I turned 40 a few months ago. I thought that the big 4-0 would descend with a confidence and a sense of wisdom with the parting of the skies from above and that I would have all the answers.
Call me naive but the last thing I expected was to be battling doubt and lacking clarity. On my 40th birthday though, I finally had this big A-ha eureka moment: I realized that
“Confidence is a choice. It is a mindset not a destination"
You don't get to the age, stage, status and then boom confidence appears. Instead, you need to decide to believe in yourself and work towards achieving your goals. And have faith that it will all work out. You need to intentionally ignore the doubt and choose to listen to the gut voice that is telling you that you're headed in the right direction.
So here are some things I am confidently learning to do, to beat the I'm too old/it's too late blues:
1. Stop over-thinking things
The older I get, the harder I find it is to jump into things. When I was younger I was much more spontaneous. The older I've gotten, the more cautious I have gotten, but to a fault. I find myself second-guessing and agonizing decisions that would otherwise have taken little afterthought. While I appreciate that this is probably for self-preservation, it also can make you stuck. You know you need to move on from the job/relationship/business partnership but fear paralyses you into not being able to act. Forget the paralysis of analysis, recognize when you're over-thinking things and when that is keeping you trapped in a situation that you need to move from. Weigh the pros and cons but don't over think things under the guise of prudence. Regardless of whether you're battling with being younger, or older, remember that there will always be someone older, younger, prettier, smarter, more qualified and more adaptable than you. Don't be distracted: focus on where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.
2. Leverage both professional and personal experiences
At 40+ you have probably been working for a few years and have some experience under your belt. You've learned from past experiences, both good and bad, professional and personal. Leverage these in your career to make decisions with emotional intelligence and maturity. You now know better than to burn certain bridges, and you also have probably had to let some friendships or relationships go that did not serve you or your current values. Even though it may not feel like it, acknowledge that you know better and allow yourself to do better. Instead of second-guessing yourself, look at your track record - you've probably learned from some mistakes BUT you've also probably made some pretty solid decisions. Trust your judgement and continue to listen to your gut voice.
3. Embrace technology!
We are now in an age where technology is moving at what feels like light speed. And just when you feel like you have figured out one thing, something new comes up. I want to encourage my 40+ friends to embrace technology. Make a point to connect with younger people and learn. Whether it is social media, Spotify, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tiktok or figuring out how to use technology to do things faster and more efficiently. Learn it because the technology divide is only going to get bigger and what better way to position yourself professionally by leveraging your years of experience with your ability to adapt to the new technology reality. This pandemic has already thrown us in the deep-end of virtual/teleworking and I guarantee that more and newer technologies will emerge even faster than ever once COVID-19 has come and gone.
4. Be selective about your time and resources
When I was younger, I wasn't able turn down experiences as I was trying to build my portfolio and gain as much experience and exposure so as to figure out my career preferences. As a result I took on some work that didn't line up with my values just because I had to. I recognize that even being older, you may not have the privilege of turning down opportunities especially if your career path has been atypical (which is just about everyone's story). That being said, you can be selective about committing to activities, organizations, and jobs that better line up with your value system particularly because you probably have had a lot of time to reflect and figure out what that value system is. There is no point in chasing after things that will ultimately clash with who you are and where you want to be. And while this is equally true when you are younger it is even more pertinent as you grow older and realize that time and resources are not infinite.
5. Know that IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!
Say it loud with me: IT IS NEVER TOO LATE. The devil is a liar. The BEST time to start working on a new project, program or business is YESTERDAY. Every day that you don't is one further from achieving your goals. It may look different, you may the the only 40 year old in a class of 22 year olds, you may be the only mother while the other 20 somethings get together to meet up after drinks and you have to go home and take care of baby and family. You may have to take a chance on yourself and walk away from comfort to dive into the deep-end of something new. Of ALL the reasons and excuses you are giving yourself for not starting, let not age be one of them. Start, get started. After reading this blog post, go to the website. Go find out more about the program. Go and look at the hiring criteria. Go look at the paperwork required to start the business. Go and request more information. Just go! It is NOT and NEVER too late.
You got this!