Why It’s Never Too Late to Create the Life You Want

February 11, 2013

Doesn’t matter if you’re 25, 35, 55 or 85 — it’s NEVER too late to change your priorities.

Because that’s what creating the life you want is really about: changing your priorities. Making room for more meaning. Figuring out how to focus on what really matters to you.

It is never too late to create the life you want.No matter how old you are when you realize you want do this, it often feels like it’s too late. Like you squandered away the last two or five or 10 or 20 or more years focusing on the wrong job, the wrong business, the wrong person, the wrong you.

But it is absolutely NEVER too late to create the life you want. Why? Because you have tomorrow. And hopefully the next day, and the day after that. And each of those days is there for you to spend how you choose. The pure fact that they haven’t yet happened, that they’re waiting for you, means they hold so much more potential than what you’ve already done.

If you allow this to be complicated, it will be. You will come up with one BUT after another, and each will hold you back. Yet you can also choose to see this as rather simple: You only have one life. How do you want to spend it?

Sometimes considering — and debunking — the underlying reasons WHY we think it’s too late can help us move forward. So here are a few common excuses we use:

Excuse No. 1: You’ve invested so much time into your current path

It’s easy to get caught up in this line of thinking, and the longer we put off making a change, the more power we give to this excuse. Except here’s why it won’t help you in the long run: because that path you’ve been following is useless if it’s not what you want.

Plus, changing course does NOT mean throwing away what you’ve built. Even if the path you’ve forged so far feels like it will be of absolutely no use in your new life, it will serve some positive purpose. You’ve no doubt learned skills during those years that will transfer toward what you want to do next, even if you can’t easily transfer the primary skills. Chances are, if you’re looking for a change, you don’t want to use those primary skills anymore anyhow!

Even more importantly, the path you’ve taken until now has made you who you are. It has helped you discover what you want and what you don’t want. It’s easy to say in retrospect that you should’ve done something differently a few years ago, but how would you have known that then? You’ve learned it NOW for a reason: because NOW’s the time to make your change.

Excuse No. 2: Doing something different requires taking steps back

But are those really backward steps? In a lot of ways, they’re actually more forward than the steps you’re taking now, if they’re moving you toward something that will make you happy.

Think of them as backward steps in your old life, but forward steps in your new one. (Click to tweet this idea.)

Excuse No. 3: People might think you’re crazy/stupid/naive

Let me ask you this: Are these the same people who are also unhappy with their lives? Who are living stagnantly? Who would never make a change?

Probably. That’s why you need to surround yourself with go-getters. Find people who are living the lives they want, and look for ways to spend more time with those people, whether that’s online or in person. The more you surround yourself with people who are living “differently,” the more normal it will feel.

Soon it will seem crazy NOT to create the life you want. Soon you’ll be wondering why so many people are working jobs/stuck in relationships/fulfilling obligations that don’t make them happy. Why on earth would you spend your one life that way?

Excuse No. 4: Too many you-specific obstacles stand in your way

Maybe you don’t have enough money. Or you’ve got a phobia. Or you simply can’t see how to get from A to B.

The truth is, if you want this bad enough, you can work through whatever stands in your way.

Yes, you will have to make some sacrifices. You will have to make changes to how you live, will likely have to give up something else to gain what you want. You probably won’t be able to have it ALL, but you can have what you decide is most important to you.

Most of our obligations are actually choices. That means if you truly want to live your life differently, you will find a way around or through these scary obstacles, or maybe discover a new path altogether.

The point is, it IS possible. And the first step is realizing that none of these BUTs is big enough to hold you back.

So what should you do once you’ve realized it’s NOT too late to make a change?

1. Figure out what you want. For some of us, this is the most difficult part. But even if the answer seems out of reach, it is somewhere within you. You have ideas, feelings and urges, and you probably know more about what you want than you think; your ideal career might even be staring you in the face. The mountain here is tying all of those ideas together into a concrete WANT, a desire you can act on.

