As the director of a research laboratory, Nancy had a great deal of responsibility. She also had a rich network of colleagues with whom she regularly interacted. However, once she reached her mid-fifties, she began wondering what her life would be like once her career was no longer the centerpiece of her waking hours. She’d still have activities to keep her busy and friends to visit, but she could not envision a future that would give her the same sense of purpose and meaning her professional life had given her.
Don worked in the insurance industry for most of his adult life. Before he retired, he had become a vice president of operations in his region. He was respected in his field and enjoyed a lot of professional connections. After he ended his career, Don tried to keep busy by puttering around the house and playing golf three times a week, but he still felt like he’d lost something he’d never be able to recover. It was hard for him to envision ever having the fulfilling life he did when he was still working.
Before Visualizing Your Future, First Reflect
Often, we hear about the importance of visualizing what you want to do with the rest of your life. Using various visualization techniques can be a very powerful way to help us move forward and give our lives some clarity. However, simply visualizing what we might want in the future without reconnecting with who we really are is like trying to imagine yourself as a racehorse when you were born a swan. Start by recognizing who you really are. And know this: The real you is the best you!
As I’ve worked with different individuals and groups and have studied and researched the transition process after fifty, I can tell you that the period of rediscovering your true self and your best life after fifty can take a lot of work but can be one of the most exciting periods of your life.
If you haven’t already discovered your true self, it is time for you to get started. One way to start reconnecting with the ‘real’ you is to do some deep reflection. What did you enjoy doing when you were growing up? What were some of your interests and habits? What kind of events happened in your life that you believe were particularly challenging or memorable? How do you believe some of these events have affected you and your life choices? How do the different ‘dots’ in your life connect to create a vision for your future? Do you have a dream that you’ve deferred and wondered if you’ll ever be able to follow your dream?
Talk to family members, recall stories about growing up and the things you loved to do. Read any old journals you have. Look through some old family picture books. What kinds of values did the people in your family embrace? What influence did your family’s influence and heritage have on your life choices?
Unleashing the Force Within
Our March Boomer Best U Newsletter included a feature story about a woman who was able to reflect on her life and see how her different interests and experiences have given her a greater sense of purpose and personal identity. Tess Marino said she could see that “looking back, I can see how “everything connects, bringing me to where I am now.”
At midlife, acclaimed artist, Susan Rochester recalled, “As a child, I was fascinated by the fact that had the border been 100 miles further north, I would have been a citizen of Mexico.” Susan’s early fascination with borders was reawakened later as she began working on a border tapestry project that is truly unique and compelling.
NiAodagain felt like time was running out to follow her dream—to become a professional writer. It was her partner who encouraged her to take early retirement by asking, “If your passion is writing, then why aren’t you writing?”
Charles recalls times in his childhood when he had conversations with ‘living pioneer’ grandparents. His paternal grandfather had actually “prospected with a burro in remote areas of the Sierra Mountains” when he was sixteen. His childhood experiences no doubt helped shape his life path. It should be no surprise that he eventually became a professor of history.
All of us have life experiences that help shape who we are and who we will continue to become. Some individuals are able to recognize the path they will follow early in life. Others don’t start exploring the path(s) they truly want to follow until they reach midlife and beyond. The good news is that it is not too late to reconnect with your true self. Once you do, you will be free to envision your best life, now and in the future. It’s time for you to be your best U!