There are moments where I wonder if it’s too late – this voyage into authorship, facing the world rather than directly into organisations as I have so far. Then I remind myself that it really isn’t – that’s what I tell other people, so I should believe it too. George Eliot pen name for Mary Ann Evans role-modelled her belief – a woman in a man’s world of the 19thCentury didn’t stop her. She was 40 when she published her first novel, at 60 she married a man 20 years her junior. She was, for her time quite radical. We’re not all that way inclined but all it takes is an open minded and curiosity about life to see what ‘might’ still lie ahead, to let go of expectations of what should have been and to focus on what can be. BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin did exactly that. In 2012, at 42 she took part in a cycling competition around the velodrome in Manchester for the BBC. Soon her curiosity and interest in this new activity had her training for triathlon’s. By 2015 she competed for Britain in her age group at the ITU World Championships.
Other notable ‘age eluders’ include:
- Jo Pavey who won her first Olympic gold aged 40.
- Samuel L. Jackson who had his first big film role aged 43.
- Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species aged 50.
- Julia Child made her television debut in The French Chef aged 51.
- Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, his first novel, aged 60.
- Ranulph Fiennes climbed Everest aged 65.
- Sir William Crookes invented the first instruments to study radioactivity aged 68.
- Lord Palmerston became prime minister of Great Britain aged 71.
- Mary Wesley had her first novel for adults published aged 71.
- John Glenn traveled into space aged 77.
- Gladys Burrill from Hawaii ran her first marathon aged 86.
It can be difficult to think about beginning a new phase or achieving later in life but while undeniably some barriers are physical a lot are psychological. So how do you overcome them?
- Try not to think in black and white – it’s not all or nothing. For example, I love snowboarding – when my children were babies I couldn’t go off with my buddies and trek up mountains. That didn’t mean that I couldn’t stick to the piste. How I enjoyed my hobby simply changed and evolved. Try not to pin yourself down to a certain way of thinking or an identity because it’s how you’ve always seen yourself. Things change in ways that are not absolute.
- Remain open to experiences – as we get older it’s harder to let go of what we know. It creeps up on us but as we repeat the same things over and over they become habit and doing something different can feel scary. Keep challenging yourself to see things from alternate angles and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Kashdan, a psychologist who researches curiosity, explains how we are “socialized” to believe that certainty is better for us than ambiguity. Yet research consistently shows that the negative anxiety we feel when approaching new situations is greatly outweighed by the more intense, longer-lasting, meaningful experiences we thus create.
- Allow yourself to fail – we’re not born fearing failure but as we pass through life we become more and more scared. Try to remain open to failure, to learn from it, to live through it and see it as a gift in terms of the knowledge and the experience it gives you. You’ll be far more creative and see a vastly improved range of options about your future if you can allow yourself to fail. If you’re stuck on this one try reading Carol Dweck’s book.
- Embrace opportunities – to go to new places and speak to new people. Rather than always going to the same pub, restaurant, café, holiday location, or taking the same route to work, try going somewhere new or going a different way. Speak to different people, try different things. Without doing this you don’t even know what’s out there. If Louise Minchin hadn’t done the cycling in 2012 she never would have known about her passion or capability.
Set your mind free, explore, try new things and see what comes up. What you might have been may not even be something you know about yet.
Defining You gives access to an online psychometric test providing a full personalised professional report.
I’m talking about potential at Red Smart Women’s Week in London on 22nd September
Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious? Discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life. New York, NY, US: William Morrow & Co.
Dweck, Carol S.. (2008) Mindset: the new psychology of success New York : Ballantine Books,