Whilst at the wood over the weekend I was unable to do much physical work as I had an injured knee, So I walked, and paid attention to life all around – the way the trees had changed over winter, signs of deer and squirrel.

The me of the past was a human doing, I used to pride myself on doing ‘double shifts’ as I grew my business, at one point I spent longer on overseas consultancy assignments than days at home – lucrative but exhausting.

Looking back further I focused on fitting in and being the person my bosses admired. I always said yes, I prioritised my work, I hid quite a bit of my personality. I was wearing sharp suits, makeup and heels. I kept certain opinions to myself, and the hippy me from my teens was well and truly boxed away.

In my marriage I agreed to things for a quiet life.

There were new aspects of me coming through. I got involved in the vintage scene, had the 50s car, the American diner kitchen, became quite adept at Swing Dance.

But there was a different me getting ready to break through.

For me, this was at 60 ½

I could see my future and it wasn’t where I wanted to be. It was comfortable with a nice home, lot of travel but something was missing.

What was missing?

The connection to nature. When I’d gone walking it was always as exercise – walking fast, counting steps. Ear pods in and listening to music.

But I wasn’t paying attention to nature.

I wasn’t slowing down

I was missing out.

And then I met a man who introduced me to the idea of going on a vision quest. To take time to focus on my direction with nature as my guide. Could I do this, live out in nature for 4 days and nights with no food and just a tarp for shelter?

But I did and it was life changing.

A deeper connection to nature is part of who I am.

Alongside my doctoral studies I was an apprentice vision quest guide. Assisting others to go through a transition in a natural setting.

Getting older is a time to focus on you

And these questions could be helpful – 2 simple questions but they can take time and perhaps a change of setting to help you to find out the answer.

  • Who do you want to be?
  • How will this show itself – to yourself and to the wider world?

A suggested approach

Look back on your life and think about all the people you were. There may be other significant points but you could consider

  1. Childhood, up to 11
  2. Teen years up to 18
  3. The adult transition – after university, first job, first relationship
  4. Marriage, parenthood
  5. Mid-career
  6. Now

To what extent where you fitting in. Perhaps doing things as it was the convention of the time.

A good number of my career coaching clients had to give up the arts and creative side to adhere to parental expectations to study science.

The above you can do from home – you are looking back on your past.

But the next step is worth taking where you are somewhere outside of your normal environment, out in nature, time in a country cottage without access to technology. As you travel and can drift ….

Think about you right now.

If you could be anybody, do anything, feel … think … listen …

What would you be like.

It can help to leave other people and commitments aside.

Forget about whether something will pay

What will you be doing if you can be truly you?

How will this show yourself in your day-to-day life – would you have a structure to the day, and what would this be like. Would it involve exercise, meditation, reading, volunteering …. Really add depth to a typical day.

Then ask yourself – how would this make me feel? Will I be happy with this person?

You might like to live with this feeling and idea for a few days.

Do you like this?

Would you like this to be you?

So why not make a change – it doesn’t need to be drastic, just one small change

And then see … and you can make another change.

And look to the future

In my book – Rethinking Retirement for Positive Ageing I ask you to imagine life at 90.

And you can do this now.

What will your life be like if you continue to fit in and leave the authentic you to one side.

You may like to look at this article with a link to a video where people talk about being authentic. It made a deep impression on me, and may on you too.

We only have one life …. And why not be true to you? And if not now, when?

Dr Denise Taylor has been involved in retirement planning for almost 40 years. At 64 she gained her doctorate having researched how people find meaning in life after full-time work. To share this widely her latest book – Rethinking Retirement for Positive Ageing is now on sale, published by Routledge. Dr Denise is a Chartered Psychologist, and also a wilderness rites of passage guide combining her interest in transitions and ritual with a love of nature. Beyond her work she gains great fulfilment through owning a private wood.