Monthly Archives: May 2016

How to Render the Desires of Your Grown-Up Heart into Life Ahead

Every time I start a picture...I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts...and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me. --Federico Fellini
Every time I start a picture…I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts…and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me. –Federico Fellini

In the blue distance your life will unfurl.

I wish people spent more time contemplating that blue distance and less time on Facebook.

There is so much more to life unseen by the eye. Brazen of me to say as Instagram revels in double-digit growth. Selfies are now one of the most popular activities in our culture. Don’t tell me you haven’t done this.

Obviously social media has proven we are obsessed with ourselves.

Good news for those of us with a long future to map out. As well as a look at our lives as it unfolds, perhaps we can start a conversation to discover dormant aspirations, wants, longings and requests for a life ahead.

To unlock an idea or two on how to make our lives more of what we want, I advocate you listen don’t look.

Where to start our listening?

Well, your book club probably has ideas about how you could live your life better. Your daughter, husband, partner, ex-husband, your mother, therapist, and even your BFF may enlighten you.

There’s more.

If you could eavesdrop last week in the kitchen of that couple cleaning up in their kitchen after you left the dinner party, their conversation might explain your better life to you.

These are all voices worthy of consideration – modest and minor perhaps – but, you get the point. Contributions on how your life could be better abound.

Being busy and all, let’s cut to the chase. There’s one person who knows us best.

You got it! And you talk to yourself about your life all the time.

But mostly that’s a voice from your head which is good, just not reliable enough for all the important decisions for all of life’s twists and turns.

Another voice that can guide you to even smarter options for your future life waits quietly to help you. This voice knows you just as well as your head voice, but in different ways.

It’s a small voice deep inside your gut that waits for years between invites.

Nevertheless, it’s always 288

Getting Tough

If you expect me to jump right in with soupy quotes about how you should start journaling to unlock your deep heart desires or how listening to your heart will power up your authentic self, I anticipate disappointment because this isn’t going to happen. Check out Oprah for the soul approach.

First let’s get real and start with firm footing.

When it comes to creating a better life or making a transition, your rational mind and all that you’ve learned are invaluable.

Life lessons help us know how to create a better future path; improved decision making doesn’t hurt.

By middle age, you’ve weathered some serious setbacks. You’ve lost at love, not been chosen more than a couple of times, and experienced career frustrations, drawbacks and defeats.

Friend and sibling dis-enchantments stack right alongside children who were pains in the ass, proved to be disappointing and may still be on the payroll and/or live at home. Serious illness, parents gone.

When it felt like the end of the world, you kept going.

You survived. You are strong.

I started feeling strong in mid-life. I still feel it.

I lost a lot of my fragility when I was 25 in a Master’s Program intent on building my psychological core (lots of Esalen stuff). At 30 (divorce) came financial and parental responsibility (single-working mom -7.5 years), at 41 came entrepreneurial challenges (a career pivot), and in my mid-fifties I set sail with my daughter for a 6-month not-knowing-much-but-doing-it-anyway stint. At 60 I drew strength to carve out a new life using a work a little, play a little model.

So many people feel that strength is in their youth. That’s not really spot-on.

It takes time to get a notion of your strength.  You don’t really know what you have inside until you are faced with drawing upon it.  I’ve learned this is the great inspiration of life.

But even as I’m strong, at times I’m lost and I don’t know why.

On days when my future is unclear, I can get hesitant or doubtful. I can even be skeptical about putting forth the effort to be in charge of my life. (I’m turning it over to God. Whatever. I’ll figure this out later. Just let it happen.)

It may seem puzzling to feel strong alongside feelings with names like – uncertain, ambiguous, tentative and lost. All it really means is you need more information.

Input perhaps from … yes,that small voice inside … the voice of your heart to tell you first-hand ways to find your way.

Why is it that the voice from your heart is so important?

Because your heart is never lost.

For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" and whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. --Steve Jobs
For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” and whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. –Steve Jobs

The Heart Knows Your Reality

While being strong is about surviving, being strong is also about being as honest as possible about yourself with yourself.

Why listen to your heart now when you haven’t done so well doing it before?

Why listen to your heart when you doubt you can do what it asks of you?

Why listen as your health falters or future finances are gloomy?

Why listen now when you already listened a decade ago and made decisions about your life then?

Because listening to your heart creates awareness of your current reality and gives you perspective of your impending life.

The heart knows that things that matter in the time ahead will be different than what mattered in the past. Fore sure, we’ll take life lessons with us into the future. But life lesson are from the past and the past is another country.

You’re headed out of that country.

The heart is easy to talk to. You don’t have to fill the heart in on your past, prepare lists or even ask too many questions.

In mid-life the heart already knows your reality – that you are staring down the dwindling of time, busy as hell, don’t have all the time in the world and are not in the mood for reflective bullshit.

You need important truths. The heart will tell you those because the heart knows you are strong.

Best of all, the heart wants you to get your life right.


