A few years ago my 50+ year old dad told me that he had never been happier at any other point in his life, and I thought that he was kidding himself.
How could this be? As you get older, everyone you know starts to die… you only get more responsibility and things to manage… and you get all saggy and generally worn out on a physical level. Doesn’t life only get worse with age?
In my teens and early 20’s, this was the only world view that I could realistically fathom… that life deteriorated as the body did. But, oh, how (thankfully) wrong I was. In fact, one recent study of over 300,000 adults suggests that 65-79 are the happiest ages of all.
If the sole metric that you’re tracking for life quality is the tautness of your skin, then yes, life definitely gets worse with age. Fortunately for you, the state of your saggy/non-saggy flesh isn’t the only thing that leads to a deeply rich and fulfilling life.
As I traverse my 30th year on this glorious, blue, rapidly-spinning beach ball, I have finally begun to realize the depths of just how wrong my early conceptions of life were.
With age comes gratitude, perspective, and the ability to problem solve for ourselves.
With age we accrue more experiences, more self-awareness, and more successfully navigated pain and heartbreak.
But life doesn’t get better because you’re older, you just get better at dealing with how life works.
Here are seven reasons that life gets easier with age.
1. Emotional resilience
Your suffering makes you who you are.
The more life experiences you’ve had… the more pain you’ve successfully moved through, the more types of people you’ve interacted with, the more times that you’ve been tested and persevered… the more emotionally resilient you will be.
Even if you’ve had an especially tough childhood, when you’re uber-young, you haven’t had the kind of flight time in the process of living that will make you a deeply resilient person.
When you’re 16 years old, the ending of an intimate relationship can feel life-shatteringly devastating. You may have thoughts of “I can’t handle this. This pain is too much. Why bother with love? Why bother with life?” But a divorce at 35, while certainly painful, is more likely to have an underlying feeling of “I have survived heartbreak before… I will get through this and find love again, just as I have before.”
The more you’ve been through and learned from, the greater the bandwidth you can handle going forwards.
2. Making money gets easier
Unless you’re in a small subset of society that was born was abundant financial riches available to you, when you’re young you don’t really have that much financial freedom. You’re dependent on other people to drive you around because you don’t have a car or you can’t pay for cabs. You can’t skip town and spend a week in an AirBnB’ed cabin in the woods because you can’t afford the nightly rate. Heck, depending on your age or life circumstances, maybe you can’t even afford fast food. Money is a scarce resource when you’re young and it limits the freedom and access to experiences available to you in your life.
Regardless of what industry you work in, it stands to reason that as long as you are continuously investing in yourself and the value that you are able to bring to the market/industry/demographic that you serve, you will be able to make that much more money with that much more ease. The better you get at what you do, the more likely it is that you can command a higher fee for the expertise that you bring to your profession.
I’m going to date myself here, but when I worked my first job as a teenager, I worked my 15 year old butt off to make $6.50 an hour. Fast forward to today, and I make that much money per hour even when I’m not working. Why? Because I put in the work to become the kind of person who can provide greater value to the world, and I condensed that value into books, writing, and video courses that people around the world benefit from around the clock.
Another example. One of my good friends is an online therapist. When he first started providing his services, he charged $97/hr. Fast forward a few years and, with the experience of having served another several hundred happy clients under his belt and the demand for his services going up, he now charges $497/hr.
Last example. Stefani Germanotta routinely performed with her band and go-go danced in New York bars for next to no money from the years of 2005-2006. Fast forward a decade and Stefani (aka Lady Gaga) is one of the most highly paid performers in the world.
If you’re good at what you do and you bring real value to the world, money will only become easier to make as you age.
3. Greater social network, in both quality and quantity
One of the most deeply fulfilling elements of living a well-rounded life is the social connections that you keep.
As you age, become more yourself, and improve as a person internally, you will attract increasingly aligned people (friends, romantic partners, business opportunities, etc.) into your life.
