Is it too early for New Year’s resolutions? Because I have one which I’m trying out. But maybe it’s not so much a resolution as a philosophy. It’s not an “all or nothing” philosophy, but more of a changed approach to how I view opportunities, invitations and experiences.
Have I mentioned I’m now 40? (Actually I think I’ve mentioned it in every post I’ve written since turning 40 in July.) Turning 40 hasn’t changed me overnight, but there’s no denying it’s a milestone age which has brought with it a little self-reflection and called up the questions of what I am doing with my life. What am I seeking or striving for? When will I know when I’m there? What does “success” mean? What is the meaning of it all? (heavy, I know!)
I think the biggest insight I’ve gleaned from this milestone is that I am living my life NOW. In my teens, 20’s and 30’s, most of my goals, aspirations and dreams were all based in the future. One day I could train hard and run fast if I wanted to. One day I would carve out some time write a book. One day I’d slow down and enjoy people’s company more. Meanwhile for the past few years at least, I had been living my life on fast-forward automatic pilot, doing what needed to get done, putting new experiences on hold, rarely stopping to talk or have coffee with a friend or acquaintance, not taking risks with veering outside my comfortable routine.
But suddenly, at 40, there was a shift. If I was going to do something or be someone, I needed to be doing it now. Instead of seeing my future self as an almost fictional person to whom I could indefinitely forward my “to-do” list, I’ve suddenly caught up and am now that person.
So what does this mean? To me it means I’m making an effort to say “yes” to opportunities and experiences. It definitely takes more effort to go to every holiday party, make running and lunch dates, sign up for out of town races, plan new family adventures, try a new sport, take on new work projects, etc… But if I’m not doing these things another year will pass me by in another unremarkable blur. When I have new experiences, I feel alive. I feel I’m at a pinnacle where there are two choices: growth or decay. There is no standing still.
Here is what happens when I say ‘Yes’:
- This past summer as I cheered on my husband as he competed in dozens of paddling races I thought “why am I watching and not doing?” So I jumped into a new sport, competed in numerous races, and have loved the experiences and community around it.
- I recently ran Nationals X-Country in Kingston Ontario. Not because I was in great shape or because I love cross-country. I did it because I got to see people whose company I enjoy, challenge myself, and create a new experience. I’m so glad I did it.
- I’ve been working this season on being more social and going to more holiday gatherings and informal get-togethers. It’s an effort for me, for sure which usually involves planning and scheduling, not to mention actually getting off the couch and out the door! But talking to people and engaging in ideas is interesting. Sharing a laugh is energizing. Meeting someone new with a different world view is enlightening. And reconnecting with old friends is some of the best fun you can have.
So going forward, when a new opportunity comes up, unless I have a very good reason to say ‘no’, I’m going to take a chance on saying ‘yes’. This is me living my life at 40.