Midlife women life changes

Midlife Opportunity Cost: How Minding Your Ps & Qs Can Change Your Life

Opportunity cost is what you give up when you choose one thing over another. It was an important and engaging economics lesson when I taught second grade. Now, as a solo retired woman, it’s an important ongoing consideration when I weigh my options in midlife.

Lisbon, Portugal

Most folks my age have heard the phrase “mind your Ps and Qs,” as a reminder to mind your manners. Some say the origin of this phrase dates back to early days of typography and printmaking, and referred to paying attention to details so you didn’t mix up the letters p and q. I’m talking about details, too, but my “Ps and Qs” refer to something else entirely.

I gave up the opportunity to live a certain lifestyle when I chose to retire solo at 59 and travel around the world by myself. I gave up the opportunity to be an ongoing solo traveler when I chose to stay put and save for a future move to Portugal at 65. And I’m now giving up the opportunity to pursue future whiskey plans here at home because I’m choosing to take advantage of the unexpected ability to move to Portugal this year, ahead of plan, at 62. Making these choices and evaluating their opportunity costs keep me mindful of a set of Ps and Qs that are critical to happiness and authentic living in midlife and retirement.

Sesimbra, Portugal


Give yourself permission to change the life you’re living so you can live a life you love. This is the first and most important choice, and its opportunity cost – what you give up when you choose to give yourself this permission – is unhappiness. This choice is a no-brainer.

My Instagram profile page at


There is no wrong time to take the right path. And there is no single right path. There shouldn’t be any pressure to pursue a single purpose or passion. Allow yourself to embrace discovery and become comfortable with not knowing. In his post on Pointless Overthinking, Andrew writes about “Living in the Mystery,” and quotes poet John Keats’s term “negative capability,” which refers to the capacity to be comfortable with the unknown. Andrew writes of his heart pleading for him “to venture onto the pathless path.”

“As we step into the mystery, novel possibilities unfold. Creativity emerges giving birth to new ways of being.”

Living in the Mystery

Let yourself dwell in possibilities of unknown paths. I retired in 2019 and have already taken three different paths exploring different passions and purposes. I ventured onto the path of solo traveler, then veered onto the path of whiskey intern, and now I’m on a path to expat in Portugal. There’s an opportunity cost at each turn, but all these paths can still cross again and may merge into one. I don’t know, and I’m excited by the mystery of it.

“(Negative Capability is) when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”

John Keats


I overplan, overthink, over-prepare for everything that can possibly go wrong, and then worry about things not going according to plan. This is incredibly stressful, yet it also calms me by helping me feel ready for anything. A business acquaintance recently reminded me to rein in my worries by framing my worst-case scenarios in monetary terms. While inconvenient, disappointing, and potentially costly, none of my worst-case scenarios will destroy me financially. I can recover…and form a new plan. Remind yourself of your options, then let yourself be comfortable with changes in plan.

Author Tahmima Anam, written for the character Asha Ray in The Startup Wife, an NPR Best Book of the Year


When you pivot you adapt by changing or modifying something. Knowing when to pivot – and the opportunity costs involved – is essential to living a happy life, but it requires flexibility, an awareness of timing, and a willingness to let go.


I recently had the same “personal branding” discussion with two different national companies that had reached out to me earlier with potential marketing opportunities. One opportunity was based on my “personal brand” as an over-60, single, Black female solo traveler; the other relied on my “personal brand” as an over-60 whiskey intern and distillery worker.

(I’m using quotation marks here because – despite my post-retirement digital marketing certification and additional classes from Wharton, my Northwestern alma mater Medill, and the University of Virginia – I’ve realized that I think “personal branding” is a lot of hooey, and I want nothing to do with digital marketing. There’s a pivot.)

I had to explain to marketing reps at each of these national brands that my “personal brand” is a midlife woman who’s given herself permission to pivot in pursuit of possibilities. There’s no one possibility. There’s no one plan. There’s no one path…no one purpose…no one passion. My pivots come with an opportunity cost of something I’m having to give up – for now. I’m fine with that, because pivoting is powering up my dreams for living a joyful, authentic life. It doesn’t get better than that. Be comfortable with making bold pivots.


Sometimes, you just have to put stuff on hold because the opportunity cost of choosing something is having to press pause and postpone next steps for something else. I pressed pause on doing more travel until after I accomplish my relocation to Portugal, where it will be cheaper to travel to many destinations on my list. Timing required me to pause my whiskey dreams at a local distillery’s future new facility, but timing is fluid and being on hold doesn’t mean I can’t press play at some point. Don’t be afraid to pause your pursuits.

Cascais, Portugal


Quitting has a negative connotation and none of us wants to be called a quitter. But I say quitting is key when it’s strategic and serves a purpose. Quitting one thing and leaving it behind is the opportunity cost of freedom to do something else. Be brave enough to call it quits if that’s what’s needed to make progress.


