What You Really Want and How To Get It In Midlife

Welcome friends! I’m Nancy Del Santo and this is Design Your Second Half. Kids grow up and relationships change. Find your way forward with meaning and purpose, joy and connection.

I like to say the second half begins at 40 and you are really into it by 50. If that’s you, even if you still have kids at home, even if you work full time, even if you are nowhere near retirement, it’s time to become more intentional and thoughtful about your journey. 

Time is marching on. You probably know that. If your goal is just to get to the finish line, keep doing what you’ve been doing and tell yourself you don’t have a choice.

If your goal is to add even more meaning and purpose, joy and connection to your second half of life, then stay with me and please spread the word to your friends. My mission is to help you align your lifestyle to what you really want at this stage of your life. And that’s why we talk about your second half on this podcast.

In the last episode, I talked with Barbara Bell of Barbara Bell Interiors about her travel to Maison et Objet, the famous international design trade fare in Paris. One of the things we touched on is what it’s like to come home from a big trip that’s impacted you and has changed the way you think. Things about the trip invade your thinking and you start perceiving your lifestyle in a different way and sometimes you change up what you’re doing in a certain area of  your lifestyle.

That got me to thinking about how at this stage of our lives, in the second half, we have an opportunity to come home to ourselves. What I mean is that we start out with very definite likes and dislikes.  As kids we are naturally drawn to certain things. 

Most of us experience intrinsically rewarding things in our life very early before external rewards are put in front of us. Before we create goals. Before we know what others expect of us or want us to be. Intrinsically rewarding things are just fun in and of themselves. 

Do you remember that term and the concept of something being intrinsically rewarding? It’s the stuff you enjoy and would do for fun without any external reward. No one has to pay you to do this thing. No one needs to give you a gold star. You don’t do it for anyone but yourself and so you don’t need or want a word of praise.

If you were picking between 3 things that you could do just for fun, you’d probably pick the one that was most intrinsically rewarding. It would be your top pick if there were no other considerations like time or place or other people to consider. When you do this activity, time seems to stretch out in front of you. You lose yourself in the gift of the moment.  You’re having too good of a time to stop.

For a lot of people, the simple pleasures they loved as a child, the things that were intrinsically wonderful to them revolve around being in nature. Being outside is wonderful. There are animals to spot. You’re free to run and jump, to hide and to seek, to climb up a tree, to build a fort. Were you that kid that loved being outside in nature?

Maybe as a kid you loved the world inside your art. Did you like to draw or write? Maybe you were a performer and you liked to act or sing or dance , or play a musical instrument?

I’ve talked with other creatives who have the best memories of baking or cake decorating or building something for pure enjoyment. This was their art.

You see, simple, intrinsic pleasures are not about what’s popular or what other people are doing.  It’s not something you do because it’s good for you. Your enjoyment from the activity comes from inside yourself, not from some outside source. It’s play for you. 

But think back to those grade school and middle school years. Every year, things got harder and you got busier. There were tests to study for and papers to write. You joined in some school sport or club. Chores nagged at you. By the time you graduated high school, you were really busy. You had people to see, places to go, and very little time to get it all done. Add marriage and children and work to this and you’re thoroughly off course from your original simple pleasures.

As we enter our second half, we have this amazing opportunity to weed out some of the activities of our lives that we don’t really love so that we can recenter ourselves.  

It’s kind of like this in our homes. We start out with very little stuff and after a number of years, our homes are overflowing. If you remove some of the stuff that you don’t love, it’s an amazing feeling. If you take away a basket that’s accumulated a bunch of items that you don’t use or want, suddenly, that corner of the room looks spacious. There’s room to breath. You’re not crammed in. There’s a new freedom as you walk around that room now. You feel more expansive.

I know this to be true because I’ve worked with so many homeowners over the years helping them with their interior design. Most people grow into and past any space they have in their living quarters. Even people with 10,000 square feet grow out of it. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true.

The thing is, the accumulation of things doesn’t bring us true happiness. Your lifestyle right now is probably something that came about from years of adding things on. Your lifestyle may not feel as meaningful or joyful or as connected as it could if only you realigned your activities with what’s true to you.

