Many people decide after they hit a certain age to stop living with purpose.
A friend of mine recently told me that since he has turned 50, he now is “winding things down.” He is focused solely on cleaning up his affairs. He can be a bit dramatic.
However, don’t most people have that view of the second half of their lives? As soon as folks hit 50, they decide to stop achieving professionally. They instead focus on how they can retire as soon as possible. They become complacent about exercise and let their bodies become rounder and weaker. Rather than taking advantage of all that new technology has to offer, they decide to stick with their flip phones.
I take a different view of mid-life. I believe in Yogi Berra’s adage – “It ain’t over till it’s over.” I believe that if you still are breathing, then God still has a purpose for your life. He has things that He wants you to do. He has people that He wants you to help. He has ways that He wants you to bless the world. And you can’t do any of that if you decide to give up on life at 50 (or 60 or 70).
I understand the inclination to stop achieving as we get older. We live in a very youth-centered culture. Women are considered to be their most beautiful when they are 22, and every perfume and makeup advertisement reinforces that view. Moreover, the carefree lives of young people are considered to be oh so interesting (think about “Friends,” and “How I Met Your Mother”). It is no small wonder that we think that life after 50 will be boring and pointless.
As a society, we truly are youth obsessed. But spend some time talking to a real person in their twenties. You will get bored fairly easily. Young people don’t have much experience, so their understanding of life is limited. They are self-obsessed because their lives are all about me, myself and I. They simply don’t have the depth of someone in their 70s. It isn’t their fault. They just haven’t lived long enough to have developed the kind of wisdom and insight that can only come with age.
For instance, I could not have written this column in my twenties. I didn’t know anything at that point in my life. I hadn’t gone through good and bad jobs. My relationship experiences were limited. I spent my time worrying about what other people thought of me, instead of worrying about what God thought of me. It took a lot of life experience to change all of that.
The reality is that turning 50 is not the time to start “winding things down.” Just the opposite. It is the time when we have enough life experience to make a significant impact on the world.
So, slowing down at 50 makes no sense. Of course, at this point in our lives, we do have to pay more attention to our health. This is the time when we need to be vigilant about what we eat and how much we exercise. I was in the grocery store the other day, and I saw an older woman buying, among many other processed foods, two boxes of instant potatoes and a package of baloney. It was troubling. While those items may taste good, none of them are good for our bodies.
This is the time in our lives when we need to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. We need to try to make almost everything from scratch to avoid preservatives. We need to do some form of exercise every day. And we need to schedule our needed doctor appointments.
If you let your body go in mid-life, you won’t be able to achieve all the great things that you are meant to achieve. You instead will be hobbling around, exhausted from simply walking down the block. Now is the time to commit to caring for your body so that it can serve you well.
The second half of life is the time to decide what kind of mark you want to make on the world. The first half of life was all about getting a job and creating a family and/or friend group of your own. By the second half, our jobs are winding down, and if we have had children, our parental responsibilities are winding down, as well.
Now is our opportunity to ask, “Since I only have one life to live, what do I want to do with it? How can I positively affect the world? For what do I want to be remembered?” Those are tough questions. But they are important ones to ask yourself.
Now is a great time to start new things. Learn new skills, whether it be a language, a hobby or a professional skill. Now is a great time to figure out a way to positively affect the world, whether it be by starting a charity, or changing the life of another person who may need your encouragement and help. Think big!
Most importantly, now is the time to make sure that your family members and friends know how much they mean to you. Let others know that they are valuable to you. Now is not the time to be reticent. It is the time to love others with reckless abandon. Don’t stingy with love or praise. Instead, tell those you love how wonderful you think that they are!
Make the second half of your life count. Make it be your best half! Don’t look back wistfully and wish you were still a twenty-something. Instead, use all the experience and wisdom that you’ve gained over the years to truly make the next 30 to 40 to 50(!) years simply amazing.