October 31, 2022

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.

Ran into this quote attributed to Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, a Polish poet and writer, the other day.

“Youth is a gift of nature but age is a work of art.”

I found myself immediately taken by this quote. It has crossed my mind many times since.

Age is a work of art.

I told myself this is how I want to grow and get into my old age.

It signals intentionality.

It means living by design.

A work of art, after all, is crafted and considered. And this is how I would like the second half of my life to be.

Midlife is a fresh start.

In her book, How to Change, Katy Milkman talks about how new beginnings (real or perceived) can inspire and usher in substantial change in our lives. Her research showed that people are generally more open to change when they feel that they have a fresh start.

“We should be looking for opportunities to capitalize on life changes to reevaluate what matters most to us. Whether it’s an illness, a promotion, or a move to another town, it could offer just the disruption needed to turn your life around.”

We can look at it — this, our arrival at midlife — as a fresh start.

Why not consider our 40s or 50s … or whenever it is you raised your hand and said “Yes, I’m a midlifer” … why not look at it as the start of the proverbial new chapter.

A turning the corner.

Bottom Line

We often talk about being open to possibilities and embracing what the second half of our life has to offer.

Let’s also be actively designing and crafting and creating what that life is going to be all about.

Suggested Reading

  • Creating fresh starts for ourselves can act as a mental reset button, helping us distance ourselves from past habits and lifestyle choices. It gives us a kind of blank slate with which to start over armed with our new habits and intentions. It works most of the time but not always. And this article suggests the times when going after the ‘fresh start effect’ may not be the optimal approach. The Unexpected Science of Fresh Starts and Failures
  • One question that can serve as North Star as we design the life we want to live in midlife (and beyond) is the kind of legacy we want to leave behind. Legacies can be gifts of money or properties handed down in a will. It is said that the greatest legacies are about something deeper. “Our legacy is not found in how long people remember us. Our legacy is found in the people we helped, and who they become. Our actions create ripples into the future.” How to Warm Your Soul, Save Lives, and Live Forever
  • Video: The Psychology of Your Future Self | Dan Gilbert | TED. “At every stage of our lives we make decisions that will profoundly influence the lives of the people we’re going to become, and then when we become those people, we’re not always thrilled with the decisions we made.” The reason for this, as Gilbert explains, is that we tend to underestimate how much we will change in the future. And so we base our decisions on the person we are today, which more often than not, disappoints the future us.

Hear Hear

“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been.” — Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and happiness expert


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.