It’s 4:46am. The sun isn’t even up but something woke you up. Not to worry though because you’ve got two hours still until you have to get up so back to sleep… ahhh… you close those eyes to drift off again….
And then the thoughts start creeping in. What am I doing with my life? What if I lose my job? What if things go south? And that’s just the beginning of the ride. Will we have enough for retirement? Are Alpo dinners in my future? Does my wife think I’m an idiot (well, more than usual)? Then you summit and start down recrimination hill. What have I done with my life? Why didn’t I travel more? Why didn’t I take a different path? Why didn’t I start saving earlier in life? Fear weaves its tendrils in through your chest, enveloping you in a cold chill that leaves you short of breath. Next thing you know it’s time to get up and work your day on less sleep than even the meagre amount you had originally planned for.
The older we get the more we feel like we’re on a path that is getting narrower with less options to take alternative paths. I used to believe that when you were born you had limitless opportunity before you. You could do anything and be anything you wanted to be. Every step you then took or decision you made (or was made for you when you were a child) closed off paths of opportunity for you… narrowing down throughout your life until you’re finally on a rickety walkway with the occasional Boost drink or sponge bath from a 20 something nurse the only thing to look forward to. If you’re lucky, both in one day.
In some ways this is true but a large part of it is mental. We’re born with limitations and every step we take in life closes doors that can never be opened in the same way. You can be born with all the desire in the world to play professional hockey, but may not have the physical skills to allow it. That door was closed before you even escaped the womb. You may have been born with all the physical skills needed to play, but your parents may have been into mountain biking with no interest in hockey at all. Your folks closed that door for you without you even knowing it. But where one door was closed, another one was opened. Their interest in mountain-biking will have opened other doors of opportunity for you that are closed to a child of hockey-mad parents.
And so it goes throughout life. Doors closed to a child are open to you at 50 or 60 due to your experience, knowledge or wisdom gained through your journey. It’s just hard to see or believe as your health starts to get questionable and you start having to use “cheater glasses” to read your iPhone. Moving to an alternative path may also be more complicated when you’re older due to consequences of all the paths you’ve taken to date, but it doesn’t mean those paths aren’t there.
So what do you do about it? Conquer the fear by taking the following steps:
Exercise is a known counter to stress and has the added bonus of making you healthier on so many other fronts. Unfortunately when we’re stressed we don’t feel we have the time or can take the time to work out. Make time. Figure out what works best but get sweating into your schedule.
Old friends know you best. They’ve seen you at your highest, lowest and “bestest”. Having a coffee or lunch with one or two of them to talk through what you’re facing is one of the best things you can do. Because of the history you have with them they can provide perspective, advice and help you laugh. Highly advised.
Figure out what you want/need/must do and create a plan of attack. You may be in a mosquito-infested swamp with your boots stuck in mud, but you’ll stay there without a plan to get out. As Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) so eloquently said in Caddyshack “See your future…. be your future… make your future.” You must be the ball.
Work the plan and adjust as needed. A good strategy allows for adjusting tactics as you go. You’ve been around. Life likes to screw with you all the time. Make sure you and your plan are flexible and you can adapt to what’s happening to still reach your goals without getting bogged down again.
Yes. I said this. I’m saying it again because it’s important. Just do it.