So with a ten hour flight ahead of me, I picked up a new book to browse through and was instantly hooked.
And then being up from 4am gives me a whole extra day on top of my ‘real day’ (thanks jetlag) to share what are some really interesting ideas.
This is a great book to read, male or female, if you’ve hit 40 something and you’re starting to realise that all those things you wanted are never going to come your way, or if they have, they start to all feel a bit empty. If you’re body is starting to let you down, you’re constantly obsessing over your muffin top and you’re having a mid-life crisis – it’s a must read.
In ‘It’s only too late if you don’t start now: How to create your second life at any age’, Barbara Sher explains the biological and evolutionary reasons behind much of our behaviour up until this point.
Nature makes us adorable when we’re born so we’re irresistable to those on whom our survival depends, and then in the first few years of our lives, start to understand we are not the only things our parents care about in the world – and the outrage we experience at this leads to our attempts to grab back that undivided attention.
We get a brief respite from the ages of around 8 to 11, and then adolescence kicks in – nature means our job now is to meet a mate and procreate. So we spend hours on looking great, our bodies are the sexiest they’ll ever be, we go after symbols of success to attract the best mate we can, including money, cars and houses, and raising our kids the best we can, taking on more and more responsibilities and we’re back to seeking approval again.
And all a mid-life crisis is is nature’s last ditch attempt to get you to pro-create before you’re pretty much defunct as far as all that’s concerned. That’s when you see people run off with the younger secretary, buy a fancy car, throw their lives away to begin a new one and head back down to the gym.
But after all that, and despite nature’s disruptive attempts if you see them for what they are, we find a freedom as nature has no use for us any more.
Here are a handful of the interesting ideas Barbara has about what this makes possible for us as we start to create our ‘second life’ (in my words, not hers!)
1. We no longer need to seek the approval of people around us. We’ve either got our mate or we haven’t but once our reproductive years are over we have no need to impress any more.
And given we now longer to need to ‘win’ at the status game for the same reasons, creating as much money as we can starts to lose it’s appeal as a driver too.
Yes, it’s OK to not want to ‘create a seven figure business’ any more you know?
So you can forget all about ‘building an audience’ or ‘being a star’ and just do whatever you damn well please.
In fact despite the fact you might feel a bit depressed that you haven’t been wolf-whistled at in five years, being invisible ‘lets you swipe at something much bigger, the freedom to do as you please’.
“You get the biggest prize: a self that doesn’t need center stage at all”.
Interesting and liberating idea given all the ‘how to make yourself into a guru’ and ‘be the leader of your tribe’ marketing emails that still sneak their way into my inbox.
What if invisibility was the way forward for us in creating a life we love? A lot simpler, right?
2. When your looks start to change, you start to realise that how you look has nothing to do with who you are. After all that person in the mirror starts looking less and less like the person you know. So with that in mind, it makes sense to look after the body you’re carried around in as that prolongs the time you’re here to do what you want to do, but Barbara says we can forget the diets, the gym, the expanding waistline and enjoy a good dinner. Imagine that – saying ‘I’m never going to diet or go to the gym or even think about either of them ever again!’.
I’m not entirely sure I agree with this one given the increasing obsesity problem we’re facing, however you can see why I’m intrigued to find out more!
3. You can let go of all those escapist fantasies about giving it all up and moving to France or New Zealand (hmmmmmmm, yes, got the t-shirts) or leaving London, or ditching everything you have for a simple life in the mountains. Barbara shares a way to see the world you already have through new eyes – how to experience a freshness that means you don’t just ditch your life and go start it again.
I won’t go into detail, but one of the reasons I loved this book was she describes all those things I’ve thought of or done, like she’s been through my diary and journals! (Except the younger secretary thing).
4. Once you’ve reached forty-something, instead of seeing your life as being full and vibrant in your younger years and now you just have to try to keep maintaining what you’ve got until you die, Barbara uses our growing awareness of our own mortality, coupled with our freedom from our biology to give us a choice point about how we want to spend our remaining time.
Sound depressing? Actually she turns it around so that our awareness of death is a positive concept and shares how this serves us – she shares her strategy for creating your ‘Thirty Year Plan’ for your second life.
There are many more intriguing and interesting ideas why only now that we’ve passed the forty point, certain opportunities and choices are open to us that never have been before.
It’s certainly made me think I’m very lucky to be in that club.
The one piece of her logic that doesn’t quite work for me is that Barbara is in her sixties now, and perhaps in her generation, people in their forties had teenage or older children, who are more self-sufficient and if that’s the case, the ‘two week strike’ she recommends sounds very appealing!
However, if like me, you only started having children in your thirties, our youngsters are still too young for us to say ‘to hell with them all, it’s my time now’.
But I have to say, after reading this book, I’m very much looking forward to turning fifty 🙂
Click here to get your copy and I’d love you to share your thoughts below.