I try to follow a lot of business bloggers, but I get hopelessly behind in my reading. There’s just so much information and so little time.
But there are a chosen few who I follow religiously, and marketing guru Seth Godin is definitely one of my Top 5. He’s famous for his amazing outside-the-box insights into sales and marketing and also for his unique outlook on business in general.
I want to tell you about one of his recent blog posts that made a big impression on me. It was called “The Stories We Tell Ourselves;” in other words, the excuses we make to ourselves to justify staying stuck in the same place, never taking action. The self-talk that we use to rationalize doing nothing.
When facing the possibility of changing our lives, doing something new, something challenging, or something we haven’t done before, we often fall back on these stories to talk ourselves out of it. It’s so easy to rationalize why it’s a bad idea to take action, make changes, or take a risk.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- “I’m too old to change careers/start a business/make a new life for myself.” (It’s sad how often you hear something like this even from a person in their 20s.)
- “The deck is stacked against me. There’s no point in just setting myself up for failure.”
- “You have to have a lot of money or connections to start a business. I don’t have anything like that.”
- “It’s too hard. Better to just move along and lower my expectations.”
As we get older, I think it becomes easier to fall victim to this sort of negative self-talk. A recent study showed that our expectations of life satisfaction tend to decline gradually beginning in our early 20s, with the lowest point in our early 50s. At that point, however, the researchers found that people are likely to experience an increasing amount of life satisfaction in the pre-retirement years and beyond. Maybe that’s because it’s at that time in our lives that we start to believe we aren’t going to make much of a contribution any more… that this is as good as it’s going to get, so we should be content. In other words, we settle.
Of course, there’s cold, hard reality. You may very well be too old to become an astronaut or a ballerina. But we Boomers/Gen Xers are fortunate to be alive at a time when a fulfilling Second Act in our lives is entirely possible. In fact, you owe it to yourself and to the world to put your skills, gifts, and talents to work into middle age and beyond.
As Seth said, “We live in an extraordinary moment, with countless degrees of freedom. The instant and effortless connection to a billion people changes everything, but instead, we’re paralyzed with fear, a fear so widespread that you might not even notice it. We can and must contribute as we get older, and freedom is nothing to fear.”