Over The Hill At 50? Not In My World.

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This past week I celebrated my 50th birthday.

"You're 50...?? You?! Nooo. I thought maybe 37 at the most," a younger Facebook friend posted. "You're only 50? Ahh, so young," came a post by an older relative. It's funny how our perceptions of age depend on where we are on the timeline of life.

Turning 40 10 years ago wasn't so bad -- I realized I could finally stop explaining my behaviors and choices to others. I mean, after all, I was "in my 40s." Turning 50 was a tad different, not just because it's half of a century, but because there have been a few points in my life where reaching 50 years might not have been possible ... because I wouldn't have been alive.

Yes, four different near-death experiences involving cars, cliffs, and cancer have forced me to walk a fine line between the earth and stars in my short time on this planet. But each time, I've come out stronger. In fact, each event has given me renewed appreciation for my life and the inspiration to keep exploring, learning, and growing.

Another direct benefit of living through these experiences was the change in my worldview about life: In my mind, there is no "hill," only a challenging, powerful, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous mountain. And the best part? You never come down -- it's uphill all the way to a tremendous summit. And I heard that the view from the top is paradise.

"What's that?" you say. "Uphill? That certainly doesn't sound very good..."

Allow me to explain.

It's natural to visualize an uphill hike as a constant struggle or a difficult challenge, but if you are in good physical and mental shape, it can be incredibly fulfilling -- even make you stronger. Take, for example, my recent hike up the Manitou Incline, a Colorado challenge that lures its hikers more than 2,000 feet up the side of a mountain in less than one mile. If I hadn't trained for the hike, my experience could have been miserable. But I did prepare and it was incredible.

Hiking is a good metaphor for life. When we pack light and keep ourselves in good physical, emotional, and spiritual shape, we survive -- and even thrive. We will face times that require great endurance, but there will also be amazing views, plenty of sunshine, and cool breezes when we need them. And if we're in good company, everything's just a little sweeter.

So is it worth the challenge to get the view from the top? I think so. But everyone has his or her own path and so I try to stay focused on my own journey.

For me, turning 50 has solidified these truths:

Timeouts are good. If I'm planning to live to 100-years-old (which I am), then 50 is Base Camp: time to pause, regroup, jettison some old baggage -- and relationships -- from my past, and prepare to continue up the mountain. Fifty is the plateau and a resting spot. Fifty is the midpoint water stop with plenty of nourishment, refreshment, and introspection.

People are most important. Gathering with several close friends last weekend who are also turning 50 reminded me that we all succumb to the rules of Planet Earth -- we get older, we (hopefully) get wiser, and we will change. But the relationships we nurture will only become more valuable. The people in our lives will always make the difference -- and make up for the memories pruned over the years.

Be true to your dreams. After a few decades of expectations and disappointments, many of us realize that it's important to never stop dreaming. We're always creating -- whether we're conscious of it or not -- so why not create more of what we really want? Why not keep dreaming bigger? Many people are waiting to take action, but that's not necessary. Focus on what you want; do and say those things that align with your dreams; and then have faith that things are always working out for the best -- regardless of the outcome. Sometimes we need to believe before we see.

Honor the perspective of others. Depending on our environment, the context, and which direction we are facing, we will all have a different experience -- and that is good. We can use our unique perspective to educate those around us, and by softening our stance, we create the opportunity to learn from others as well. Each one of us will experience the world differently, and that is how we share our journeys and lessons learned. We are all students and teachers at different points of our lives. Be willing to be both.

Appreciate each day. Yes, I know, "just be happy" sounds like a great plan, but life is life. So even on down days, we can still conjure up gratitude. Of course it's easier to keep a positive attitude when life goes our way, but even when our happy day fades -- which it ultimately always does--we can find relief quickly in the people, places, and positive triggers that remind us about happiness when we forget. Appreciation can always bring us peace and acceptance when we need them most.

