There’s a two-sided loss of motivation in getting older. I don’t think it’s due to biology or “aging.” I think it’s due to a rational reappraisal of your life.
First, when you get into your sixties, you aren’t facing an open-ended future. You’ve got a finite space and time. So you have to think, “Will this effort pay off in 10 years?”
The reality is that most of us live our lives in windows of 10 years or less, but we’re programed to think of infinity.
For instance, let’s say you’re 66 years old and you write a detective novel. Publishers nowadays want to see that you’ll be productive so they can use your name for future novels. Maybe you will even have a series!
But in reality, many authors write a short series in far less than ten years and then quit. Some of my favorite authors published just 3 or 4 books and stopped. Some were cut off prematurely. So I should forge ahead … right? But there’s that window …
And then there are all those hobbies. I don’t have ten years to become a great stand-up comic. But most of my hobbies last just a few years and then die. So why does this seem different?
Second, you start getting pushback. You’re defined by your age. Sociologists call this “altercasting,” a concept defined over fifty years ago, which means that others force you into a role. The fact that it’s a stigmatized role doesn’t help.
If you do something age-appropriate, you’re reinforcing steretoypes. If you defy the stereotype, you run into the “dancing bear” phenomenon where people marvel not that you’re doing some, but that you’re doing it “at your age.”
Finally, you have the “been there, done that” effect. Yeah, I thought I was going to succeed with this book. Yeah, I just got started getting fit when I pulled a muscle and got out of shape because I couldn’t walk. Yeah, I’ve been on that trip …
If you’ve a novelty-seeker like I am, the third part comes especially hard. It’s like reading a formulaic novel when you can’t help knowing how it’s going to end.