Sometimes we can’t figure that out on our own. Sometimes we need help from someone who 1) has thought through issues like this before and 2) can see things in you that you might not be able to see yourself. That’s why I often recommend people in this situation consider a career coach. I used to think it was hokey to talk to someone about stuff you feel like you should be able to figure out yourself, but collaborating and brainstorming in a safe space can be a powerful thing. It might be the quickest way — or even the only way — to your ah-ha moment.

2. Make a plan, and break it into mini action items. This is the approach I take for everything, because it makes even the most daunting task seem doable. (It’s also the way I present my courses.) Plus, if you do ONE thing each day to work toward your goal, you will make serious progress, no matter how tiny that one thing is.

3. Execute! Little by little, cross items off your list, taking baby steps toward your goal.

Don’t become one of those people who says they’ll make a change and ever does. You DESERVE to live the life you want! But only YOU can make it happen. Only YOU can give yourself this gift. The rest of us can root you on, encourage you and make a meaningful life seem normal, but only you can actually make the change.

Have you ever felt like it’s too late to do what you want? Are you feeling that way now? Tell us about it in the comments, and maybe we can help.

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    47 Replies to “Why It’s Never Too Late to Create the Life You Want”

    • Alexis- Awesome!!

      Made me think of Christopher McCandless’ and one of his quotes from the book Into the Wild.

      “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

      Slightly different in context but similar in it’s messaging.

      Enjoy your travels!

    • Thanks for this, Alexis! Even when we’re still in our 20s, it’s easy to get stuck on auto-pilot and resign ourselves to a fairly predictable, “average” life as-is for the next 50 years. It’s scary and exciting to realize life is what we make of it!

      Coming from a new mom – it’s easy for us to think all career aspirations have to be put on hold while the kiddos are young. That’s just a lack of creativity, or worse – a lame excuse. I’m exploring a move from Blogger to my own domain so I can shed some light on that!

    • One day I woke up and realized the one thing that is scarier than changing your life is reaching the end without living your dream. I always wanted to be a travel photographer. So I just started doing it! It actually is that simple. I just started living the life I wanted. Sure, I might not have nearly as much money now after switching careers, but I am much happier.

    • I’ve been staying on an organic farm with no Internet for close to two weeks writing my book. In the last few days a new visitor arrived from Germany. I’ve never met someone who’s so negative about everything and what I view through my eyes as opportunities she sees as obstacles. It’s really made me realise that it’s never too late at all to change your perspective, adopt a different attitude or just `try’ to see things and do things differently then you’ve always done it. Life is short, live it well

    • Ijeoma says:

      Great reminders. Sometimes people focus on the past and need to look toward the future. Make a decision and don’t look back.

    • Dana Sitar says:

      A super-inspring post, Lexi, thanks. It’s so true that changing paths DOESN’T make our past a waste of time; too many people get stuck on that, and you explain the reasoning perfectly. We can think of whatever we’re doing now as an investment in what we want to do next, regardless of what that is.

    • Jen says:

      I’ve been living this for what feels like forever. I started making the first steps about four years ago. Finally in the last couple of months I feel like I’m getting on a path. Just start! Do something! That’s what I keep telling myself.

    • Shola says:

      Excellent post Alexis! This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes: “a year from now, you’ll wish that you started today.” You are SO right, it is never too late to make a change. Even if you’re 55 years old and you want to get a Bachelors degree, why not start now? Four years from now, you’ll be 59 anyway–so why not be 59 with a Bachelors degree? Thanks so much for the much-needed reminder that it’s never too late to make a big change in our lives.

    • Cassie says:

      Alexis, all I can say is A-MEN. This. All of this. I am nodding my head.

      My brother just asked this very question: “Is it too late for me?” Of course I told him no, and gave him a thousand reasons to believe otherwise. Now I have more fantastic back-up–sending him this post.

      (Sidenote: I really appreciate your direct, clear communication style, particularly because the “change your life” topics are too often full of flowery language that doesn’t resonate with me. I tend to zone out and eventually dismiss posts of that nature, but this…this is good, helpful stuff.)

    • Ellen Schwartz says:

      I’ve been trying to change career paths after being away from working due to illness. It would seem that I’m considered an employment risk.
      Can you offer any concrete suggestions/advice.
      Thank You.

