I was inspired this week by a Twitter post by Dan Go on ‘things I’m doing at 43 to avoid regret when I am 73‘. I am 43: I don’t like regrets. The guy writing is a fairly traditional motivational coach of the kind where I doubt we would have much in common, so I thought I would come up with my own.
And whilst this account isn’t on Twitter we are definitely on Insta: come and join us, the water’s lovely!
So these are the ten things that came to me, most of which are not a surprise. All of them have simple things that can be done today, or this month, and all of them will help you not just in 30 years time but right now in terms of living in your peace.
Work out what matters to you. Everything else comes from this. You are old enough now to know what matters to you, and to go out and live it. Where there are perceived tensions, this can be awkward, but really they are rarely so dire as to make things impossible. And think about it in terms of your top three since as Brené Brown says, more than three priorities is the same as admitting that we can’t actually choose. For me the three priorities are my kids, my community, and social justice. But it can be anything: your faith, your family in a larger sense, or something granular like running or gardening which gives you the kind of mental and physical strength and peace to deal with everything else. It really doesn’t matter. But it means you have a kind of north star to come back to if you are feeling off-course.
Make commitments. Look, you get to decide what you want and what you don’t (and if you are a guy, I might have just lost you with this one). But the older I get, the less respect I have for the emotionally immature reluctance to commit. It’s not just about intimate relationships, but with everything. Being half-assed means getting half-assed results. That will be true whether it means you are hoping a relationship with a partner will grow positively whilst you also try and enjoy keeping your options open: or whether fear is making you self sabotage with how you do your work. Instead of seeing commitment as a threat to your freedom, see it as a way to aim for depth instead of breadth. You might be amazed.
Learn to deal with hard things. In Dan’s post he talked about learning to deal with grief, which is a critical on especially at this time in our lives. But we all have our stumbling blocks. Knowing yourself better is a great first step: understanding that you struggle with conflict, or shame, or whatever means you can look it in the eye and try to learn new mechanisms. It’s not enough to stop there though, and just get into an anxiety spiral when hard things are coming up. Work through them, knowing that crappy things will just be crappy, but they will no longer be impossible.
Get financially secure. So my whole blog is pretty much about this, but to me it’s not a priority because it’s a mechanism which allows me to focus on the critical issues. But paying off debt, organising your finances and mindfully allocating your money toward your priorities really does set you free to focus on other things. If you don’t know where to start, check out my three introductory posts: getting started, auditing your fixed costs, and paying yourself first.
Take time with people who might not be around for long. This might well be your parents – and with the total uncertainty of life and how hard this year has already been – it could be anyone that matters to you. Spend time to really understand them, ask the questions you might want answers to in the future, and make your peace with any lingering anger or resentment.
Take care of your body. At 43 I can see that the careless disregard I have always had for my body – I mean it’s just there, it looks ok, what’s the issue? – will in years that might be coming very soon, result in challenges. There is endless advice out there about how to exercise, what to eat, staying healthy blah blah and none of it turns me on at all. So this one is a simplified version: to treat my body like a precious and rare commodity, since that is what it is. That means making those regular appointments at the dentist or GP; taking some basic care over what I eat, how much and when; and getting some exercise in. Some of that is easier than others, but none of this requires me becoming a world class weightlifter, just having one less slice of cake. And recognising that life is guaranteed to nobody (see point above…) might help focus on this.
Make a plan, and go for it. So thirty years seems like a long time. I mean, I was 13 thirty years ago: and now I have a 13 year old. But being clear where you want to go matters, and more at this age maybe than any other. I don’t want to work for another 25 years (which is what the UK State pension age qould require) but that means really working toward an alternative. I don’t want to be a burden on my kids in terms of my money or my health – I mean I will totally rely on them but that’s part of our cultural norms, I don’t want to have to – so making sure that I work on these now is critical.
Protect your energy. This might mean cutting off toxic people, or it might mean dealing with a sticky issue which has been nagging away at you. For me it means trying to be less negative and speaking out rather than resenting things. But it also means saying no to certain situations where I feel obliged to be spending time with people that I don’t really get any value from. Being able to prioritise protecting my energy over fulfilling social obligations feels like a gift.
Do what you love. OK so you might not be able to do this instead of your day job (or not yet) but doing what you love really does matter. Doing activities you love is part of dementia prevention: hobbies help us keep mentally stimulated without pressure, generates a sense of achievement and goal setting, relieves stress and builds confidence. So whether it relates to exercise and keeping healthy, or you do jigsaw puzzles, write a blog, paint in your attic, or whatever, do it because you love it. Note: partying doesn’t count: dancing totally does.
Work out what needs to be in place if you pass away. Yes make a will, but also prepare your executors. If you have kids, work out the details of guardianship for them and if they are old enough, prepare them for what would happen if you passed. Organising your money into a Trust, along with simplifying and preparing a guide to all the paperwork will make things so much easier for everyone at a time when they will already be devestated by losing you. Which, God willing, will be much after you turn 73!