Quieting our negative self-talk can be the hardest task of all. But we must muzzle the critical chatter that fills our heads with doubt and causes us to dericide our choices. I can really beat myself up when my choices and paths don’t take me in the direction I planned. I can second-guess my strategies and find fault with my evaluations of opportunity costs. I can ridicule my own thinking and convince myself that my pursuits are absurd. But now I tell myself to be quiet. “Natalie, be quiet,” I say out loud, and then I ask her what she’s afraid of. Because this kind of talk is always rooted in fear, and the fear is almost always of failure. Quiet your negative chatter by naming your fear. Remember that in proper doses, some fear is good. It can keep you alert and responsive. But no amount of self-criticism is ever good. So quiet that voice in your head, because it’s an asshole.

Azeitao, Portugal

Last Words

Changing your life in midlife is all about paying attention to the little things and making choices that are right for you. Minding these Ps and Qs can help when figuring out those choices, their opportunity costs, and what will bring you happiness.

Mind Your Ps & Qs
  • Give yourself permission to change the life you’re living so you can live a life you love.
  • Take the “pathless path.”
  • Be comfortable with changing your plan.
  • Pivot boldly.
  • Don’t be afraid to pause your pursuits.
  • Be brave enough to quit to make progress.
  • Quiet the negative voice in your head.
Sintra, Portugal

All images are my own.

The Hot Goddess


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  1. Oh Natalie, your timing is impeccable! I’m retiring in April and fear has it’s grip on me – “am I doing the right thing”, “is it the right time”, “am I really ready financially”. I think the best line I read here is “quiet that voice in your head, because it’s an asshole”!!! Yes!!! I will be coming back to this list of P’s &Q’s quite often, Thank You!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh boy Sharon, can I relate! Thank you so much for commenting 💜. I’m glad you connected with the post. I love that line from Dan Harris, in his book 10% Happier. It’s my favorite line too!


  2. I suspect the distillery would welcome you back if you pivoted again. You are not burning bridges, just crossing a different one as you continue your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this! So important to stay flexible and to pivot when circumstances, needs, desires change. Key to success in work life and just as important in retirement! You rock, Hot Goddess.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great word, Natalie! There is so much to digest in this post. I could make a vision board on this one alone and be perfectly inspired and motivated👍🏾

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent post and advice! I love how you are embracing flexibility and a willingness to change your path, pivot, pause or even quit. I recently did a meditation that focused on the concept that saying no to one thing is saying yes to something else. I admire your openness and it encourages me to dream big! Best Wishes! Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There are a lot of wise words here but my favourite are: Personal branding is a lot of hooey. Truer words have never been spoken. I am so sick of the word brand and branding when it is used in conjunction with human beings. We are not products we are people.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Natalie! Reading this made the same wave of feelings come over me near the end of a great movie. For 2 hours, I’d put myself in place of the heroine whose dream comes true. Now that it’s over, I have to get back to my life.

    You are a fantastic model to learn from. I can’t get enough of reading about the experiences that have shaped you. 🌹🌹

    Quitting is quitting, perhaps. There’s always a takeaway… usually knowledge.

    Quitting can be a detour, too, to all the good things that are meant just for you.

    Bom Caminho.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post Natalie!

    I love how you describe your p’s and q’s. My favorite is pivot. Knowing when and how to pivot is the tricky part. For me, I retired from a job that no longer brought me joy. Now, I am more authentic as I blog and write my little heart out! Your point on “pause” was also on target. That is a tough one for me. I need to get better at it.

    Being open to opportunities allows us to walk through a door to the unknown. And, that sure sounds fun to me!

    Thanks for letting me be in your tribe!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “personal brand” is a midlife woman who’s given herself permission to pivot in pursuit of possibilities. There’s no one possibility. There’s no one plan. There’s no one path…no one purpose…no one passion. My pivots come with an opportunity cost of something I’m having to give up – for now. I’m fine with that, because pivoting is powering up my dreams for living a joyful, authentic life. It doesn’t get better than that. Be comfortable with making bold pivots. ” – Loved this , at 37, I recently quit my long corporate career to invest in myself as an intuitive guide and Tarot practitioner, I am coming out with my first book next month. This blog resonated with me deeply, I am inspired by you. Continue to write and share. I would love to connect more with you and share and learn. thorvimdamle@gmail.com is my mail id, please do drop in a mail if you feel like connecting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this, Natalie! I nodded in agreement the whole time. Good for you and congrats on the recent decision! I’ll be sharing that quote about pivoting on IG soon. That’s the second time I’ve heard that specific message this week. I typically work in threes, though. As in, if I hear it a third time, then it’s a clear sign.

    Liked by 1 person

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