Half a century sounds a long time but tell that to any 50-year old and they’ll probably say it feels like no time at all. Many people have established themselves in their chosen or given career and made small but significant accomplishments in their lifetime. But for some, their careers are just beginning. Take Dame Judi Dench – although an actress for a huge portion of her working life, her most valued work and heightened fame came late in her career. Proof that you should never stop believing that your dreams will come to fruition – if being famous and being at the top of your field is what you aspire to.

Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday this year, though as a plastic doll she won’t remember much of it. A firm favourite from the offing, the range of different dolls, clothing and merchandise that the original toy spawned is mind-blowing. Even though many different varieties of dolls, e.g. Sindy and Bratz, have had similar success, the dolls themselves feature little in the promotion of the brand nowadays. The ‘Barbie’ clothing and range of toys all bearing the logo are lucrative ways of keeping a constant income stream even when tastes change from generation to generation.

Inanimate objects can even celebrate 50th anniversaries. The Galapagos National Park reached its half-centenary this year and I bet you all forgot to send a card. The park was visited by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, which is quite a claim to fame and not something enjoyed by the average 50-year old!

It is not uncommon to experience a ‘mid-life crisis’ at 50. For some reason, the thought of approaching a milestone birthday causes you to look at your life subjectively in quite a different way to any other birthday. A lot of people believe they haven’t achieved enough by the age of 50 and for men in particular, they think that buying a fast car, wearing tighter trousers and walking around all day with sunglasses somehow makes this feeling of inadequacy disappear! Of course, I am joking, and also stereotyping, but there is not getting away from the tendency to audit our achievements at the end of each decade – maybe to justify our reason for being on the earth in the first place? However, this is really a wasted exercise as you first have to define an ‘achievement’. You may think that having your children wasn’t much of an achievement and you have amounted to not much more than being a Mum. However, you tell that to a couple who suffer fertility problems and have been trying for most of their adult life to have a child and they would disagree that having a child is nothing short of a miracle. Similarly, you could think you have accomplished great things by reaching the top of the executive ladder. Again, a generalisation and a topic for thought, but what if along the way you had neglected your spouse, kids and family – would you still view your career success as such an achievement, as a divorced, part-time parent?

Success in different measures comes and goes throughout our lives. An eternal optimist could consider waking up every morning as an achievement – after all, look at the alternative! With that thought in mind we should embrace every waking moment to make sure they count – not just in a boardroom or in your bank account, but with the people who matter most to you. Make the effort to see friends you may have lost touch with or give your neighbour some flowers from your garden – small things that will mean a lot to other people.

A great success would be for everyone you know and love to spend time with you on your 50th birthday. Not only is it a great excuse for a party but it is a fantastic measure of how many people you are lucky to have in your life. All these people who are tripping over themselves with cards, gifts and good wishes just for you on reaching your half-century. Picture the scenario – a friend who you lost touch with in your twenties goes to the trouble to track you down knowing it’s your big birthday bash – how much of an achievement is that? You’ve touched someone’s life in such a fantastic way through your day-to-day meanderings that they not only still remember you but go out of their way to come and see you. Far more worthy than the ‘success’ of gaining your own parking space at the company you work for!

There are some great 50th birthday gifts out there to buy but the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.


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