Through your youth and early adulthood, you accumulate many varied experiences, both good and bad. You make false starts, turn corners, try new things, meet new people, and every day seems to abound with possibilities.
By age 50, you’ve likely accumulated the wisdom needed to place yourself on more solid ground with a clearer sense of where your life is going. And then, in our youth-obsessed society, you’re suddenly labeled “old.” Everything changes.
Society often sends the message that old age is just a waiting room for the end—either elderly people are weak, sick, and irrelevant or that old age is all about meaningless recreation. You start digesting these messages, and you may feel yourself disappearing. As you get closer to retirement, or you’re forced to retire, the media invites you to imagine your life post-50 or 60 as one of leisure, where you no longer have to work toward a goal, put out effort, or grow as a person.
As well as write books and articles, I travel nation-wide teaching other therapists how to use anger as a therapeutic tool. I also work as a therapist in Santa Monica, and I see many clients trying to decide what their life should look like post-50. I know from experience that those who see their future as one without goals, effort, or growth are much less happy than those who see their coming years just as abounding with possibilities as their previous ones.
If you see old age as a time when you stop doing and stay still, you won’t get to experience all the joys of being human: discovering, developing, expanding. There is no age at which we must abandon our dreams and surrender our possibilities. Putting a salaried occupation behind you doesn’t mean giving up purpose in life or a role in the world. If you feel exhausted, or bored, or have a negative attitude, might that not mean what you need to do is reinvent yourself?
People are living longer than ever before. And those are often healthy years, having discarded the unhealthy habits that once held you back. As you grow older, you can contribute to life in a new way, one that is true to who you are today. That is the gift of the present moment. It is fresh and alive with opportunities that aren’t bound to the past. There are four keys to increasing your happiness as you get older:
1. Get to know yourself ….