Reinvent Your Life at 40: Welcome Ambition Back Into Your World

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Bulk Up Your Willpower

Willpower, long thought to be an infinite resource, is more like a muscle: It may tire, but you can make it stronger, says Roy Baumeister, professor of psychology at Florida State University. Here’s how.

1. Use nights to preplan: Make as many mundane choices about the next day as you can—what you’re going to wear, eat, etc. That way, you’ll save your decision-making energy for more important problems.

2. Pick a task that exercises your willpower—and do it daily: “Start making your bed or not swearing,” Baumeister says.

3. Then pick a new task: Once the good behavior becomes a habit—which takes an average of 66 days, according to one study—it doesn’t count as exercise anymore.

4. Don’t do these exercises if you’re already stressed: This is a helpful practice only if you’re not otherwise stretched. Do not attempt to train your willpower in the middle of a big work project.


Do a Retirement Checkup

By 45, you should have put away three times your current salary for retirement, according to a study from Fidelity Investments. If you haven’t, here are your options: Retire later, save more, earn more, spend less in retirement or get a higher rate of return on your portfolio.

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Take Courses to Figure Out Your Strategy

Kate Herzog: From call-center supervisor to global entrepreneur

“I’ve known since I was a little girl growing up in Ghana that I wanted to help the African poor, but I didn’t have the courage or know-how to do anything about it. When I hit 40, I felt a sense of urgency. I quit my job and enrolled in business school. The classes forced me to figure out my target market and how I would reach it. 

For the financing class, I took my business plan to an actual bank. The officer told me no bank would finance my business because of political instability in the countries I worked with, so I took money out of my savings to launch my dream: House of Talents, a business that connects more than 1,000 artisans in West Africa to consumers worldwide.”

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Get Paid What You’re Worth

Even women graduating with an MBA earn starting salaries that are, on average, about 7 percent less than those of their male counterparts. Why? One reason is that men are more likely to negotiate an offer. The takeaway: Maybe it’s time to ask your boss for an increase or to put on your negotiating hat for a job interview. Some tips from Margaret Neale, a professor of management at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business:

1. Package it: you frame your request in terms of a single issue—a higher salary, for instance—it becomes an adversarial battle. Ask instead for more staff, more funding for a marketing program, a company car and a bigger paycheck. Now you’re negotiating for a package of resources, an approach that tends to be viewed more positively.

2. Know your number: You have the Internet at your disposal, plus the power of social media. There is no reason to walk into a negotiation without knowing what other people in your position are earning. “Lots of women have said to me, ‘An employer asked what it would take, and I didn’t have an answer,’ ” Neale says.

3. Stop with the “me, me, me”: Old job or new, focus on what you need in order to do your job more effectively so you can better solve the organization’s problems. How will your package help you help your employer? Start there.


Expect to Be Cash Squeezed for the First Few Years

Ratna Anagol: From Publishing Exec To Owner Of A Dog-Training Center

“When I opened my dog-training franchise, Zoom Room, I had unrealistic expectations. I hoped to break even after one or two years. In truth, a small business takes time to grow. Luckily, at this point in my life, I had savings from my corporate job. I’ve now learned to set conservative goals so I will always be able to pay myself a salary.”

Related: Tap Into Your Passion

Next: Reinvent at 50: Accelerate Toward Your Dream

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First published in the February 2014 issue

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