Does age dominate who you really are?
As the years slip by, your skin may become lined, your hair grey, your diet wiser, and your joints a little less co-operative; but do these changes transform you into someone else? Or is there a voice inside you saying, “I’m still here; I’m still me!”
Of course it is still you, a you who has moved through many cycles of change from toddler to teen to adult to middle-aged to ……………,
Why is it difficult to find a name or description for this last phase of life that does not sound harsh or patronising or even depressing?
Or is it?
Why do we choke over saying the word ‘old’?
When our biographical odometer reflects many yearly milestones, it’s telling us that we have a vast array of experiences under our belt. These are assets which we can draw upon to assist us in navigating our future directions.
There’s a certain experience that we can only gain by spending many years on this planet. It’s an achievement that is signposted by a chunky numerical figure, and yet, admirable as that figure may be, it still does not represent our whole identity.
Our perceivable identities are multi-faceted with each facet seeded in a different experience. It’s not just our work experience that counts as meaningful – all life experiences accumulatively contribute towards an expanded hindsight potential and reservoir of wisdom
The markets’ scream of shame at the signs of age is intended to buckle our self-esteem and boost our gullibility at the expense of our wallets. But if our appreciation of beauty can extend from the lush green valleys of the tropics to the barren undulations of the desert, why can we not appreciate the finely chiselled furrows that represent a wealth of experience?
The milestones, the age number and the physical changes are part of our individuation package but they do not represent the essence of who we are. That essence or blueprint that we are born with, we carry through to our last heart beat. It’s an essence that permeates our behaviour and when heeded unleashes unique potential. The only time that we are unable to express our true essence is when we lose the faculties necessary for such expression.
The indelibility of our essence is an important point to remember when we hit the 60s-and-beyond milestone when most full-time employment occupations advance into retirement. Sadly though, I have witnessed many friends and clients in this phase of life who clearly have forgotten this and instead have that “WTF now?” look on their faces. In fact they seem to exude the question from every pore of their being, such is their despair and sense of being lost.
Retiring from a job does not mean retiring from life. The “I’m still me!” voice remains within you – the real you, who can grab the new opportunity to express and recreate yourself in other ways. Retirement is the time to create a new identity, or, if you haven’t already done so, allow the real you to blossom.
But all this recreating has to begin with our attitude. If our attitudinal filter is clouded by derision for the golden era of life, then that’s where the recreating has to begin. That’s where the change begins – derision, dread and anxiety change into appreciation, curiosity and excitement. Any exploration of opportunities cannot be optimally successful if our viewfinder aperture is constricted by fear.
A narrow aperture exposes fewer possibilities and therefore a limited scope of choices. And as everything we do is preceded by choice, it’s important for us to remove the shutters of fear from our vision. Stepping out of a comfort zone can be scary but it’s an anxiety that lessens with every day that passes outside the comfort zone, gradually becoming replaced by the joy we sense from honouring our true potential and the courage that that took. The alternative is long-term dissatisfaction, emptiness and despair – leading to a degenerating quality of life and health.
According to neuroscientist Prof. Faull, the best way to keep our brains in good shape is to find something we enjoy doing, and do it every single day for as long as possible.
Let me help you rediscover how to enjoy this phase of life whether that means redesigning a new livelihood or fulfilling those long awaited dreams.
There is nothing to be lost by venturing into the realm of possibilities but there is much to be lost by denying the existence of endless possibilities.
Look out for posts to come that further explore this interesting time of life.