For some reason, when I ask younger professionals what they need to do to be better, they can quickly provide an exhaustive list. This is to their credit. For folks over 40 or so, the response to the same question becomes challenging. People tend to take longer to respond, their lists are much shorter, and their desire to actually be better seems far less than their junior counterparts. Why is this? Is it possible that there just is not that much to learn after 40? Or is it because after 40, it is just too hard to either learn new stuff or to let go of older stuff you know you need to change but just cannot? In a coaching session recently, I had a 40 plus year old tell me he had no idea what to do to be better, but really wanted to.
So what could there possibly be to learn after turning 40? My answer is that the list should be longer than when you were younger, should be harder but will vary from person to person. The trick is to figure out what the right sequence, critical path, is to your learning and growth. A really powerful way to know what you need to do to be better is to make a truthful and valiant attempt to make someone or something very important to you better, where the “public” reward of this endeavor will not be attributable to you. If the intent and process is authentic, then the process of the task will reveal all kinds of items that you need to work on to grow and be better. The process will expose your strengths and weaknesses and you will know just how far you are from where you need to be. You will also learn a priceless lesson – you cannot grow or be better without helping someone else do the same. When you have the ability to change anyone or anything for the better, then you are done.