Wisdom After 50
Someone recently asked the question: What are the things you stop doing after you reach 50? Here is my response to that question. None of this magically happened right on my 50th birthday, but more gradually, as I eased from 40 toward 50:
- Stop waiting for other people, materials goods, or external situations to make me happy. I realized — beyond the words, but in a practical, hands-on way that I implement daily in all my relationships and activities — that I, and only I, am responsible for my state of happiness and well-being. I can create happiness within me instantly simply by deciding to feel happy. Even in the midst of chaos and stress, I can pause and create the feeling of happiness within me. I have a kitchen inside me where I can make as much happiness as I want, any time I want, and I don’t need anything or anyone to make that kitchen work.
- Stop caring what others think of me. What others think of me is absolutely none of my business. The truth is, others are rarely thinking of me as much as I think they are. The only world that revolves around me is the one in my head. The less time I spend obsessively worrying about what’s going on in others’ heads, the happier I am (see number 1). This also leads us to:
- Stop trying to get into other people’s heads. I have no right to be there, and just like for #2, it’s none of my business what they are doing in there. It’s none of my business what they are thinking about, how they are feeling, and what they are doing with their lives. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about others or that I don’t love them very much. It does mean that I stop trying to control them. Love and control don’t play well together.
- Stop caring about things that don’t matter. When I was younger, my vision boards were filled with pictures of fancy houses and cars, expensive jewelry, clothing, and furniture, and symbols representing fame. I now realize that neither fame nor fortune matter. What truly matters is experience. What experiences do I wish to fill my life with? How do I want to feel as I daily spend the most precious resource any human has: time? What kinds of relationships do I want to cultivate and nurture? How do I want to make a difference in my corner of the world? The answers to these questions are now the things that fill my vision boards.
- Stop beating myself up. I spent the first several decades of my life trying to be the best at everything I did, and I consistently failed. It was exhausting and demoralizing. I was anxious and depressed a lot of the time. I had trouble sleeping, eating right, staying calm, and my EQ skills were low. Every relationship I had suffered. When I finally learned how to be kind with myself, all of that changed. My overall health has improved, my mental health has transformed, my relationships are completely changed. Self love is the foundation of everything else, and it cannot exist in an environment of impossibly high standards. I’ve learned to have much greater flexibility and a sense of humor when it comes to myself, which leads me to:
- Stop taking myself and life in general so seriously. There was a time I was so fixated on getting things right that I had no space for humor. There’s very little room for humor when you are driven to get it right. Your every thought is too obsessed with evaluating what you’ve just done so you can pinpoint the one thing you could have done better so next time you can take it to the next level. Now I can relax much more easily and just be in the moment. What a relief.
- Stop drinking so much. It really does matter, for all the reasons they say. And especially for my weight and skin now that I’m older, in case all those other health reasons weren’t enough to convince me.
- Stop eating badly. I refuse to ever again go through a drive-thru. That’s not food — that’s poison. I find the time to eat well, and I dedicate the dollars for it as well. Food is fuel, and I only put premium into this engine now. By that, I don’t mean rich food — I mean healthy food.
- Stop pretending death doesn’t exist. When you’re younger, it’s rare that anyone you know dies, except maybe an older relative. When you’re 50, people you know and work with, maybe friends, start dying. It’s a wake-up call for many things, specifically for me the importance of my health, living to my values, and keeping my relationships clean. I want to feel every day that my life is completely fulfilling and that I have no regrets or unfinished business. You just never know how it’s going to go at any age, but it starts to be right there in your face when you hit 50.
- Stop trying to have all the answers. I started to realize that I don’t have to have all the answers, and that it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” In fact, I started to realize that there is SO MUCH I don’t know and will never know. As much as I love to learn, and as much as I like to think I’m pretty smart, I just don’t have enough time in this lifetime to learn that much about all the things. And knowledge is expanding by the moment! It’s super exciting, and also means there is even less of a chance that I will EVER know even a tiny bit of any of it. I just have to let that go and enjoy what I do know. It’s perfect as it is.
What about you? What have you stopped doing? No matter what your age?