When we get to a certain age many of us just start thinking we are waiting out our final years. We lose interest in things that used to thrill us. We fill our time with meaningless activities. We sleep more, go shopping for stuff we don’t need, or watch TV shows that don’t interest us. It doesn’t have to be this way.
I think the reason is that we don’t think we will succeed in any meaningful endeavor because we don’t have enough energy or time left. Unfortunately, there is some truth to those thoughts but not all is lost. First, look at your life expectancy – I read that if you live to your 60s or 70s you still have 15 – 20 years to live. That’s probably not enough to do everything you want to but it’s enough time to do a few important things.
Forget the bucket list concept – who cares if you never make it to Machu Pichu. Pick something that you could enjoy during these years and forget the rest. Pick something that is doable but also challenging. If you get around on a walker, you are not going to run a marathon but learning to play Clair de Lune on the piano is not out of the question. It is amazing what we can get done when we focus.
How do we choose that one thing? Sometimes we think passion to do things is something that comes down from heaven. That might be true for some people, but for many of us a passion is built up with effort and persistence. Small successes and then bigger ones. I have thought about this a lot and I think I could become passionate about any number of things as long as they involved a challenge, a possibility of achievement and some meaning to me and maybe others when I am successful. As a mental experiment pick something you have never really been interested and visualize what it would be like to achieve some level of mastery. Take for me, embroidery. I have never sowed a stitch in my life. But then if I picture myself creating the multicolored image of a fire breathing dragon on the back of my motorcycle jacket, I can see how this is something I could get into.
You can start with a list of things you do now and narrow down to the one that you think will give you the most satisfaction and, though a stretch, is obtainable. Or maybe reach outside of things you do now and grab something you would like to do. Maybe just make a random list of things that take effort but a certain level of achievement is possible. This might take some research but it will be worth it.
Then choose. Maybe through visualization exercises or maybe through some random selection process. Establish objectives and plans to achieve them. Devote your working hours only to this endeavor. What do I mean by working hours? You still might have a family or a social life. Or maybe even one of those things called a job (like me). But it is amazing where the time comes from when you get focused. There is lots of time out there that we waste. How about that TV series you got hooked on because you keep wanting to know what happens next, but you could easily do without. How much time do we spend on reading mindless posts on social media sites? When you catch the fever you will be working away and suddenly realize morning is already dawning.
It will be hard at first. Before you have hit those small successes and maybe even some of the big ones, you will find every excuse to avoid what you need to do. Years ago when my (unsuccessful) focus was writing a novel, I found myself washing dishes to avoid what I needed to do. Use determination, self bribery (for me it was a nice bottle of Belgian beer), or what ever it takes to get past these hesitations. And I hate to give you the bad news, but the resistance will never disappear completely because complete mastery is not achievable. But the exhilaration can be realized when we know we are on the road.
You may have only decades left, but that is time to im·merse youself in something incredible. Something that will brighten your days. Even when you hit frustrations and roadblocks you will feel so alive. These could be some of the best years of you life.