We can either let fear stop us in our tracks, or we can use it to move us forward. What will you choose?
Not long ago, I posted an article on The Huffington Post that generated many comments and lots of shares. "The Seven Biggest Mistakes We Make in Midlife (and How to Avoid Them)" delved into some of the areas that seem to cause the most angst for us as we age, holding us back and stopping us from living our best lives. I offered thoughts on how to address them head-on. Based on the input I got from readers, one of the biggest issues for many of us is fear, and specifically the fear of aging. Many people talked about the fear of being alone, of poor health, of being forgotten. Here's a snippet of what I wrote in that article:
Being Afraid of Aging -- The best advice I can give you is this: Be fearless after 50. Fear will stop you from pursuing your dreams and could cause you to give up and give in, keeping you a prisoner in your comfort zone. This is the simple concept I learned from researching, writing and living the advice in my book. If you're healthy, you feel good. If you feel good, you look good. If you feel good and look good and have a vision for your future, you feel even better. If you've got all that plus the knowledge how to stay that way, you feel amazing. And if you feel amazing, who cares about age?
Getting and staying healthy and fit is essential as we forge ahead, and I wrote a lot about how to do that in The Best of Everything After 50. I will never stop saying it, and try to work it into every article I write and every talk I give, because this much is true: If you feel good about how you look and how you feel, you'll be much more open to new experiences, people and opportunities. And you need to be as fit as you can be so you'll be able to keep more of the illnesses and diseases that can plague us after 50 as far away as possible, for as long as possible.
But beyond that, the bigger questions are: How can we be fearless after fifty? How can we ignore the noise from the media about how "younger is better" and stay on course? How can we leave our comfort zones and move ahead into (potentially) unknown waters? How can we stop fearing (and fighting) the aging process and learn to embrace it?
It isn't always easy getting older, on many levels, especially when the media tells us that we're invisible, and academic studies insist we're glum. But, this is not the time to simply give up, give in, and hide away in fear. On the contrary, this is probably the most important time for you to rise up and stare those fears down.
Here are five key ways to be fearless after fifty:
Visualize how big we really are.
Picture this: we are part of the largest demographic in the history of the world. If you're feeling isolated or invisible (another big issue for many people over 50, especially women), keep this in mind. We are not alone, and there are enough of us to enable our voices to be heard. There is power in numbers, and we wield a considerable amount of power, especially economic.
Share how you feel.
A recent article I wrote talked about how women very often deal with the more difficult sides of aging a bit better than men because we've mastered the art of staying connected, relating, and maintaining friendships, all of which help us to weather the aging storms. By simply sharing your thoughts -- especially those that are most frightening -- with other people who might be going through the same experience is very effective, and can ease your mind. Consider joining Facebook and getting involved with some of the sites that are specifically geared to those over 50.
Get out of your comfort zone.
How will you ever know what you're capable of doing if you don't get out there and try? You can always find reasons why not to do something, so instead, focus on all the reasons you should. It's a mind shift. All of us need to be in a place of "productive discomfort" as Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, calls it. He wrote, "If you're too comfortable, you're not productive. And if you're too uncomfortable, you're not productive. Like Goldilocks, we can't be too hot or too cold."
Create your own Board of Directors Club.
Starting a new business can be daunting and scary. It brings out every single insecurity you can imagine: Will they buy it? Can I get the financing? Is this crazy? Will I lose all my savings? It's also frightening to consider leaving a marriage or starting a new one in midlife. Or thinking about retiring. Any change can make us want to put the proverbial blanket over our heads and simply do nothing. I'm in the throes of thinking through a business idea right now, and so decided to start my own Board of Directors Club (which I also refer to as my 'Kitchen Cabinet'). Here's how it works: the four of us (but any number of people will do) get together every Tuesday morning, without fail, at the same diner. Each one of us gets 15 minutes to discuss everything and anything that needs to be discussed. Usually it pertains to our blossoming businesses, or, as in one members' case, getting a new job, but not always. Sometimes we talk about exercise, or men, or kids, or whatever is most pressing. But the real goal of this club is to get input, to brainstorm and to create a level accountability that is often hard to do on your own. We leave the meeting each week with our own personal "To Do" lists, and the items must be checked off the list by the next meeting, or there's a lot of explaining to do.
Embrace your age.
Make this your personal mantra: Don't fight your age. Embrace it, whatever it is. Again, this doesn't mean to give up and give in. It is a very powerful concept of letting go of your younger self and embracing and loving your aging self. Treat yourself with kindness, respect, and take care of you -- body, mind, and soul -- as you would your children, your family, your friends. This is your time.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves is the ability to understand fear, face it, and use it to make our lives better. Give yourself this gift... every day. That's the key to becoming fearless.
Follow Barbara Hannah Grufferman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BGrufferman