Mid-life Advice on Reinventing Yourself

Written by Heather Kim

Successfully re-invent yourself and get a new lease on life.

Bay Area filmmaker John Quick took up gymnastics for the first time 10 years ago, at the age of 50. "I can do a handstand for two to three seconds at a time, hold myself upside-down on the rings, and do cartwheels on one side but not the other," says Quick, who confesses that he never thinks of himself as being the age he is.


Midlife Advice:
Learn a new language.
Treat Yourself to a Cooking School.
Travel somewhere you've always wanted to go.
Take a course at an adult education school.
"These were things I always regretted not having learned when I was much younger. I finally realized that if I was ever going to do them, I'd better get started."


Quick is the first to admit that the other people in his class, mostly in their 20s and 30s, are able to progress faster than he is. But he gets a great deal of pleasure from the incremental improvements he can see in his own abilities. The pleasure is what keeps him coming back to the gym twice a week to challenge himself anew.


Katz says the difference between learning as a child and learning in midlife is like the difference between building a house from scratch and doing a remodel.


Adults learning new things have to build around the existing supportive structures, in this case, all the ways in which we've already learned to move, write, talk and see. Some of these patterns, says Katz, are difficult if not impossible to change.

Watch this video of Dr. Andrew Weil on the role of serendipity in our lives.


Adults like Quick have adopted strategies for learning and have a seriousness of purpose rarely found in children. Aside from their inhibitions, there are very few limits to these older folks learning new tricks.


Choreographer and dance teacher Conceiçao Damasceno of Salvador, Bahia, laughs at the North American notion that a person is ever too old to learn to dance. The best dancers in Brazil, she says, are the oldest ones, the ones who have the greatest depth of experience to bring to the art form.


"If the brains of 20-year-olds were so superior," adds Katz, "then why is it that people in their 50s and 60s are the ones running most of the Fortune 500 companies? When you have to think strategically and abstractly, older people can often do better. They have a greater wealth of associations to draw on. And it's our ability to make associations that's at the heart of our ability to learn new things."

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