This weekend I painted a tiny, 23mm, plastic dwarven warrior with my kids.
I haven’t done anything so utterly irrelevant to the progression of my life since I left high-school. All my kids tried it. Even my 3 year old painted a rainbow coloured warrior. We had a ball.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I am 42 and our 40’s is a time to rediscover our passions – so I’m trying my hand at things I haven’t touched in decades.
You see, I’m entering the most creative period of my life, a period of rediscovery where I get to recreate and form the next 50 years of my life (and yes, the stats suggest it will be that long – I’m not even half-way through). If I’m going to live it, I’m may as well do it well and enjoy it!
What underpins this concept is the idea that the choices we make in our 40’s (and to a lesser extent our 50’s) determine the trajectory of the rest of our (long) lives and that these choices are heavily influenced by the image of life we live by.
So, understanding the image you are living by is important.
I say ‘live by’ not ‘believe in’ because most of us hold two images concurrently – however only one of them is usually influencing our decisions at any one time.
The question is which one are you living your life by?
The first image of life is a linear progression from birth to death, a conception both embedded in and reinforced by our modern institutional environment. This image is uni-dimensional, it presupposes continual and steady growth from beginning to end, and it really only looks at the physical side of life. It explicitly denotes a competition with your peers and/or your expectations: am I ‘getting ahead’ or am I being ‘left behind’? It’s a recipe for depression!
The second image of life is far older. This image instinctively speaks to us: it is as old-as-the hills (well, almost) and pretty much every great wisdom tradition uses a version of the same model. That tells you something!
We know this approach is more complete and leads to better life choices, but it’s rarely spelt out. Here are the two key places it differs from our normal, modern approach:
- the developmental phases of the human being don’t end with childhood but rather continue through to old age and;
- there is more to people than their physical existence or their material results.
Unlike the linear image where we start at ‘Go’ and end at ‘Stop’, understanding your life traverses phases, and each phase makes different demands and offers different rewards, changes your perspective (Nb. these phases are immutable and universal, meanings every human being in all cultures and at all times will progress through each of them. Though the flavour of each phase is unique, the phase itself is not).
I’m in the middle phase now. It is the period of crisis and creation: where I must step up and create new habits and passions – practices that will carry me through to old-age – not wind-down and wait for retirement.
The best place to start is to search for your old passions and re-explore them. For you that may not be painting small fantasy figurines – I’m sure you have your own adolescent passions to re-explore – but the key is to start exploring and playing a bit.
This is not a time to go grey and dull, it’s a time to lighten up and play a little!
By Sonny Neale
Starting in adult education, Sonny has spent 20 year’s creating and leading organisations and teams in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Having worked as a futurist, trainer and facilitator for a number of global brands and all levels of governments across Australia, his most recent role was as CEO of Australia’s largest PEAK local government sustainability body. Sonny also played a key role in the formation or growth of a number of well-known public agencies including the Green Building Council of Australia, Forest Stewardship Council of Australia, Council for a Sustainable Built Environment and the Community Resilience Mentorship Initiative (Emergency Management). Sonny holds a 1st class honors degree in Ethics, Politics and Law and a Masters of Strategic Foresight.
Sonny has been a wonderful client of us. His sense of humor, smiles, and playfulness is contagious. Every time he walks into our studio, the atmosphere lightens up and he has this ability to make your worse day better, just by his very joyous presence. We love him and his beautiful family.
We invite him to post this article for us to remind us to play, be childlike, and be happy. <3