My Facebook page for Growing Up After Fifty attracts those in the 45 to 55 age group more than any other. Why is that? Remember, men in this age group are more likely to buy an expensive car, and women more likely to get Botox.
Here are some of the questions that became intense for me when I reached this age. First of all, I starting wondering if there was any more to life than what I had experienced and feeling sad that perhaps there wasn’t. This happened even though I had in many ways an ideal life with a wonderful wife, family of three children, and a successful business career. It wasn’t enough. I wanted more.
Secondly, I started seeing all around me signs of the impermanence of life and the prospect of growing old. I had poured much of my energy into various work related projects at Exxon, and when I retired I knew that these would die or lose momentum. This led me to question whether I had put my energy in the right areas. Maybe my priorities weren’t as important as I had thought.
And finally, I became aware of having more questions about life than answers. This was new, because I had always had confidence in myself and in my answers to issues that confronted me. I lost the strong sense of direction that I had enjoyed.
Each person is a little different, but for most of us mid life is a time of re-evaluation as we realize that life is limited and that the things we thought would bring fulfillment in life haven’t done so. In my case, this became a period for greater focus of my life energy on family and on giving and receiving love. I also intensified efforts to understand myself inside—what makes me the way I am. Among other things, I learned that the harsh discipline I had experienced from my mother while growing up had led me to be extremely self-critical and judgmental, always trying to convince myself and others through good works that I was worthy and loveable. Through therapy and other approaches, I started to address these issues. Along the way, I developed greater acceptance of myself as I am without improvement and change. And in acceptance and letting go, I found greater life fulfillment than ever before. If you are looking for more specifics, there is a much more complete description of my path in my book.
Having said that each person is different, what am I suggesting that you consider? Firstly, become curious about what motivates you, what your fears and aspirations are. Why do you do the things you do, and why hasn’t your approach led to the results you expected. In short, learn as much as you can about who you truly are.
Secondly, address the issues that you discover by engaging professionals such as therapists, coaches, and spiritual directors. Learn what inhibits you from being yourself, fully self-expressed.
Thirdly, find a community of like-minded people with whom you can share at the deepest level as you develop greater acceptance of yourself as you are.
Finally, be open to the continuing revelation of life . Self-discovery is life’s greatest and most important adventure.