December 20th, 2011

The Path Not Taken: Discovering the Dreams of Your Past for Women Over 50

Today’s women over 50 have already done incredible things. As part of the Baby Boom generation, we redefined what’s possible for young people. We rallied, we worked, and we proved that a woman can excel at almost any career. And we supported movements that opened up doors formerly closed to minorities.

Oh, and in the meantime, we’ve had careers and many of us have raised families.

In other words, we’ve been busy.

But as women reach our 50s, it’s time to stop and think about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. And that’s what I want to urge you to do right now.

The best way to start is to let yourself daydream on paper. What were your dreams when you were younger? Did you write poetry every day, or did you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Did you want to make traveling a part of your career, but instead chose to come home from work every day to be with your kids?

What did you want to achieve, for yourself or for our community, before you took the paths that have led you to this point in your life?

Don’t be conservative here or hold yourself back. Women are still used to putting other people first. But if your children are grown and you’re nearing the end of your first (or second or third) career, why not decide that this is your time to dedicate yourself to your dreams? No one else is going to do this for us—we have to do it for ourselves.

Now that you remember the dreams that made your eyes shine, ask yourself which ones you’re still excited about now. After all, you may have learned that the only reason you were writing poetry every day is because your best friend was doing it, or that you really just wanted to be an entrepreneur because your mother did that. So which of those dreams from your youth still excite you now that you’re over 50?

Once you know what you’d like to achieve in this next phase of your life, go back and make a second list. This is your “bucket list,” or things you want to experience in your life before you “kick the bucket.” Have you always wanted to take a hot air balloon ride? How about seeing the Great Wall of China, or backpacking in the Australian outback?

Whatever it is, put is on your list, and commit to yourself that you will make it happen.

These are the paths you didn’t take before you were 50 for a variety of reasons. I get that. We get caught up in our day-to-day survival and the routines around raising families and bringing in our incomes.

But when we’re over 50, we can see things from a different perspective. We may well have another 50 years to live—but we may have only another 50 years to live. Suddenly it’s not about other people anymore. We’ve taken care of our responsibilities, and before that we even helped change our country in a lot of positive ways.

The best thing, though, is that now that we’re over 50 we also have a wealth of experience to bring to bear to make those dreams happen!

Women over 50 still have a lot of life left to live. We’ve contributed a lot, but that was the first half of our lives. We’re still going to make the world a better place during our second lives, but this time we’ll do it by following our dreams.

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