safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/14071-all-about-you-age-is-just-a-number
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All About You: Age is just a number

May 22, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Grandma Moses, one of my heroes, began painting when she was 78 years old. The reason? She had arthritis, and it was painful for her to work with other materials such as yarn and thread. Although she started painting later in life, some of her paintings are considered masterpieces. One of them, “Sugaring off,” sold for $1.2 million in 2006. Grandma Moses led an active, inspiring life until just before her death at 101. She didn’t let her age interfere with her zeal and desire to reach new goals.

Keeping yourself inspired about your work and goals can get tougher once you pass middle age. You may feel as if your chance to make a big difference has gone by and “coasting” is now your only choice. But as proved by Grandma Moses and many other successful people who kept their inner fires burning six or more decades into their life, you can stay inspired no matter your age.

I regularly meet professionals who are counting the days until they retire. When I ask them what they’re going to do once they’re retired, I get a variety of responses. My favorites include “start a new business,” “travel extensively” or “finally learn how to play the piano.” What I find sad is when the only thing the person tells me they plan to do is “not work here anymore.” You can always make a difference – even if it’s your last day on the job – perhaps by giving a word of advice or encouragement to a colleague.

I’m 57 years old, and I believe there is still a world of opportunity before me. Here’s what helps me stay inspired. I hope it will do the same for you.

Don’t dwell on age

So what if you’re over 60. I rarely ask someone how old they are. I don’t care. Not in the sense that I don’t care about the person or details about their life – it’s simply that I don’t place myself or people I meet in a bracket because of age. Once you’re out of childhood, age doesn’t determine your social maturity and daily potential. Whether you’re a teen or a centenarian, you can shine, contribute and make a difference every day of your life.

Start (or revive) projects

Is there something you didn’t do when you were younger that you wished you had? Do it now. When I was a teen, I practiced the guitar diligently and finished the first four books of the “Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method” series. Then I let life’s responsibilities get in the way and never finished the series. Well, I recently bought books 3 through 7 and am excited about eventually finishing book 7. I’ve even made a copy of the final page and posted it on my office bulletin board.

Sure, there are things that age inhibits. You may not be able to perform certain physical tasks that you could years ago. But age brings experience that opens opportunities someone younger may not have, such as consulting or coaching.

Break into a new field

Mindfulness has become a popular and powerful tool for living a happier, healthier and safer life. It’s just one of many newer fields that a safety and health professional can pursue. I use mindfulness as an example because I started seriously studying and using it after being in the safety field for more than 20 years, and I’m still excited about it. Look around and keep your mind open. Whether for work or your personal life, new projects and pursuits are waiting. You just have to look for them and get started. Search the Internet using keywords related to something you enjoy doing that will help people or about a problem you’d like to solve (i.e., “combating apathy in the workplace” or “cooking for seniors”). You never know what might pop up that will stoke your inner flame.

Getting old isn’t a curse. Sure, it poses challenges, but it also can be a blessing. And whether you’re a young safety professional just starting out or a seasoned icon ready to retire, Grandma Moses’ advice still applies to you: “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

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Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit www.makesafetyfun.com.

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