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My Wish for You in Your Second Half of Life

Hand Holding Dandelion
Photo by Coley Christine on Unsplash

From one woman to another, this is my wish for you in our second half of life.

My wish is that you feel like you’re moving toward something meaningful and exciting, not just toward the end.

My hope is that this can be a different type of building phase, unlike the building you did in your first half.

If I could wave a magic wand, this time would be inner driven.

Returning to the essential you

You’ve followed the outward driven path – family, career, the hopes and expectations of others. You’ve cared, cleaned, cooked; worked in and outside of the home. You’ve worked for wages; you’ve worked for causes. You always do what needs to be done.

Now it’s time to return to the essence of who you are and why you’re here. It’s time to uncover your creative spirit and unfurl your Multidimensional Life. And by a Multidimensional Life I mean uncovering the inner pieces of you that got buried in the day-to-day busyness and to-do lists.

And, yes, I know you’re a responsible, efficient woman and that uncovering your Multidimensional Life won’t be to the exclusion of family, friends and obligations. But wouldn’t it feel great to add in – even if only in small steps – those things that make your heart sing?

Where to start?

One small step to start you off could be pursuing an interest left behind in the busy first half of life.

Like the woman who knew she didn’t want to – couldn’t – continue the career she’d had for decades. One day she stepped outside her house, looked up at the sky and said, “So, tell me world, what do I do now!” The answer popped into her head to take out her camera and start taking pictures. She had gotten into this when she was in high school and college, even developing her own pictures. But she left it behind in the career and family hustle and while she took great photos of her kids and vacations, she never considered herself a “photographer”.

Now she began to experiment, take classes, play with images. Maybe she could put up a website and start by taking professional head shot photos for business people because she knew that world. In small steps she moved ahead, finding her likes and preferences in subjects and finding the best places to have prints made. She began to soften to the idea that maybe she was a “photographer”.

She’s not sure where this will lead and has let herself be okay with not knowing. She is getting comfortable with the unknown. She is living in the creative process of unfurling layers of her Multidimensional Life, a path that’s misty but full of adventure. At the same time, she continues to consult in her old industry. So, there’s the practical and efficient coexisting with a dream.

What happens when you start?

Returning to those old interests brings out “tribes” of fellow travelers that you didn’t know were there. They, in turn, enrich and expand your world. They are chosen, not thrust upon you.

What I wish for you is a MD life that expands you to the limit that is perfect for you and just a toe length more. Because as it expands, it increases its ability to expand.

If this is what you wish for yourself but feel like you have no time for it or that time spent on yourself is selfish, carve out 30 minutes and contact me for a chat. Put yourself to the top of your checklist.

Grinds and Gifts

Dude With 'Tude
Dude with ‘Tude original art by Donna Mills at donnamillsart.com

You’ve made the journey into your 40’s and beyond. There have been grinds as well as gifts. The former is easy to recall, the latter often goes unacknowledged.

You’ve had a successful career, maybe raised a family, given your time to causes that align with your personal values and so much more.

You are quite amazing.

And yet there are times when you wonder what else there is. What’s next. There’s a vague sense of wanting. A grain of sand in your spiritual sneaker. After all, you’ve done these things for so long, what else could you possibly do? What are you prepared for outside of this career, industry, your home, community?

Life is good

Overall, life is good, you remind yourself. Who am I to want more? Who would want me now? Do I have what it takes to try something new? I wish I had done something else when I was younger. Maybe I should just wait it out, coast along until retirement. I’ll think about this another time.

You bank these questions on the back burner of your heart. But every now and then, in the course of your busy life, they reach out and tap you on the shoulder.

I hear you and if I could pass on just one nugget of wisdom before I leave this worldly adventure, it would be to assure you that you have a rich, sparkling vein of gold in you. I would tell you that everything you’ve done in life – paid and unpaid, at home or in the workplace – has given you an enormous stockpile of skills and knowledge for whatever you want to come next.

I know. I had those thoughts on my back burner, too.

The vein of gold

But here’s what I found out: What I thought was a grind, had a sweet gift in its center.

The grinds: The slog of going to work every day, year in and year out, when I didn’t feel like it, when I was tired and cranky. Fixing problems not of my making. (Ever feel like the sweeper behind the circus elephant?) Working with difficult people; managing difficult people.

