One of life’s ironies is the claim that life begins at 40, yet many people start to die before 40 and behave as if they have died after 40. It’s as though they have reached the decline stage of their life cycle and begin to gradually check out.

Apart from voluntarily dying off gradually, it seems society condones this and expects people to stop dreaming and start checking out after a certain age. This is particularly so with women. I find some women stop living for themselves after birth and those without children give up on life and stop living after a certain age, usually post 30 when society writes them off as having lived past their best-by date.

Over the years, I have made a few observations about women over the age of 35. Of course there are many exceptions who have defied the odds and achieved great feats. Those are the women we look up to today and aspire to be like. However, if we are to reach the heights they have scaled, we may have to change some behaviors. Below are some concerning behaviors about women aged 35 and above, which I feel sabotage our growth and prevent us from attaining our dreams.

  1. Reluctance to learn new things.

I have noticed that as we grow older, we become reluctant to learn. Consequently, some people become redundant. Newspapers are a good example of this. Once upon a time, journalists used typewriters for their stories and newspapers were printed on printing presses. That has since changed. Now everything is computerized. When computers were introduced, some people went on strike and complained that “they are bringing machines to do our jobs.” Well, guess what, change came regardless of the strikes and those who embraced the new technology were absorbed into the system, while those who resisted became redundant. No prices for guessing the ages of those who were subsequently retrenched.

Such is life, the world is moving and you resist change at your own peril.

We are living in an era where almost everything is based on technology. Job applications, banking, shopping and bill payments, among most daily activity, are now being done online, yet some people refuse to adapt and opt for the same old way of doing things.

Some women over 35 have excluded themselves, particularly from anything to do with technology, because they feel it is “for the kids.” Not surprisingly, the number of women over 35 who embrace technology is small in comparison to men. For example, less women are active on social media than men. One could argue that access to the internet and the gadgets needed to go on social media is a challenge, particularly for rural women. However, even those women with access to the gadgets and the internet do not embrace technology as readily as their male counterparts. Although many finally caught on to facebook, rather belatedly, few have embraced twitter, instagram and snaptchat among other platforms, yet this is some of the technology that is influencing communication and driving the world we live in.

While it is true that younger people embrace technology much more than the older generation, there is nothing that stops people from embracing technology. In the same vein, I have heard social media being trivialized as being for immature people, yet let’s face it, it now plays a huge role in our lives, in some cases even recruiters look at one’s social media footprint.

Last year my older sister attended a forum for women in business. During one of the sessions, the facilitator asked the women how many of them were on facebook. Less than half of the participants raised their hands. The numbers dwindled further when she asked about other social media platforms. She then asked them why they were not on social media and most responded that it was for their husbands. Thereafter, the session shifted focus to why women should embrace technology and how they would benefit from it. Many of them left the forum motivated to embrace and tackle, rather than shy away from technology.

The truth is that those who embrace technology, learn new skills and adapt to the ever changing environment can never become irrelevant and it is time that women aged 35 and above embraced this reality.

  1. Deciding to simply stop dreaming

Some women simply stopped dreaming as they grew older. It’s as if their ability to dream is being chipped off with every year added to their ages. I believe it is possible to take on new challenges regardless of one’s age. We can all reinvent ourselves and trying something new certainly should rejuvenate us.

I recently remarked to someone that our generation will need PhDs to get ahead in their careers as everyone now has a Master’s degree. Her response was that it was too late for her and she was leaving it to the next generation as she was over 40. Really?

Interestingly, most of my male friends who hold PhDs attained them after the age of 40. They did not stop dreaming and certainly did not let the number of years they have been on earth stop them from pursuing what they wanted.

I believe more women ought to adopt this kind of self belief too. We cannot afford to resign so early in life.

I don’t know how many people realize this, but working with a retirement age of 65, at 35 one still has a good 30 more years in their career, while a 40 year old still has 25 more years. That’s ample time to undertake further studies, pursue dreams and to reach one’s goals.

  1. Fear to venture into new territory

Let’s look at a case study of three women over the age of 40. We’ll call them Christine (44), Martina (48) and Roxanne (49). Christine got an offer to move to another country and start a new job but turned it down because she was too old to start afresh in life. She is still frustrated.   The same opportunity was offered to Martina, who immediately took it up and moved. Within a year she had settled in both the new country and the new job and was happy. Roxanne was laid off and the only job she could land was totally different from what she had been doing for the last 20 years. She took on the challenge, learnt the ropes and excelled at her new job. She is happier in her new job than she was in the previous one.

I believe these stories illustrate that it is never too late to venture into new territory, learn new skills or take up new challenges. It’s all in one’s attitude.

  1. Voluntary stagnation

Some people have simply stopped growing, out of choice.  I call it voluntary stagnation. This entails choosing to refrain from anything that will aid one’s growth. For instance, when one stops reading, chooses to remain oblivious of current affairs, decides not to learn anything new and opts for like-minded friends, it is a form of voluntary stagnation.

I am amazed at the number of women over 35 I have met who find it taxing to read. One lady even boasted that since she left school she has not read even a paragraph from a newspaper. Really? That’s frightening. Where do people get the information to make informed decisions if they refrain from acquiring knowledge?

These observations sadden me because I believe women, like all members of society, have so much to offer the world at every stage in life. Any society that does not harness the potential of women can never develop to its full potential because it is only benefiting from the contribution of half of its population.

Unfortunately our operating environment also perpetuates this to some extent. While there are men who encourage women to grow to their full potential, there are also those with a false sense of superiority, who believe in oppressing women and maintaining the statusquo.  Unfortunately, the oppressive men are the majority and tend to discourage women from excelling. Some even use age to hinder women’s growth. It’s either the women are too young or too old to achieve, and one wonders if there is ever a right age for women to pursue their dreams.

About two years ago, a colleague overheard me talking about plans to take on a new job. His response was, “at your age, do you honestly think you can adjust to a change of environment?” I was surprised, considering I was younger than him. Thankfully, I did not pay attention to him and in less than a year I had a new job in a different environment. Needless to say I adapted very well to my new environment and excelled at my new job. I don’t think adjusting and excelling is a function of age. I believe sometimes it boils down to one’s attitude.  I know women who took on new jobs at 55 and still excelled because they were determined to succeed.

Ever wondered why most younger women complain about the shortage of mentors? Well, apart from the historical gender imbalance that deprived women of opportunities, I believe women also contribute to that shortage when they stop achieving and aspiring for greater things because of their age and it is time to change that narrative.

My advice to women aged 35 and above is let us not die before our time. We have so much to offer to the world, but  before we can give anything, we need to grow. That growth comes from learning, embracing innovation and investing in ourselves. We can rise up to any challenge regardless of our ages. Let’s get up, go out there and conquer the world.

Don’t die just yet!

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