Why Your Next Birthday May be Your Most Important

You become more of who you are as you get older

A few years ago, I noticed something about older adults. Wonder if you’ve noticed it too.

There are very few ‘balanced’ old people.

Most of the senior citizens I know are either almost always happy or almost always not.

The seniors I know either invariably smile or unfailingly scowl. There appears to be very little left of varied moods and day to day changes of the younger years.

Somehow I think this is where most of us will end up: we will ultimately only speak encouraging words or pretty much end up angry at the world. And no one likes to be around the latter.

Sure, there may be exceptions to this rule, but look around over the next while and tell me if you don’t notice the same thing.

Now I’m sure the guy who’s angry all the time didn’t decide when he was 30 that he was going to be a perpetually angry old man, but somehow he ended up there.

How do you get there?

Well, this leads me to my theory:

As you grow older, you become more of who you already are.

Which begs the question: who are you becoming?

Are you becoming:

More joyful?

More cynical?

More giving?

More stingy?

More others-centered?

More self-centered?

More forgiving?

Holding more grudges?

More Christ-like?

More despairing?

Do you like the ‘mores’ that describe you now?

If you like who you are, keep going. Stop reading and have a great day.

But if you’re like me, there are probably some things in your character you realize you still need to eradicate.

I decided a few years ago that I would do everything in my power while I’m in my forties to eliminate as much cynicism, unforgiveness and selfishness as I could, because I fear if I don’t, those traits will define who I am when I have less control over my behaviour.

If I become more of who I already am as I get older, I want to make sure I’ve done all I can to invite Christ to get rid of the un-Christlike things in my life.

So how do you change?

Focus on changing who you are today.

What you do today determines who you become tomorrow.

Two things can help greatly:

1. Get the people closest to you to describe you.

How others see you is almost always more accurate than how you see yourself. I was reminded of that when I was with a small group of pastors I’ve come to know over the last five years. Rather spontaneously, we decided to go around the table and describe the worlds that we felt best described each person around the table.

Terms like ‘visionary, thinker, curious, courageous, and innovator’ came up, as well as a comments about how they saw me devoted to my wife and kids. Truthfully, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought “If that’s even remotely true I’ll be grateful.” And I also thought that if I spent the next 40 years building on those characteristics it would be worth it.

But then I thought about what would happen if I asked my wife and kids to describe (honestly an accurately) and my co-workers to describe me honestly and accurately?  I’ve actually done this in the past, formally and informally, through 360 reviews and informal discussions.

And sometimes the truth hurts. Sure, there were positives, but the people closest to you are the ones who see and feel your rough spots too.

2. Act to change the characteristics that need to change.

Once you have an accurate picture of who you are, get help to overcome the negatives. Don’t forgive easily? Growing bitter? Read a good book on forgiveness. Pray through it. See a counselor. Wrestle it until it’s gone.

Most us will need more specific assistance than that (become great at something, including life, rarely happens automagically). Find a mentor. Hire a coach. For the last five years, I’ve used some great leadership coaches like Gary and Fran to help me grow as a leader and raise my levels of emotional intelligence in ministry and in life.

Change can happen. You just need to be intentional about it.

I see enough in me to realize that if I don’t manage things well, I may not be a wise sage with a smile on his face that people like to be around. I want to be a better friend, husband and father at 80 than I was at 30.

By your next birthday, why don’t you decide who you want to become and start working toward that? Even give yourself the gift of counseling or a coach to help you.

So do you see this trend too? What’s helping you become better as you get older?

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  • cnieuwhof

    So encouraged to hear that! Self awareness is the key to progress as well as to emotional intelligence. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  • kmizen

    Thanks Carey, this is totally where I’m at right now.
    I’m in my late 30’s and have been evaluating things in my life since I started training as a life coach 2 years ago. I have come to realize new things about myself, some good, some not so good. Your perspective here is excellent – I was thinking of the effects right now not years down the road. Guess I have some more things to evaluate.