How to Find Joy and Success as a Late Bloomer.

December 8, 2022

How to Find Joy and Success as a Late Bloomer.

May 29, 2023

My mom used to take pride in saying I was a late bloomer, but—being the obsessive achiever—I wondered why I couldn’t be an early bloomer.

Last year, Doree Shafrir wrote a memoir, “Thanks for Waiting: The Joy (& Weirdness) of Being a Late Bloomer,” as a “gentle corrective to the idea that we’re supposed to do things on a schedule.” Many of us feel—consciously or otherwise—that our paths should fit into a rigid timeline of professional and personal milestones. We may judge ourselves negatively if we hit these milestones ‘late,’ partly because of a societal tendency to venerate youthful achievement.

Given that we’re living longer, we have the opportunity to bloom longer. And, it’s possible that feeling the need to bloom early may have a corrosive effect on young adults that they carry with them as baggage into later adulthood.

A 2017 Stanford study showed that across generations, people’s ideal timing for achieving life milestones has, on average, remained consistent:

  • Start a full-time job by 22
  • Start saving for retirement by 25
  • Marry by 27
  • Buy a home by 28
  • Start a family by 29

However, every age group has experienced a successive drop in the actual percentage of people hitting those deadlines compared to the previous generation, with 25-to 34-year-olds showing the most significant gap between ideal and actual timing. The researchers concluded that chasing these antiquated targets is “setting up younger generations to fail.”

Clearly, we’re due for a reset in how we view accomplishments in terms of age. In short, we can’t afford to maintain a bias that leads to overlooking a whole band of the population’s untapped potential. The TED Radio Hour recently served up a potent 50-minute podcast on the idea of aging as an asset with writer Doree Shafrir, network scientist Albert-László Barabási, anti-ageism activist and MEA faculty member Ashton Applewhite, and retired educator Riley Moynes. I highly recommend listening to it.

If this topic appeals to you, you might enjoy Rich Karlgaard’s book “Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement,” which has compelling sections on how the brain and intuition improve with age.

Even as more of us are ‘blooming’ later, discussions around late bloomers seem unchanged. Late blooming is perceived as an anomaly. It’s time to realize that blooming can happen at any pace and age.

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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