50 Life Lessons on Turning 50
Jun 06, 2020
Today I turn 50 years old. As with many big life changes, I went through the typical 5 stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Blue and now, Acceptance! It has been quite the ride I must admit, filled with many memories and adventures. I've been reflecting on what it means to be 50 and I wanted to share some things that I've learned in my 50 turns around the sun:
- It is our decisions, not our conditions, that change the outcome of our lives. Some of my craziest choices have made all the difference in the level of my personal happiness and fulfilment.
- Swing out of your comfort zone until it becomes your new normal. I now feel fear with the knowledge that I simply need to adapt to a new level of change.
- Say “Yes!” until success grows and then “No!” so that success can flow. I ran wildly toward opportunities with the energy of youth and then focused my scope as I grew wiser in order to fulfill my mission.
- When a door closes, punch a hole through the ceiling! I suggest pivoting hard when situations seems limiting. Most of my greatest successes happened to prove I could break through constraint.
- Very few things will kill you. They just embarrass you so much that you feel like you might die. Keep going, because on the other side of that feeling is a wild freedom and rare chance to touch ecstasy.
- Do the math on the number of weekends you will spend enjoying the wisdom of your parents. Run, not walk, to spend quality time with them and you will never regret that precious investment.
- If you want to have kids, start early in life. You have no idea how long it will take and you may run out of time! If you are not granted children, bond tightly to the next generation in any way you can. Love them with the freedom that comes with not needing to discipline or worry. Uncles and aunts, godmothers and godfathers get the ecstatic job of witnessing children’s endless optimism. Take advantage of that.
- Take a moment to look around at every person in your life and remember we will not be here in 20, 50, or 100 short years. Realizing our mortality has allowed me to let go of grievances and focus on the miracles granted to me now.
- When you have a rare near perfect day, journal about it before it fades. The sky blue awesome days will be your greatest bank of happiness when the grey days appear.
- Our accomplishments are an accumulation of small habits. The habit of taking action before I knew how large the task was is one thing that allowed me to start projects that most would not dare.
- Try hobbies you are terrible at instead of only enjoying ones in which you are naturally gifted. The stretch of mastering something that is incredibly difficult (eg learning a new language) is deeply satisfying and leaves you humble and kind.
- If you want to watch a positive TV program, pair it with a positive activity like stretching or knitting. By wiring the two positive things together, you are more likely to enmesh a good habit. I do mobility exercises, practice a deep squat and even do a self massage on my feet during a movie and feel amazing when I finish. TV burns quality time that you can’t get back so make every minute of it count.
- If you find you are addicted to anything (i.e. sugar, booze, pills etc.) ask yourself: what you are numbing out from? When I started to address my true feelings and get my needs fulfilled in a positive way, my addictions dropped away.
- Stop blaming anyone for your current situation. Teddy Roosevelt once said “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.” When I started to choose my fate and work to change what I could, my happiness went through the roof.
- Be the first to apologize. It is not weakness but instead great strength to accept your part in every dance. This will lead to harmony in many areas of life.
- Hope springs eternal if you water the garden of positive thought. I once did a powerful ritual where I pledged to have a beautiful life no matter what, and planting this seed deep in my brain has me pull out of some tailspins in life!
- Yoga and movement practice does not make my life better, it makes me better at life. Every minute I give my practice, it gives 2 back in joy and productivity.
- It takes 2 to tango. Try to imagine what the other person is going through in order to soften and resolve conflict.
- Sometimes it does not take 2 to tango. Some people are mentally ill and you need strong boundaries to cope.
- Boundaries are compassionate. I used to hold onto relationships because I did not want to hurt the other person. I realize now that they deserved to have a shot at relating to people who really want to spend time with them! Save everyone’s time, energy and life force by being honest when you want out.
- Try your best to avoid exaggeration because it is a white lie that erodes people’s respect and trust. This has been very hard for me to learn as I am an exaggerator in recovery!
- If you can’t fast from something, you are a slave to it. I have had spells of giving up many substances (ie chocolate, alcohol, YouTube) and it is very freeing to let go of something that feels like it has a grip on you. In the space it creates, you get to your real feelings.
- Lao Tzu said, “The best fighter is never angry”. In my youth, I was quick to get upset and now I see that the person who speaks with compassion when the rest of the world is losing their cool will live to thrive another day!
- The people in your life are an ecosystem. Some people are like lovely succulent plants and some are like cacti and the task God has asked us is to see the benefit of all.
- It is said that people can’t make you happy, but I notice that they can sure bring you happiness so let it in when people show up!
- Sir Winston Churchill said “to each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy is that moment to find some unprepared or unqualified for what would’ve been their finest hour.” I feel my training in acting, psychology, herbalism and nutrition made me capable to lead when the auditions arrived.
- It is easy to put all your relationship eggs in one basket. It has shown you live longer if you keep up with 5 lifelong friends. Look for friends with loving qualities: acceptance, compassion, contribution and holding witness to the wildness of being human. We need 5 people who care about us enough to hold up the reality mirror for our mental health. This is most important in our autumn years when we lose the older generation and the younger generation is busy creating their own nests.
