After 50 – Your Best Years Yet
The challenges facing people who want to live their dream change as they grow older. But that doesn’t mean that it is impossible. Here I talk about some of the lessons I learned from my own journey over the past five years.
As we get older a slow gradual awareness descends that we are not going to be part of this life forever and it starts to feel very precious. It can be a bleak or a comforting moment, depending on where we are at, remembering that there was a time when we felt we had all the time in the world to achieve our dreams, and now realising that there are fewer years ahead than behind. And as we get older, we are also feeling the consequences of the labyrinth of the decisions, choices and commitments we have made up to this point. When we are 50 we have a burden of responsibilities (career, family, financial commitments) that we didn’t have when we were in our 20s.
It makes the prospect of real change, change that is more than just a re-arranging of the parts of our lives, feel daunting if not nearly impossible. We have a lot to lose. A part of us would rather stay in our comfortable familiar surroundings than risk stepping into the unknown – even if that unknown is full of richness, wisdom, joy and service. We rest on the laurels of what we have achieved so far rather than imagining on the satisfactions and pleasures that lie ahead. Or we hold ourselves back by thinking that we are too old, it is too late and it would never work anyway. And yet, we have this niggling inner voice that keeps reminding us that we are full of potential and full of dreams that we have yet to fulfil.
Trust Your Inner Guidance
Five years ago, aged 50, I was finally ready to listen to my own inner voice. I had found my passion as a Life Coach. I loved it but I had this nagging feeling that there was another step to be taken, that I was holding myself back. How could I coach people about taking big audacious steps in their life when I was holding back in my own. I had considered every possibility. I thought about going back to college, to leaving the city and going back to live in a cottage in the country, to getting a new job (even of it meant starting at the bottom again). I thought about it until I had exhausted every possibility and still was no closer to the answer. Then one day it occurred to me that what I needed to do was just to start moving. To take one step after another without any plan or agenda. For me this movement turned out to be travel. So I booked a flight from Ireland to Bangkok and started from there.
On the outside what I was doing seemed crazy or foolhardy at least. I didn’t have money, I didn’t have a plan. Initially when I announced to my friends that I was leaving they were collectively horrified. ‘You should stay and get a job and save for your pension’ (One friend whom I love dearly actually said that!) But these voices were not at all as loud as the voices in my own head which also kept saying ‘You don’t have enough money, you cannot afford the time, you should start making serious decisions about your future.…’ My head was saying ‘No’ but the body was saying ‘Trust me!’ At that moment I think I was lucky in one respect more than any other. I had reached the end of my thinking about what to do next. Because I had run out of avenues, something in me melted enough to allow me to stop trying to figure it all out. All that was left to me was to trust my inner guidance. It did not give me any details about what to do or where to go next. It certainly did not give guarantees that things would turn out well. It simply acted as an inner barometer on whether I was honouring myself and my intentions. It answered a very simple question: Is this step bringing me closer to realising my true potential or not.
Feel The Fears. They Won’t Kill You! It might seem that following my inner guidance would be rewarded with an ease, a freedom and delight in life that was not there before. Not so! In some ways the last years have been the most demanding of my life. I yo-yoed through a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, between wild optimism and black pessimism. Everything I had been avoiding – all my fears, limiting beliefs, avoidances, denials- presented themselves for my attention. But despite all of these misgivings I found I was being carried along on a wave that was far greater than me. The sense of relief I felt at just moving and the sense of being alive were more powerful than any fears. And this feeling of being connected to a flow that carried a purpose and wisdom greater than anything I could create won over any resistance I tried to put up.
Challenge the Limiting Beliefs – They are Invariably Not True
After travelling for a few months I inevitably ran out of money and found myself teaching in Vietnam. The need for work drove me there but in doing so I rekindled one of the great loves of my life which is teaching. I had thought I was too old, too out of date. In reality I found the contrary to be true. I was a better teacher than when I was younger. I enjoyed it more and I brought depth of life experience and expertise from other areas of my life that I didn’t have when I was younger. The thing I learned most from this experience is that age is never an excuse not to try things.
Taking the First Step Opens All Kinds of Doors
From there I took the next step again and came Bali which is my home for the moment. Here I found my new passion which is Breathwork. I have this feeling that it was waiting for me. The two years here have been a wild and wonderful journey through my inner landscape that is bringing about life changing results. How it will happen is still unfolding but I know that Breathwork will be at the core of my life and service going forward. Perhaps the biggest lesson of all has also been the simplest. All I had to do was I take that first step and show my willingness to trust, and my commitment to grow. After that I was open to the flow. Life came to me.
“Real passion is about being swept away in our own inner vision.”
-Ingrid Bacci, ‘The Art of Effortless Living’
Real Passion is Finding Out Who You Are Not What You Do
That is not to say that I don’t have limiting thoughts any more. Of course I do, and there are days when I still believe them. But most of the time I see them as visitors, messengers reminding me that I have begun to stop trusting again, I have disconnected from the flow and I need to breathe more and come back into the body. If I have learned anything over the last few years it is that the only changes worth anything in the long run are changes in the inside. I can move country, move job, change my relationships but I bring myself with me every time. The only thing that keeps my attention in the long run is an inner vision, a desire to open, to expand and embrace a new kind of inner freedom.
Learn Flexibility By Doing
My life over the last five years have been beyond anything I could have imagined for myself. I reconnected with some of my passions and discovered more. I found in myself talents and resources and strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies that I never knew I had. But mostly I have found that I can trust myself, I can ask for what I want, I can move and I can adjust to circumstances as they arise. I know that these qualities will serve me well in every way as I get older. I have many dreams that are still to be reached but my idea of what that means is changing. In the past my idea of success revolved around reaching my potential, finding my life purpose and living the dream, but it was a destination rather than a journey. Now I see success as a process rather than an end result. I haven’t arrived anywhere but the journey there is rich and intense. And the successes are there. I just don’t feel so dependent on them now.
One of the interesting things about making changes in the middle years is that far from creating a new life, there is often a kind of coming home. Passions, experience, expertise, interests of earlier years come back in a new and fresh way. The years after 50 are the ones where we gather it all together in a new tapestry and tell a new story. If we can surrender to the journey and allow it to unfold we can make our later years more satisfying and fulfilling than we could have ever thought possible.
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Ann Moloney Breathwork and Coaching.
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