In the coming weeks, I’ll cross the 50 years mark here on this earth. As the time has drawn near, the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon has gone into full effect, causing a variety of “50” topics, ideas and headlines to garner my attention. Sidenote: the Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon is the name for what happens when a trigger causes you to suddenly notice something that’s likely been around you forever. A common example occurs when you are in the market for a new Ford Explorer and suddenly you notice all the Ford Explorers around you throughout the day that you’d never noticed previously.
One of the most intriguing (or humorous, depending on your perspective) occurrences is the concept that “50 is the new 30” (or 40, or 20 – take your pick). I suppose the idea behind these statements is a desire to rationalize that these days, 50 really isn’t all that old – or that 50 is viewed as a much younger age than it used to be. It’s a nice rationalization, but the reality is that each person’s 50 is actually a direct reflection of the past 49 (years). The great thing about it is that it’s also a perfect time to adjust course on what we know today that we didn’t know in past generations. Perhaps the more accurate statement would be “50 is… the NEW 50” (YOUR 50).
So what exactly are we talking about here? Well – think back. In past generations, 50 might have been the trigger to “grind it out” in the career path with an eye on early retirement 10-15 years away. Now, 50 is the reminder to live each year to the fullest. Retirement? Who wants to sit around all day long anymore? The whole concept of retirement is morphing into more of an “Act II” approach to life, where hours may be shorter, but impact may be larger. And it’s often the 50’s that help set the tone for that to become a reality.
The previous “grind it out” approach to life at 50 also put little emphasis on healthy living. Sleep? Who needs it! Exercise? Maybe later. Healthy food choices? Are you kidding me? Why now?!? The NEW 50 knows clearly that the choices we make now will have a massive impact on the options we have available to us 10, 20 and 30 years down the road. We’re seeing athletes in their 80’s and 90’s accomplishing incredible feats (and the positive impact within their bodies is remarkable – see this article for details and actual MRIs of the muscle tissue differential). Instead of a vision of older age involving the TV remote and an easy chair, it now often includes competitive pursuits, world travels and active grandparenting. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately), just as 50 is a reflection of the past 49, the same is true of the next 50. Our bodies become what we consistently do, and if 50 is centered around that TV/Easy Chair combo, so too will our future.
This is our chance! Whether you’re turning 30, 50, 70 or 90 this year, let’s make this the year that not only enhances this year, but rather optimizes all the future “big days” along the way.