I can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper without reading about Tiger Woods turning 40. The general perception is that his good days are behind him. Even in a sport like golf which doesn’t demand the speed or reflexes or youth of basketball and football, age is a limitation. Rare is the athlete who achieves any significant success in the world of sports after the age of 40; very rare.

And so, most of his dreams, the golf-related ones that is, will probably remain just that. It’s unlikely that he will surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record and it’s even unlikely that he will win more major championships. He will have to slink off into the sunset, with only his memory of those “Glory Days” that informed a popular Springsteen song.

If your life is about athletic success and only about athletic success, then the future does look grim. I don’t know what Tiger Woods real life is about, if he’s learned and grown from his experiences and become a deeper, more thoughtful human being (I certainly hope so), but we don’t have to sound the death knell upon turning 40. While I don’t buy the nonsense that “60 is the new 40” (60 is actually, well, 60!), there is still, with God’s help, a lot of life after 40 – and a lot of productive life, if we so choose.

Once the anxiety of youth passes and the need to “make it” and “prove ourselves” recedes, we can narrow our focus to what’s really important – our character, our relationships with family and friends, our connection to God and Torah. And in those areas, we can really thrive.

Our distractions should be fewer, our ability to concentrate greater. And our understanding oh so much deeper. Now our learning really means something to us. Now, with the passage of time and with wisdom gained, the ideas really resonate and take on new meaning. We see layers we didn’t see and appreciate wisdom we didn’t even notice. We may have more time to pursue our spiritual side or just may be more willing to recognize the necessity to do so.

Career success, while not irrelevant, takes a back seat to personal success – a good marriage, emotionally healthy children, loyal and trustworthy friends. Of course this should always have been true but let’s be honest. We were a little caught up in the rat race, in our accomplishments and in external measures of success. As we get older – for some it hits at 35 and some at 55, some at 20 and some at 40, the emptiness of these barometers becomes clearer and our inner lives take on greater importance.

This is one of the benefits of aging. It’s an opportunity to be grateful for. And we don’t want to waste it. We are all prone to looking in the mirror and bemoaning the “me” that once was. We’d be much better off taking advantage of the “me” that is. I can’t speak for Tiger Woods. Maybe he really does feel that 40 is his time to mourn what once was and what will never be again. Maybe 40 feels like a real ending to him.

I know that for most of us (if I can remember back that far!) it’s actually a real beginning.