Too Old?Karen loved learning when she was younger. She earned a bachelor’s degree and applied her knowledge as she worked her way up to an executive leadership position in a large corporation. Now she is retired and regrets not having gone to graduate school before starting her career. When asked why she didn’t go back to school now, she says, “I’m too old!” Chris is still working but needs to hang onto his job for another three years before he can leave his current employer. He feels like the proverbial “cog in the wheel” and wishes he had followed his dream to own his own business. He wanted to open a small bakery and recreate artisan bread as his Italian grandmother had made. But now he says, “I’m too old!” Catherine retired two years ago. Sometimes she just sits in her living room with a cup of coffee and gazes at the baby grand piano she inherited from her grandmother—a beautiful piece of furniture but nothing more. She wishes she had learned how to play the piano but thinks to herself, “I’m too old!” In many cases, the truth is we are not too old to follow our dreams. According to the Social Security Administration, one in three people who are already 65 is projected to live to be at least ninety. Imagine having at least twenty-five years to pursue your dreams beyond the traditional retirement age!
Fear of Failure?Is it possible that some of our excuses for not following our dreams have nothing to do with our age? Could it be that fear plays a role? Neuropsychologist Dr. Theo Tsaousides points out that fear is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. We may not want to try something because we fear failure, we fear letting others down, or we fear humiliating ourselves, among other possible fears. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck describes two very different ways of approaching the challenges of life. One approach she calls the fixed mindset is when we stay in our comfort zone and avoid feeling vulnerable or risking what we perceive as failure. A growth mindset sees challenges as an opportunity to keep learning and growing. What someone with a fixed mindset might see as failure could be reframed through a growth mindset as an opportunity to learn.
Why Not?If we are willing to learn and we are willing to grow, why not pursue some of our dreams? Amy Craton had dreamed of getting a college degree when she was younger. But then life got in the way of her dreams. Fifty years later, Craton started taking online classes and earned her bachelor’s degree at the age of ninety-four. Why not? Ray Boutwell decided to open a bakery at the age of ninety-three. He now owns Ray’s Boozy Cupcakes. Why not? Catherine may find it is harder to learn a musical instrument as she gets older, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t learn. Playing an instrument can stimulate a lot of activity in the brain. With some patience, Catherine could learn to play the piano and enjoy it. Why not? Our age shouldn’t be a barrier to pursuing dreams that we have the ability to pursue. If we have irrational fears, we may need to address those fears so that they don’t get in our way. If you have a dream that is calling you, maybe it is time to answer that call.