Learn more about different perspectives on life in Balancing Work, Relationships & Life in Three Simple Steps, or another book in Michael's collection at michaelsunnarborg.com/books

Image: A 49 year-old me as I summit the Manitou Incline, Colorado.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

  • Ireland
    "My Grandparents were both born there and I've dreamed about going since I was a kid," said reader Dana Beckman.
    Giuseppe Milo/500px
    "My Grandparents were both born there and I've dreamed about going since I was a kid," said reader Dana Beckman.
  • Chicago
    Wrigley Field is a must-see, according to reader Linda Stark.
    Getty Images
    Wrigley Field is a must-see, according to reader Linda Stark.
  • Bora Bora
    Reader Mona G. Low would love to stay in "one of those thatched huts over the turquoise ocean."
    M Swiet Productions
    Reader Mona G. Low would love to stay in "one of those thatched huts over the turquoise ocean."
  • Scotland
    Several readers said they would love to visit this northern gem because of their ancestry.
    Buena Vista Images
    Several readers said they would love to visit this northern gem because of their ancestry.
  • Paris
    The Louvre Museum would be reader Susan Ayers--Taylor's first stop in the city of lights. "I have wanted to go there since I
    José Ramirez/500px
    The Louvre Museum would be reader Susan Ayers--Taylor's first stop in the city of lights. "I have wanted to go there since I was 12, which was 44 years ago!"
  • Russia
    Reader Kimberly Minton-Freeman would love to visit Russia because it's her daughter's birthplace.
    Alejandro Cupi/500px
    Reader Kimberly Minton-Freeman would love to visit Russia because it's her daughter's birthplace.
  • Hawaii
    Several of our readers have been to the 50th state and dream of going back again to take in the natural beauty.
    Alamy
    Several of our readers have been to the 50th state and dream of going back again to take in the natural beauty.
  • Moab, Utah
    The Arches National Park is a must-see according to several readers.
    Shutterstock / Manamana
    The Arches National Park is a must-see according to several readers.
  • Syria
    Reader Syeda Jafri would love to visit Syria and see its many sacred sites.
    jasminam
    Reader Syeda Jafri would love to visit Syria and see its many sacred sites.
  • Switzerland
    "I would love to go to Switzerland so I can finish my family tree on my father's side. I found my ancestors on my mom's side
    Shutterstock / ariadna de raadt
    "I would love to go to Switzerland so I can finish my family tree on my father's side. I found my ancestors on my mom's side were royalty in Ireland and lived in Cudzow Castle, but I haven't been able to find anything on dad's side before my great grandfather came through Ellis Island from Switzerland," said reader Linda Wepf Johnstone.
  • Turkey
    The country that's known as the bridge between the east and west is on Syeda Jafri's bucket list because of its beauty.
    Bertl123
    The country that's known as the bridge between the east and west is on Syeda Jafri's bucket list because of its beauty.
  • England
    "The fact I fell in love with the Beatles when I was eight" makes England a top choice for reader Audra Dee.
    José Ramirez/500px
    "The fact I fell in love with the Beatles when I was eight" makes England a top choice for reader Audra Dee.
  • Las Vegas
    Reader Tammy Lumsden wants to go back to Sin City because there's always something new to see and never enough time to see it
    Shutterstock / Jorg Hackemann
    Reader Tammy Lumsden wants to go back to Sin City because there's always something new to see and never enough time to see it all.
  • Egypt
    Egypt's rich history and breathtaking monuments make it a top spot on any bucket list.
    Getty Images/Flickr RF
    Egypt's rich history and breathtaking monuments make it a top spot on any bucket list.
  • Alaska
    A few readers mentioned wanting to go to the northernmost state because it was the only one they haven't yet visited.
    Getty Images/Flickr RF
    A few readers mentioned wanting to go to the northernmost state because it was the only one they haven't yet visited.
  • The Sahara Desert
    Reader Brenda English would love to take a photography safari in the beautiful desert.
    Guido Todarello/500px
    Reader Brenda English would love to take a photography safari in the beautiful desert.
  • Costa Rica
    Reader Franci Zalon wants to visit this Central American country known for its rich wildlife.
    Franklin Garcia/500px
    Reader Franci Zalon wants to visit this Central American country known for its rich wildlife.