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23: Reimagining Life After 40 (with Barbara Bradley Hagerty)

Some people believe life goes downhill after 40, but Barbara Bradley Hagerty shares stories and thoughts about reimagining life after 40 and using that as an opportunity to pivot and spend time doing things that are more meaningful.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the New York Times bestselling author of Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife and Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality. Her six-part series on how to thrive at midlife aired on NPR in March 2016. Barb worked for NPR for 19 years, covering law and religion. She has received numerous prestigious awards for her work and has appeared on the Today Show, Washington Week in Review and NewsHour. Barb lives in Washington, DC with her husband, Devin, and their yellow lab, Sandra Day.

Nuggets of Wisdom from Barbara:

“Engage with verve because autopilot is deaf.”

“Taking things for granted is like the fastest way to have the blues and to have a midlife crisis, that kind of thing, but if you kind of select the stuff that you really care about – either it is your family or your work or learning the flute or going cycling or your church or political cause, anything like that – if you really throw yourself into those things that you care about, you just kind of lose yourself and gain the world.”

“What if you slept? And what if in your sleep, you dreamed? And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven and plucked a strange and beautiful flower. And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?” -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“What I found in doing that research was that there is no such thing as inevitable midlife crisis. Midlife is a peak time for your brain. It is a peak time for your marriage if you are married. It is a great time for your career if you are intentional about those things. It is a really, really good time because you know yourself, you have a lot of biography, you know what you are good at, at what you are not good at, what you like and what you don't. And so what happened is I just decided, as a way to fix this, I wrote a book.”

“But you know what happened as a result is for one thing, I allowed myself to be a friend to a cancer survivor who cycled competitively and he persuaded me to start cycling and last year I competed in what is called Senior Olympics. I went on an RV trip with my husband just to kind of mix things up, I changed careers, I took my own advice: I mixed things up.”

When people reimagine their life, they end up “…shifting to caring about two things: other people and the causes that are important to them, activities that are important to them.”

“You can control the tenor of your relationships and the things and activities and the causes that you invest in. You have that under your control; you can invest in those things. And the people who do that who make that shift, they are really happy.”

“If you are in a wrong job or wrong situation, one or two thing will happen. Either you will leave your job or that situation that you are in or your body will force you to, because of the stress or the disease.”

“It is a really balanced life. It is family, it is hobby, it is good work and I am very very lucky.”

“I am always anxious about the future. What is the future going to look like? But the way I get through it is I just put one foot in front of the other. I just do it bit by bit. I just do these small achievable goals.”

“I change my mental map, rewrite my mental script and stop comparing myself with other people who are hugely successful and start saying ‘what do I have to offer the world that no one else does?'”

“You should choose meaning over short term happiness because in the long term, it will bring you both. It is really important to invest in the right things, to invest in your kids, invest in your career if you love it, and invest in the causes. We should have the long view of life.”

Some of Barbara's Favorite Things:

Personal habit: “I'm a pretty disciplined and energetic person. I just keep going. I do not give up. I just sound like a terrier with a slipper, I just do not give up. ”

Easy meal: “A banana yogurt smoothie. I also like salmon a lot.”

Possession: “My electric tea kettle.”

Book: The Wonder Worker by Susan Howatch, Triumphs of Experience by George Vaillant.

Best advice received: “If I could do one thing over, I would not worry so much.”

Barbara's Happiness Formula:

“I am happiest when I am facing a hard but conquerable challenge, having dinner outside with my family on a summer night, and have a great story that I am reporting and telling. Challenge yourself to engage with life, relationships, and focusing something outside of yourself. ”

A Challenge from Barbara:

“What I want people to do is to pick one part of their lives and really focus on making it better. Make it affirmative. Because it is really gonna help you feel engaged and vibrant. And the world will just seem so much more colorful.”


Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife

Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality

The Wonder Worker by Susan Howatch

Triumphs of Experience by George Vaillant.

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About jen

Jen Riday is a mom of 6 and life coach who loves to help women experience massive happiness as they let go of stress, sadness or other chronic emotions of negativity.

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