A Blaze Of Glory In The Autumn Of Life
By Dawn Williams, Senior News Associate Publisher
A movement has been underway for some time that has opened far more opportunities than ever before for the autumn of life. We’re healthier, living longer, and have resources that make virtually any lifestyle you can imagine possible. As a result, the post-retirement years have become an incredibly exciting time for the current generation. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that virtually any future you can imagine is possible.
The term “reinventing yourself” is a hot topic these days. Publications and websites ranging from the prestigious Harvard Business Review and Forbes, to lifestyle venues like AARP The Magazine and Huffington Post, offer articles on how to create a whole new way of a life and a whole new you to go along with it. A Google search netted almost 3 million hits for the term “reinventing yourself after 50,” and nearly 2.5 million references popped up when I narrowed it to “reinventing yourself after 60.” We are no longer settling for the easy or obvious answers. Today’s seniors are daring to dream, exploring options, and building a future on their own terms. Like the old Army recruitment slogan says, they’re determined to “be all that you can be,” albeit without the camouflage fatigues.
In my work as a business and life coach, I am awed and inspired by clients engaged in this process of exploration, expansion, and discovery. One gentleman is working with me on his goal to launch a business based on a workshop he developed. His vision is to spend his retirement years traveling the country to deliver the workshop, and he’s well on his way to making this vision a reality. Another client, with a successful corporate career and a non-fiction book to her credit, is using her retirement to expand her writing. She already has office space in a writer’s community, teaching credits, and an agent interested in her manuscript. Both of these creative and energetic individuals are facing many unknowns, which is always the case when we endeavor to move in a new direction, and they’re committed to making this time the best of their lives.
While this freedom is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of the era in which we live, not all of us reinvent ourselves out of deeply held dreams. Sometimes the need to step out of our comfort zone is forced on us by circumstances. A later life divorce or the loss of a spouse, for example, precipitates unwelcome and unexpected changes. Our resistance to enforced change, fortified by grief, anger, and a slew of other powerful emotions, keeps us rooted in paralysis as we cling to what once was. But when we work through the emotions and reach a point of acceptance, positive change becomes possible.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” This quote, often misattributed to Charles Darwin, actually originated from the work of Leon C. Megginson, Professor of Management and Marketing at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Megginson was pointing out the need for individuals and organizations to be responsive to change, and this is vital to anyone who is rebuilding their life after unwanted change occurs. Being adaptable means opening your mind to possibilities and being responsive to opportunities or ideas that come your way. We cannot undo what is already done, or turn back time in an attempt to change the outcome and retain our old way of being. Choosing not to accept and adapt to what exists keeps us stuck in bitterness and steals the joy from life. Sometimes we need a little help to move beyond this mindset, whether from a therapist, a religious counselor, a life coach, or even a good friend. But once you release the past, a brilliant future opens to you, one you can shape in ways that support your growth and fulfillment.
Change, whether self-initiated or forced upon us by outer events, is never an easy thing. It’s almost as if we have to deconstruct certain parts of our personality in order to rebuild the self into a person who can accomplish whatever comes next. Habits take time to form, but even before we begin doing things differently, we have to learn to think differently.
A quote presumably attributed to Albert Einstein says, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” This is a primary tenet in the process of creating something new. Many people work with coaches specifically for this reason, to identify where their beliefs about themselves and the world may be limiting their progress or keeping them from growing into the kind of person they wish to become.
So how does one go about reinventing him- or herself? How do you turn the autumn of life into a blaze of glory? Start with a clear vision of the outcome you desire, and make a firm decision to pursue it. “Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent, and committed decision,” according to speaker, author, and life coach Tony Robbins. What steps are necessary to build the future you desire? Put those steps on a timeline, and devote yourself to reaching established milestones according to those deadlines.
Some of those steps may require you to step out of the known and comfortable realm of your current way of being, and that’s a very good sign. Self-development guru Brian Tracy said, “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Like a baby learning first to stand, then to toddle, and eventually to run, you’re bound to face some discomfort, or fear of looking silly, or even to stumble and fall a few times. That’s part of growing. Moving through this stage despite uncertainty or discomfort is what leads to mastery – and a whole new you.
You must garner your courage in the early phase of change. Even if uncertainty makes you fearful, even if your first efforts don’t meet with the success you’d hoped, persist until you get where you want to be. Winston Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Be courageous as you create the future you envision, using setbacks as an opportunity to learn and adjust your course.
“Life is a gift,” Robbins said, “and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” The crux of my coaching philosophy is this: If you can dream it, it’s already in you. Whatever vision you hold for your autumn years, believe fiercely that it is possible, and trust that you can make it so. You have the power to do and be whatever you choose. The possibilities are limitless, and so are you.
Dawn Williams is the associate publisher of Senior News 50 and Better, and is also a certified life and business coach, a certified emotional intelligence coach, and a Master Spirit Life Coach. She specializes in issues that affect us in midlife and the senior years. For more information, visit her website at www.SelfPoweredChange.com or contact her via email to