Once we pass 45 or 50, it often feels like the beginning of a slippery slope towards decline.
Birthday cards telegraph that the best part of life is behind you. Anti-aging products are targeted at you. Articles point out how out of touch you’ve become with some newfangled piece of technology. It’s as though some time bomb went off and suddenly your best choice is retreat or submission.
Forget your facelift. It’s time midlife got a facelift!
This mode of thinking, this belief system embedded in our culture, does little more than cause suffering. And it’s so unnecessary. I recently gave a talk at a local hospital. The health care setting inspired me to think about this suffering through the lens of a doctor. So I diagnosed us (our culture) with “Cultura Lagosis.” Sounds awful, right?
We are suffering from the results of a culture living according to outdated belief systems. Social Security was created during the Depression when life expectancy was about 58. So 65 was old! That definition of 65 as the ‘right’ age for a senior citizen was based more on economics than physiology. But now, life expectancy hovers around 80. Using the same thinking, today’s senior citizen would be around 83. Why do we remain stuck? Cultura Lagosis.
Author Ashton Applewhite writes about ageism and particularly its effect on our workforce. A million and a half people over 50 are unable to find jobs, and many just give up. In a New York Times column back from 2016 she wrote: “In Silicon Valley, engineers are getting Botox and hair transplants before interviews – and these are skilled, educated, white guys in their 20s, so imagine the effect further down the food chain.”
“Cultura Lagosis” is damaging to people of every generation, and it needs an antidote. It starts with acknowledging our increased life expectancy and what this longer life means, and amplifying the message that ageism is at the core of our cultural lag.
Here are my tips for taking control of your midlife so you can thrive:
It’s time we let go of the focus on a number and live according to the stage we are living – student, entrepreneur, parent, caregiver. At 56, Dana is walking down the aisle for the first time with a baby in tow; Mitch, at 53, left a legal career and is combining corporate training with his love of improvisational theatre; Mary, at 70, is figuring out how to tell her gentleman friend that she’s seeing someone else!
These people are experiencing something far from crisis, stagnation or decrepitude. They listened to their internal voice and are living in accordance with their stage, not any archaic idea of what’s acceptable at their age.
You, and only you, should be authoring your story. Think of your life as a book made up of chapters, with various themes and a whole cast of characters. When we lived according to our chronological age there tended to be three primary chapters – education, work/family, and retirement. The reality is that life is a much more interesting story than that. Is it time for an edit?
Writing your story means that you are taking responsibility for the choices you’re making. That’s a courageous act that often brings out the Gremlins – those self-limiting voices we all have in our heads. In some ways they are meant to keep us safe. They say, “Don’t do that, you might lose your job!” In other ways they hold us back from making courageous choices.
These little gremlins whisper to us that we can’t, that we aren’t good enough or rich enough or attractive enough. It’s high time to know when to listen and when to talk back to your inner gremlin and tell her to move along.
In order to have the clarity to make courageous choices, we need to have the time and space to figure things out. And that means we need to say “No.” Did you know there are 250,000 books on “how to say no” on Amazon? It’s time we stop being good girl pleasers and speak our truth. We have to stop seeing busy-ness and exhaustion as a badge of honor and start building a life based on our own choices we are willing to stand for.
Here is one quick tip to help start curating your life. For everything you say “yes” to, take a moment and identify what you are saying “no” to. For example, today I said yes to cooking healthy foods for the week. I said no to a friend who wanted to catch up and walk together on this beautiful day. Hard choice, and it was hard to say no to my friend, but I’m clear on my priorities and setting myself up for a healthful week was most important today.
What courageous choice are you ready to make? How are you redefining life in your 60s? What changes are you ready to make in order to be the author of your new life story?