Listen to My Heart? Oh Please. So Woo.

When my heart talks to me, it says crazy things.

Some days my heart tells me I need pack up and move to San Miguel de Allende.  Immediately, my head chimes in with a litany of responsibilities, roles and commitments that would make this very, very difficult. (I kept editing out that second ‘very’ but each time my head made me put it back.)

Some days my heart tells me to lock myself in a room and finish writing the damn book. My head wants to know who will water my flower pots, make morning tea for my husband, bike with Marny, laugh with friends, travel with Dee Dee, play chase with my grandson, sit on the beach and read, or watch my grown child grow – all priorities that compete with every second of my life.

The contest between heart and head is a battleground.

Some people listen to their heart and don’t do a damn thing differently. Other people listen to their hearts and change their lives.

While the simple act of listening is important and powerful, there is no sense asking anything of your heart if you will not accept what the heart will say.

Will you immediately dismiss an idea, become overwhelmed, slip into doubt or succumb to defeat?

In other words, will you allow your head to interrupt the message and sabotage the process? Smart people do this all the time.

We must be clear on this: why listen at all?

To listen to your heart is to build strength through the honest conversation about yourself with yourself.

I’ve said this already but this is truly important. What you gain from being honest with yourself is just as great as any changes, if any, you make.

You will be stronger just because you listened.

IMG_3286 Mental Fitness Before Listening to One’s Heart

If you think you can pull up a chair and start talking to your heart, you are right. You can. But you’ll end up doing most of the talking since your heart voice can’t cut you off in the middle of a sentence or talk over you.

Ask your heart voice a question and you won’t get a lecture. You’ll get something more like a soundless tweet. You’ll have to listen hard.

The best conditions for listening to the voices in your heart are met when you seek and accept the gift and responsibility you are given – to live your one life as best you can.

Meet each of these 9 criteria before you ask anything of your heart.

  1. Believe You Are Responsible – Give yourself permission to life the life you want.

  2. Enhance the Perception of Control – You won’t control everything in your future. But you can control more than you think.

  3. Believe What You Do Matters – It matters to live in the present. It also matters to create the future.

  4.  See Positive Challenge– Try, try, try…then generously give yourself to failure if that’s how it works out.

  5. Enhance the Goal Value – Savor and Imagine your life at the end of an achievement…before you plan it.

  6. Devalue Competing Goals – Re prioritize everything all the time. Make your future in the top 3.

  7. Be Conscientious on One Thing – Forget lists. Be selective and accountable for one important thing.

  8. Fight Difficulties – There is no age when life stays on easy street for a long time. Fight.

  9. Regulate Your Emotions – Keep negative emotions – self-doubt, guilt, regret- at bay. Stuff them in an invisible suitcase. Do not pick that suit case up.IMG_4835

Last Call

The ‘rider’s up’ call given at the Kentucky Derby signals the horses to head to the track for the final race. Everyone anticipating the race listens for that call.

In late mid-life, there’s a ‘listen up’ call that alerts the transition to take you to your future.

Anticipate it. Prepare for it. Don’t miss it.



If this content leads to a bit of fresh thinking, new perspective or resonates with you, please “Like” this post. Thank you in advance.

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All Photos by B. Pagano.

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Self-Management | 1 Comment

Why It Matters to Know When You Leave Midlife Behind

iphone 2016 349“Let’s pretend for a moment that I am 73.”

That’s what I said to the audience an hour into my presentation, The New New Rules of Retirement. They knew immediately this was make-believe because I don’t look 73.

At least I don’t think I look 73. Anyway I am not 73…yet.

“If I am 73, am I old?”

The crowd is reluctant to answer. They murmur. Finally a brave soul shouts, “Yes, you are old.”

The audience grumbles at his truth. The age label isn’t playing well. Frankly, some look sorry for me when they are not looking at the floor.

The room turns quiet. Finally and firmly, one late-fifties executive states, “Naw, she’s not old.”

“Then, what am I? Am I middle aged?” I asked.

An audience member raises her hand. She needs clarification.

“Are you asking if you are middle aged at 73?”


Clearly, I am messing with them but for a very good reason.

iphone 2016 317Life’s Morning, Afternoon and Night

In your late 50s, 60s and 70s, life requires a new identity – one that combines elements of the past with today’s realities. Self-concepts are perplexing enough without bamboozling age labels to confuse us.

And we are confused. What is old? What is middle aged? Am I old? And what about you there approaching the backside of 50? How long before you’re old?

The developmental stages we once relied on to gauge our passages through life are no longer reliable.

–Adolescence – Adulthood – Old

This defunct model is much too contained for life as we know it and utterly useless in forming a new identity.

Still somewhere in your life is the middle and within the middle, a mid-point. There is beauty in symmetry but when the midpoint is passed, the proportion of your time on earth lessens.

Life forever more is asymmetrical.

We’re so busy we hardly notice. (more…)

Posted in Self-Management | 1 Comment