One of the greatest gifts of midlife is perspective.
When we look back on our lives, at the things we’ve experienced that may have been painful or frustrating, we see them now with much clearer understanding. With hindsight, we can see something beautiful, meaningful, or life changing came out of those experiences. We see they were a necessary part of our journey. We see they’ve made us who we are today.
Perspective brings gratitude.
We look around at others and see that no matter how much, or little, we have, we are probably better off than many. For that we can be grateful.
We can see all those things we thought were important when we were younger, really aren’t so important after all. I recall being in high school and looking at all the popular kids—the football players and cheerleaders and such—and feeling they had it made. They were successful, popular and well-liked. However, I also remember realizing after high school graduation that their status no longer meant anything. We were all equal again, starting out as newbies in jobs or freshmen in college. The playing field was level.
Realizing what’s important.
When we get through the acquisition phase of our lives, that time when we’re pursuing career success, financial security, the nice house, car, and everything else that comprises the American Dream, we eventually get to a place where we have all those things and we realize that’s not what’s most important. Those things are not what makes us happy. Certainly they’re nice, but as research has shown, it’s not the material possessions that provide the most satisfaction in life, it’s the experiences.
Additionally, when we look around and see friends losing parents, struggling with troubled teenagers, or facing health issues, we recognize how lucky we are.
Doing pet therapy work has provided a great big dose of perspective.
When my therapy dog, Hope, and I visit the spinal cord injury clinic at the VA hospital, I realize how lucky I am to be able to walk and get around on my own. When we visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities, I’m thankful my parents are still able to live together, in their own home, and take care of themselves. When we visit college students I walk away with the hope that there are many beautiful young people who have the potential to make this world a better place.
Aim for a positive attitude.
It’s easy to get jaded watching the news or letting yourself be consumed by the day-to-day annoyances of life. Perspective is a wonderful anecdote to the negative attitude these things can invoke. It can take you from pessimistic to optimistic in a moment.