Whoever coined the term “midlife crisis” had it all wrong because I’m thoroughly enjoying a phase that I’d rather call “midlife optimization.” What’s cool about life roughly after 40 is that you’ve seen some shit, you’ve done some shit, you can confidently say what you like and don’t like, and you have a good sense of what works for you and doesn’t. In business we’d call that test, measure and optimize…and that’s when things really start to get refined for the better. And yea, I’m there.
So what’s the best way to start to optimize your life? Here’s what’s worked for me:
- Choose meaningful work. By now, you’ve hopefully built some sort of career base that gave you skills you have honed, and if you’re not already doing something that is truly reflective of your values, purpose and passions, and you have the financial opportunity, why not make that shift? The satisfaction gained by aligning your purpose and passions far outweighs a padded paycheck in my estimation.
- Choose yourself. Self-care is a critical element of wellness to ensure you keep your mind, body and spirit in balance. You are better to and with others when you feel good yourself. For a long time I thought I was more valuable by being accessible to serve others at all hours and days of the week to demonstrate that I was a real team player, sacrificing my own needs in the process. At this point, because I’ve made a seismic shift in my commitment to myself, I actually find that I am more present, creative, thoughtful and helpful than ever before. Fill your tank, it will get you further.
- Choose a good night’s sleep. When I was a new mom in my late-30s, that first year in-particular sorted out my hierarchy of needs quite rapidly. And that process exposed that sleep really comes above all else for me. I honestly couldn’t think of basic words nor make the right choices for my nourishment and other basic priorities while I was lost in the fog. Now that I’m through that phase, I’ve made a concerted effort to choose sleep over what I may have thought was a FOMO event in the past. This has helped me achieve my necessary workouts for mental and physical benefits, be better focused, and generally just look and feel healthier. I’ll skip that extra glass of wine or one more binged Netflix show if it means I’m going to get a couple more hours of uninterrupted sleep and be way more productive the next day! And when I’ve needed a little extra help to wind-down, I find that a touch of magnesium works for me…just a tip.
- Choose positive relationships. There are people who come and go through different seasons of life and I used to have a hard time letting go of people who I felt I should keep in touch with, rather than who really filled my cup for what I needed now. I am so grateful for all the people who have touched my life along my winding journey, but I find that a honed circle of trusted and supportive friends, family and advisors serve me better than a large circle of “friendsters” and/or negatively-inclined. It’s too easy to get caught up in the swirl, the drama, and the general bad karma…I prefer the hopeful, the passionate, the authentic, the joyful, and may I say…The Well-Intended.
- Choose to nourish yourself rather than just eat. Many of us can likely remember that tipping point when those 1 to 5 drinks too many the night before stretched your hangover from just the morning after to the entire week following…and a visit to McDonald’s drive-through in your pajamas for a Coke and a hamburger was definitely not going to fix this one. Ooof. While that’s an extreme example of the obvious negative effects that choosing the wrong food and drink has on your body, it helps illustrate the point that shifting to more thoughtful food choices that nourish and preserve my body – not a diet per-se – where I fill the majority of my cart in the green veggie section of the store rather than the packaged grocery zone – has made a tremendously positive impact on my overall wellness and vitality. I dare say that I look and certainly feel better now than I did in my 30s. Sure, I still go out to eat regularly with friends – that’s my happy place which also positively contributes to my wellness. And I even have a sinful dessert here and there (gasp!) But, I really honor an 80/20 rule where I focus on the most clean and unprocessed eating during the week to nourish my body, help sustain it, and hopefully better-protect me from illness. Then, I enjoy the weekends with a little more flexibility, but somewhat-enabled food compass in mind (no more bottomless cocktails, that’s for sure!) It’s an important shift in mindset to choose to thrive rather than just survive especially when your body is sending you some pretty direct messages in this over-40 demographic. Listen up!
My message is simple: the first half of your life was about learning, growing, garnering success and drinking your face off. Check! This second half is about significance, satisfaction, comfort and confidence…and that’s far more refined.