 0 birthday on her horizon, and she didn’t quite know what to make of herself. On the one hand, she felt much as she had at 30. And at 40. But, no. She wasn’t.
“I know I’m not young, but I don’t feel old either, ” she sighed.
“It’s not how old you are. It’s how you are old.”
And herein lies the dilemma of midlife. Whatever that means. In a sense, each woman must craft the meaning of midlife for herself.
I remember feeling much older at 40 than I did at 50.
At forty, I was still driving car pools, putting in hours of volunteer work at a local thrift shop, managing a household that was going in five different directions every day.
At fifty, I was immersed in graduate school. My colleagues were all 28 year olds. There was an energy and excitement about being on a college campus. My kids were launched. There were choices to be made. Possibilities!
Here are four sweet spot strategies to ease every midlife birthday:
- Take stock of your life.
Where have you been? Where would you like to be going? What are the strengths and talents you have developed in your parenting, working and/or volunteer years?
These middle years are characterized by some predictable challenges. Children are leaving home. Parents are aging. Health may be failing. Memory is, well . . . what was I going to say about memory?
It’s smart to recognize these coming events and make plans for them. Look at your life and determine what you can control. Make reasonable changes, explore your interests and consider new avenues.
- Learn to say, “Yes.”
Say yes to crafting a new phase for yourself. Working? Schooling? Mentoring? Mission work?
Say yes to deepening your spiritual life. It’s never too late to become more reflective. If you don’t have a Christian church family, find one and commit to it. Find a good bible study and immerse yourself.
Say yes to developing your important personal relationships. Stop advising your adult children and learn to befriend them. Let go of old resentments. Life is short. Make amends when you can. Less criticism. More applause.
- Learn to say, “No.”
Accept the fact that you can’t — nor do you need to — do everything well. Now is the time to have a laser focus on what’s important to your life and what’s not.
Do more of what you do well. Outsource the things you do poorly.
Make a list of your three top priorities. Do not invest any considerable amount of time, money or energy in anything that isn’t on your top 3 list. Which isn’t to say you can’t dabble in frivolity on occasion.
Over-committing can sap your energy and take you off track. Say no to those things that drain you.
- Learn to say, “Thank you.”
Make eye contact and say a sincere “thank you” to at least one person every day. The checker at Safeway. The man who holds the door at the bank. Your family for putting up with your midlife musings.
More midlife sweet spots:
Keep a Gratitude Journal. Every evening before you go to sleep think about the blessings of the day. Date the top of your journal page and number down to five. Now go back and fill in the blanks. The small, as well as the large, thank you’s of life. As you train yourself to be grateful, joy will follow.
Wherever you are on the calendar of life, you are the author of your story.
Take stock of where you want to go and find a path to go there. If you need to, get a helper for this.
Say ‘no’ to those things that you can – things that no longer fit for you. You don’t have to do everything.
Say ‘yes’ to what excites you; those things you now have time for.
Train yourself to be grateful for the blessings of this life.
“Gratitude is the pathway to joy.” C.S. Lewis
OVER TO YOU: How are you challenged by this perspective? What age do you think of when you hear the word, midlife? Tell us in the Comments Section below.
CALL ME at (707) 473-8278 for a complimentary 45-minute conversation to see how you’re doing with midlife challenges.
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Until next time, this is Carolyn, your “What’s Next?” Coach!