The good news about aging (yes, there are positives) is that we have less time. It might sound contradictory, but knowing we have fewer days on the planet can help us reconsider their value.
Time. It’s sad to think how much of this precious commodity I squandered in my youth. But of course, that’s one of the perks of being young – thinking time is endless.
I recently met a new friend, both of us circling 60, and talked about the benefits of owning a business and how we planned to go the distance into our 70s and make the most of time. The primary reason for our ambition is that, other than success itself, the heady payoff of entrepreneurship is the potential of something bigger over the horizon.
The prospect of a win drives an entrepreneur to take opportunities, invest in the next needed skill and give the next pitch. Thus, entrepreneurship serves as a perfect analogy for pursuing personal growth: it’s in the doing, the reaching, the head-down, blinders-on drive towards the goal, where the sweet spot exists.
The secret to measuring personal improvement comes in determining how to measure the results of the effort. Here we break down why it’s essential to adjust and distinguish improvements by a practical scale, so you can recognize the deeper picture and enjoy the benefits of your efforts.
WHAT IS POSSIBLE?
Unfortunately, as we grow older, we tend to see our lives as a series of diminishing possibilities. Even the word “retirement” suggests we are leaving not just a job but a contribution to the network of our society.
However, possibilities are still available to you no matter your age if you revisit the why of a dream’s origin. Wherever a door slams, there’s some window slightly opened if you’re willing to look for it.
For example, my chances of becoming a prima ballerina or astronaut are over, but I could take a dance class to visit the dancing world. And for an outer space experience, I can dive into astronomy lectures and courses.
The road to opportunity comes by way of rethinking the route, considering what’s important and what growth means to you. It sometimes takes creative thinking and reexamining the goals to see the options and potential for achievement.
WHAT IS THE MEASURE OF GREATNESS?
As we recalibrate goals, we reconsider what it means to reach success. For those who are competitive and measure themselves by others, it could be time to align with personal accomplishment instead. Your pursuit doesn’t need to compare to some outside standard. Gauge your mark from where you were in the past to where you are today.
If this sounds like you’re caving in, remember what it is you strive for ultimately. In the grand scheme of your life and meaning, personal improvement, even in the smallest increments, is worthwhile as it benefits you that day.
The golden ticket of greatness comes in the trying. “Failure” is not an endpoint – sticking to it can be the key to your success. The famous Edison quote fits: “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Old school, but applicable.
GREATNESS AT ANY AGE: SOME EXAMPLES
Old-fashioned ideas of aging with inevitable decline and inactivity are out. Sure, maturity comes with new realities, but not confining ones if you recalibrate. For inspiration, here are examples of those who blossomed in their seasoned years.
- In the mid-1970s, Judith Guest worked as a full-time teacher while raising her family when she started writing a short story. She cranked out the first 200 pages and realized she was writing a novel. In 1976, at the age of 40, Guest published her first book, Ordinary People. Of course, were several rejections from publishers, but a publisher did accept her manuscript, and the book became an acclaimed success. In 1980, Ordinary People was turned into successful movie as well.
- Julia Child began with a passion for French food that led her to collaborate on a cookbook project to teach American wives how to cook French cuisine. At the age of 50, the result of her effort was the acclaimed Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Due to her success, Child went on to host an award-winning cooking show and became a household name for fine cooking with more books and programs to follow. She remained driven by a passion for French food, writing and speaking about cooking for 40+ years.
- A natural scientist by profession with a lifetime of study, Charles Darwin became a significant force in the scientific community for his theory of evolution. But it wasn’t until the age of 50, in 1859, that Darwin published On the Origins of the Species. His work and subsequent discoveries were groundbreaking and changed natural scientific discovery that still benefits us today.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her first book of Little House on the Prairie series at 65. Before her books, Wilder worked as a columnist and editor for the Missouri Ruralist and developed a loyal following for her work. Her time and experience paid off with a series of work that is still in publication today.
- At the advanced age of 93, Harry Bernstein published his powerful memoir The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers. He asserts his 90s proved to be his most productive decade in life.
BE YOUR BETTER BEST
Some similar themes emerged as I reviewed articles featuring elders who have found new careers and purpose in their later years. They proved driven by curiosity, passion for the subject and took pleasure in the prospects of something new to learn tomorrow. That perspective is so affirming.
No matter our age, we each have less time than we did yesterday. That’s just math. But by paying attention to the quality of our efforts today, we achieve greatness in personal satisfaction.
But does our work matter? The answer can be a resounding yes if it improves our quality of life for that hour, for that day. And it would be a double yes if we set a positive example for others!
Passion and purpose are individual. We don’t know if what we do will leave a positive legacy. But for the present, which is all we have, we can manifest a purpose and live our best life, to benefit us each day with anticipation to take a turn at it again tomorrow.
For an added boost, consider options to be your riches. If you have choices, you have a path to growth. Check out our If You Have Options T-shirt for inspiration.