Life after 60 is complicated. Over the decades, we have experienced a full spectrum of emotions. We have loved and lost. We have passed milestones and celebrated accomplishments. But, no matter how full our lives have been, we are filled with questions.
Did I make the right decisions with my life? Did I do enough? Did I choose the right balance between my career and my family? Was I a good parent and spouse? Do you have any of these thoughts?
It is natural to question ourselves. Self-reflection is the first step on the path to self-understanding, which is a key pillar or happiness. But, too often, self-reflection becomes self-criticism. And, ironically, our negativity about the past has the power to prevent us to make positive changes for our future.
If we take care of our health and develop a positive mindset, the next chapter of our lives can be the most fulfilling. Dreams don’t expire. Sometimes they are buried beneath our self-doubt and self-pity, but, inside all of us is child who sees the world as a place of infinite possibility. If you listen closely, can you hear the voice of the child inside you?
The first step to self-acceptance is to learn to be gentle with yourself about your decisions.
Take the time to learn from your past, but, don’t criticize yourself too much. Forgive yourself as you forgive others. Turn your regrets into action. Don’t ask yourself “What did I do wrong?” Ask yourself, “What can I do about it?” It is better to take action in the revealing sunlight of the present than to dwell needlessly in the murky darkness of the past.
When you do look to the past, take the time to remember your successes as well as your failures. You have touched more people than you know. Celebrate the wisdom that you have accumulated over the years. Give yourself permission to start with a blank slate. Imagine that you are starting your life again today, but, with the experience of 60 years behind you. Baby boomers today have the potential to live for another 30 years in good health. What are you going to do with this time?
Close them. If you hurt someone in the past, ask for forgiveness. If you made poor financial decisions, start learning about money now. Did you make a decision that you can’t fix? Tell a friend. You may be surprised to hear that your failures are both understandable and forgivable.
Or, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend, write a letter to yourself. Be specific about why you are giving yourself permission to move on. Tell yourself what you learned and how you have changed. Write down the reasons that you forgive yourself.
It’s time to put the positivity that you have learned into action. It is never too late to dream big. You have the potential to be happy, but, no-one can make you happy. Being over 60 years old is a gift. Not everyone lives as long as we have and most of us have many wonderful years ahead.
As I think about the thousands of wonderful women that I have met through the Sixty and Me community, I am amazed by your collective wisdom humbled by your gentle goodness. At the same time, I am inspired by the passion for life that you demonstrate every day.
I am reminded of a quote by T.S. Elliot that sums up the opportunity that each of us has to embrace the past as a catalyst for a better future:
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
I hope that you also see your life experiences as just a starting point on the road to positivity and happiness.
Write down one thing that you usually criticize yourself for. Now write down two reasons that you are probably being too hard on yourself.
Do you agree that thinking about the past is not always productive? Do you ever find yourself “thinking too much?” What do you do to get your mind back in the present? Please join the conversation.