Those of us who were born between 1945 and 1965 have had a charmed existence compared with previous generations. But though the public perception of a baby boomer is someone who’s had it all, and who is brimming with confidence and fun, some individuals feel that they have been too timid to get the most out of life and that they haven’t been able to grasp the many advantages that have come the way of our age group.
But is it too late?
We may wish that we had done things differently in our earlier lives. After all, it’s natural to have some regrets – surely it’s only Edith Piaf who had none! But when we were younger there were often good reasons for not making big changes – like having to earn a living, and pay bills and look after children.
But that was then. And now is now. We can’t change the past – but we can change how we think about it.
So, if you were more conventional or reticent than you wish you’d been, try viewing your former – and more timid – self with compassion and understanding. Then, having done that, resolve to be bolder from now on.
Begin by developing a more positive image of yourself.
Do an inventory of all your great characteristics.
Maybe you’re loyal, and kind. Perhaps you have the most brilliant smile, and are a terrific listener.
See how many things you like about yourself, and write them down.
Once you’ve recognized your many excellent qualities, you should begin to see yourself in a better light, which will help your confidence in forging a new life.
Of course, making changes can feel scary. But Michael Neenan – author of the excellent book Life Coaching: a Cognitive-Behavioural Approach – says: ‘Our beliefs and behaviours are not fixed in perpetuity. And if, for whatever reason, they have outlived their usefulness, we can develop new ones – so long as we’re prepared to be curious about what changes are needed, and to develop an experimental outlook.’
So, why not start experimenting by doing some routine things differently from usual? Because if you start behaving more adventurously, you’ll start thinking more adventurously too.
I suggest you set yourself a target of talking to five new people every day. You could also buy something unusual to eat from the supermarket. Consider a totally new hobby. Try on some outfits in a shop you’ve never bought clothes from before. And read a book by an unfamiliar author.
As you begin to perceive yourself as someone who builds new challenges into every day, the prospect of a bolder step – such as leaving home, or working with an organization such as VSO, or setting up a business – will seem less daunting.
Finally, let me tell you about Diana. For years, she was trapped in a chintzy cottage in the country, being dutiful to a horrible husband, and to her irascible old mother.
At 60, she was finally free of them both – and she decided to move. On a whim, she viewed a flat in the heart of Bristol. It was very modern – all glass and chrome – and had previously been owned by a fashion designer.
Immediately she walked inside, she knew that she could put her previously unexciting life behind her. She took a deep breath and bought it. More than that, she purchased everything inside it too. ‘I started afresh,’ she said. ‘All I took with me were a few clothes, and my books and CDs. It was terrifying, but wonderful.’
She quickly became a real city-bird and adored the fact that she could walk to the theatre and the doctor and the library. Soon after moving, she met a lovely man who was totally unlike her late husband.
She tells me that when friends visit her, they look bewildered and say: ‘But Diana, this isn’t like you at all.’
Apparently, she looks them straight in the eye, smiles triumphantly and says: ‘Yes I know. Isn’t it marvellous.’
Diana became bolder and changed her life. You can too.