When you’re a child you can’t wait to get older, because the grown-ups seem to have all of the power and money. They are the authority figures in your life. They are your parents and teachers. They dictate when you wake up, eat, go to school, do your homework and go to bed, etc. They have the ability to dispense or withhold everything you could possibly want. At times, it seems like they have an arbitrary decision-making process designed to maximize your unhappiness.
At that age you idealize the trappings of adulthood, because you have no idea what it takes and what you have to give up in order to get into that position. It’s only when you get older that you realize all of the freedom you had as a child, the absence of financial worry and the innocence lost as you got older.
As you reach adolescence, you begin a journey of self-awareness, where you start the process of growing and developing into a functioning adult. You begin to have confidence in your abilities and think that all adults (especially your parents) are complete idiots and how much better the world would be if they just would accept the fact that you know everything. It’s only when you get older that you realize how naive and foolish you were at that age.
Most of your early adult years are spent building your career, improving your financial situation and raising a family. It seems that you never have enough time or money. Looking back, it’s incredible that you were able to accomplish all the tasks that you did during those years. It’s a good thing that you didn’t know it was impossible to do all that stuff in such a limited amount of time.
But during middle age, you have an epiphany. It finally dawns on you that your time on Earth isn’t unlimited and that the clock is ticking. How you deal with this fact determines the quality of the rest of your life. There are plenty of challenges as you age: your physical abilities decline; your appearance changes; you may experience isolation; and you may face old age with an insecure financial status. So getting old has its inherent difficulties.
The challenge is to enter this phase of your life without becoming bitter. I meet a lot of angry, bitter people. They are angry about things they don’t want to confront, because they are in denial. They search for simplistic answers to complex problems and are easily manipulated by those cunning enough to exploit the anger in these people.
The sad truth is you have a lot of control over whether you’re satisfied or miserable. A lot of people take for granted all of the things they have while they idealize the things they don’t. Remember when you were younger and you craved the power and money that older people possessed? Think of all the things you have to be grateful for, and being alive is the most important among them. If you feel sorry for yourself about getting old, think of how child with incurable illness would feel. His or her entire life is spent in and out of hospitals enduring unpleasant medical procedures and might never make it to adulthood. I’m sure he or she would be happy to trade his or her life for yours.
Life is a gift, so make every day count because you’re not on this Earth forever. Realize that you decide if you’re happy or bitter, negative and pessimistic. Most of all, remember that you have no control over whether you get old, but you do have the power over your approach to life. And nobody can make you miserable without your consent – even on the tradeshow floor.