It’s hard for me to believe that I turned fifty years old a few weeks ago. I didn’t come at this birthday kicking and screaming, although my forty-eight year old self definitely thought I would. Toward the beginning of the year, I felt a bit squeamish about the whole idea. But as September neared, I settled into an acceptance combined with a curiosity about how the next half of my life will play out.
You see, I am going to live to be 103 so I’ve got a lot of living left to do! As a child, one of my favorite short films became a sort of mantra to live a long and healthy life. My mentor, Jiminy Cricket, showed me ‘How to Have Fun Safely’ and live to be 103. (You can see Jiminy in this cartoon short by clicking here or on the link just under his picture.) The lessons I learned from Jiminy as a child felt very different than they do today. I have definitely refined these principles! But here are a few kernels of Jiminy’s wisdom and a look at how I have incorporated this advice today.
“You should always do things the right way.” As a child, I really embraced the rules. Like most, I was a very concrete thinker and Jiminy’s advice made perfect sense. “Only a fool does things the wrong way!” he admonished. These days, I still take this to heart, but the “right way” is the way that works for me and intuitively feels aligned with my inner wisdom. Sometimes I have to ask myself what to do or how to get somewhere several times before I’m satisfied that it’s really right for me. But in this first fifty years, I’ve learned that going against my grain means a longer path to what works and a lot more discomfort than I’d like along the way. I have to trust that I already know the right way and just do it.
“You should always make time for fun.” Whenever I feel overwhelmed or cross, I can usually step back and see where I let go of fun. I’m one of those people who need a lot of laughter and lightness in my life. When I get my fun back, I’m back in balance.
“You can relax your body, but your mind should always stay alert.” Jiminy meant this as a way of ensuring that his audience wouldn’t fall through ice or play in a dangerous construction site. But for me, this adage has taken on a whole new meaning – one that sometimes makes me a little crazy! My brain almost never shuts down anymore – in fact, it really only rests when I pause to meditate, and even then I can sometimes wander around a conundrum of intrusive thoughts. I have had to learn to control those thoughts and stop ruminating on those that don’t serve me well. It’s simple but not easy! These days, I try to keep my mind alert with positive thinking rather than relenting to the anxiety that used to plague me.
“Never overload a boat.” My life choices so far have taught me a valuable lesson about adding too much to my life. There was a time that I volunteered more hours than most people work in a typical week! I tried to be all for all who needed me and put myself last on the list every time. That is until I learned about the importance of self care and saying no. My wiser, fifty-year old self knows that I can’t cram too much into one day without feeling like I’ve failed, so I have simply stopped overloading myself. Years ago, white space in my calendar might have made me feel like I was unpopular or unsuccessful. Now, lots of white space means I’m leaving a lot of room to work more efficiently with less stress. I take people with me on the boat sometimes, but they can’t all come at once and they have to be able to leave the boat when I say it’s time.
“He climbs up on a wobbly peak and what happens is no joke.” One of the greatest gifts I received when I entered into coach training was the knowledge I gained around the development of a personal foundation. It is also one of the most popular reasons my clients hire me – they want to regain control and build a solid foundation on which to create a successful life and career. We all realize the dangers of moving ahead without shoring up, yet sometimes we’ve had to do it anyway. Personal foundation work includes looking at what you value, what keeps you in your integrity, how to remove those things you are tolerating and, maybe most critical, how to set strong and consistent boundaries with yourself and with others. Most of my clients worry more about their personal foundation than the numbers on their balance sheets. They feel like their work time and the time spent living is out of balance. And conversely, when attention is paid here, success begins to fall more easily and naturally into place.
So it turns out this cartoon short from my childhood has served me well into the 20th anniversary of my 30th birthday. Thanks to Jiminy, I’m going to live a happy life while I’m moving ahead toward 103. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one wearing a top hat and tails!