The Psychological Formula for Success After Age 50.
Today’s blog post title comes courtesy of this article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version (and, if you don’t know what that means, you’re probably not over 50):
Key takeaway: Grit is the secret ingredient for an exceptional third act.
Psychologists have long known that success is fueled by grit, passion, and a growth mindset—a deep-seated conviction that you can excel at a new pursuit. Norwegian psychologist Hermundur Sigmundsson says that passion is by far the most important psychological factor—but it peaks early. To a lesser extent, the same is true of the growth mindset, so by the time most of us reach the “Build a Company Phase” of our life, two of the three most important ingredients in the recipe for achievement are waning. “You lose the thinking that maybe you can do this,” Sigmundsson says.
Fortunately, grit—a combination of perseverance and determination—rises through middle age and peaks in your 70s, as do a number of other helpful intellectual traits, including your ability to perceive the emotional state of other people. Even your vocabulary, comprehension, and aptitude for math keep climbing until at least 50.
Here are four suggestions from the Bloomberg article on how to be more effective at work after the age of 50:
1. Make It Meaningful
Once you pass the half-century mark, avoid work you don’t find compelling. The pandemic provides the perfect occasion to ditch—or be fired from—a position that doesn’t do much beyond keeping the lights on and the fridge full. As one person says, “Take all the good from your past ventures and throw them into the future.”
2. Move Your Body
“Physical activity is very important to keep the gray and white matter in your brain more functional,” says Sigmundsson. His studies show that successful older people are all physically active, including every one mentioned in this article. Anything that gets your heart pumping, such as walking, swimming, yoga, biking, or weights, will do the trick.
3. Fight Weakness
Which is lowest: your grit, passion, or growth mindset? Help nurture your weakest trait by surrounding yourself with people and deadlines that bolster it. If your entrepreneurial passion is fading, find an enthusiastic business partner and join an incubator program. If you fear you won’t be able to write that novel you keep seeing in your dreams, join a weekly writing group and hire a book coach.
4. Beyond Work
Bonus points for learning completely new skills, which can improve cognitive function. The more novel and mentally demanding, the better—say learning a new language or musical instrument. After a lifetime of playing percussion, Sigmundsson picked up the bass guitar at age 50. “My band needed a bass player,” he says. “Now I’m 55, and I’m quite good.”
Put the four elements together, and your future is looking brighter than ever. And, if this resonates with you, I bet you’ll be interested in our MEA Online program that starts on February 27. With a focus on how to become more successful at navigating transitions, this 8-week course is a great way to understand our MEA Baja program in the comfort of your own home. And, it’s not a heavy lift as it will only take you 2-3 hours per week of study and conversation with your cohort of 8 other students. We hope you’ll join us.