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Tough one! Can you work your way into the new career little by little? First start with it as a side gig? Find a way to volunteer in that industry so you can learn? Prove you’ll stick with it, and you’ll be able to add more and more responsibility (and pay) to your plate. Good luck!

        • Thomas says:

          In addition to what Alexis has stated, try to learn some other skills while you are making plans to make the change. Polishing up writing skills with online courses/visiting good blogs like Alexis’ can prepare you for careers that need such skills. I taught students Maths for more than a decade before I took on a journalist’s job. I polished up my writing skills by buying books from a correspondence writing school and wrote my own stuff (poetry, short stories, essays, letters to editor, etc) while I was still teaching. (Now in journalism, they still want me back teaching students how to do their numbers but I decided to stay on and write.)

      • Laurie says:

        How can you make your efforts pay off for yourself without depending on an employer? You don’t say what career you’re interested in, but I’d say it’s a great time – since you’re not working – to make some networking connections through local clubs and groups that will help you build a niche for yourself.

        Also, look into temping opportunities – maybe the field you’re interested in would be available through a temp agency on a short-term basis and that employment would lead to something bigger.

    • Ellen Schwartz says:

      I would live to volunteer or work part time, but I have to support myself and pay my medical expenses. Therefore, I actually do need a paying position.

      • Laurie says:

        Temping agencies can find you positions that are full time, but on a short-term basis. They might provide the pay and hours you need while also proving you are dependable.

    • This is so true! Like another commenter mentioned above, even in your twenties it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. That’s why I made the jump to starting my own business NOW, even though everyone kept telling me I didn’t have enough experience. And guess what? It’s slow and steady, but it worked. I’m not an utter failure, and I’m actually happy with what I’m doing with my life at only 22! Now I look back at where I was at this time last year and think about how much I’ve changed and accomplished in that time–which only makes me more excited to see what goals I’ll have met by 2014! Just do it really is the best advice.

    • Oh my gosh Alexis! You are so in my head this week! I literally just wrote a post about this very same thing. I’m at a point where I know I want to change directions in my career, but sometimes I just need to be encouraged that what I’m doing is the right thing and that it will make me happier in the long run. Thanks for this post!

    • Kalyani says:

      Awesome post, Alexis! I’m trying to work on my “dream project” on the side. The days I do work on it are the days I’m a happier mama and wife :-). Even ten minutes a day means you’re moving forward.

      How do you approach a mentor? If you already know someone who’s doing what you want to do, how do you approach them without having them feel like you’ll be taking a lot of their time and that you’re “authentic”?


      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey Kalyani — About how to approach a mentor… What can you offer them? When you approach them, don’t act needy… act like you have something to share, too. Ask lots of questions about what they do and show how you’re a sponge, soaking it up. And ask for an ACTION item, not just getting in touch to chat. Can you help them with their business? What do they need that you can help with? These are your skills — how can you use them to help them achieve their next big goal?

    • jerry says:

      that is quite true and as president Obama we can say “YES WE CAN” and changes begins with you. thanx.

    • “Most of our obligations are actually choices.” SO TRUE. And I’m totally on the baby step boat — just a little bit each day will keep you moving towards your goals. Great post!

    • Laurie says:

      Great post! And it’s so, so, so true. I’m 2.5 years away from 50, and I’m working this year on making my writing/making “hobbies” dependable enough to carry me through my golden years. I probably will completely abandon my dreams to be in the theater in NYC, simply because I have a family and roots that would make that nearly impossible… but I can still be my creative self and achieve so much joy from other creative endeavors. I just wrote about this myself yesterday… great timing. 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      A bit belated, but this post was one of my favorites (so much so I finally have the guts to comment!) I’m pretty good at realizing I’ve got to make my outside writing ambitions a priority and that it’s up to me, but I struggle a *ton* with Excuse No. 3. Your post made me ask myself specifically whose judgment I’m afraid of. In some cases, yes, these are people who are somewhat stagnating and unhappy in their own careers, but I’m also afraid my successful go-getter friends — further in their careers than me — will secretly laugh or roll their eyes at my new blog. There’s such a vulnerability inherent in showing that you’re “trying” and not quite there yet, especially online. Thanks as always, Alexis!

