1. I worried way too much about what others think about me.
I sometimes laugh at my younger self, always so concerned about trying to impress others. I now realize how much I came across as pompous and arrogant. I think I needed to demonstrate how smart or successful I was to hide my own insecurities. So many times, my actions unintentionally ended up offending or alienating people who were important to me. And if someone was upset with me, I’d be a mess. Truth is, I think I am happier and a better partner, colleague, friend, co-worker, parent, sibling, etc., when I am humble, focused on listening actively and talking less, and concerned more with learning from others than demonstrating my own competence.
2. I spent too much time and energy looking in the rear view mirror or worrying about what might happen.
I constantly worried and regretted about what I could have and should have done better. And, I spent way too much time and energy (and not sleeping) worrying about what might happen in the future. I am not like a well-trained Buddhist monk who has found inner peace and always lives in the now. I struggle every day to be present and mindful. Some days are better than others. I have gained real confidence that no matter what life throws my way, I can deal with it. I used to say that when I was younger, but I realize now it was arrogance compensating for my underlying insecurities.
I spent too much of my life living with unresolved guilt. That’s not to imply that I have no regrets, no conscience, or no moral compass. It’s just that I need to accept, learn and progress through adversity and the consequences of events and actions in my life and have confidence in myself so I can stay more present and less concerned about what did happen or what might happen.
3. Good sleep hygiene is essential.
One of many gifts that Kris has brought into my life is better sleep habits. Before Kris, I was very nocturnal and my sleep patterns were inconsistent. I generally never went to bed before midnight. My very active mind (undiagnosed ADD) made it extremely difficult for me to just shut down and fall asleep. When I climbed into bed at night, I had the TV on, my mobile phone by my bedside, cats in the bedroom disrupting sleep, and brain-chatter that just wouldn’t stop.
I’ve worked hard to address my sleep habits. Today, Kris and I are generally in bed before 10 PM. With better habits and meditation skills, most nights I can fall asleep right away – something I never thought was possible. Now, I wake up early and feeling more rested. Improved sleep habits have improved my focus, productivity, and energy level.
4. Don’t wait until you’re over 50 to start exercising and eating healthy.
I hate exercising! I don’t get an endorphin rush or any real pleasure when I exercise. The only positive I feel when exercising is the satisfaction when I’m done working out! I also don’t like food discipline but, as much as possible, I’m now consuming an all organic, vegetarian diet. I haven’t eaten meat in over 5 years, but I do still eat some wild caught seafood. I started eating mostly vegetarian food because that’s what Kris ate. Now my perspective has changed. I am more attuned to the cruel treatment of farm animals raised for meat. I appreciate that I can still eat delicious meals and get plenty of protein with a vegetarian diet and it’s so much better for our environment.
As a result of my relatively new lifestyle, I am in better shape, feel healthier and I have more energy than I did 20 years ago. Additionally, I feel I’m making a good investment now, so my more senior years will be “less-senior!” I’m glad that my daughter Leah, at age 21, works out diligently multiple times per week. I wish I was doing the same when I was her age.
5. Don’t let Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) go undiagnosed.
I always seemed to have the attention span of a gnat. I was easily distracted, frequently interrupting conversations, unable to truly listen without my mind wandering, or show patience. This was my normal and I was very unaware of how it impacted my relationships, work, and comprehension. Better late than never, I finally took action when I could see my ADD behaviors were really damaging my relationship with Kris. The fact that Kris is probably the best, focused listener I ever met, didn’t help my cause either. Now, with the benefit of some training in mindfulness and mediation, plus an Adderall prescription, I think I have the situation under better control. There are still occasional squirrels that will distract me in the middle of a conversation and my racing brain can frequently get stuck in overdrive. However, understanding my ADD and using my coping mechanisms have helped me so much. Ooh La La, I wish I knew this I was younger.
6. Live with gratitude!
When I was more youthful, I invested too much time and energy worrying about what I didn’t have and believing that more wealth and status equated to more happiness. I have learned that gratitude is my foundation for feeling happy and I feel incredibly grateful for the life I have now. I’m so thankful for the life Kris and I share together. I’m grateful how we’ve helped each other to be more self-aware and better partners for each other. I am fortunate to have meaningful work and some money saved for retirement. I am blessed to have two amazing daughters who are both smart, capable, and hard-working adults. In fact, I have a truly amazing immediate and extended family. Literally everyone of them are intelligent, fun, incredibly accomplished, and living purposeful lives. I’m lucky that I don’t have to worry about food, safety or shelter. As mentioned in #3 above, there are many things in my past I regret and my future has lots of risks & unknowns, age-related health issues, physical decline, and death (mine and important people in my life). But, I’m happier than ever. The gift of getting older is that I am learning to use my gratitude as an awesome coping mechanism when bad things could happen … or do happen.