No matter how many inspiring stories we read about people finding success after 40, there’s still no denying that anxiety can creep up each time we add another candle to our birthday cake. Aside from feeling like we’re running out of time or the cards are getting stacked against us, the passion that motivated us in our younger days seems to taper off, too. But according to experts, that fire in our belly isn’t all that helpful anyway.
Instead, the real keys to achieving goals as we age is a focus on grit rather than passion — and not giving into the misconception that our brains aren’t as bright as they were in our youth.
Hermundur Sigmundsson, a psychologist from Norway, spoke with Bloomberg about how the passion we so often associate with success also happens to be fleeting. Think back to all the projects you’ve started but never finished — or how your kids and grandkids hop from one trend to another. Grit, on the other hand, is the far more valuable element we gain over time and should embrace as we look for change later in life. The article describes grit as a combination of perseverance and determination, which doesn’t reach its peak until we’re in our 70s.
On top of that, they cite Harvard and MIT researchers who debunk the idea that our minds are any less reliable after 40. They discovered that, although the speed at which we process new information might slow down a bit after college age, our ability to pick up on emotions around us, build our vocabulary and overall comprehension, and even grow our math skills only gets better with age.
Sherry L. Willis, PhD, professor of human development at the Pennsylvania State University, made similar observations while looking specifically at middle-aged women. Even when “senior moments” begin to pop up (like struggling to remember a ZIP code or phone number), the research found that our actual cognitive ability is still much higher than it was in young adulthood.
Basically, don’t let any minor brain blips make you believe you’ve lost your edge. Remembering that while honing grit rather than passion will help you crush any job promotion, career change, or personal goals on the horizon — and it can last well into your golden years.