After age 50 we become more keenly aware of our own mortality – while simultaneously feeling overwhelmed by life’s persistent annoyances and chores – and we feel increased pressure to improve our retirement strategy. Fortunately, it’s possible to enter our 50s and beyond while enjoying extreme health – and experiencing more energy and happiness than we’ve ever had before.
There are solutions for the chaos of modern daily life.
Serenity is within reach.
Innate resources can be tapped!
Five methods, in particular, will be very helpful to you for experiencing increased happiness in post-midlife.
1. Find Reasons to Feel Hopeful
Deep in our very core we all have a directional impulse to honor that which desires to come into being.
Carl Rogers describes how, as a boy, his family kept a winter supply of potatoes in their basement, far removed from any direct light source.
These potatoes gave off white and spindly shoots which were a far cry from the healthy green ones that could be expected under ideal springtime planting conditions.
However, even in the most trying of environments, these sprouts grew two and even three feet in length.
They stretched their way towards the possibility of light, to the source that would help them fulfill the potential that lay within.
In much the same way, many of us struggle within less than optimal conditions to reach our own potential.
Overwhelmed, overstressed, and overtired, we forge through our day trying to make spring out of winter.
However, unlike the potato, at the mercy of its circumstances, we can choose to create a fertile environment; we can grow, change, and nurture our own fruition – which will (and this is an important point) benefit not only ourselves but those around us.
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2. Remember Who You Really Are
What does it mean to be “self-actualized?”
Put simply, it means to realize one’s fullest potential – to take the seeds of your abilities and encourage their complete development.
Given the ideal circumstance, every seed will give birth to the wonders that lay dormant in its belly.
When you look at your life, do you already see the fullest fruition of what rests within you?
Or, rather, do you feel like you’ve lost your way; do things seem a bit numb or disconnected, as if you’re following a dream that sprang from someone else’s slumber? This is autopilot. At least 85% of people enter their 50s on autopilot.
The real kicker is that we can’t even remember when in our lives we switched to autopilot; it just seems to have sort of… happened.
Stay on autopilot long enough, and eventually life will begin to lose its numinous glow – that magical, full-color quality that helps give you the moment-to-moment sensation of being fully alive.
If you are fortunate enough to be aligned with the directional force within, do you feel that you are able to bring it to its fullest promise – or do you find that you struggle, even break down, along the way?realizing your potential = taking the seeds of your abilities and developing them fullyClick To Tweet
Abraham Maslow observed that self-actualization is an ongoing process rather than an end-point that can actually be achieved. He explained that there is no arriving at it, as if it were a state of Nirvana; rather, it is a sustained potential that, when engaged, moves you further and deeper into your journey of knowing the wholeness of your potential.
Wherever you lie along the spectrum, it is likely that you can benefit from exploring the patterns, habits, and choices that enhance happiness, vitality, and growth.
Yes, even in this modern era chock-full of illusion and distraction, you can be aligned with your truth.
3. Helm Your Own Happiness Journey
Maslow asserted that less than 15% of people are truly “self-actualized.” So even though we each hold the potential for self-realization, there are apparently many factors that undermine our efforts to achieve our fullest unfolding.
Though most have lived less than ideal lives and have often suffered hardships and loss, these factors are mere stumbling blocks when compared to the shackles of our own self-perception.
Maslow notes that each human being has two sets of competing forces within:
- “One set clings to safety and defensiveness out of fear, tending to regress backward, hanging on to the past, afraid to grow…afraid to take chances, afraid to jeopardize what he already has.”
- However, “the other set of forces impels him forward toward wholeness of Self and uniqueness of Self, towards full functioning of all of his capacities” while, simultaneously allowing him to be able to accept the totality of who he is at the deepest and most authentic level.
Many of us, though, cannot foster our own self-actualization – in part because we are unable to move beyond an incomplete perception of who we are.
It’s understandable that with all of the uncertainty and unrest of existence, we would long to create something real and tangible – especially when it comes to how we imagine ourselves to be in the world.
We hold to our self-image as if it were a stable reality, when it is more like a paper kite in a thunderstorm.
When we spend less time defending a truth that is likely to be incomplete, and decide instead to explore what lies beyond it, then we create an opportunity for true change. Part of the excitement of entering your 50s and beyond is that, at last, you can begin to completely accept yourself as the multifaceted gem that you are. Start polishing the diamond so that it can can shine.
4. Embrace Minimalism
Unrealized potential can be damaging to psychic and physical health alike.
Fulfillment is irreplaceable. Inefficient “busyness” is an insufficient substitute for fulfillment.