What I’m suggesting is that you give yourself a gift. An experience that’s connected to joy. A natural connection to your inner core.

What it requires: a stillness inside yourself so you can tune out all your thoughts. For this gift, you want to focus on what’s in your heart.

The thing is a lot of us have forgotten the simple pleasures we once loved. We just got too busy and something had to go. Maybe deep down inside, we decided that being a grown up required different things of us and we couldn’t indulge in the things that child inside of us wanted. 

Today, I’m challenging you to dip your toe in the water by just being still and remembering what you loved. Close your eyes right now if you can. What memories come to your mind when you think about what you liked to do when you were very young? 

Let intrinsic joy circle you and intrinsic happiness find it’s way inside of you.
Know and stay close to your joy. 

I was recently talking about this with someone and she quickly said what she loved to do as a child. Then her eyes welled up with tears. Remembering is powerful. It helps us close the circle.

My mom was big on talking about how life is like  a circle and how we need to close the circles that present themselves in our lives. Usually, she meant that I should write a thank you note for a gift or follow up with someone when that was appropriate. She didn’t want things to be left hanging, suspended, without closure. She wanted me to make contact with others and close any loop that was open. 

When I was in my early 40’s I started seeing my mother’s wisdom in another way. We start out as children liking certain things and then we get involved with new things that take us in different directions. It’s all good but we forget about the essential part of ourselves that is true and not worldly. I don’t think our inner core changes that much over time. We just ignore it. We think other things are more important and at different points in our lives, that may be so.  But in our second half, we gain wisdom by understanding the truth and beauty inside ourselves. I believe we close the circle by remembering back to that earlier time in our lives and falling in love again with those old activities that were so true to our inner core.

Being true to ourselves is essential to our own happiness. You can’t try to be someone else and think you’ll live a joyful, rewarding, meaningful, or peaceful life. There’s too much internal struggle to be someone you’re not. You really do need to embrace yourself and love what makes you uniquely you. 

Being still inside yourself and listening to your heart and your gut is essential if you want to find your inner wisdom. 

Of course you can ignore all of this and just go on doing what you’ve been doing. Time will march on. You will get older. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get back the years you while away. And it’s likely that you won’t feel joyful if you haven’t taken measures to do the things that make your heart sing. Do you want to live a life that isn’t true to who you are? Are you willing to let time slip by without the things that make your heart soar?

Let’s talk about how you can dip your toe in the water and rekindle the magical play of your youth. Here’s something you can do in as little as 4 minutes.  I love to do this while I’m walking in nature but some people prefer to sit in a quiet space. I like to do this in the late afternoon but some people prefer to start their morning this way.  I like to do this with my eyes open looking at trees, sky, and ocean but you may like sitting with your eyes closed.  Make this your own based on what you like. Try it a few ways but start out in a quiet space with your eyes closed. Set your phone for a 4 minute alarm initially. Inhale deeply over 4 counts. Then hold your breath for 4 counts. Exhale slowly over 4 counts. Once you have your pace down, repeat this mantra:

I recognize and celebrate the child inside me. 

I promise you that as little as 4 minutes in silent meditation will help you feel more centered, kinder, gentler, and more empowered for your day.

Did you know I have a bunch of tools on this website that can help you live a better second half? Once you sign up, you will have access to all of them. You don’t want to make certain avoidable, regrettable mistakes as you design your second half.  Click on tools in the navigation bar and sign yourself up. And of course, I thank you in advance for telling your friends.

Some people refer to me now as a life coach. Some people think of me as an interior designer. I like to think of myself as a lifestyle alignment leader. In the next episode I’m going to talk about people I’ve helped and the solutions that made them happy. Thank you for being here with me and if you like the podcast, please share it with your friends.

"As we enter our second half, we have this amazing opportunity to weed out some of the activities of our lives that we don’t really love so that we can recenter ourselves." ~Nancy DelSanto on Design Your Second Half, the podcast
Wishing you a lifestyle you love,

 ~ Nancy
To be inspired by past podcast posts, click here.