How many times have you heard someone say something along the lines of “I don’t go out anymore to nightlife spots, that is for people in their 20’s” or “I don’t do activities like skiing anymore. I did that when I was young” or “Now that we have the kids, we don’t travel like we used to. We did that in our college years”?
I hear a lot of ageist comments from friends, family and clients. It is a common feeling that people share – the past is the past and onto the next stage of life, and the rules that follow for what you can or can’t do.
If something is no longer of interest, I can understand that. People grow out of certain desires for entertainment, social settings or physical activities. Some things do have a personal expiration date. For example, I loved gymnastics as a kid, but you will not see me doing a round off anytime soon. I used to love beach foam parties on spring break, but now there is not enough gold bars to pay me to get into that mess!
Of course, we grow out of old interests. But I want you to look at what you may be putting on the back burner not based on a lack of interest, but more so on an ageist roadblock. A roadblock that states that you are now in a new phase of life and, in this new phase, there are social norms or personal biases that control your future decisions.
I will use an example of a past client. We will call her Steph. During our life coaching sessions, Steph shared with me that she didn’t feel great about her physical appearance, her self-esteem was low, and she was feeling a general complacency about life. As we dug into why she felt that way, I learned that after her kids left for college, Steph and her husband realized that they had both over the years just sort of “given up”. They let themselves go with physical health, adventure and new experiences and settled into a basic existence of work, sleep, and… repeat.
Her explanation was that she forgot about her personal needs and interests during the years of child rearing. She stated that with the responsibility of three children that both her and her husband’s needs got swept up into the children’s needs and lost along the way. She proceeded to state that she felt like her best years were behind her and how she and her husband used to love to travel, and that they both loved hiking but hadn’t been for years.
She also mentioned how she had given up with her desire to keep her body physically in shape. Her husband gave up too so, in her mind, what was the point? They both felt they had gained about 30 extra pounds and just gave up on any elements of fitness. As I was talking to her, I noticed that she was doing a lot of regaling of the past. In her eyes, all of the good things in her life seemed to have taken place before the age of 40. Now she was going to sink into her 50’s and beyond living a dull existence.
This is where a limiting mindset regarding ageism comes in. Ageism really becomes a roadblock for people by blinding them to the fact that at all ages and stages of life there are adventures to be had and unforeseen excitement ahead — you just have to seek it!
Through my next several months working with Steph, she got to a place of an awakening and realized that she was in control of her destiny. She started working out and hiking again and dropped 15 pounds within 2 months. Steph and her husband created a plan to take 2 exotic trips a year and start new social activities together. After all, they now had more freedom on their hands as empty nesters. Instead of looking at that as a mourning phase, they needed a mindset shift to realize this was a new beginning, not an ending. With time her morale grew, and her mindset shifted to realize age is truly just a number.
I still keep in touch with Steph from time to time. I was happy to learn that she and her husband started taking salsa dancing lessons and had recently planned a trip to go hiking in Patagonia, which was always a dream of hers.
Seeing someone get their luster back and feel alive again is a wonderful thing to experience. So many people let the past dominate them and think all of their best years are behind them. Every year you are alive should be your best year, a year you are thankful for that you have life and opportunity.
We will always have stress, health issues, financial issues and personal life issues. This is a common human experience we cannot avoid. What we can do is be in control of our future at all ages and remember that opportunity and excitement are available at all stages of life and it’s up to us to seek it.