The gifts: I have discipline. I can stick to something even when “I just don’t wanna.” I’m good at problem solving; I’m a good listener. I can distill a tricky situation down to its elements and figure out how to put them back in a way that works better. I’ve learned ways to deal with difficult people. I know that I don’t like to be a manager but I’m a good teacher and mentor. I’ve learned so much about myself and what my natural talents are. I learned that I can be successful in an environment that’s not a good match for me, but that the cost may be higher than I care to pay.

I can now bring order and discipline to my own business (although I’m still wrestling with how much is too much.) My problem solving and listening skills have translated into coaching skills as I listen deeply to what my clients are saying – and not saying – and help them get to the heart of their dreams and goals, find creative solutions and take the steps toward those dreams.

I also know that I can take these skills and so many others acquired over a long work life and apply them to other situations to assure a successful outcome.

You can too.

Recapturing your essence

This isn’t necessarily about career changes or 180˚ life changes. This is about discovering the multidimensional you and recapturing the essence of who you are. It’s about first small questions and first small steps.

First small question: ask yourself what it is that you love about what you’ve been doing. Not job specific but rather you specific. Your skills and gifts. Did you love working with different groups of people? Small groups? Large groups? One to one? Did you prefer the numbers folks or the creatives? Did you enjoy training your staff or mentoring new employees? What innate skills served you well? Your writing, creative eye, problem solving? Remember to ask the questions often and let the answers come gradually.

Then a small step: begin to assemble a list of grinds and gifts, a few at a time, over the course of a few days. Create a resume of these non-job specific traits and skills and begin to look at them differently. Where else could you use them? Who could benefit from what you know? What would be fun? Make a long list and include those things that seem crazy.

You will see in black and white just what you’re capable of, how resilient you are, what you like and don’t like, how you can get through a difficulty and come out on the other end.

The gift

This is the gift of decades of life and work. And from where you stand now, there are more decades when all these skills, this mountain of self-knowledge can be re-purposed. And this time it will be an even better fit. This is the path of your Multidimensional Life unfolding before you.

You’ve struck a vein of gold.

p.s. If you would like my kind and loving eye looking with you at where you’ve been and how that can support where you want to go, let’s work together. Contact me here to request a consultation. The world needs more of who you are!

Ideas, Dreams and Threads (Pamela)

Ideas Dreams Threads

She was fresh out of college, full of ideas and dreams. Pamela didn’t have a specific career in mind. She had majored in Liberal Arts, studied Spanish and comparative literature and later taken English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

While in school she had the opportunity to spend a summer in Spain and France. She got to immerse herself in the local culture and observed how she really enjoyed the mundane everyday bits of life, like going to the market. She found it and liked the challenge. It took her beyond being a tourist and allowed her to be a local, to sop up real life.

Her someday dream was to live overseas. But, in the meantime, like most of us, she needed a day job.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” *

Pamela started at one of the Bell companies in sales. They had an international presence and she thought that might be an avenue to get overseas. This was part of her  “someday” dream.

She also got married and had a daughter. The young family had a five-year plan, but, as so often happens, life took over.

And, as women are wont to do, she made compromises. She adapted.

A successful woman

In retrospect, Pam readily acknowledges that she had a great career. She is a smart and savvy woman. Not surprisingly, her favorite role was one in which she needed to become an expert in import/export regulations and procedures. It gave her the opportunity to learn international law. She had to deal with international trade across multiple countries. And, yes, she got to travel.

But, the more successful she became, the less freedom she had. It gradually ebbed away and she became a workaholic. There was a time when she was able to work from home and that helped bring some balance into life. But that didn’t last. It became increasingly apparent that work was beginning to interfere with life.

Sometimes that realization comes as a gradual awakening; other times it’s a whack on the side of the head. Either way, it gets our attention. If we are awake and paying attention, solutions present themselves.

Now what??

Like many large companies and retirement eligibility, Pam’s had certain formulas in place that took into consideration age and length of service. At the same time, a favorable interest rate environment presented Pam with an attractive pension opportunity. The decision to retire was a quick one. She grabbed it.

However, she was not mentally prepared. After all, “how does one go from a 24/7 work environment, fast paced, “married to my job”, high energy to retirement”? Now what, she wondered.

