Reflections from an aspiring elder

I turned 50 this week, which has prompted lots of thoughts and reflections. I won’t offer 100+ pieces of advice like Kevin Kelly or 50 thoughts like this guy, and I don’t know if I qualify as what Chip Conley calls a modern elder, but I did want to share a few principles that have proven valuable for me:

  • Be grateful for your life. Not only because I am lucky to be alive after my bike crash in 2016, but because I am now blessed with a life partner and two beautiful children. I have benefited from a lot of privilege through my life, and really appreciate that I now choose how I spend my days, doing work that I love and spending time with my family. I try not to take any of it for granted, and practicing gratitude is a way to remind myself that none of this is guaranteed.
  • Pay it forward. I try to acknowledge and recognize how we humans are interdependent, and look for ways to help others. This includes recognizing that others are doing the best they can, and giving money or time to causes I support. I volunteer as a mentor with a couple organizations, and with my local library, and aim to spend 10% of my hours each year doing pro bono coaching for people who haven’t shared my privilege (if you know anybody who might want such coaching, I joined with several other coaches to offer coaching scholarships this summer – apply by July 5th). I wrote my book with a similar goal of sharing what I’ve learned with a broader audience, rather than restricting those insights to those who can afford my coaching.
  • Connect with courage and vulnerability. As those of you who follow my blog know, this has been my intention for the past few years as I have realized that life is best when shared. It turns out that connection is a long-standing theme for me – Facebook memories recently popped up this blog post from 2008 where I wrote “the most important thing in this world is the connection we make with each other”. Most humans want more connection, so take the risk to share what you’re really thinking with another person so you can find your fellow travelers.
  • Take care of yourself. It’s easy to believe that whatever crisis we are facing is so important that we should sacrifice ourselves to handle it. But there will be another crisis, and another. The sacrifice isn’t sustainable. Your mind and body are the instruments through which you make a difference in the world, and have to last you for several decades, so treat them with respect. I wrecked my mental and physical health when I burned out chasing a promotion at Google – that experience led to many positive changes as I learned to value myself more, and yet I still occasionally fall back into those old patterns of sacrifice.
  • Invest in your health. I have been intending for years to do more strength training via bodyweight exercises and the weights I have at home, but I never actually did the exercises. So a couple months ago, I joined a gym for the first time in my life. It is a 10 minute walk from my house, it offers group weight training classes, and the paid membership includes two classes a week and if I don’t use them, I lose them. So I actually go, and it makes a difference. Beyond that, committing to my health in this way flipped a switch in my brain that I value my body. I’ve started eating better. I’ve been going on more runs and even went on a four hour bike ride this week. It’s been really satisfying to enjoy what my body can do even as I enter my 50s. And back to my first point, I’m grateful that I can still do these things as many people don’t have bodies that permit them to do these activities.
  • Slow way down to acknowledge what’s here. Last week was the second gathering of the trauma-informed coaching program I am taking this year. While they are sharing a lot of techniques and frameworks, the main advice is to slow down, and be present. Most people rush through life, trying to get to the next thing and the next, without ever acknowledging what they are feeling. When we give ourselves time to breathe and room to feel, it can release tension we are holding inside and often creates insights as to why we react the way we do.
  • Focus on the most important things first. There are too many things we “should” do, and you will never get to them all. Trying to be more efficient doesn’t work. Instead, get clear on what is most important to you, and say no to the rest. Accept you can’t do it all, and choose to do a few things well instead.

These are a few principles I have learned over the past decade that have helped me create a life that I am deeply grateful for. I share them in the hope they might help you do the same.

As a birthday request, I’d like to ask for your help in spreading the word about my book, You Have A Choice: Beyond Hard Work to Meaningful Impact. I wrote the book to help people who are overwhelmed by their commitments so they can find a path forward towards their own purpose and meaning, and I would love for that message to reach more people.

If you value that perspective and my writing, please help the book reach the people it can help. Here are a few things you can do that would make a difference:

  • Buy the book if you haven’t already on Amazon or
  • Recommend the book to your friends or others who could benefit from it.
  • Post a short review on Amazon or Goodreads. Potential readers evaluate books by number of reviews and by quality of reviews, so even a rating can help.
  • Post about the book or my newsletter on LinkedIn and tag me.

Every little bit helps. Thank you for anything you can do to support my work!

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