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Does Life Begin at 40?

Last updated on February 18, 2012

As I interact with more and more people, I begin to ask this question; does life really begin at forty? Is this a proven myth or is it one of those sayings that are passed on from one generation to another without people realizing the depth of what they are saying?

I am writing today to demystify maturity in human beings, to debunk any misnomers, and to inspire the young and the old all in one breath.

The Theory of Numbers

I believe that life has a certain bearing on the number eight. At the age of eight in many cultures, a child is considered a grown up. In some traditions a child is expected to stop wetting his bed at that age. Psychologists say a child's behavior, personality and in some cases habits, are all formed by the time they are five. Add three years to that and you eliminate all doubt that this child is fully grown.

Let us now introduce another cycle to that; it is the cycle of the number ten. As a life coach, I have proved (though non-scientific) that ten has the greatest impacts on human chronology. There are a hundred years in a century and a thousand years in millennium. Each of those numbers is divisible by ten. You could argue that it is in tens that we count as well as we think.

Ten plus eight equals eighteen. This formula leads us to subsequent numbers of 28, 38, 48, 58, and 68". I deliberately end at 68 because according to the world fact book (as of July 2007) the life expectancy of men is 64 years while that of women is 67 years.

If you look at those ages, they bring memories in your mind that you have to live with. Another way to look at this effect of the number ten would be to look at our ages starting at ten years old. These ages would read "10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70". With all due respect, how many of us remember what we did at 20 years old more than we remember what we did at 18? Or for that matter which age do you recall the most between 30 and 28? As much as I agree that my 30th birthday was memorable, it was my 18th and my 28th birthdays which were extremely impact ful.

Why 40?

Why do some people say 40 is the age? What is it that you would do at forty that you have not done between the ages of 18 and 38? Is it marriage, work, adventure or is it just another excuse for delayed gratification? Someone once said with irony, "If life begins at 40, so does arthritis and the habit for telling the same joke twice to the same people." 

In my view ladies and gentlemen, life does not begin at forty. Life begins at conceptualization in our mother's wombs. After that, we are introduced to different developmental stages that pose different challenges and experiences. It is how we handle these challenges that determine how successful we are in life. The phrase "Life begins at forty" is similar to saying "School begins in grade twelve". Imagine going to Munali Secondary School with a big lunch box, and HB pencil, and two books with big lines; one for Math and the other for English. When you reach the secondary school you tell the teacher, "This is my first day at school. In all my life I have never been to school." The teacher may commend you for your courage but will ridicule you for coming to the wrong class.
Starting life at the age of forty is similar to showing up for school at the wrong time and in the wrong class. To say "Life begins at forty" is to suggest that it is at forty that we awaken to opportunities, conquer challenges, and embrace the full meaning of life.

What Next?

Men or women who start their lives at forty are people who are late in maximizing their opportunities. So what do you do to avoid falling into this excuse? You plan your life ahead of time. You plan to reach forty before you even reach forty.

What do you do then if you are forty and you feel like a failure? Well join the club. Everyone feels like a failure every now and then. Even people who are number one sometimes feel life number last. That does not mean they are last. Failure is sometimes a perception of us yet rarely is failure the reality. If you are forty and you are burdened by regret, I say shake it off and move on. You cannot account for all the water that has gone down the drain. Embrace your future. The past is what it is. Not many of us can do much about it. What we can do a lot about is our future. The future starts today. After all, by the age of forty, you ought to be oozing with wisdom not regret. One man once said; if all the people were to bring their personal problems on one hip, every man and woman would walk away with their problems as they would realize that they were not that bad.

Life does not begin at forty; life is like a horse that is ready to be ridden. It is saddled and cleaned. Brushed and trained with the freshest of horse shoes. It is ready for you to ride it. This ride begins when you jump on that horse and ride. That is when life begins. Now jump on your horse and go for a smooth, and adventurers ride. I will be in the stables waiting for you because you are the world's greatest jockey.

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