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By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.

Amidst the yards of fabric and glitter of jewels, the 81st Academy Awards might seem to be an unlikely place for 40-somethings or Sandwiched Boomers to look for role models. After all, the red carpet doesn’t exactly represent the clothes and shoes in our closets or the figures reflected back to us in our mirrors each morning. So what life lessons can we take from the Oscars? Instead of focusing on the fashions, lets look at the winners, nominees and 10 tips they provide.

1.Work around obstacles placed in your path. Well-known now is the saga of Slumdog Millionaire, which almost didn’t make it to the wide screens. The determination of director Danny Boyle and others connected with the film to find funding and a distributor after they lost their original backing led to the Oscar for best picture rather than directly to a place at the bottom of your queue at Netflix.  

2.Have a Plan B ready. What do you do when your original plans don’t work out? Give up in despair or brainstorm other means of getting to your goal? When you resolve to apply your energy and skills to get what you want, you will find that often the path of your Plan B ends at the same target you had in your sights. So when things don’t seem to be going your way, stick it out and give it another try. You may not become a millionaire, but you can become a winner in life.        

3.Look at life as a series of opportunities. Even host Hugh Jackman can teach us something about taking risks and going all out for something we believe in. As he revealed to Barbara Walters in his interview, he chose to define his pre-Oscar feelings as excitement not nervousness. Learn to redefine your own emotions and circumstances in a positive light.  

4.You don’t have to be perfect. One of the changes in the presentations this year was to have past winners of the major acting awards single out each nominee and acknowledge her unique performance. After years of hearing, “it’s just an honor to be nominated,” the Academy finally got it right. You don’t have to be the number one person to be pleased with your behavior and to consider yourself a success. You can feel good about your accomplishments even if you are not ultimately rewarded by being chosen the one and only.  

5.Don’t be afraid to admit your shortcomings. Kate Winslet won the best actress award for portraying a woman whose behavior leads to horrific consequences because she refuses to disclose her illiteracy. Recognize that others will be more accepting of your imperfections than you think if you trust them. At the same time, as in The Reader, be aware that unintended outcomes may have the same effect as planned ones.  

6.Trust yourself. The leading actress nominees portray strong women who continue to stand up for what they believe in, even when others do not. Angelina Jolie, faced with every mother’s nightmare, tirelessly works to find her son and then to bring to justice those responsible for his death and cover-up. Meryl Streep plays a nun who, even with some doubts and changing times, pursues her plans for what she thinks is right for the students in her school. Melissa Leo does what she can to protect her children, even though it means taking chances with her own future. And Anne Hathaway’s character fights to retain her newly growing strength even as family dynamics assault her fragile personality. So, hang in there as you too follow your own dreams.  

7.Be authentic and proud of whom you are. Portraying assassinated San Francisco supervisor, Harvey Milk, Oscar winner Sean Penn immerses himself in the vibrant personality of the first openly gay politician elected to public office. He reminds us to embrace ourselves, no matter what others think and whatever the consequences.

8.Keep on trying. In The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke personifies, in agonizing reality, the complexities of making a comeback, in love and in work. Throughout the missteps in his personal relationships and victories in the ring, his sense of decency doesn’t waver. You root for both Randy ‘The Ram’ and Mickey himself, telling them, “don’t give up, it’s never too late.”  

9.Conduct yourself honorably. Playing disgraced President Richard Nixon, Frank Langella personifies the arrogance of power. The viewer feels no moral ambiguity as Nixon, after Frost’s questioning, falls apart and declares, “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Vow not to let yourself make that kind of ethical compromise in your behavior.    

10.Be open to love and friendship. As Brad Pitt ages backwards, the two stable women in his life are his friend and true love, Daisy, and his adoptive mother, Queenie. Both women, and the relationships he shares with them, exemplify the timelessness of love. Rely on the support of dear friends and family to strengthen you though times “curious” and difficult. In The Visitor, Richard Jenkins gradually lets others into his life and, in the process, expands his world. His new friends lead to his awakening - sensually, ethically, musically, sexually - and free him from his cloistered existence. Enrich your own experiences through the gifts of friendship.

Although you likely do not live in any of the dramatic scenarios honored at the Oscars, the lessons they provide can help reduce the tensions you face caring for your family and yourself. And even if you are also in very high heels and a dress that is too tight, at least your balancing act is not in front of millions of viewers!  

© 2009,

Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. & Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are co-founders of [Link Removed] a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomer’s family relationships and publish a free newsletter, Stepping Stones, through their website.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Mar 1, 2009
    • I like your pointers and the 10 points.

      1.Work around obstacles placed in your path.
      2.Have a Plan B ready.
      3.Look at life as a series of opportunities.
      4.You don't have to be perfect.
      5.Don't be afraid to admit your shortcomings.
      6.Trust yourself.
      7.Be authentic and proud of whom you are.
      8.Keep on trying.
      9.Conduct yourself honorably.
      10.Be open to love and friendship.

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Mar 1, 2009
    • I think there were few 40 plus role models to look up to during this years Oscars, well, maybe not the one winning, but the ones presenting.

      Great article.

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Mar 2, 2009
    • I like this.
      (I’m wondering about 10 though. Who’s Daisy?)

      I think I read this at the perfect time as I’ve been questioning myself re new business ventures. I CAN DO IT! Thanks for reaffirming. estatic

            Report  Reply