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Drive Your Dreams and Desires Over 40!

Drive Your Dreams and Desires Over 40!

“Sweet dreams were made of this. Who am I to disagree?” – Annie Lennox, “Sweet Dreams” lyrics.

From the time I was in my early 20s, my dreams & desires were focused on moving from my safe life in the Philadelphia suburbs to New York City and a successful career in the glamorous world of advertising. I dreamed of running exciting campaigns, traveling the world for business, and earning a six-figure salary. For more than 20 years, I was not disappointed. I reveled in long days spent with peers as driven as I was to outsmart our competition, and I enjoyed mentoring young, high-energy colleagues. From my comfortable high-rise apartment in midtown, I could see almost right into my corner office in the landmark art deco Chrysler building.

That life was my perfect life. Until it so was not. About five years ago, work had engulfed my life to the point where it seemed it was all I did. Bigger clients, bigger promotions, bigger salaries, and bigger offices lead to a huge trap. My career was robbing me of the one thing I craved the most: my time. Worse, I had come to realize that, if my obit were to be written any time soon, the work I was doing was not what I wanted as my legacy.

An encounter with an abusive client led me to rethink my so-called dream career and the dream life I thought I desired. The fact is, I already had achieved ambitious dreams & desires, except that they were the dreams & desires of my 20s. Yet I was letting those – and people I could barely stomach – drive the intellectual, financial, physical and emotional pursuits of my 50s. I realized that I needed new dreams & desires. And, so do you.

A wake-up call can lead to new dreams & desires.

We all had dreams & desires growing up. Perhaps you achieved them early on. Perhaps, like me, you decided that what you dreamed & desired as a young woman is no longer relevant in your life now. Or, maybe the dreams & desires you coveted as a young woman still obsess you now that you’re over 40.

Perspective you have now from your experiences, both good and bad, and through your expertise, whether hard-won or easily attained, can help you identify and understand why you’re holding on to the dreams & desires you coveted as a young woman, especially if they’re no longer relevant to who you are today. Perspective may color and change your dreams & desires, but that doesn’t mean you no longer dream & desire.

Here’s why you must be dreaming!

1. Consciously focusing on new dreams and desires can better prepare you for a shock from your “dark side.” Everyone’s got a dark side, you know you do. If you think ignoring your innermost dreams and desires will make them go away, then at some point in your 40s or 50s you’re going to face a crisis that will force you to face up to them. Then those latent dreams and desires can take over your psyche the way that little patch of mold in the back of your closet could morph into an infestation that siphons your hard-earned home equity faster than a hurricane rips the walls off a beach-side bungalow.

2. To discover (or reconnect with) and pursue a long-cherished dream and desire is one of the freedoms of mid-life. A woman who has taught English literature to high school students for most of her adult life dreams of studying at Oxford during the summer. There is almost nothing stopping her from pursuing this long-time dream and desire. She obsesses about studying at Oxford, and even visualizes the campus, where she would stay, and the focus of her semester abroad. She wants to muster up the drive she needs. Without drive, we can’t bring our dreams and desires to fruition, or even to have the courage to envision them, refine them, or replace them with new ones. And, as women over 40, we know there’s so much that can happen to us on the way to pursuing our dreams and desires.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) has had a very powerful long-standing drive to pursue her dreams and desires. By all accounts, she is a generous, gracious and driven member of the United States Congress, an exemplary public servant who was doing exactly what she loves. She was engaging and helping other people, when she was mercilessly gunned down last weekend in Tucson, Arizona.

Her story has riveted the country for reasons that have to do more with our humanity, compassion and empathy for a fellow human being, than with the political pandering that has come in its wake. In a supermarket parking lot on a Saturday morning when most of us were running errands that serve our lives and family, Giffords was living out her dreams and desires by serving her constituents and her country. I can’t stop thinking about her. By all accounts she has lived as daring a life as she has been driven in her work. Which brings me to the next point.

3. Dreams & desires you develop, explore and drive in your 40s and 50s could become the foundation of your legacy – for your family, your career, or your community. Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was the first psychoanalyst to specialize in adult development as a focal area of research, treatment and scholarly insight. Erikson urged all adults to pursue and drive roles, responsibilities and activities that fulfill us in different ways in the second half of our lives, as they also create the means for “reciprocity” and “regeneration.” In Erikson’s view, we must reciprocate the advantages we had in the first half of our lives, regardless of their breadth and depth. Erikson also urged us in the second half of our lives to create a legacy for the next generation. As we acquire new knowledge, skills and aptitudes, we regenerate our own selves. As we apply the new knowledge, skills and aptitudes we’ve gained, we literally regenerate through others, i.e., our colleagues, the next generation, our community and, perhaps, generations to come.

The point is: You must be dreaming as a woman over 40! Life-affirming dreams and desires that make you want to drive something positive and productive are essential for your physical, emotional and financial health in the second half of your life. Your dreams and desires as a woman over 40 can be mini or mighty; ancient or out-of-the box new; anxious or ambitious. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you have them, and you figure out a way to drive them to fruition.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been living her dreams and desires in service of others. On the simulcast of his radio/TV show this morning, even the cantankerous Don Imus, who has covered the story with more grace than some of his bombastic media colleagues, male or female, commented on Giffords’ personality, concluding that she seemed positively “adorable.” For once, I felt that a macho man of Imus’ age calling a woman over 40 “adorable” was not only acceptable, but downright gentlemanly. I don’t doubt that the people who know Ms. Giffords well absolutely do adore her.

I monitor updates about Ms. Giffords on an hourly basis. I am praying for her and her family that she makes a full recovery, and that she will continue to fulfill every one of her dreams and desires going forward. I also hope that other women – of any age – will find inspiration and comfort in the fact that Ms. Giffords was living her dream, doing work that she loved, when she was attacked. Let her be an inspiration to all women over 40, that we not only know and fantasize about our most fervent dreams and desires, but that we derive the most positive and life-affirming ones forward as if our lives depended on them.