What’s in a Number?

The writer George Bernard Shaw- “Life is no brief candle … It is a sort of splendid torch… Make it burn as brightly as possible.”

Whether you are turning 40, 50 or 70 milestone birthdays can trigger anxiety and worry about your life and your future.

I’d like to talk to you today about some ideas to approach the passing of years with a little less stress and fear.  We all need more peace and serenity in our lives.

Given that both aging and death are inevitable I think it’s best to accept our relationship to time and build a more peaceful relationship with the idea of getting older. By embracing milestone birthdays you give yourself the opportunity to deeply examine your life, identify your biggest priorities, be grateful for the years you have had and to live more fully in the present.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES WE HAVE TO OVERCOME

  • A youth obsessed culture- Growing old has a stigma attached to it in the American culture. Its unlike other countries like Japan where elders are revered.
  • Expectations and norms about aging- We have been handed down these rigid engrained ideas about how we are supposed to look, feel and behave at a certain age. Buying into these mindsets is one of the biggest obstacles to living fully in your later years.
  • Mortality milestones- If one of your parents died young you may worry about your own longevity. Your life expectancy is not tied to your parents. Its more about your lifestyle and how you take care of yourself that can extend your life.
  • Retirement triggers- Receiving your first social security check or an invitation to join AARP can set off anxieties about getting older.
  • Feelings of helplessness- You feel dissatisfied with your life experience up until now and your lack of progress. Not hitting your goals and milestones as you had expected you would. Where did the time go?

STRATEGIES AND SOLUTIONS

  • Be yourself not a number- Stereotypes about what certain ages and birthdays are supposed to mean are just cultural ideas and probably have nothing to do with your reality. How do you actually feel? Create your own story and re- write the script for your life according to what makes you happy. Yes that might include skateboarding and dancing till 3:00 AM
  • Reflect on what you have learned and accomplished- Be grateful for all you have achieved and the good things that have happened. Make a gratitude list if you want to give yourself a boost.
  • See transition as an opportunity- A big birthday can be a good time to ask yourself “What is calling next?” What skills do I need to answer the call?
  • Don’t compare- We believe and assume that people who have managed to achieve what we think we should have are totally fulfilled and happy. Many are not. To compare is to despair. Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.
  • Be mindful – Stay in the moment and stop projecting into the future. Live as today were your last, but plan and use your resources as if you were to live to 100.
  • Ask Yourself – Is what I am doing today going to cause me regret or can I look back at this time of my life with pride and a sense of joy? Read the top five regrets of the dying – it will give your life perspective.
  • Be of service- Nothing will get you out of your worry and self-imposed fears faster than focusing on helping others or getting involved in some worthy cause.
  • Think of your life as an adventure- Life is a free loan with great possibilities. Approach the coming years with energy and curiosity about what’s next and open your mind and heart to the epiphanies and adventures that are yet to come.

From the writer George Bernard Shaw- “Life is no brief candle … It is a sort of splendid torch… Make it burn as brightly as possible.”

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