Understanding the unique way that you process information can help you to optimize your own productivity and communication and give you leverage in the second half of your life:
- learn to see yourself within a culture of brain diversity – accept the idea that each of us sees the world through a different lens;
- our willingness to be introspective is essential if we are to leverage our personal brain styles and yield our fullest potentials;
- learn in what specific ways your own brain style is different than those around you;
- instead of getting frustrated that others don’t process information in the exact way that you do, become increasingly adept at recognizing other people’s brain styles and accommodating when possible.
- Sometimes we have to stop working for a few minutes so we can look at how we’re working, to determine if our habitual work style is aligned with our greatest strengths and talents.
How can each us of leverage our unique brain styles for maximum positive impact? It’s one of life’s great questions… or should be.
Once you know your brain style, then you’ll also have a better idea of what’s truly important to you – that will make it easier to pare down your lifestyle to only those things and people that are helpful and enjoyable. The better you know yourself the less material things you will need in your life to bolster your sense of self.
The less possessions you own, the more time, energy and money you will then have to focus upon those things that truly improve your own health and happiness.
Excess is overrated. People who have too much stuff are weighed-down. Start setting healthy boundaries – only let into your life those people, possessions and experiences that enhance your energy. This will be hugely transformative, in ways that you can’t even imagine.
As you undertake to live more minimally, crafting checklists can be helpful. Productivity systems that help people to manage their time and energy:
- a checklist frees up mental space (you can visualize it as a process of removing the task from your mind and placing it in a receptacle we call: the checklist)
- a checklist frees up time for self-care. Self-care is not just about making time to hit the gym; self-care is also about being true to your calling, whatever it might be, for the sake of your psyche
5. Move Boldly Toward Joy
The keys to thriving after the age of 50 are found in the ability:
- to accept the simple notion that the way you process information is organically different from the way some other people process information;
- to accept our brain-style differences as a natural, healthy part of living – and working – within a community;
- to understand and appreciate each other’s unique styles of learning and working, so that we can leverage our brain-styles for maximum productivity and joy.
Many of us have veered off of our path – the path we were meant to walk. Lost in an urban jungle of economic pressures, we suddenly realize that we’re meandering from distraction to distraction. At some point, we stepped off the trail and somehow lost track of it.
Joy Research Reveals What Makes People Happy
What does it mean to be happy?
What events in your own life would help you to be even happier than you are now?
As modern human beings, we routinely make predictions about how happy future events will make us – a new car, a million dollars, a face lift.
We make guesses about how events and possessions might increase our long-term feelings of satisfaction and inner-peace.
Often, our predictions about what it will be like to own these experiences and material items turn out to be incorrect. The things we were so sure would make us happy people, do not.
Writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains that there are a whole range of activities that people tend to think will make them happy – such as getting a raise, moving to Hawaii, having children – that, in fact, do not.
Of course, many of us already know this stuff intellectually, and yet: we keep forgetting. Happiness is not often found where we might expect to find it.
The Paradox of Contentment
On one hand, it seems good to have goals – goals give life texture and provide us with direction.
On the other hand, this moment – this simple little moment – is, oddly, all we know we have and biggest opportunity lies within it.
When you really think about it, the whole idea of postponing opportunity because you expect to be alive ten minutes from now and will have more energy and where-with-all then, than you do now – well, it’s kind of comical in a way. What I’m saying might sound woo-woo to you – I realize that – but isn’t that what research, such as the research cited by Kolbert, really tells us?
Kolbert startles us with revealing statistics and vignettes, such as: lottery winners who take significantly less pleasure in daily activities (such as clothes-buying), than non-lottery winners.
The paradox of contentment is that creating a happy lifestyle sometime means being able to plan ahead while also being in the moment.
The Happiness Inventory
A happiness inventory can show you how happy you really are.
If you were to take a brutally honest joy inventory of the last couple of years, you might be surprised at those moments that stand out most. Think back on these last two years – where is your contentment located?
Sometimes we answer questions such as this, with how we think we should answer… yes, the truth often alludes even ourselves.
In order to arrive at an authentic answer, a few minutes of solitude can be very helpful.
Give yourself a few moments alone to sit, close your eyes… and gradually calm yourself, looking inward:
- what physical sensations are you aware of?
- what parts of your body feel healthy and good?
- What parts of your body feel tight or uncomfortable?
Gradually bring your attention to your lungs, following the sound and sensation of your own breath. When your mind starts to chatter, gently guide your attention back to the actual sensation of breathing.