- Spend as much time as possible next to a body of water. Thalassotherapy has been used for centuries to heal the mind and body. The ocean is my greatest source of joy and I would trade anything material to create one more memory swimming in the deep blue sea.
- Remember the power of sisterhood, both biological and chosen. Rising tides raises all boats! Every woman’s win is your win! When I let go of envy and understood that my girlfriends were having kids for me and I was having a dream career for them, I could smile gleefully and cheer authentically.
- Choose the best seats in a restaurant. I used to take what was given to me until I started to let myself wait for the seats I wanted. It is a grand metaphor for life!
- Go to live music, spoken word and theatre whenever you can. The energy in the room is a special kind of electricity and we must relish in the mixing of creativity. As an active public speaker, I miss it so much right now and will never take it for granted!
- The number one fear in the world is public speaking, so make it your superpower. We all have a wonderful message to share that comes out of your vulnerability. If it is really scary, start with 2 people and work up to more as you adapt to the stress.
- Take an improv class to remember how to play well with others. Be genuine and react with a loud, “Yes!” It is so fun once you shed your inhibitions!
- When I travel, I plan 5 days of budget accommodations (hostels) to 2 days of luxury accommodation (boutique hotels). This allows me to experience the full spectrum of a country’s adventures. Staying in moderate accommodation often results in a comfortable but boring trip. When we swing to the extremes, it costs about the same and allows for colour and diversity that is far more entertaining.
- Uncover if there is a trauma triggering your actions and limiting your choices. Try EMDR therapy to help release phobias, trauma and grief. It’s been one of the best investments I have ever made in myself.
- Invest in personal growth education instead of material objects. Every penny I have spent on removing my self-created obstacles has paid me back by increasing my joy and success.
- Calmness in the centre of a storm can be learned. A mindfulness practice is taking a passing state of calm and making it a trait.
- Learn how to be self-sufficient with cooking, foraging for food and making remedies. Practice building fires, shelters and gardening. These skills connect you to the earth, relax anxiety and help you feel you are prepared for ANYTHING.
- Don’t sell yourself short with the belief that you can’t shed a negative behaviour. Most behaviour comes from conditioning. By setting new conditions, a breakthrough is imminent.
- Do you have one foot on the gas and one on the brakes? If you want a thrilling life, you have to let yourself fly! Practice letting go and falling forward fast. Release the old pains, release the insecurities and refuse to entertain your ancient stories that are no longer true. When you take the foot off the brake and begin to write your next chapter, the energy savings will allow you to manifest your dreams.
- Don't count the days, make the days count. I know it is scary and painful to witness death, but being there for my grandmother and godfather’s passing was a shattering realization that I still hold as precious. I sincerely think my awareness of mortality has created tremendous rewards. I organize my life to reduce mundane tasks in order to focus on the moments that bring greater connection and happiness.
- A life of service is often joyful because you are too busy to ruminate on petty problems. Whenever I have had a very painful loss, I turned to being of service as a way to bridge my mind from the grief. I could feel my heart again by connecting to the living.
- Use some sort of tracking system to journal your progress and create a powerful scorecard of success. I track my fitness, fasting and food in order to continue improving results with my health. Whatever gets measured, gets managed. My health blossomed when I journaled important metrics.
- Listen more than you speak as a practice of leadership. In my youth, I could not wait to flood the space with words and now I enjoy asking deep questions. Avoid asking what a person does for a living. Instead, ask what lights them up? What is their favourite memory? What is their favourite cuisine? What is their favourite sport? Watch them open up and appreciate you all the more.
- Play more real games and fewer head games! I mean it... board games, travel games, solitaire, sports, dance competitions, heads up, charades and ice-breakers. I have never known a faster way to a deep belly laugh!
- My husband calls me a human rainbow because I am unabashedly enthusiastic about many things. Don’t listen to people who say you have to specialize in one thing to be successful. You can be a renaissance person and master things over time.
- Self-Care is the life jacket you wear to float the rest of your crew! Don’t short yourself on oxygen, sunshine, long baths, facials and candle gazing because why are we working so hard if we can’t register we are actually alive!
- On my grandma’s deathbed, she said two things. The first was “Can I have some sauerkraut?” She was a master fermenter and knew it would make her feel better. As it turns out, science now confirms that fermented vegetables reduce anxiety by increasing the good bacteria responsible for serotonin. Secondly, she said, “Julie, I love you and love you and love you and love you”. I will never forget that feeling of being completely adored unconditionally. Be that for someone.
- Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die. I have made forgiveness a major focus in my life and the resulting freedom has been remarkable. People who meet me often think I have gone through less hardship than most because I don’t appear scared or broken by rape, illness and abuse. The balm of forgiveness allows me to meet each day with the excitement of a woman half her age. I would not trade places with my 25-year-old self because she was insecure and self-harming. I’ll take the wrinkles and lose the self-loathing every time.
- I have not lowered my standards to reduced expectations as much as I have raised my own standards to include a surprise outcome that confirms it was the mystery that provided the greatest transformation.
There you have it, 50 pearls of wisdom from my first 50 years. I hope they inspire you to live full out! I pray that I will be here on my 100th birthday with 50 more pearls of wisdom and even more love to share with you!
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