Old ways of being are carved deep on our souls and Pam was faced with a new challenge. Learning how to learn to relax battled against the habit of being busy. She grappled with the shock of going from an intense work/social environment to nothing. She certainly knew how to fill her time – three book clubs, the YMCA three days a week, some classes. Loading her calendar was a familiar – and comfortable – pattern.

Listening to her heart

It took a long time to find a level of satisfaction. Eventually, Pam was able to articulate what she wanted:

  • A good ongoing volunteer opportunity
  • Someone to play with
  • Places that contributed to health, relaxation, exercise and socialization

Oh, remember back to Pam’s college days? ESL? And about solutions presenting themselves when we’re paying attention? One day a friend suggested she look into Literary Volunteers of Morris County. It piqued her interest and she went a little further.

She followed her intuition; heeded her natural creative process. She volunteered and organized a conversation class. She got to select news articles and themes to discuss. She researched and presented cultural and historical subjects. Election day inspired a class on the American election process. She used other current events and “mundane” everyday things to stimulate conversation. There was a group that met for lunch, sharing the cuisine of their native country.

In the process, Pam got to enhance her own learning, have cross cultural exchanges, play and socialize while immersing herself in international flavors and staying close to home.

The Thread

And there was the thread that connected to her young dreams.

In the beginning, Pam never envisioned a corporate career. Her interests were language, literature, intellectual stimulation, cross cultural experiences.

In the end, she found fulfillment and enrichment and intellectual stimulation through LVMC students in and outside the classroom, socializing at lunch, developing close familial connections, all the pieces of everyday cross-cultural, mundane life that had intrigued her.

Finding the thread of yearning in your life and figuring out how it can be fulfilled today is part of the work I do when I work with clients to create their Multidimensional lives. It could be a second (or third) career. It can be volunteer work or just rediscovering an old passion. It is recovering old dreams or finding new ones and living from the inside out.

* Various attributions – John Lennon, Allen Saunders, Earl Wilson. Regardless, it’s a great sentiment!

Refurbishing Our Minds

Refurbishing Our Minds

Have you ever considered that our minds can be refurbished? A little tune-up in midlife? When we do – when we take the time to do the work – the whole world sparkles with newness.

It was a line, toward the end of a newspaper article, that caught my eye.

“… a certain dullness of thought that gathers over time if we make no serious efforts to refurbish our minds.”

It pulled up a chair, made a home in my brain and started a conversation.

It was buried in a review in our local paper of an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris that was called “Bacon: Books and Paintings”. The display consisted of the artist’s later works and, interestingly, the books that he notes as important influences on his life. The reviewer was so-so about the exhibit and I was quite sure I wouldn’t be attending but it was the idea of books influencing the painting that drew me into the article.

And then that statement.

Ruts and Routines

What a great description of a rut and of the hazards we can so easily fall into in middle age and beyond.

Think about it. By the time we’re in our 40’s and 50’s, we have become quite settled in our routines. Unless something dramatic happens, we do the same work every day. If we go out to do this work, we often take the same route or the same train. The 7:12 into Penn Station carries the same folks every day. We nod in recognition before we go back to our newspaper or smart phone. We gradually notice when they’re missing but don’t give it a lot of thought. We’re on auto-pilot.

We do the same on the reverse trip. On the weekends we dash to the same markets and see the same friends and go to the same handful of restaurants.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is comfort and a good dash of sanity in routine. My hand is raised in solidarity. But I have found that when the rut grows too deep, it blocks out the view of other possibilities and dulls our imagination. The windows of our soul cry out for a little Windex.

Refurbishing our minds

But, refurbishing our minds. I thought about how I had gone through a refurbishing process several times already in my life and what a good description of what I do with my clients.

Refurbishing doesn’t have to be a “tear down to the studs and rebuild” like my sister’s doing with her house. It can be a simple “paint the bathroom cabinets and get new hardware” like I’m planning to do.

Because, first and foremost, refurbishing is about waking up and seeing where we are. It’s about cleaning off the dull finish and tending to what is beneath the accumulated grime. It’s about small questions and small steps that build and take you where you need to go.

Take those cabinets in my bathroom. I’ve seen them every day until, eventually, I stopped seeing them. Until I looked at them with an eye to what I might have to do if I wanted to put my house on the market. The view cleared.

