I turned fifty this April, “The Big 50”, as one of my dearest friends called it in her message, wishing me a happy birthday. A significant milestone in my life and anyone’s life, I imagine. I can tell you it does not feel as old as I thought it would be; I guess it’s true what they say; age is just a number, but more importantly, it is a mindset. Some say you should count your age by the moments and experiences that take your breath away and not just by days and years, as a life filled with experiences is more fulfilling and enriching. I take my birthday like the end-of-year performance review at work. I sit with myself and review my achievements vs. missed goals. It’s an excellent reminder to help you stay the course and not lose track of your dreams.
I am still learning about life, staying steadfast on my continuous growth and improvement journey while my search for eternal wisdom and enlightenment continues. I had ups and downs, I hit rock bottom, and I got up and climbed again, and it’s all part of the story of my life. There is a saying in Arabic that translates into, “If God unveiled your future, you would choose the place you are in now.” Meaning that where we are today results from all our past experiences, and our future will depend on our current affairs. Remember the butterfly effect.
I put things in a structural action-oriented manner below (hey, I am an Engineer, after all) that reflects my learning thus far and helps the reader benefit from it. So, no dreamy or generic ideas, but clear and actionable steps for any age. And remember, any day is a perfect day to start building the rest of your life.
- Love yourself. You should be your top priority, beyond your parents, spouse, kids, or anyone else. Loving and caring for yourself means knowing your value to yourself and others. It also means that you should care for your well-being, from physical and emotional to psychological growth. This awareness will help you know your boundaries, have high standards, and never sacrifice your well-being to please others. Don’t confuse this with vanity or arrogance; those are attributes of insecure individuals and have nothing to do with self-love, and conventional wisdom will make you think that this is an act of selfishness; on the contrary, it is the total opposite. They say you can only love others when you can love yourself.
- Set a life vision. What is your vision? If you don’t have one, create one. A vision is your compass in everything in your life, and it will help you make decisions and filter out people and things in a much easier way. Each of us has four quadrants in our lives; (work/career, health/body, personal, & spiritual), so your vision should be higher than all the four areas, acting as an umbrella on top. Hence any goal you set for yourself in any area of your life must fit and be compatible with your vision. You can find plenty of websites and professional coaches to help you set a personal vision.
- Have good intentions. Your intentions direct your goals or objectives in each quadrant; they must be goals that touch your heart and move your passion. They should be your guide to creating plans for each intention. Intentions are higher than goals or objectives; think of them as mini-visions for each of your life’s quadrants. For example, you might set the following intention under the “health/body” quadrant; “I intend to have a healthy lifestyle, be in a fit shape, filled with life and energy.” Similarly, you would create different intentions under each quadrant; ideally, intentions should make you feel content.
- Set goals. This step is straightforward. You should set a few goals, ideally three to five, under each intention. For example, if one of your intentions is to have a healthy and fit body. Then your goals could be eating healthy, working out daily, calculating calories, cutting down on carbs, etc. the point is that the goals must be measurable to track your progress.
- Create your personal brand. Each of us is a brand name with character, values, reputation, attributes, and a set of perceptions in the minds of those around us. The moment we meet or exceed those perceptions, we succeed in growing our brand, and vice versa. Your personal brand reflects your value among your peers, family, and friends. Of course, you can only create a personal brand if you do the above steps and have a vision, intentions, and goals.
Life has many universal laws, and many things happen to us regardless of who we are, our religion, culture, country, or ethnic background. Here are some of them for you to reflect on.
- Embrace Murphey’s Law. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Know this universal law as early as possible, and aim for the best but prepare to handle the tough times when they hit, and they will hit. It’s just part of life.
- Be kind. The world is challenging for all of us, and we all have our struggles, so try to be a source of cheerfulness and give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be naïve, though, and learn to read people to know the good ones from the bad ones, keep the good ones close, and cut off the bad ones. Kindness is like energy, it never goes away, and you will always get it back, as Karma goes both ways.
- Persistence makes perfect. Focus on self-improvement and self-growth to adjust and adapt to be more flexible when life gets hard and use that hardness as a stepping stone to the next level of your life. Be patient and persistent about it, as such change takes time. In the epic movie, The Founder, there is a great scene by the lead character, Ray Kroc, at the end of the film, “Now, I know what you are thinking. How the heck does a fifty-two years old, over-the-hill milkshake machine salesman build a fast food empire with sixteen hundred restaurants in fifty states, five foreign countries, with annual revenue of in the neighborhood of 700 million dollars? One word, Persistence.”
- Master your thoughts. Your thoughts dictate your emotions, mood, energy, and vibrations. One of the hardest things in life is to stay cheerful and content despite all the hardship you go through, but it is precisely that positive mindset that reflects a strong faith that will lift you out of the tough times and keep going. The subconscious mind is a powerful blind soldier who will follow every whim or feeling you have, regardless of whether you mean it or not. So if you feel sad and sorry for yourself, it will enhance that feeling and make you miserable, and if you fill your heart with contentment and faith, your subconscious mind will take it as a sign to lift you and make you pass through the hardship.
- Sharing is caring. Sure, you can go through life solo, but it is more fun to have loved ones around, as it gives you a sense of purpose. The joy and content feeling you get when you give, share, and care for others is universal, and we all get a kick out of it. While you are at it, if you find someone who would calculate time only when you are by their side and never let them go.
- Karma is Real. So whatever you put out to the world will return to you. If you put out good, you will get it back in loads; if you put bad energy out there, be sure it will come back in loads too. No action will be unnoticed, and you will be rewarded or paid, depending on what you put out there, sooner or later. Make no mistake about it.
Finally, remember this is your only life, and there are no extra lives, no rehearsals, and no reruns; it is only this one, and “Game Over” can show up on your screen anytime. The bright side is that every day you wake up can be a new beginning, so make it count.