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"I'm too old" (and other stories)

a dive into our limiting thoughts

A few days ago I bumped into an article on on the concept of "late bloomers" and... its flaws (shared here on linkedin), and quite serendipitously in the past couple of weeks, I found myself involved in conversations where the idea of being "too old" - for doing or becoming something - repeatedly came up.

As someone having gone through this pattern myself at a certain point in life, I could recognize some of the emotional mix that such thought was generally suffused with.

This month's article wants to offer you a plunge into a different perspective, and an exercise to train your mind at it. Keep reading!

The limiting thought

When we think to be too old to do something we would instead like to do (change a job that does not fully satisfy, travel on your own for a few months, launch a new business, learn to play the piano, change city, lifestyles or relationships, whatever it is) we're telling ourselves (and others) a story that goes generally like this: “this is possible for someone else but not for me, because...”.

What follows is a more or less rich list of the reasons and, depending on the story, of the resources that make this choice possible for others but not for us.

But we'll see that actually resources (like circumstances and conditions) have a rather flexible nature, depending on what paradigm we decide to move throughout.

The point is that with our thinking we create the perimeter of our life.

A thought that keeps you from moving towards your most fulfilled, energized, healthy version of you is a limiting thought, it is a belief that is sabotaging the richest expression of yourself, and that, if not brought to self-awareness, is entertained until it becomes in your mind a general rule and then a perfect excuse to settle within a less than satisfying routine.

Living with such limiting thought drains you from energy and vitality, and over time fills you with different degrees of frustration, resentment, unhealthy habits and relationships, a judgmental attitude towards others and low-level waves of stress and anxiety.

The antidote to this state of play exists, and is the path to personal empowerment and self-responsibility.

It is the path that moves the focus of your attention from whatever is outside of you (the resources out there that you don't have, the behaviours of the others, the limits of the environment you live into, the flaws of your job or of your boss, whatever you may complain about) to the inside of yourself (your own power, your mindset, and the whole web of your true resources) and from there, back to the outside, but now with a different attitude, one to contribute, to share your gifts, and to authentically celebrate the happiness, fulfillment and success, both yours and of the others.

What has changed during this process is your sense of self, self-worthiness and self-realization: once you are satisfied and truly content with yourself, you are not comparing yourself to others anymore, your dominant modality is one of gratitude, forgiveness and growth, and victimization habits like gossiping or criticizing just lose their interest.

The paradigms behind

But why do you have a limiting thought? Where does it come from?

Our beliefs are mostly created in our childhood and young adult phases, through models that have been important in our development (parents, teachers, mentors, friends) or environments we have consciously or unconsciously decided to fit into (schoolmates, teenage group, college clubs, etc.), and they continue to be developed or confirmed in our adult phase, mainly through cultural, societal and community-based models.

The problem with the "I'm too old" limiting belief (and many others) is that they are generally not built on reality and facts but on models of reality, quite often unconscious ones.

Let's see here a couple of them (but others may be at play, depending on each specific situation).

One model of reality which underpins our age-as-a-limit story sees life as a one-direction trajectory with fixed milestones and timelines to check, as in a to-do-list.

To "fit in", we shall move along this line and preferably at a prescribed pace: there will be a proper moment to have sex for the first time, a proper one to marry and have kids, a proper one to start working, to climb the ladder and achieve “success”, and another one to retire and take care of grand-children or finally enjoy your hobbies.

Simple, and straightforward (with variations allowed, depending on cultures).

A companion underlying model sees aging as intrinsically bad. Age here is a liability, unless it is accompanied by expressions and symbols of "success" (which help you show how you checked your list above); here age also needs to be "hidden" and get unnoticed in some manner to preserve as far as possible a static image of endless youth.

When we live our life framed in a combination of these two paradigms, fear of aging becomes a dominant thought of ours: on one side we need to check in our to-do-list, on the other side we are tyrannised by those wrinkles that remind us of time passing by.

As a result our attention and energy go mainly (if not exclusively) in one direction: how we appear outside. Looking young and acquiring symbols of "success" will drive our focus much more than pursuing what makes us happy.

A model is just a model.

There’s nothing inherently good or bad with a model of reality. It is a simplification, that serves a purpose, that of giving you a frame of reference, a compass, to orient your choices.

A model has, in the end, one function, it must be useful.

The question then is: is this model useful for you and the authentic expression of yourself? And going one step further: if it was useful at some point in your life, is it still useful for you today? Or would a different paradigm support you better?

