~ This was actually a cry of anguish from a friend of mine.
From a neutral position, I could have responded by saying, “So what is your point?” But because of the conditioning of the collective mind, my comment would in all probability be interpreted as cold and sarcastic.
My friend works in a large organization where 60 is the mandatory retirement age. While he understands the need to make room for younger employees to reach the lofty heights where he currently resides, he also resents the connotations attached to the concept of retirement, such as, ‘being put out to pasture’, ‘over the hill’, ‘long in the tooth’, ‘seasoned’, ‘past your sell-by-date’…. Sayings that imply diminished value.
No-one wants to feel worthless, but is it entirely up to others to determine our worth? How did we gain that value in the first place? Were we valued because we were young or because of our potential and ability?
While the policy of retirement age may often stipulate 60, what is 60 when removed from society’s conditioned thinking? It’s just a number, not our identity? It does not signify the end of life, or that of our skills and talent. Yet if we load the concept of ‘60+ years old’ with dread, despair and every other joy-sucking thought we can conjure up, we’ll turn our minds into soul vampires and transform who we are into merely a memory.
A joy-nurturing alternative is to drop those thoughts and revisit our reservoir of potential and desires. Every time the conditioned mind steps in with cries akin to “Oh Woe is me now that 60 is upon me”, we can stop the thought in its tracks! Prevent it from building momentum! Change our focus to thoughts that are expansive, adventurous, exciting. If they feel a little scary, good! Consider it thrilling much along the lines of the fun fair roller coaster joy ride – would you even consider going on that ride if it didn’t have the hurtling, thrill-filled package? Now there’s an enticing metaphor to hang over the retirement portal. After all, why should retirement be boring? Entirely safe usually equates to boring.
My friend has clearly been very successful in his career, so there is no reason why he couldn’t rechannel that potential-to-succeed into new avenues.
This is sooo possible for everyone to do, but only if we remove a common obstacle that we humans tend to erect between us and our success, and that is resistance to change. Many changes are out of our control, such as turning 60 years old! And if that’s the time to bid adieu to our current job according to company policy, then that’s what it is.
What do we gain from accepting what is? We let go of the internal negative cries of resistance and we stop writing a bitter, melancholic drama in our heads. With all that out the way we are free to place our attention squarely in front of us, allowing us to remain open to new opportunities.
It’s a matter of unlearning old patterns of thinking and conditioning, and replacing them with beneficial and productive thinking.
Time to explore (on our own and with trusted friends) strengths, favourite pastimes, values…
And if the cries of “it can’t be done” persist, take encouragement and inspiration from a few examples among those who have “done it”.
Harlan David Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, founded Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 60s. Although he tried many jobs, he enjoyed dabbling in cooking, which gradually took more of his time. The franchise business concept was totally new to him when he launched it.
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) took up art when she was 75, leading to her discovery by a collector three years later which in turn led to world-wide fame.
The book Robinson Crusoe was written by Daniel Defoe when he was 60 – his first novel.
At 96, Harry Bernstein’s debut novel The Invisible Wall was published.
And talking about writing, retirement provides an excellent time to record all the gems of expertise gained from our experience for the benefit of those in our field. If you don’t want to write for public consumption or you don’t think you have anything worth sharing, it’s still a good idea to jot down all the achievements that you have notched up, if for no other reason than to bolster your confidence and belief in yourself. Travel back through the years and surprise yourself with how much you have done, within and outside the work arena.
If we could do it before, we can do it again. Etches of wisdom run through wrinkles – they do not signify diminished power. The power of choice is ours forever. That force within us only leaves with the last beat of our heart; it is not controlled by numbers unless we think it is – our thoughts and beliefs impact every cell in our body.
But if we wait for others to usher in our new beginnings, we could wait forever.
Welcome this new chapter in life and allow curiosity to propel you as you seek out the angles that best align with your own personal power capacity. And if that takes you into something completely different from your career, well, why not? Actor Wang Deshun took up modelling at the age of 79, and by 80 he was strutting his stuff on international ramps. He favours pursuing ‘nowness’, as he puts it, and when it comes to old age he says, “One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, ‘Do you dare try something you’ve never done before?’ ”
Former concert pianist Deirdre Larkin certainly chose ‘something different’ when she took up running at the age of 78. She has broken world records and at 85 continues to do so, competing in 60 races a year, mostly over 10kms but with at least one half marathon included every month.
A reinvention of the self is possible and empowering. The alternative is that of ‘victim consciousness’ which carries the attitude that life happens to us. Our attitude is always within our control, so we can choose to take 100% responsibility for our experience of life.
The sheer joy of fulfilment is what life is all about and if that is what pre-60 life has been for you, then post-60 does not have to be any different no matter what ventures take your fancy. If indeed you feel that you have missed out on the experience of delicious fulfilment, then there is no time like now to change that. It’s never too late.
And when next someone throws you a suggestive hint of “a pasture, hill, sell-by-date or season”, think back on how often you’ve heard or indeed said, “If only I had known what I know now when I was 30!” Be appreciative of your age and the wise insights that come with it. There is no substitute for experience which combined with the right attitude will transform any pasture into a green paradise of abundance.
It’s the age of discovery!
“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” ~ David Bowie