I've just spent a week with a group of wonderful people in a log cabin within the beautiful countryside of the New Forest. We were gathered there on a training course, assimilating new information and improving our coaching skills. As often happens in these circumstances, a great deal of our learning came from the sharing of our personal stories and experiences.
A common theme which came up time and again, was the subject of age. The group was represented by people in an age range of 20+ to 60+ years, and it was interesting to hear the different perspectives on age and how one's age can have both a positive and negative effect in professional and personal relationships. Exactly how, we wondered, would our views on age differ and so the invitation to write a few words about "At My Age" was extended and here are the results.
Steve Sharkey, Age 49
I've never asked so much of my body, I'm probably in the healthiest condition I've ever been in my life. Where once I demanded results that never seemed to come, I now respect where I am, physically and mentally -- working in harmony as a whole person. This attitude of oneness has allowed me to run a marathon, follow this with a half marathon a week later and set a personal best on a half marathon the following month. I would not trade in what I have learned to have back any of the years of investment I've made.
Anna, Age 59
Growing into a place where things are clearer. Being able to react more slowly to less, to understand that only a few things really matter.
Knowing that listening is so often more rewarding than talking. Celebrating each day that I can go running in the countryside smoothly and without pain. Spending time just being grateful for all the many good things in my life and appreciating how lucky I am.
Feeling fantastic that I'm still exploring and learning. Relishing my optimism and positive outlook.
Trusting my judgment more readily. Being kinder to myself and allowing myself to be praised by others with grace and a smile.
Valuing time with my friends and family. Treasuring the time with my 96-year-old father.
Vivienne Goldstein, Age 61
At 21 I thought I knew so much and then at 40 I realized I knew nothing... I'm just beginning.
I am now 61. I was dreading my 60th birthday. It coincided with my 40th wedding anniversary. My husband and I were waking up on the days leading to our party laughing and saying to each other "this is ridiculous -- how did this happen?"
Very surprisingly, I am thoroughly enjoying my age. I get a free Oystercard, I get discounted travel on national trains, I get discount at the cinema. I have even been ID'd twice on the tube because the Ticket Inspectors thought I was a fraud! Yay! I am fortunate as, at my age, I am able to exercise regularly, I have good posture, a positive energy, a curiosity and desire for adventure, and a big smile ... this all leads to good health both physical and mental ... and that's where I am now.
I finally am feeling comfortable in my skin. Joyous!
Jenni Winter, Age 31
Burn Out -- Young People are not immune!
At age 28 I was "a high flying, talented young individual showing great potential and fast tracking towards an Executive position," so I was told. My role was a Global Talent Management Consultant and I was pretty much "burnt out" already. I was even tasked to develop a strategy for the company; who wanted to attract, support and fast track young talented people. How then did I manage to burn out in a company that was said such great things about young employees? The reality was that young people were really there to be working very long hours and moved around the world because they had no ties or important lives outside of work. One executive actually told me that "young people didn't have families and so they shouldn't complain about very long hours or unfeasibly large workloads if they want to progress." Sadly burn out and stress are not in any way prejudiced by age. Bodies release the same hormones no matter how old you are and they have the same cumulative and degenerative effect. Needless to say -- I left that same company at the age of 29, set up my own business and recovered. I'm now 31 with a very successful business, on my own terms!
Ric Hayden, Age 38
When I was in my early twenties I knew I knew everything, then in my late twenties I realized I actually knew nothing. Since then I have spent my time finding out stuff. Age is all in our minds, I have spent time with wise old owls who have only spent a short time here and then also spent time with narrow minded people who have had long experiences. It is our attitude towards age that keeps us "young," or old in the case of a few. Feel good about yourself, keep you mind and body fit, go out and have some experiences.
Charlotte Rose, Age 28
Facebook tells me marriage and babies are what's happening at my age. There seems to be expectations at my age -- to be an expert, have a title, earn a ton, buy a house and settle down. Yet, I still face comments from older professionals about what's not possible because of my age -- and I find it almost funny that age is still being correlated to expected experience and capability.
At my age I see possibilities. At 21 I was ready to eat the world, fearless to try anything, chasing every experience and a fab career. At my age, I've lived a little... fallen over at a few hurdles and gotten back up. That learning allows me to see what's possible and head to it with humility. Life's no longer a race but a journey. I realized I just didn't like where my road was heading -- I've had a moment to step out, redesign who I want to be, what I want to do and contribute -- and I'm building a new road excited to explore what's now possible.
Andy Steel, Age 37
"What?" No kids and never married at your age!" she said "Is there something wrong with you?
"At my age?" I replied...
At my age of 37 it is typical that I would have fallen into the above trap but I'm haven't and I'm super proud of that. Although my gut instinct tells me that this is okay, the input into my brain received from the culture and environment around me, highly suggests the opposite. I've found since leaving school that teachers, parents, family and significant others have frequently suggested that "at my age," whatever that might be, I should be doing or being x, y or z.
The problem is every time I have done what they suggested (because I believed them at the time), I felt like a part of me was dying. This resulted in me creating scenarios that sabotaged situations so that I could escape in order to remain true to myself.
So now, I listen to my heart as well as my brain and they work together in unison beautifully and as a consequence, I sit comfortably with the meaning that I give the number on my life.
In conclusion, it seems every age has its challenges but none of them (in this blog anyway) refer to conditions which are actually created by our age, only our perception of it. Would life be easier if we became less age aware and more in touch with more relevant issues? What do you think at your age?