The Greatest Gift – Liz Needleman BT Group Regional Director – Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50

Liz Needleman : BT Group Regional Director North

Getting older has never bothered me, aside from a minor blip when I was about to turn 40.  Happily it disappeared on the morning of my 40th birthday, which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant anti-climax.  Fifty was an excuse for numerous parties and despite Facebook sending me funeral ads, I didn’t really bat an eyelid.

I put this down to a number of factors: my husband is 9 years older than me, meaning I am a perpetual Spring chicken, relatively speaking; a group of wonderful life-long friends who both remind me of some of the idiocy of my youth as well as making sure we relive parts of it on a regular basis; and adult children who refuse to let me take myself too seriously.

There is one element to being over 50 however of which I am increasingly conscious : time speeds up.

By that I don’t mean ‘Gosh, hasn’t this year flown by?’ (although it has).  I mean that I realise that time is an increasingly precious commodity. I am much more aware of having to actively carve out time for the things that I want to do, otherwise days and weeks just sort of…go.

I was in my last organisation for a long time, and while I didundoubtedly learn and grow professionally, and enjoyed many happy years, I think it’s fair to say that my rate of development slowed down.  I felt very comfortable, and stopped thinking about the next step.  I was frenetically busy and dealing with multiple issues and challenges but stopped feeling any particular sense of achievement.  One month followed the next.

Joining BT last year, after 15 years out of the sector, has been very good for me.  It put me on a steep learning curve. I regained a sense of awareness of how much I had to learn, and a sense of wanting to make each day count.  I know that sounds pompous and I don’t mean it to – I suppose it’s just that going through a significant change professionally has refocused me.

This has bled into my personal life as well, helped partly I think by the experience of lockdown.  The first few months went by in a blur, and while I never subscribed to the belief that we should all take the opportunity to better ourselves by learning to paint or speak Chinese, I did feel I should use the time to do something.

The something ended up being the Couch to 5k.  My body is not a temple.  I like a glass of wine in the evening, followed by another, and the first few weeks were a far from joyful experience.  I plodded on however, both literally and metaphorically, and having completed it am still hauling myself round the park about 4 times a week.  (Gosh, you must have lost weight, I hear you all think – nope, not at all).  I do, however, very occasionally and for some fleeting moments, not completely hate it.

Where am I going with this?  My experience has not been unique and I have no blinding insights to astound you with, but I do feel that doing something new is increasingly important.  As much as anything else it stops you thinking that you can’t.

So in conclusion I would suggest you guard your time ferociously. Recognise it as the greatest gift you can give to someone or something, and be unapologetically selective. Bythe same token acknowledge and appreciate the time that people choose to share with you. And if you want to stay where you are in life because it suits you, then good for you, and I hope you do so happily and as an active choice. In my experience, it’s worth taking some of your valuable time to think about it.

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