After spending a few minutes in this relaxed state, ask yourself this question: “what are my favorite parts of a typical day?” …allow the answers to present themselves.
A Case Study: What Makes This Fellow Happy
When I recently conducted my own happiness-inventory, these typical moments of subtle joy were revealed to me:
- Saturday mornings, sitting cross-legged, next to a lit fire in the fireplace, on our living room rug, my laptop on the coffee table, a cup of warm yerba mate tea by my side, and my spouse sits nearby working on his laptop, too.
- on weekdays mornings, the spouse helps me tie my tie each morning. I choose which vest, the cuff links, which shirt, I polish our shoes, and then I ask him his opinion about our day’s wardrobe. Final changes are decided upon, a shower and a shave, and then he ties my tie. (Yes, even though I aspire to be a gentleman-hero from an Austen novel, the truth is, I have a hard time tying my own tie)
When I do my happiness-inventory, it is these quiet moments from my daily routine that stand out.
I don’t think a new Ferrari or a trip to Paris would bring me as much contentment as David tying my tie each morning. Not even close.
A happiness-inventory may remind you of your own life’s simpler pleasures.
Think back to the last two years of your own life.
Heck, think back to just yesterday.
What made you truly happy? Where are your moments of joy really found?
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There are times when a machete is needed, in order to find the trail again.
Some of the most uncomfortable, and even painful, moments arise as a result of someone holding up a mirror and confronting us with reflections we would rather not claim as our own.
Oddly, to see ourselves as we really are (particularly the unsavory bits), can feel like a personal affront. In these moments it can help to remember that, though the process of self-revelation can be painful and uncomfortable, it can be a path to true freedom and increased happiness.
The task of peering within ourselves is made more challenging by our unhealthy impulse towards attaining that fickle idea of perfection – or its opposite (and equally unhealthy) desire to turn our dial to “disengage,” often because we’ve lost our path or have just given up.
These unconscious (and unsustainable) stances of perfection and disengagement distract us from our inner vision, and inhibit our ability to grow our self-awareness: the primary key to unlocking the gift of true change.
It’s scary to admit that modern society often feels like Groundhog Day.
Every day we wake up and the routine begins anew. Today is a facsimile of yesterday. Habits become facts of life, like breathing.
Autopilot controls this vehicle.
The record skips and the same word repeats over and over again. This scenario is the death of passion and the birth of unrealized potential.
We all have unique gifts – things that no one can do quite like we can. Realizing those potentials is important to our health.
Rarely does society support one’s unique gifts. And unless your gift is being watered-down and exploited for the corporate bottom-dollar, chances are slim that you’re spending your days cultivating your own happiness.
Now, we all have to make a living – and our culture has made a series of choices over several millennia that have made “making a living” far more time-consuming than it once was. The time it takes to make a living seems inextricably wed to the ever-increasing complexity of society.
As demands on one’s time continue to grow, one often loses sight of his or her potential. Even with the noblest of intentions, life can get away from a person and potential can so easily go unrealized.
True happiness arises from realizing our full potential and utilizing our unique talents in service to something bigger than just ourselves. Identifying your talents that may lie dormant within you is a journey of discovery.
Because it’s a journey, your self-understanding may not happen instantly (“Eureka!”) but rather unfold over time through a series of small epiphanies.
How can you facilitate this process?
By doing the inner-work: journal, meditate, craft your goals, consult a counselor, therapist or coach. Practice setting healthy boundaries. Re-examine what actually brings you joy. Go for some long walks alone but also put yourself into bigger social situations where you can shake some new hands. Be of service. And start taking small steps toward getting your daily life better organized.
This is why making time for oneself is paramount.
In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character, Phil, feels trapped by the broken record that his life has become. Next in the story, Phil begins to manipulate the record like a DJ. He knows everything that’s going to happen, so he uses it to his advantage.
But it is not until Phil finds happiness that the cycle breaks and tomorrow arrives – a brand new day, a brand new beginning! To stop that broken record from repeating the same word, we need to reclaim our unique potential and then set out to realize it.
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Having a good second-half of your life is about more than career planning or financial planning – it’s about making decisions that allow you to become the fullest expression of your true self and to spend what time you have remaining in this life feeling happiness and making a positive difference.
On Joy – http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2010/03/22/100322crbo_books_kolbert#
On Calming Down – http://www.wikihow.com/Calm-Down
Abraham-Hicks: Ask And It Is Given – http://www.abraham-hicks.com/lawofattractionsource/askitisgiven_chapter_16.php