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It’s All Downhill from Here – Huh?

July '08

I remember attending a 50th birthday luncheon at the Wellesley College Club on a sultry, summer’s day – much like the ones we’ve been experiencing here in New England. As I walked into the expansive dining room, a phalanx of black balloons signaled the location of the party table. Nearing the table, I saw that each black balloon announced in bold, white script: 50 years ~ It’s all downhill from here!

At the time I chuckled a bit, but the other day as I was reading The Third Age by William Sadler, I noticed he used the same landscape metaphor – with a very different take. He suggested that, “exploring midlife is like reaching the top of a mountain, thinking we have finally achieved our goal, only to find on the horizon an enormous expanse of unknown terrain.”

[As I wrote this last sentence, I culd hear the voice of my 10th grade English teacher reminding me that Sadler was using a simile not a metaphor. So I’m adding a mild disclaimer that I am using the word “metaphor” in its generic sense. After being so rudely interrupted by my inner critic, I will return to the topic at hand.]

There is no question that women reaching 50 these days have decades of living ahead of them. Probably this statistical fact accounts for the genesis of the popular cliché, “50 is the new 30.”

Sadler’s midlife vision of exploring “an enormous expanse of unknown terrain” is an exciting proposition, but, let’s admit it, a rather daunting one. Mapquest cannot help you find the correct route, nor will your GPS. If you want to navigate your life successfully in the years that lie ahead, you’ll have to map the territory with your own inner guidance system.

Accurate mapping requires a reliable compass, so I almost always start my coaching clients off with the CompasswiseTM Process, where I help them construct a personal compass, so they can use it to find fulfilling pathways for themselves.

So what about you? What new trails do you want to explore in future decades? And what will be your guiding mantra as you travel along? Certainly you can create a better one than “It’s all down hill from here.” It would be fun to hear from you!

Happy summer,


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