Take a close look

What would you see if you truly looked at your routine? At your state of mind? At your dreams and plans? Would it be satisfying? If so, great. Marinate in that feeling; consciously appreciate it. It will become even more satisfying.

Or, is it too painful to look? Full of remorse and lost dreams? Does it feel like a tear down and start from scratch? That’s overwhelming and for that I would suggest some talk therapy which can make worlds of difference.

Maybe you’re somewhere in between. That’s where most of us are.

Overwrite the old ruts

The good news is that that’s fixable. Minds can be refurbished. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You didn’t create that rut in a day and you won’t eliminate it that quickly either. In fact, you won’t eliminate it at all. You will overwrite it. You’ll choose a new path which might be poorly lit at first. There will be some trial and error.

It can start with very little effort – a different route home, trying a new restaurant, watching a movie or reading a book in a genre you’ve never tried. These beginning, conscious steps will lead to more. Ask a small question: what can I do today that’s out of my normal? Keep asking. When you take these initial small steps, you begin to realize that there’s so much more to life than your rut. You cease living in a one-dimensional life and uncover the multidimensional you.

Another thing about refurbishing is that it presumes you have something worthwhile to restore. You do. And when you do – when you take the time to tend to your Multidimensional Life – the world looks new. Even the poorly lit path holds excitement and a sense of adventure. You feel the shackles drop off you; bindings loosen. Where you felt like you had nothing to move toward, you see multiple possibilities.

I speak from experience.

There’s an adventure ahead

When you choose to carve a new path, it will be an expedition into the unknown riches that exist within you. The process is a reward in itself. This is just one aspect of a Multidimensional Life.

You may not hang in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but oh, what a masterpiece you’ll be!

A Different Retirement Planning

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

What shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think to ask. ~ Sam Keen

Let’s turn retirement planning on its head. Or maybe just on its side. Let’s bring it down to reality and by reality I mean what is real for you. Traditionally, retirement planning has been about the money. It’s about a magic number to strive for. It brings up anxiety around whether it’s enough. And, if we think it’s not enough, we worry about how to get to that magic number. As a result, we often double down on our work, forgo personal time, grow a someday/maybe list, or put off for the things that are meaningful because they don’t contribute to that number. We experience stress and all the accompanying gifts that that brings.

Traditional Retirement Planning.

As I moved through my career, the retirement planning world came into prominence for the regular working person. IRA accounts, 401k allocations. New investors poured into mutual funds. As a result, the stock market boomed with these new investments. New careers were built around this segment of financial planning.

And this is all good.

Don’t get me wrong. Tending to your finances is important. It’s prudent. Because if you don’t sit down and look them square in the eye you may be in for some surprises.

However, as I approached my 50th birthday and saw the vague outline of retirement out on the horizon, I realized that it was not all about the money. Sure, I’d love to have a $1 million + retirement fund. Who wouldn’t?

Being called to a truer self

But I didn’t want to be a slave to this goal. There was something else that was important and needed serious attention.

That something was me.

A clock was ticking and the question it was beating into me was: when will you do what you say you want to do? When will you start living from the inside out instead of the other way around. My creativity was stifled and it was slowing killing me, from the inside out.

I was being called to be a truer version of myself.

Non-traditional Retirement Planning

I was being called to craft a multidimensional life in which the things that are urgent are woven into the things that were important, not the other way around. For me, the important things are writing, my garden, moving my body. It’s about exploring art, connecting more with nature and the people around me. It is also doing meaningful work as a coach and a writer to help others craft the life that brings them joy, meaning and fulfillment. Whatever that might be for them.

This is the kind of planning that needs to come first. Know who you want to be, how you want to live, what is important and what can be whittled away. Then absolutely look at the financial side.  Because now, you’re better informed as to what you need.

Start early

The first steps into retirement don’t happen after the gold watch and bye-bye luncheon. They begin now, wherever you are in your journey of life.

They begin with a question:

What is most important to me now and as I transition into the next stage of life.

Ask the question and then listen as ideas emerge. Capture the ideas. Let them settle in. Decide on a small step to get going. Then prepare for an exciting adventure.

Because retirement is not an ending. It’s not heading out to the pasture. It is the beginning of a vital, important stage of life that will cover decades. It is a rich Third Age.

