A few years ago, I made the decision to leave my full time profession as a professor of 20 years to pursue a different career path. My heart’s desire was and is to continue to impact people’s lives in significant ways, but to do so within multiple venues. The hope was that I’d be able to utilize all of my gifts and talents rather than a select few. Instead of exclusively teaching in the university classroom, I wanted to branch out and expand my motivational speaking, vocal performances, life coaching, and writing. I would be lying if I said this choice has been an easy one. In fact, it’s been just the opposite. Every day, and I do mean every single day, I’m confronted with the voice of deception telling me… “You’re too old to make this kind of change” or “Your moment is gone – it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation.”
It’s my belief that such limiting thoughts stem from a societal norm that says a person’s value decreases as they age, an attitude that impacts both women and men alike. It seems, however, that this notion of diminishing return more significantly applies to women in our culture than to men. For example, my family has a movie night out every week and one of the things I find interesting is the apparent turnover rate for female actors as opposed to male actors. As male actors age, they simply shift into different roles more befitting their station in life, while their female counterparts, with few exceptions, completely disappear from the big screen. In their place are much younger and more sexually voluptuous women who, by our culture’s definition must necessarily be more visually appealing. Not only that, but some of the aging male actors continue to play the macho, testosterone-driven roles courting women twice or three times as young as they. Are we likely to see the reverse? I think not!
While media doesn’t define our individual or female identity, they certainly contribute significantly to our views on beauty, aging, sexuality, success, and the like. How easily the ever-pervasive societal ageism infiltrates our thinking, convincing us that our lives are essentially over by age 40. On the flip side, people like my husband, an Air Force retiree, finish one career and, without second guesses or self doubt, transition with ease into a second career focus.
So then, how do we escape the deceptive voices that drive us to believe age determines who we are and what we can accomplish?
Change your self-talk
- Replace every self defeating thought with at least two self affirming thoughts
o For example, self defeating thought: “I’m too old to make this kind of change” is replaced with, “My life experiences will give me an edge that younger, less experienced individuals don’t have;” “I’m excited to see where this new direction is going to take me.”
o Carry around with you note cards of positive affirmations or encouraging quotes specific to your areas of struggle
- Contact and network with others in similar situations
o Ask them personally about their experiences
For example, recently I ran across a story about a woman whose dream early in life was to be a flight attendant. She was unsuccessful in her pursuits and then life happened, pushing out those dreams. When her kids were grown, she rekindled her dream and went for it, AT AGE 50. I contacted her to hear firsthand about her experience and discovered that now, five years later, she has been flying to exciting places all over the world. A dream imagined, a dream fulfilled http://www.skywriting.net/inspirational/stories/it~s_never_too_late.html
o Learn from the paths they’ve taken
For example, one of the things I’ve felt impassioned about for a very long time is the idea of writing a book. Though I’ve been writing for many years, it tends to be short essays for inclusion in local publications. I decided to seek out someone who has written a book on content similar to my own interests. Through that contact, I learned from a personal perspective about this woman’s path, including choice of book topic, publishing options, and books in e-format as opposed to hard copy, etc. (http://www.taogirl.com/tao_girl_home/aboutcj.htm). An added bonus was the discovery that this woman’s path was also similar to my own.
Focus on your dreams, not your age
- Remind yourself daily why you’re doing what you’re doing
- Envision yourself having already accomplished your goal
The voice of deception says, “I’m too old to…” But the voice of truth says… Age is just a number! Proverbs 20:29 “Youth may be admired for vigor, but gray hair gives prestige to old age” (The Message).