I was talking to someone last week who told me that her life was not nearly as full and interesting as it used to be.

Monica (not her real name) was divorced just before Covid and retired recently. Her daughter and family now live in Australia and one of Monica’s best friends died last year, so it’s hardly surprising she’s feeling somewhat sad and lost.

Nowadays, it seems, she stays home alone most evenings, and worries that her existence no longer has much variety or joy in it.  She said: “Sometimes, I don’t feel like me anymore”. 

Her feelings probably resonate with those of many readers. Lots of us struggle to feel like our real selves at this time of life because it’s very up and down and uncertain. But what can we do about it? 

Well, there’s an exercise that can help. It involves getting in touch with a version of you that you liked and which felt normal, by recalling a period of your life some time ago that you enjoyed.

Often, people choose to go back around 10 years. 

The task is simply to write a list of points that demonstrate who you were at that time, what you were doing, and how you felt. And it’s important that you begin every item you recollect with the words: “I’m the sort of person who…”  

For example:  “I’m the sort of person who loved my job. I’m the sort of person who met my friends after work every Thursday. I’m the sort of person who regularly cooked meals from scratch for my family. I’m the sort of person who went to a jazz club occasionally. I’m the sort of person who travelled to football matches abroad. I’m the sort of person who still wore high heels”. 

When you’ve managed a dozen or so of these reflections, take a long look at what you’ve written. Does this sum up the person you were back then? And if it does, how different is it from how you are now?  

I suspect that people who have been through a lot of life’s reverses and unwanted change might feel, just like Monica, that they have lost much of their “get up and go” compared with how they were a decade or so ago. If you feel that way, please don’t beat yourself up over it.  We all do our best, but life can be seriously tough and challenging.  

Now it’s likely that you won’t be able to repeat some of the items on your list. If your family has left home for instance, you may never again cook for them on a regular basis. But no matter how things are at the moment, you almost certainly have the ability to make tweaks to how you live now that will boost your confidence and energy, introduce more variety into your routine, give you a sense of pride and help you to like yourself better.  

To assist you with that, I suggest you write another list. As before, every point should begin: “I’m the sort of person who …” but this time you should produce sentences that describe how, with some imagination and realistic effort, you can achieve a better version of your current situation and become more the man or woman you feel you should be.   

Would you perhaps like to be someone who swims in the sea every day? I know several people who do that in Felixstowe and swear they are fitter and happier for it. Do you want to find the courage to travel to places you’ve never been? Might you choose to learn to speak another language really well?

Could you be an individual who goes on walking holidays? Or someone who runs a supper club for neighbours, or is an active member of a stimulating organisation such as the WI or the local branch of U3A?  

Don’t rush. Just give yourself a chance to consider all the achievable ambitions that could transform your life into something that feels more appropriate for you.  

By this point in our lifespan alas, we know all too well that not everyone is granted the gift of old age.

We also recognise that we are the lucky ones because we still have life to look forward to – though we don’t know how long it will go on.

But whatever time we have left, and let’s hope it’s a good number of years, I think most of us want to feel that we are living our best lives for as long as we possibly can. 

You might like to know that Monica rang in very good spirits the other day, to let me know she had completed the exercise.

She laughed as she said: “It turns out I’m the sort of person who registers for internet dating and is going on a trip to Australia to see her grandchildren”! 

That’s a result, isn’t it? What sort of person could you be?