Who can't relate with that? To me, one of the best things about mid-life is the opportunity to do some different things - and the chance to do some things differently. Dr. Amy Wood, author of Life Your Way, feels the same way. So when she offered to give Boomer Brief readers some free advice on making the most of mid-life adolescence we gratefully accepted.
by Dr. Amy Wood
Many clients come to me because they feel stuck in a personal or professional situation - stale relationship, job they could do in their sleep, that sort of thing -- that no longer suits them. Most respond well to my optimistic message that they are resourceful beings who can accomplish whatever they want with the right strategy.
Every once in a while I encounter an out of touch Boomer client like a woman I'll call "Jenny" who firmly told me in response to my usual encouragement, "It's too late for me. I'm too old." Clients like Jenny equate chronological aging beyond a certain point - usually some random number starting at about 40 -- with narrowing options, decreasing satisfaction, and declining power.
Such clients operate under the outdated idea that the older you get, the less you have to look forward to. It's a shame these clients haven't figured out that the opposite is actually true.
Psychologists are increasingly seeing that the older adults become, the more variety, confidence, and joy they experience. There is a direct correlation between advancing years and expanding freedom; specifically, freedom to dump cumbersome baggage, experiment with fresh ideas, and embark on new adventures. Savvy adults put their collected wisdom about themselves and the world toward breaking away from convention, carrying out inner passions, and having more fun.
Take 52-year-old "Neil" for instance, a successful accountant who's life became imminently more interesting when he quit his job and launched a used mystery book store out of his garage. Or comfortably married 60-year-old "Paula," who decided she'd rather be a hip single woman in an urban loft than ride out the rest of her years (as her mother had) with a not so great husband.
We're not talking about the old mid-life crisis routine where you get restless, buy a red sports car or have an affair, then come to your senses and settle back into your humdrum existence and await old age. What psychologists are talking about is grabbing life by the horns and infusing it with your distinct personality in grand, sweeping style. A second adolescence -- but, with better judgment and greater self-awareness this time around (and without the awkwardness and curfew!).
Just consider the possibilities for personal reinvention when you view aging as a chance to buck convention and start over with the benefit of all of your life experience.
Unhappy in adolescence? Instead of regretting that you weren't outgoing and confident back then, you can approach the future as an opportunity to assert yourself and get out in the world in ways that really resonate and make up for lost time.
Have it made as a teenager? Rather than grieving for the loss of your carefree youth, regard right now as your chance to unleash untapped longings and take risks with enhanced dexterity. All you have to do to make life better is ask yourself what adolescent activities you missed out on -- what ones you don't want to repeat -- and what you want to do more of from that era.
When you use the answers to these questions to inform your future, you'll find that getting older will be less and less about resignation (I have to ride out this lackluster job/relationship/fill-in-the-blank because it's too late to change) and more and more about getting closer to who you are and what you really want.
What's GREAT about adolescence is the thrill of trying on new identities, beliefs, and attitudes until you find what you like. What's even better now is the pleasure associated with reviving your youthful rule-breaking spirit and channeling it with mature, sure-footed conviction into a more seasoned and satisfying version of what might have been.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Wood PSY.D. graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1985 with a communications degree, and then enjoyed an invigorating advertising, marketing, and publishing career in Chicago. Fascinated by corporate dynamics and human behavior, she enrolled in Chicago's Adler School of Professional Psychology at age 30 to become a psychologist.
She fell in love with Maine after completing her clinical internship at the University of Maine counseling center and launched her practice in Portland in 2000 Amy is also certified by the College of Executive Coaching in California and is known for her workshops and presentations on the themes from her book.