Living for the Rest of Your Life
Menopause is a milepost on your path, but it is not the end of the line. The irregular periods or hot flashes may remind you that time is passing, and it is a perfect opportunity to consider where you've been in your life, and where you want to be in five or ten years. You can consider your physical fitness, your career, your family, and your social situation. Knowing the elements of healthy living, you can make decisions about where to go from here.
As you review your life situation, consider a technique used with depressed older adults: Radical Acceptance. Originally a Buddhist practice, radical acceptance has made its way into therapy circles via an innovative therapy used with suicidal patients. It means accepting things as they are — just as they are — without judging or changing them. It frees up energy for problem solving that you may be using for regret, disappointment, or resentment.
Reviewing the Story So Far
One of the developmental tasks of midlife is to make sense of your life to this point. It is the ideal moment to decide what you've done well, and what you'd like to improve. Later you will go through a stage where you may feel a need to do a “life review.” But in midlife, beginning around forty, you may want to take stock and decide if you are on the road you want to be. It is stimulating and emotionally healthy to play with possibilities and try on new or different roles for yourself.
Making a Plan
If you determine that there is some goal you've never been able to achieve, and you'd like to begin walking toward it, sit down and make a plan. Are there courses you could take that would prepare you? Travel plans you could explore? Books that would inform you about how to reach that target? Even if your life is crammed with responsibilities, you might find it enjoyable and satisfying to plan toward a lifelong (maybe secret) ambition.
Whether it is a trip to Eastern Europe or a career in real estate, if you have an undying desire for a new or different direction, you could begin planning for it now. Treat it as a research project, or see it as your little escape. Sit down in a quiet moment and write down the three steps that would get you closer to your goal. Even planning can lift your spirits and build excitement for something new. Is there a club you could join where people could help you think about your dream?
It's never too late to set goals. Research has shown that performance is enhanced by setting goals. In other words, once you set goals you are much more likely to accomplish something than if you just think about it, and don't set goals. This is true for both younger and older adults. So grab a pen and jot down what you're aiming at — you'll probably make it!
What Goals Make Sense for You?
If you do have a lifelong or new ambition, decide whether this is a fantasy dream or a real possibility. Then outline the goals that are achievable. Talk to friends about your wish. Discuss it with your spouse or partner. They may have ideas about how to incorporate it into your life. You may find there are ways to pursue a new direction that are very manageable in your current lifestyle.
And if you are considering a major change, let your family in on it and ask for their help in making it come true. Can you go to night school to become an accountant? Have you always wanted to go to nursing school? What would it take to learn SCUBA diving? Talk these possibilities over with close friends and family and get their feedback on what is reasonable. This is your chance to realize a dream while you are young, healthy, and eager to learn.