growing old

3 Signs You’re Growing Old Instead of Growing Up

This May, I’ll turn 42. With each passing year, I seem to realize a bit more just how important it is that I’m being intentional with my life. At the beginning of a new year, many men set some goals or resolutions. And while there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to do more, what if we were to shift the focus from all that we want to do onto all that we want to be? How would it change our perspectives and outcomes at the end of the year?

We’re all growing old, but the real question is this: Are we growing up? Because growing old is inevitable, but growing up is optional. Are we becoming the people we really want to become instead of just marking off checkboxes of our accomplishments? What if we were to evaluate ourselves in light of the new year to make this the year to take ourselves to the next level? Here are 3 signs you’re growing old instead of growing up.

1. Your passion has turned into passivity.

There was once a time when you were super passionate about some important things in your life that have now fallen by the wayside. It might be your family, your health, or your reputation. At some point in the past, you may have cared more about investing in those things than you do right now. You were once passionate about being the best dad, about maintaining your health for the sake of your family and your future, and about protecting your good name.

But somewhere along the way, passion struggled with passivity, and the latter won. Your best dad priorities took a back seat to work or complacency. You started to risk your health due to a lack of discipline. And somewhere along the way, you started justifying unwise decisions by telling yourself it doesn’t matter what others think of you. If you’ve found yourself lacking in passion lately, that’s OK. Every man does from time to time. It’s just not OK to stay there. It’s never too late to change course to ensure that you’re growing up instead of just growing old.

2. Your comfort has turned into complacency.

A good way to grow up instead of growing old is to get out of your comfort zone.

You may think your biggest and best days are behind you. You are comfortable with your past accomplishments. You think you’ve learned enough, or everything you need to learn. So you feel fine with coasting through. But the truth is you’re never too old to better yourself. And you are never just standing still in your growth as an individual. Every man is either moving forward or backward.

Healthy water is always moving. It’s when water becomes stagnant that it starts to get stale and become unhealthy. The same is true of you. Comfort is nice, but it can be detrimental if it keeps you from moving forward. How can you continue growing yourself? Maybe there’s a book you need to read—or a book you need to write. Maybe there’s an unfinished goal you need to pick back up and complete. Maybe there’s some weight you need to lose or some priorities you need to put back in order. You’ve settled into a comfort zone for too long and complacency is knocking on your door. A good way to grow up instead of growing old is to get out of your comfort zone.

3. Your family has turned into familiarity.

One of the greatest pieces of marriage advice I’ve ever been given is this: “Never stop getting to know your wife.” This is also true for all of a man’s immediate family. If men do become passive and complacent, it’s often about their families.

Recently I was working in my back yard with a total “dad” outfit on—you know, the tall white socks with shorts and the grass-stained shoes to top it all off. One of my boys said, “No worries, Dad. You’re already married, so it doesn’t matter.” We laughed, but the reality is that many men are treating their wives and kids as if that’s true. It shows up in the way they spend their time and money or in what they are giving the best of their attention to. They feel like they no longer have to go above and beyond to grow themselves or their families. There’s no one to impress anymore, nobody to get to know better or to love more. This is dangerous territory for a man. Our families deserve more than just someone to grow old with. They need someone to grow up with.

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Beautiful Ways You Should Expect to Grow as a Mom.

Sound off: What is one specific way you could make this a year about growing up rather than just about growing old?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one area where I could be better as a dad?”