I’ve told you what’s important to me. Now, it’s your turn. What would be a satisfying next stage of life for you? Let me know in the comments.

The Midlife Journey and Opening Doors

Transitions And Closed Doors

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.  Helen Keller

Reading this quote led me to think of how, in midlife, we begin to feel the unease of change and the belief that too many doors are closing. Each time I read it, I get an immediate visual of someone looking longingly at a closed door, looking backwards at what’s done and gone. It may be that she’s not ready or willing to face what’s ahead. Or perhaps she’s not even aware that there is another door beckoning.

That makes me sad.

Our Options

When life hits us with challenges and changes it certainly feels like doors have closed and options are evaporating. And sometimes we’re too tired to go searching for the newly opened doors. I get that. And, while it may not always feel believable, what I do know is that we always do have choices, also known as doors.

We can:

Ignore the open door. Or continue to believe that there are no open doors for us. Feel sadness and despair.

See the door but feel fear about walking through it. Do nothing. More sadness.

See the door. Or doors. (There may be several.) Pause and step through with understanding.

That pause in the last option is a rich one.

A Potent Pause

A pause can be minutes, days or longer and here is what I have found to be true about it:

  • A pause is a rich time when we listen to our thoughts, observe and feel our way to choices. Because there are always choices. We can make them actively or passively, but they are always there.
  • It’s a period to process and integrate what has passed. When we do so, we can regroup, refresh and reorient ourselves to what lies ahead.
  • For me, pausing enables me to set aside my impatience and be objective and observant. I have aha moments and my body cues me as to the best direction.

What I’ve learned

As we listen deeply during a pause, we begin to understand that the first attempt might not be the final and that’s okay. At the same time, we know that inaction is rarely good. I’ve learned that life is full of trial and error and that we always have a second chance (or a third or fourth!) until our time on earth is over.

Life has taught me this many times. It’s why I pause. It’s how I remember what I know. When I believe there are open doors, they appear. When I trust my inner voice, I make wiser decisions. Those decisions are always the best for me at the moment. It may not always be what I expected. I leave myself open to wonder and surprise and I know there will be more doors.

Are you working through changes and looking for open doors?  I can help you with that. Contact me and together we will shine the light on the door that has opened just for you.

 

Finding the Incredible You

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

– Carl Sagan

If you live in New Jersey, road work is a fact of life. The sun rises, Taylor pork roll is fried and the road crews set up for the day. Something is always being taken apart and put back together; milled and paved; big projects (think new bridges), small projects (paving your street…in fact, they just set up camp at the end of your driveway.) Detour signs take us on new roads, concrete partitions (ironically called Jersey barriers) shunt us from lane to lane, sometimes leaving our desired point of exit in the rear-view mirror. We’re used to it. We don’t particularly care for it, but we’re used to it.

I have found that the path through life can present similar obstacles. Yes, I know that the idea of life as a highway isn’t new. The journey, the road, the way. But it’s still a good analogy.

And the idea of waking up to the best on-ramp to your next stage of your life? A good parallel and oh, so necessary. (I prefer the idea of an on-ramp. It feels like movement to something new rather than an off-ramp which feels like the journey is over.)

My Goal

What I have learned is that if you don’t look ahead and form even the slightest idea of your desired destination, you’ll end up on an eternal round-about. Have you ever gotten stuck on one of those? So frustrating.

For me, the goal is and continues to be to building and maintaining an on-ramp to each next stage of my life. It started as an unconscious yearning close to twenty years ago. Since then, I’ve had to make several U-turns. I got proficient at driving in reverse. I learned to pay better attention to where I was and where I was going. (Believe it or not, I have missed work exits, not once but several times. Being attentive really helps!)

You plan ahead for a road trip, right? Why not do a little for your one, precious life? Seriously, where is the benefit in the struggle?

If we stay with the analogy of the road and visualize the crisscrossing winding arrays of possible directions, here are a few things to consider:

The speed at which you’re traveling.

Like the White Rabbit who’s always in a hurry, are you always in motion? No time, no time…  What might you be missing as you rush through life? Possibilities can be hidden in plain sight as you speed by.

