Life’s Newest Stage
Above: Pictured above are Middlescents who have changed professions in order to follow their passions.Top left: This 70-year old Executive left Microsoft to become a Museum CEO. Top right: At age 66, this Law Enforcement Officer went back to college to become an Air Rescue Specialist. Bottom left: A 52-year old Real Estate Broker chose a second career as a Skin Care Entrepreneur. Bottom right: In their 60s, this couple traded in their visual arts and law careers to become Organic Farmers. Photos courtesy of AARP.
When it comes to talking about getting older, I immediately flash back to a scene from the movie City Slickers. The lead character, played by funnyman Billy Crystal, has been asked to explain aging to a class of elementary school children. His monologue goes something like this: ”In your 40s you grow a pot belly and start to grow a second chin. The music is too loud and your girlfriend from high school becomes a grandmother. In your 50s you have minor surgery. You call it a procedure, but it’s really surgery. In your 60s you have major surgery. The music is still too loud, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway….”
Chilling, right? For as long as anyone can remember, we’ve associated midlife with unwelcome changes and stagnation. Our bodies have morphed (not always in a good way) and hormones in both men and women have shifted. Historically, these “golden years” have been depicted as slowing down. Spending the day on the porch rocking chair reminiscing about the good old days, only interrupted by a weekly break to attend bingo night at the local senior center. I think not.
Enter Barbara Waxman, author, gerontologist, leadership coach and keynote speaker, who – thank goodness – has turned middle age stereotypes upside down. Rather, she defines ages 45 – 65 as a transitional period marked by an increased desire to find or create greater meaning in one’s life. Having coined the term Middlescence to describe this period, Waxman helps us to seize the time that so many consider inherently “less valuable” than earlier years of our lives.
Over the last century, things have changed. Life expectancy has increased by three decades. Advances in health and nutrition have afforded us a more active lifestyle. “Many of us have heard statistics that we’re living longer, but have assumed that we’ve added those additional years at the end of life, when we’re old,” states Waxman. “That’s simply not true. We’ve added meaningful decades to the middle of life, not the end. We’ve added more years of living, not dying.”
The Middlescence Manifesto: Igniting the Passion of Midlife , authored by Waxman, teaches readers how to reframe their conception of life trajectories, middle age and limitations. Middlescence is the time to embrace life and take advantage of our hard-earned wisdom. The author shows how this new life stage can be a powerful period of self-actualization and an invaluable opportunity to reset one’s goals, strategies and sense of what really matters.
Courtesy of Waxman, here are five tips to help you ignite the passion in your middle years;
- Don’t live your life based on your chronological age.
- Write your own story.
- Recognize and fight through self-imposed limitations.
- Say “no” relentlessly.
- Practice balance.