    • Alexis,

      This is the first time I have found your blog and I am glad I did. I recently have found that the path I was on may have been what a lot of others though was great, however I was not excited about it. I was scared for a LONG time that people would think I was dumb, or naive for giving it up. Just a few months ago I did give it up, started my own business, and am now about to sell my house and do some traveling! This is something that I have always wanted to do, and now I can!

      Will be coming back for more great posts, so keep them coming,


    • Krys says:

      So how do I start over, I’m extremely unhappy. I was doing what I thought would make me happy now I hate it. I have to support myself and my son. I wanna go back to school, bt I don’t really know what for . I have a couple things in mind that I love. Bt, again I have to make a living. I want to live somewhere always nice and warm and have a great career doing what I love. I’m really always depressed about my situation and I never feel like I’m doing anything positive for me not going forward. Please help!

    • Stephanie says:

      I am currently in physician assistant school doing my clinical rotations and since I started clinicals, I felt like I didn’t really fully explore all of my career options or do enough shadowing to explore my current career. It is hard because I have never worked full time and at the same time, I need to be constantly studying and learning, yet my doubt over my career path keeps me from staying focused and getting the studying done that I need to feel competent.

      I have always liked volunteering and so I thought maybe I might enjoy working for a nonprofit, but I don’t really know and right now, I have come so far that it seems pointless to quit when I only have a year left in the program. People encourage me saying I am only stressed and doubting because it is so hard; I don’t really know, but a year ago, I thought of quitting and I wished I had done it then. Others say that it won’t hurt to finish because I am only 23, but I hate the way I feel right now. I just want to be happy with what I’m doing, yet I am so depressed/stressed. I don’t know what to do.

    • Vikas says:

      Hi Alexis, thanks for the great article. I too is stuck in the same situation. I have a career of 8 years in Investment Banking but I have not enjoyed it much. I have been wanting to do this for long time but could not bring enough zeal for the same. Now, I am really serious for going after a career in IB but my friends and other people says that it is almost impossible to make a career switch to IB after being in IT for so many years.

      What should I do now? Shall I pay attention to my friend’s advice or shall I take the leap of faith and follow my heart?

    • Jenni says:

      Thank you for this. It is great to read that many people still believe. Still dream and see a bigger picture. I am surrounded by a family that doesn’t believe in greatness and it broke my heart for years. Made me feel so alone and I struggled with depression. Now I have realized I am aloud to have my own vision and I am meeting more and more people like me that are ambitious and creative. Life is good. Everyday is better than the last. And you become what you think about most of the time – Earl Nightingale.
      Peace out
      Jenni Bloom

    • Dave says:

      This kind of blather is mind boggling. Sometimes it really is too late. How come no one admits that?

    • Daniel says:

      I disagree that there is always a way. I had planned on attending medical school, but half way through undergrad I got buried under a mountain of medical bills. I sacrificed everything else in my life, and worked myself into the hospital (twice), but none of that was enough to get past the pile of debt…and get on with med-school… Now, over 20 years later, that goal is further away than when I started. At 45 years old, best case scenario is me finishing med-school in my early to mid-60’s. And, that is if I can somehow triple my current income.

      I’m so incredibly burnt out on the eat-work-sleep life trying to reach my goals, and just losing more ground than I gain.

    • Murugan says:

      Hi, I am 38, Married and having two kid, boy 9 years and girl 6 years, till a month back never thought i can be without my business, i am main in my company use to think nothing will happen without me, but today i am out, all it took is one minute to take the decision.

      There is no ending for the business, but your life will end very soon, thought of living life the way i want, Now i realized there is so much is there in life to enjoy, money is not the ultimate, but there is something more than that, i am going in search of new life, hope it will be a eye opener for other people who work till the death, who never realize they lost there life for nothing.

      But feeling great, its just a beginning…….

    • joan lamb says:

      I am 85, a retired Florida attorney with a pacemaker, who just moved to California last year.