Take the time to pause and listen to the quiet voice inside that is nudging you in your best direction. Be curious about where you’re going and understand that it is an unfolding process.

What you bring along.

What are you toting around in your bag, backpack, trunk of your car, the untended places of your heart? The old messages about what you can and can’t do; should and shouldn’t do. The ballast that weighs you down. The rules of the road that don’t work anymore.

What is one small thing you can offload now?

The clarity of the view

Sometimes we drive along squinting through our windshield, when all we need is a little Windex.

What are the things you say to yourself that get in the way of what’s in front of you? What old beliefs are coloring your current experiences? Are they true? Maybe they were then, but are they still?

What might clear that view, even if just for a mile at a time?

A vision of where you’re going

 Even if your vision of the journey is not fully formed, there is usually an overarching element in your yearning that is non-negotiable. Freedom, beauty, creative expression, relationships, family, out-reach, advocacy.

When you know what is essential, you will tune in to the possibilities that will provide those elements.

The Goal

The goal in all this is to home in to your personal journey so you are able to recognize your on-ramp to what is next for you. Pausing and considering your direction will set you up for a rich and meaningful next part of the road, your second half of life, retirement or whatever is next for you.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate strategy. It definitely shouldn’t be overwhelming. It should always be a work in progress.

What part of the incredible you is waiting to be known? Contact me to find out how I can help.

Flowing Like a Mighty Wind

Many people live their lives struggling against the current, while others use the flow like a mighty wind.

~ Madyson Taylor, The Daily Om

Midlife. It brings the inevitability of change as well as the quest for wholeness. When you enter wholeheartedly into both you will slip into the current and flow like a mighty wind.

Change is a fact of life, regardless of age. We have no control over it. But the quest for wholeness is something I have found to be more pressing as I move into midlife and beyond. If I resist the former and ignore the latter, life becomes a struggle. It can actually be physically painful as I tense my muscles, eat poorly, bind myself to my work and ignore the multidimensional life that is calling me.

The quest for wholeness

Reaching for wholeness is a normal part of this time of life. It’s gathering together all of the disparate pieces that have been strewn across the first half. It is combining your creativity and dreams with the resources and skills you’ve acquired over the years to shape something greater and truer.

It’s also an exercise in pulling ourselves out of the eddies of the opinions and expectations of the world at large and checking in with the inner world of your essence. Who am I at my most basic self? What do I know now? What’s important to me now? What delights me? What do I do well? How can I transform this knowledge into a current and flow like the mighty wind?

The inevitability of change

As much as we think things stay the same, change is constant. Minute by minute, often invisible, right in front of our eyes.

Here’s another quote. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)

Clearly, the great mystery of life is that it is lived in an always flowing stream of change. We are one person with one set of ideas at one age, and then, when we look back years later, discover that we became another person at another age. The only certainty about it is the fact that we ourselves decide both what we are now and what we intend to become. And we make that decision one choice at a time.

~ Joan Chittister

What I know to be true for me is that when I cling to what has been, I miss out on the possibilities of what could be and I struggle. If I don’t consciously decide both who I am now and who I intend to become, I struggle. But when I allow myself to flow with change – and I don’t mean the leaf in a babbling brook – with my hand on the rudder, making choices rather than having choices foisted on me, ah, then the struggle drops and I revel in the wind at my back.

These active choices and decisions are unique for each of us and when we flow with it, we are better situated to find that wholeness we seek.

Navigational aids

There are ways to step into the slipstream. Here are a few of my best practices:

Ask a Small Question

The work of reconciling to change and returning to your true self can be daunting. A small question can make it so much more manageable.

However, there is an art to it. You want to elicit curiosity and surprise. One element to consider is the scope. What is one thing I know now that I didn’t know before? Limiting the request to just one thing takes away the overwhelm of life’s great questions.

Another element is letting go of the need for an immediate answer. If you ask the question, the brain will begin to work on it. Straining for an answer will often produce an edited version of the truth or an old story. Allow yourself to be curious about what comes up and tune in to what feels right.

And, finally, consider formulating your question as a how or what instead of a why.  Why often produces reasons why you can’t; asking how and what will offer ways that you can.

Listen

Once the question is asked, open up to possible answers.

