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A Letter To My 50-Year-Old Self: On Grace and Getting Older

A Letter To My 50-Year-Old Self: On Grace and Getting Older

Today, I turned a different age somewhere along the continuum of the roaring twenties. I don’t feel any older than I did yesterday and in some ways, I am quite humbled by the life I’ve been privileged to live with its many lessons and experiences, its mountaintops and valleys, and the trek in between the two. When I was 12, I didn’t exactly write a letter to myself, but I did write down all the things I wanted to do with my life. Looking back, I’ve done a good deal of those things and I’m grateful. When you’re 12, 20-something seems like a grown-up age, and you long to get there. But when you’re 20-something, 50 seems so old and so far away that you dread the thought. Maybe it is a thing to fear or just the thought that scares us. Then again, maybe it isn’t. You be that judge. But here is my letter to myself at 50.

Dear Self On Your 50th Birthday,

Today, you changed ages. You’ve entered that strange and beautiful group of people between middle age and elderly. You’re not super young, but you’re not old either. You’ve come a very long way from thirty. Congratulations!

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I am certain you have grown enough to understand that life is precious and fragile. It must be lived boldly yet handled with care. You understand that it is not so much about you as it is about you living for something higher than you. I’m certain that you have accomplished way more than you imagined but your underlying aim behind all of those accomplishments was to make a difference in the world.

I think you have done that well.

Make your mark.

Everyone seems to have that common desire to make a mark on the world. At least at this age, some expect to have had this goal reached. Indeed, some people have done so long before now, while others are just getting started. But you have thought about your place in making a difference long before now. And you’ve reached a pinnacle that has you everywhere you want to be, doing the things you want to be doing at this age.

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You are settled, strong, and gracious. You’ve found your happiness – that one thing (or maybe more) that gives you joy, that gets you excited even after decades of doing it. Your writing, your research, your speaking, your leading pushes you out of bed every morning, even after so much time. I’m certain that you have smiled at your successes, celebrated your achievements, cried at your pain, reevaluated your progress after failure, and even worried about one thing or another at some point. But you realize that every experience was a blessing in disguise even if the blessing came after the fact.

So you walk with your heart humbled and your head up. To see you doing so well in life, feeling so fulfilled and satisfied, brimming with meaning and the best excitement, gives me pride and great joy. You went through some very difficult times and crushing moments, yet you managed to stay strong and use the negativities to push forward on your path to where you are now. In a nutshell, you’ve done well. I have to pinch myself when I look at all of your accomplishments and especially the people who are impacted by your work.

Much deeper than gold.

You’ve developed a tough mind and a tender heart through it all. You know that your wealth, your fame, your success, and even your material gains are worth nothing compared to the joy you feel in your soul each night. You used to think of grace as some heavenly idea for a select few. But now you know what it is and how it feels to be perpetually in its grasps. You have learned that every step you’ve taken has been an exercise in grace. And you desire to live no differently.

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You’ve struck that careful balance between work and play, career and family, goals and achievements. You’ve always wanted to move people with your words and research, and boy, you’ve done a good job. People used to not like it that you spoke your mind, told the truth, stood by your beliefs, and had no worries about the opinions of others. But most have gotten over that now. You’ve learned the longer you stick with something, the more respect you gain.

And then there is the part of you who has grown to be accepting. Accepting of everything – the good and the bad, the difficult and the easy, the favorable and disappointing situations, the news that brings joy and sadness. For a long time, you have chosen that path of gratitude that you spoke and wrote so much about when you were younger. You’ve stopped beating yourself up and stopped feeling like you’re not good enough, or smart enough, or anything else enough. You’ve learned to show yourself grace.

Embracing grace.

That grace doesn’t come directly from you exactly. You know, you used to be quite the perfectionist. But you’ve allowed yourself to be open to that grace that is unconditional, incomprehensible, unlimited, and wholehearted. You’ve pulled back the curtain and let in the light that comes from God above, that leads you into paths you never thought you would enter because you’ve stopped relying on the past to answer questions about your present or future and you’ve let go of what you could not control, and you’ve turned your focus to accomplishing something worthwhile not for yourself, but for the people around you.

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You know what it feels like to be friendless, to be lost, to feel stressed and emotionally drained, to feel like things aren’t moving fast enough. You know what it feels like when everyone around you is shouting at each other and nobody is listening. You know what it feels like to let yourself go even in the midst of the unknown. You know what it means to love and to be loved. You have been someone’s hero and someone has been yours.

And you know that if you were to take a few days to thoroughly look back over your life, you would realize that God’s grace is not like man’s grace. It is so divine and flourishing that you are blown away when the sun shines on you. You have all people, so unsuspecting of your success, continue to have that heart that puts others ahead of yourself. You are living, working, and playing now because you have grown into a person who can do all these things because you are gracious and thankful for the experience.

Where you’re headed.

Yet you’re still the same person. You drink coffee for the good feeling. You eat chocolate for the good feeling too. You go to grocery stores just to buy snacks and look around for nothing in particular. You dress up because it is important even on odd days and you’re not afraid to just be who you are. You listen and you talk because you can feel people’s hearts that way. You love your old soul because that is where you get to understand people and show compassion and grace. You know what it was like to be 20-something and uncertain. You know what it was like to create your own path forward with not an inkling of an idea of what you were doing. You remember that it took you some time to get to where you are. And you’re not afraid to share all the personal horror stories because you’re happy to help even if you’re the example.

I am happy to see you where you are right now.

So bold yet humble, so free yet always striving to be better, so amazed by what you know and even more surprised by what you don’t. Yes, you’ve grown a great deal since the last time we talked. You’re not exactly striving anymore, just cruising in your life’s goals. Self-actualizing as they call it. You’re not getting old; you’re just getting older. You’ve grown up and you continue to grow and improve and make a mark on the world for good. And I’m crazy proud of you for that.

More by this author

Daniella Whyte

Psychology Researcher

You Can If You Think You Can: 4 Ways to Build Self-Efficacy A Letter To My 50-Year-Old Self: On Grace and Getting Older Never Be the One Who Waits to Give Flowers 6 Questions That Help You Break Out of A Motivational Slump 6 Ways to Use Stress to Your Advantage

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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