F50 Issue #26: Design Your Ideal Life and Career

F50 Issue #26: July 9, 2024

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question many of us were asked when we were kids. Maybe you asked yourself this question.

You may even remember school assignments where you wrote about or drew a picture of what you’d like to be when you grew up — childlike descriptions of common professions and some entirely made-up ones.

And you had to have this question figured out by when? High school graduation? University graduation?

At some point, people stopped asking. You were considered a “grown-up,” and maybe you were given the impression that you should know what you want to be — like “Go ahead and BE that now until retirement age” (the old idea of “Freedom 55”).

But now maybe you’re over 50, and you feel like you have more growing up to do. You’re not ready to retire, and you don’t want to say goodbye to your hopes and dreams.

You want to DO more and BE more.

“Preparation for old age often deals with questions having to do with managing changes in function and increasing dependence – how will my home support me as I age? Who will provide care? How will I get around the neighborhood? Important topics, but those questions by themselves are only half the story. The other half of the story is the fun half. It can be summed up in one question: who do you want to be when you grow up? All the way up? What does a good life look like at age 70? 85? 100?”

Anticipating that this answer would be different for each age group, the AgeLab did a research study with Transamerica in 2022. They asked younger people to choose a “longevity mentor,” someone who embodied the type of person they wanted to be when they were older:

“Some participants chose family, like a grandmother who, at age 95, was dating five men at the same time. Others chose celebrities and public figures, like Jimmy Carter (for his altruism), Queen Elizabeth (for her sense of duty), Toni Morrison (for the library of great books she kept in her apartment), or Tom Brady (who does not need explanation). There were also a few wild cards. One participant, for example, chose a guy named Carl who sells vegetables at a roadside stand outside of Seattle.”

Ultimately, the study focused on the age of 100, but it acknowledges that results could have been different if people focused on ages 70 or 85. For example, when you’re 70, you might think of yourself as an adventurer, “still eager to do and see new things.”

This concept suggests exciting possibilities when it comes to freelancing after 50. It means our unretirement can look different at different ages and stages, giving us the freedom to “switch the niche” and create a second, third, fourth act, etc., for ourselves.

We can choose our freelance specialties and services based on the types of qualities we’d like to embody at certain ages and the types of skills we’d like to use. And we can link our business dreams with the type of lifestyle we’d like to live at each age.

With that in mind, let’s explore some similar questions and relate them to freelancing.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Growing Up

1. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Make a list of the different jobs you remember admiring or aspiring to when you were younger. If you still have your old school assignments, dig them out and look at them again. Even if some of the ideas sound far-fetched or ridiculous, include them in the list.

2. Did your answer change as you grew older?

Examine your list and note which of your aspirations changed. Are there some jobs you could never imagine doing now? Are there some that would need a slight alteration to make them suitable to you? Have a good chuckle over the ones that seem humorous now, and circle the ones you’d still like to do.

3. What does a good life look like for you at ages 70, 85, and 100?

Divide a piece of paper into three parts and answer the question for each age group. Consider what physical needs you might have at each age and what you’d most like to see and do. What kind of work schedules would balance work and life best as you grow older?

4. Who would you consider a “longevity mentor” for each age?

Inspired by the MIT Agelab survey, choose a celebrity, fictional character, or someone you know personally who models how you’d like to be at each age. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out previous Freelance After 50 newsletter issues where we talk about people who embody admirable qualities and achieve great things after 50.

5. Think about what you’d like to do and what qualities you’d like to embody at ages 70, 85, and 100.

Under each age group, divide the page into two columns: “Hard Skills” and “Soft Skills.” Hard skills are technical abilities you use for a job, and soft skills are interpersonal skills that help you work with others. Which of these skills would you value most at different stages of your life?

Have fun with these questions, and dream big for your future! Use your answers to brainstorm a list of possible niches you could turn into a freelance business.

Work From Home Wisdom

When you work from home, it’s easy to catch yourself working too much or too little. To combat this challenge, a Zapier article titled “The 7 biggest remote work challenges (and how to overcome them)” shares tips to help you become a “Goldilocks” of productivity, with a work schedule that’s just right.

For example, if you’re working too much, try these strategies:

  • “Set appointments on your calendar for the end of the day to get yourself out of your home office.”
  • “Set up reminders to take breaks.”
  • “Turn off notifications on your phone and computer so you're not pulled back into work after hours.”

And if you’re working too little, these strategies can help:

  • “Plan to do just 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 small things per day, the 1-3-5 rule.”
  • “Tackle tasks according to how much of your bandwidth they'll take and how much you'll be able to focus at different times during the day.”

Check out the article for more insights and strategies!

Insider Resources

James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday Newsletter is touted as “the most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the web.”

Each message includes 3 short ideas from James, 2 quotes from others, and 1 question for you to ponder — it’s a good companion to the Atomic Habits book and Atoms app.

Here’s a valuable excerpt shared from James Clear’s June 20th issue:

"One of life's counterintuitive lessons is that you will often gain energy by spending a little bit of energy.
When you feel lethargic and like you want to lay around all day, it is usually the case that getting up and moving will make you feel better than simply sitting around. Getting outside for 10 minutes or doing the first set of a workout or simply stretching on the floor for a moment — anything to get your body moving — will often leave you feeling more energized.
If you want to get your day going, then get your body going. It's harder for the mind to be sluggish when the body is moving."

Explore life’s possibilities and look forward to gaining wisdom and skills after 50! It’s exciting and comforting to think that we never really “grow up” — there’s always a chance to keep growing and maturing!

Until next time,

Co-founders of Freelance University

431B 41st Avenue NE - Unit 94, Calgary, AB T2E 2N4
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