One of my favorite things to do with a small question is to take it out for a walk, preferably a solitary walk. (In bad weather I take it for a spin on the treadmill. Not as refreshing but it still works!) You’ve probably had the experience of an aha moment as you walk, drive, do the dishes or take a shower (Consider investing in tub crayons for those moments of brilliance.) You know it works. So put that experiential knowledge to work. Ask the question as you set out and then enjoy the scenery or the bubbles. At the same time, ratchet up your awareness and don’t discount any ideas or thoughts or objects that come into your line of sight. Say hmm… instead of nah.

Capture the Responses

Asking the questions and listening (whether while walking or driving or waking) is part of this adventure. You then need a way to capture what emerges. Doing that lets you go deeper and integrates your findings into your inner conversation. The answers that arise can also lead to more questions and your journey will become clearer.

One of the ways I do this is to use the voice recorder on my phone as I walk or drive (hands-free, of course). I also journal, make notes on a pad or post-it or use the notes app on my phone. I do this so I will remember.

Use whatever action that will help you remember, take you further along in the conversation and give you access to that current and your essential self as you navigate the journey into midlife and beyond.

The more I work with these tools, the more responsive they become. For instance, when preparing for a presentation I ask a small question (What is one thing that will be impactful?  What is one way to make it fun?) I go about my day. I listen. The script is then downloaded, quite effortlessly!

It’s almost magic!

As always, if you need a guide or a nudge contact me to find out how I might you help navigate this rich time of life.

What to do when what you’ve always done doesn’t do it for you anymore

Discover Possibilities In Midlife

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.– Thomas Edison

Do you feel like possibilities are dwindling in midlife?

You’ve been doing what you’re doing for 30 years or so. There was a time when you were passionate about it. You leaped out of bed in the morning ready to conquer the world. Can you remember that? You were a crusader. There were windmills to tilt at. You were learning tons of new things and gobbling up new experiences.

Now, you’ve hit a certain age and you feel like your spark has gone out. At a minimum, the pilot light is flickering. How do you find new possibilities?

Something has shifted.

As a result, it’s gotten harder to drum up the enthusiasm that had once filled you up. Now many mornings bring dread instead of excitement.  Something has shifted. Is it just you?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve been there myself.

Wayne Dyer said “change your thoughts, change your life.” I used to think that meant I had to change the way I thought about my career. And while that might work for some, it didn’t work for me. For me, in midlife, the thoughts I needed to change were about what else I could do. I needed to see doorways, not brick walls. I needed to widen my lens.

What to do?

First, I would never, never, ever suggest you quit what you do every day. Even if it’s an effort.

But what I always, always, always would suggest is that you step back and Pause.

Some things to do in a Pause.

Do a little exploring and excavating.

A small, Kaizen-like question is a perfect place to start your explorations. Stay away from the question that begs to solve all the problems of the world. Instead, make it smaller and more immediate. Frame it in a positive way. Ask what lights me up as opposed to why am I feeling so flat. (How you frame it is important because your brain will supply responses to the negative also.) Ask it frequently during the day without any expectation for an immediate response. Your brain will grab onto it and go to work. Answers will pop up. The real trick here is to be paying attention and not censoring. Be curious.

Journal. Writing is a powerful tool during a Pause. In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron prescribes 3 pages, longhand, to be done each morning upon rising. This is ideal and, if you can, certainly start there. However, if this is too daunting, you’ll likely do nothing. In which case it’s better to begin with very small Kaizen-like steps. Promise yourself to write for 1 minute. Ask your small question on the page; do a very quick brain dump of what’s on your mind. If you go longer, that’s great. If you only do one minute you’ve still kept your commitment. As this becomes habitual, stay on the page longer.

As you expand your writing time you will get to a point where you think you have nothing more to say. At that point nudge yourself very gently to write a little more. I promise you will go deeper.

Is what you do for a living leaving you deflated?

Can you explore your current industry? Is there a way to shift the focus of your work, move to a different area of your organization, take on a different responsibility, learn something new? What opportunities are there? Often compensation becomes a factor here. If a reduction in pay is really necessary, put pen to paper and figure out if it’s feasible and worth it. How long would it take to get back to your previous level and what would you gain in the meantime?

Do you have a mentor or a trusted colleague with whom you could confide your frustrations and concerns? This person might be able to role play with you as you practice asking for what you want. She can also provide a different perspective on opportunities as well as an objective look at you.

