#4 – About Age and Self-Perception

I’m liking this random picking of questions.  Most of the ones I’ve picked so far are ones that I would not pick by choice, so I am being coaxed to consider odd thoughts and ponder out of the box questions.  Today’s question is #4:  How old would you think you are if you didn’t know how old you are?

What an odd question.  I have to wonder first of all, why I wouldn’t know how old I am because I’m sure that would affect how old I would think I am.  Have I suddenly lost my memory and so have no idea how old I am?  Or do I just have no understanding of age and how it advances?

We judge a person’s age by so many different criteria:  appearance, health, how they behave, what they are doing in their lives, the people they seem to hang around with.  We don’t really have a reliable measure.  Look at the picture I’ve posted above.  How old would you think those women are?  Apparently they are the same approximate age but I would guess that one is in her 80s and the other in her 60s.  There is such a radical difference in their physical appearance.

Some people are young at heart no matter what their chronological age.  They are willing to take on new challenges and try new things.  They seem younger for it.  Other people become stuck in their ways and seem old before their time.  I hope I’m one of the young at heart.

They say that 60 is the new 40.  I agree that people of 50 and 60 seem far younger now than when I was young, and I don’t really think it’s only because now I’m up there myself.  When I was 21 I knew a woman named Edith who turned 50.  I remember on her birthday I said, “Wow, you’re half a century old.”  I was in awe.  But even now, thinking back, she seemed very old.  Of course, Edith is an old name and she probably seemed old when she was 15.

When I turned 60, someone told me that 60 was the new 40 and I said ‘Bullshit’.  When you hit 60, there’s no getting around it, you are getting up there.  Not very long ago, I told my boss that I had decided to start acting my age.  He was shocked and cautioned me.  He said, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?”  I was surprised by his response but it turned out that he thought I meant that I was going to take on some ‘older’ views and stereotypes and he thought I was making a mistake.  I assured him that wasn’t what I meant at all.  I just wanted to start acting more ladylike and quit swearing.  But I changed my mind anyway.

I remember when my son was about to turn 8, he was all excited that he was about to be EIGHT YEARS OLD!  I told him, ‘Hold on a minute!  You don’t think it’s automatic do you?”  He asked me what I meant and I told him that I had to send in a form to the government to prove that he was mature enough to turn 8.  From that day forward for about a month, every morning he would come downstairs and ask me if I had sent in the form.  I would always say ‘No, sorry I forgot’ or ‘No, I can’t find the form.’  I thought it was very funny.  Eventually I gave in and told him the truth.

I would have thought that it was just a funny practical joke but at his wedding in Cuba a few years go, when he was giving a little speech at the dinner time, he said, “You all think my mum’s so great.  You all feel sorry for her for having to raise me (because he’s so well known as a pratical joker), but you have no idea what she’s really like.”  And then he told that story and I felt really bad.  I had no idea that perhaps he was truly stressed about me thinking he wasn’t mature enough to turn 8 and not sending in the paperwork.

So if there was some criteria and we did actually have to send in the paper work before we moved up a notch in the age ladder, how old would I be.  Well knowing my propensity for putting things off, I’d probably still be about 29.  And that’s fine with me.  It’s about how old I feel anyway.

#39 About Choices, Decisions and Fear

Question 39 is ‘Do you ever second guess yourself? Which one do you usually go with—the first or second thought? Does that usually turn out for the best or should you perhaps rethink your strategy?’

First or second?  How about third, fourth, fifth …and so on?  I’m a Libra.  That’s what Libras do.  I can argue all sides of an issue and still not make up my mind.

I used to work as part of a team made up of nothing but Libras.  Our team meetings were a hoot.  We would all start off with our own opinions and then argue loudly and heatedly and end up with everyone on the opposite side by the end of the meeting.  But we all loved each other and it was actually great fun…until we got a new boss who was a Taurus.  But that’s a whole different question.  I’m pretty sure I have one about worst bosses ever.

I have heard that, when doing a multiple choice quiz, you should always go with your first thought.  Sounds like a good rule and certainly one that would make test-taking easier.

But life isn’t always that simple and as a career coach I have seen people suffering from ‘paralysis by analysis’.  They cannot make up their minds and end up doing nothing.   Sometimes people are immobilized because they just see so many options.  Sometimes they can’t see all the options that are available to them.  But either way, making a decision is scary because people are so afraid of making the WRONG choice.

Well I have a solution.  Here we go:

1.  Remember, you cannot predict the future.  All you can do is make a decision based on what you know and the resources you have available right now.  You have to accept that ‘right now’ is a moment in time and that after you make the decision all kinds of things might change.  But if you made the best choice you could based on ‘right now’, let go and don’t beat yourself when things change.

2.  Do your research and then stop and make the frikken decision! Don’t research endlessly.  Do the best research you can and then make the decision based on what you know ‘right now’.  Over-researching is a sure route to ‘paralysis by analysis’.

3. Be open minded and list all the options you can think of.  Don’t limit yourself and the possibilities

4. Don’t bother with pros and cons.  Focus on the pros for each option.  People like to make lists of pros and cons.  I know I used to do it too.  The problem with pros and cons is that it sets up an expectation that there are good choices and bad choices.  When you don’t know what the future will bring, you are really just arbitrarily labelling and scaring yourself in the process.  Instead use a technique introduced by Susan Jeffers in her book, ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’.  I’ve used this for years in my career coaching practice and I have to attest that it does take away some of the fear associated with making a decision.  Here’s how it works:  list all the options across the top of the page and then list the good things about each option under that option.

5.  When you’ve come up with all your options and listed the good things about each one, count them up.  The option with the most pros—wins!

6.  Remember, you sometimes don’t have to choose just one.  Sometimes, you can see that one option is the most loved and has the most pros but it’s not possible right now.  Sometimes, you can see that one option is best ‘right now’ but that you can work towards the most-loved and best option so that you can pursue it at a later date.

Using this process has been a real help for me in making decisions.  Give it a try.

My basic philosophy is ‘lighten up’.  Life is an unfolding.  You allow one opportunity to unfold and then others that are completely out of sight suddenly appear and offer a whole new path for you to explore.