Along with your 55th birthday cake and cards comes the chilling realisation that you’re in a losing battle against mortality. That almost daily the chance of a life threatening or limiting disease or event increases. You understand that all the things you have mentally ticked off to do later, when you have more time and money, won’t happen unless you start doing them now.
To make them happen you need to be mentally tough enough to make difficult decisions that result in changes to your comfortable lifestyle.
This involves a re-evaluation of your sense of purpose and your life plan, which leads to redefining your specific goals and just how you can achieve them. Making things happen requires confidence and persistence, as well as a huge bank of resilience to resist the inevitable opposition, disapproval and distractions.
Here are fifteen of your safe habits you might need to change;
1) Live your dreams and let yourself fail
Several years ago I was reluctant to write posts and articles about mental toughness because I didn’t think I was interesting or skilled enough. I was waiting until I became both of those things. Whilst it’s debatable whether I’m either interesting or skilled now, I don’t worry about it as much because I have realised that ‘getting started’ is the key. I know that if I work hard at my craft and write every day, which I do, then I will improve year by year. Also I realise that failure, setbacks and disappointments are beneficial if I can learn from them, because ultimately they help me achieve success more quickly. I wish I had realised that earlier in life.
2) Don’t sweat the small stuff
Perspective becomes everything and the small every day issues that we fret about, really don’t matter. In the fullness of time we only remember the headline moments and events that shaped our lives and not the inconsequential setbacks or issues.
3) Pay attention to your health
This is obvious. Go for your annual check ups. Don’t let them slide and act on anything untoward.
4) Make something happen every day
Doing something to move your dreams and goals forward every day in some way will help them come to fruition much sooner. There are so many ways you can become becalmed, especially when you are ‘married and mortgaged’, so its important to find some ‘you time’ at the beginning and end of each day to meditate, visualise and be calm or, where you can, make something happen to get closer to your dreams.
5) Do something for the first time every month
One of the main reasons that the years glide by so quickly into old age is that each day merges into every other. The reason they seem indistinct is because they are indistinct from each other. The way to slow down the passing of time is actually to do more in each day and something new in each day. At least try something completely new each week – a new pastime or culinary dish or visiting a new location. This creates new memories and a sense of satisfaction.
6) Be confident in your own abilities
You don’t need everyone’s opinion or approval to pat yourself on the back for doing something well. In fact the only person’s opinion that matters is yours so without being arrogant or rude, you should be confident of your own abilities and celebrate your accomplishments large and small. The key is just being better than you were a year ago.
7) No matter how you feel – “get up, dress up, show up”
There’s no time for excuses. Take ownership of your life and make things happen; however you are feeling.
8) Listen more
Active listening is one of life’s secret skills. For me it’s actually something that I learned early in life and never regretted. Listening, not speaking, gives you massive clues into what motivates people and helps you build rapport.
9) Take a trip that has nothing to do with work or a family visit or holiday
It is easy to take trips that revolve around family or work, which can mean that you don’t get to visit exotic destinations on your bucket list or even cities or towns only a few hours away from where you live. Write a list and aim to take a trip at least once a year and, if close by, once a quarter.
10) Accept that you’re probably not going to be rich and famous
Don’t put your life on hold until you win the lottery. Start saving and living now.
11) Learn to do something that you’re terrible at
For me, that is learning to swim. I have tried unsuccessfully many times before in my earlier years to learn to swim. As a result I have missed out on the pleasures of swimming and surfing at the beach or diving in the backyard pool in the summer time.
12) Pay it forward – do a favour you don’t want to do
Gratitude is a well-accepted part of building self-esteem and self-belief. When you are feeling low and depressed it is easy to withdraw from the world, which can sometimes go on for years and become part of your middle-aged routine. Doing good turns for other people can in turn make you feel good too.
13) Learn to say yes and no more often
We too often use the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the wrong context:
- ‘yes’ to giving time and effort when we really don’t want to or feel we are being bullied or exploited. We don’t protect our emotional boundaries when we should.
- ‘no’ to seizing opportunities that we should but don’t for illogical emotional reasons presented by our inner voice.
We need to learn to switch when we use ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
14) Read the top 10 books of all time
Alternatively, watch the top 10 films of all time and /or visit the top 10 places you want to visit – 5 domestically and 5 internationally. Or, any combination of similar pursuits. Make three lists and see if you can tick them all off in 3 years.
15) Wear great boots
Unfortunately I didn’t discover RM Williams boots until I was in sight of middle age. Although expensive my first pair were the best purchase I’ve ever made. They last forever, are comfortable and pulling them on gives me a great confidence boost. Advice for my younger self – wear great boots!
So, the point of this list is not to wait until you are middle aged to live your life to the full. But, if you have to, then don’t waste a minute!