      Since coming here, all I do is clean house, do paperwork, repair the house, go to doctor appointments. I’m still sleeping on the sofa.

      I can’t practice law because I haven’t passed the Calif Bar. I’m divorced from a 34-year marriage. I need to get a life, in addition to my daughter’s, who has a job and active social life.
      Where do I go from here? I live in a 55+ community.

      Joan Lamb

    • Renoldah says:

      I want to study register a national diploma of office administration for distance learning but I think its too late because of my age, I am 35 and have been working as a secretary at a law firm for the past 7 years. I only have matric certificate, certificate in computer literacy and certificate in office administration. I really want to further my studies but my age discourage me. I think it is too late to study at this age.

    • Coleen says:

      I am 55 years old. For the last 20 years I raised 2, now very good men, as a single parent. Often during those 20 years I worked 2 to 3 jobs. Today I have a so-so job, little to no money and all the time in the world to do “what ever I want” but, I have no idea where to start. I have taken some college classes for Business Administration and have a Cosmetology License. If there is anyone out there who has been in this situation I would welcome your advice! 🙂

    • Fred says:

      I am 58 and experiencing the greatest decision-making crisis in my life up to this point. For me, this is hard to believe because it seems most people I talk to have gone through this at significantly younger stages of life. I have not until now done what most rational people with reasonable means have done. Instead, I have gone through my entire adult life simply subsisting and going from one instant gratification to the next. It never once occurred to me during that time that some hard work would be necessary to create a life that would reward me as I approached this age. My impression from the responses above and other sources is that most people my age have had major accomplishments by this time in their lives (they did the hard work), have outgrown those accomplishments, and are now ready for a new challenge. That is all well and good, however, how does a person like me cope with looking back and seeing a long list of empty yesterdays: no long term career, no family, no property, no financial security, basically nothing other than staying out of trouble with the law and the IRS. Oh, and by the way, at the age of 48 I decided to study part time and managed to get a Ph.D. It took me 9 years, and it looks like a great accomplishment on paper, but when I completed the degree, I realized that at 57 I was too old (yes, I said too old) to get a job based on my education level. The Ph.D., I realized, was just another little side-hobby of mine. Something to subsist on for a decade. If anyone responds, please don’t tell me education is wonderful, and it’s never too late to earn a high degree. With all due respect, I’ve heard this many times already. A Ph.D. late in life is great if you already have resources and an educational advancement will further enrich your life. For me, it was an attempt to “try something new” based on NO prior resources. I didn’t already have a job in the field I studied, so I came to the job market as a clean slate, only I was not in the body of a 27-year-old. I tell people I am unique in that I managed to turn what is normally considered a great accomplishment into a major failure.

      My question is, how can I motivate myself to get out of this self-destructive cycle? One of the older replies above said something interesting to the effect of “what’s scarier than change is ending life without reaching you dream”. That’s probably where I fit in all this. I know I can formulate and accomplish a dream because I’m not stupid. The Ph.D. sort of proved that, so I suppose the degree had some value, only most people don’t need to get a Ph.D. to know they’re capable of doing something that is part of normal life, i.e. looking after what is important to one’s self in order to live a happier life. I know how to learn and see how connections that lead eventually to a solution or realization. My problem is, I keep asking myself “Why bother? You have already squandered the best years of life (in terms of the physical) Now you’ll reach your dream but have to contend with aging and all the unfortunate stuff that comes with it.” I know that there was some value in my life prior to the age of 58, however, I feel like I have just been born, only unlike a newborn, I’m already a 58-year-old adult who has about 25 years to play with. You might say that is a lot of years to play with, but in reality only 10 of those years can be conservatively called quality-years. I will throw this last element into the equation: I have a chronic medical condition which could begin manifesting itself within the next 10 to 15 years. Any advice on this will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • GMB says:

      It’s a cute sentiment, but so much more challenging with Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain and incurable autoimmune diseases. There are some things I can never be again, as thanks to degenerative diseases without a cure. It is too late for many things I hoped to accomplish. Every day is a struggle, just to do little things like showering, errands, chores, work (part-time, not health enough for full time). It can be too late.

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