And it isn’t a depth versus breadth game either. You can have both. You can go deeper with your select handful of people that you feel the closest to, and you can simultaneously expand the size and scope of your social network and benefit from those newfound acquaintances according to the strength of weak ties.
What does this mean in practical terms?
It means that if you’re ever going through an emotionally challenging time in your life, you can lean more heavily on those closest to you. It means that you will have someone to defer to when you have a finicky question about something that you’ve never had to ask questions about before (because you will have acquaintances who are lawyers, auto mechanics, artists, and accountants). It means that you will have dozens of friends couches to sleep on if your house ever burns down and you can’t pay for a hotel because your credit cards are globs of melted plastic sitting beneath piles of ash.
It means you will be and feel more deeply supported in your life.
4. Greater freedom to live how you want
When you’re younger, your freedom is severely limited on multiple levels.
You can’t pay for what you want. You can’t vacation where you want. You can’t always eat what you want. You can’t spend many of your hours in the way that you would want to be spending them.
Depending on your age, you are still at the mercy of other people’s thoughts and opinions regarding what you should be spending your time on.
The older you get, the higher percentage of your time you will be in full control of.
5. You become less self-focused and more generous
The older you get, the more interested you become in others and you, by extension, become more generous in the process.
Being self-serving is always necessary to some extent, and there’s even something to be said about how I believe that you have to go through a hugely self-focused phase of your life in order to discover who you are. But after a certain number of years of putting yourself first before others, you start to broaden your scope of why you are here on this planet.
You eventually learn that it doesn’t take a lot to meet your own needs. You can do it with relative ease, and then there’s a low ceiling that you hit. You can only get a certain number of massages in a month. You realize that being on a permanent vacation where you live on the beach is only fun for so long. Eventually, you realize that you want to contribute to the world and give back to others to a greater degree.
A life lived purely for the self is a very lonely life. We thrive when our feelings of interconnectedness are strong… and we achieve this feeling by sinking in to the knowledge that we are contributing to the world in a meaningful way.
The more we contribute to the world, and the more we seek to add value to the lives of others, the more generous we become by default.
6. Increased self-awareness
I could write an entire article on this point alone. This could easily be the most important point of the seven. In fact, the older I get the more I believe that we only suffer to the degree that we are unaware of what our needs are and how to get them met. And you never know the least of both of these two things than when you are young.
When you’re young, your sense of self is still emerging. You don’t really know who you are or what you want to do with your life.
Do you go to this school or that school… or should you go to school at all? Should you land this job or that job? Should you be married with kids or be a monk in a cave forever? Indecision is exhausting.
The older you get, the more self-aware you become, the more aware you become of your strengths and unique vulnerabilities, and the more you understand what you need.
I sincerely hope that our education system shifts to a place of recognizing and nurturing people’s in-born strengths from an increasingly younger age, because this state of self-awareness, in and of itself, will save you years of floundering. The sooner you know yourself, the sooner you will be able to start shaping your life into what you want it to look like.
7. You get more perspective on what matters
When you’re young, you are easily thrown by life’s challenges and easily swayed by other’s opinions.
As you get older, you simultaneously get better at recognizing what is worth worrying about and what isn’t, while also having the awareness to invest your time into the things that bring a much larger emotional payoff. Put simply, your internal and external energy is more efficiently utilized.
For example, instead of investing thousands of hours into getting through law school because your parents want to be able to brag about their child being a lawyer, you can invest a few dozen hours into practicing music/photography/whatever deeply speaks to your heart, and experience more authentic joy through those things that align with what actually makes you happy.
Life Doesn’t Get Better, You Do
On paper, life gets more challenging in many ways. More people you know die. Your body doesn’t work as efficiently as it used to. The emerging technologies only become more confusing as you are increasingly distant from being a native user of the platforms.
But as you become a more weighty person with a more broad, resilient foundation, life becomes increasingly manageable and joyous.
Life teaches you how to live it, if you live it for long enough.
Dedicated to your success,
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