In this article I want to invite you to stretch your imagination and try to conceive to live your life from a different model.

Not necessarily to change it, if you're happy with the one you have, but to become aware of the power of your mind in creating the conditions in which your life unfolds.

For instance, instead of the life model just described, based on a one-direction trajectory, try to figure out one with life having a cyclical progression.

A cycle is made of seasons and phases that succeed one to the other in the form of loops, similar and new at each new cycle.

Nature itself manifests in cycles of life. In the yearly cycle of seasons there is a time to bloom, and a time to grow, a time to decrease and another to rest, and from resting to reenergize and be ready to recommence, blooming again in the following year.

Try to look consciously back at your life and see the cycles you have gone through, maybe several times. Probably you will discover that each cycle may have given you new insights, knowledge, and richness you could not access before.

We all go through cycles when learning (from ignoring to learning, then mastering, then unlearning, and re-learning anew), cycles in our passions/talents, tastes, style, preferences, cycles in our relationships, cycles in our profession and career (from accessing a new job to becoming an expert and mentoring others, maybe going repeatedly through these stages over time in several positions).

Think about "success". In a life-as-a-cycle model, success could never be to dwell in an eternal spring (this would be stasis and non-life), success is instead the harmonious succeeding of one season to the other, with every season being necessary, and feeding forward the next one.

Failure would be just useless as a concept, whereas what matters would be only the seed (the lesson) matured from that experience.

Can you see the difference in perspective?

The thing with "resources"

The I’m-too-old story (and similar ones) also rests on another dominant paradigm that we generally inherit, one about scarcity of resources. In this paradigm we have limited resources to support us and we have to compete for them to maintain control, power, and opportunities.

In this paradigm if you win, I lose. And getting old is part of losing resources (of youth, beauty, agility etc.).

A different paradigm would be one in which resources are abundant, renewing and constantly transforming to operate as a reservoir of energy, empowerment and opportunities.

Let's go through some distinctions from such an abundance-based perspective:

here money is not spent nor wasted, it is invested in something of value, and transforms itself to support your development (a practical example: paying your bills does not deplete your financial resources, on the contrary, it allows you to access services that support your activity, your relationships, and the quality of your life);

here relationships are trust-based and nourishing, providing you with the sense of safety and confidence to always progress and overcome your limits;

mistakes offer lessons and accelerate your path to growth, improvement and success;

habits and inner attitudes (including emotional patterns) become part of your toolbox to support you along the journey, again working as a source of strength, courage, calmness and resilience.

In this paradigm you realize that resources are just everywhere, as far as you become aware of and able to tap into them.

The advantage of time (and intentionality)

And what about getting older then, from this perspective?

Here aging, far from being a limit, is on the contrary a very condition of achievement,

because it is only by going intentionally through multiple experiences, diversified responsibilities, numerous cycles of "successes" and "failures", all things that require time,

that the personal capacity and ability to contribute in the world is being enriched.

With time, and through this richness, we become able to better understand complexity, ambiguity, and continuous change, so, we are better equipped to consciously tune into the very nature of today’s complex world.

The level of our presence, our ability to “sense” and remain focused on the present moment becomes way deeper, providing space for insight, intuition, and wisdom to emerge.

When we unfold intentionally in the paradigm of cycle, growth and continuous change, we naturally transcend fears of failure and of others’ judgement, we become authentically prone to celebrate both wins and errors as parts of our (and others') growth journey as we are aware of the value of the lessons therein, and we create healthy boundaries that sustain us (habits, relations, beliefs) instead of limiting us.

In this evolution, we can also become natural leaders, as we gain self-leadership and self-mastery first; we care for our collaborators and for our teammates, not because it’s trendy, but because we are deeply aware of the value of everyone contributing with his/her uniqueness;

we can become authentically flexible and agile, because we are not afraid of change and losing control;

and we become much more interested in our mission and purpose than in blaming, shaming and power games.

So, are you too old to embrace all this?

As Henry Ford famously used to say ‘’Whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you’re right.’’

It is up to you to intentionally choose the perspective from which to live your life.

If you decide to change it, you life will change. An this, at any age😉


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I'm Alessia D’Acunto, Personal Transformation, Self-Empowerment and Leadership Coach.

I help you connect to the power of your mind, body-intelligence and soul-purpose so to thrive in your personal and professional life with confidence, authenticity, and grace.

Ready to discover your powerful self and master your life?

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