Do a skills and experience inventory. Dig in to what it is that has made you successful. Maybe more of a functional resume. Where else can those skills be used? Get creative here. And, don’t forget the volunteer work you’ve done: the PTA, the fund raising, the sports coaching, even the family event planning. All of this has combined to make you a unique package.

Or is it something else?

There’s also the possibility that the problem isn’t what you do each day, but rather what you don’t do. Have you over-fished your personal pond? I’ve been there. It ain’t pretty!

More about that next time.

As always, if you need a guide or a nudge contact me to find out how I might help ignite that spark.

Can You See the Possibilities?

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.” – Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher

The world wants to put us in boxes by life stages. Marketers, social policy wonks, demographers, politicians. We get categorized, labeled and put on the shelf. We become a bland avatar and a statistic. While you and I may have things in common, we are each unique in a very special way.

Life stages have been invented and reinvented for centuries. Aristotle had thoughts on this as did Shakespeare. As demographics and economies shift and life expectancy increases, so too do the definitions of the phases of our lives. Marketing and social policy also have a lot to do with this.

Consider the Baby Boomers (another life stage category) with our health and longevity, and how this has made an impact on society. (Yes, I’m a boomer.) We continue to influence social policies, the medical and pharmaceutical world and even the beauty industry. Our buying power speaks loudly.

Or, take the category of middle age. Now, if I am “middle aged”, then I guess I’m living to at least 120. Not sure that’s in the cards, or if I want to!

However, if I really need to be categorized, I’d prefer to put myself in the Third Age which encompasses midlife and beyond.

Oh, what a juicy and spacious place this is!

What is the Third Age?

In his book, A Fresh Map of Life – The Emergence of the Third Age, a British historian, Peter Laslett, posited that life is comprised of four ages. (Another opinion, yes, I know.) These ages don’t correspond to our chronological age, but rather to our roles in life. In our first age, he says, we are dependent. We are still immature; we may be students. The second age is the time for independence, maturity, working, career building and children rearing. The third age is an era for personal achievement and fulfillment after retirement, and the fourth age is a final dependence, infirmity and death.

Laslett suggests that the Third Age can be the culmination of our life. While he also says that typically it is the time after retirement (and before the Fourth Age), I think it starts sooner than that. Or, perhaps, that it should start sooner. Or, really, that we should consider the journey leading up to retirement as part of the Third Age. At a minimum, there is overlap.

The Harvard University Press, in their description of his book, says something similar to what I’m thinking: The prospect of spending long years in reasonable health and scarcely impaired activity, far beyond the convenient landmark of retirement, has already become the norm—without anybody really noticing it, let alone appreciating the implications. In this highly original and perhaps controversial book, Peter Laslett urges us to plan ahead for personal enrichment—before retirement and before the children leave home—before we reach the Third Age.

That Third Age can span decades

It becomes a time of great possibility. It becomes our Creativity Age. We have the opportunity to reawaken. We can begin to focus more of our time on those areas that are personally important and meaningful, those things that feed our hearts instead of just our mouths. (Can you articulate what that is for you?) We can start a second career or become an entrepreneur. We can take all of our life experiences, our self-knowledge, all that has become most meaningful, and turn these decades into a time to blossom in new and deeper ways.

At a certain point in my life, I intuitively moved into preparing for my Third Age. I realized that I had expended a lot of energy adapting to a corporate life. It became necessary for me to unravel that thinking, to detox from that mindset and learn to open myself up to those things that would feed me on a soul level. I began to declare and explore how I wanted my life to look. (I will retire at 55 and do something with writing, I said out loud, without any idea of what that would look like.) What began instinctively (or maybe out of desperation) became a journey of awareness, curiosity, trusting, and discovery. It’s also been a time of trial and error, with each round strengthening skills and self-awareness and bringing me closer to who I am at my deepest level. Chipping away the old, revealing the new. It continues and, I hope, will continue for many more years.

I would never have gotten this far, however, if I had not begun the journey, if I hadn’t heeded the quiet voice inside me. That inner wisdom suggested that there might be a way to live differently, appreciate life in new ways. Without this I might have missed out on the feeling of joy I now experience each day. I would have been staring at walls instead of seeing possibilities.

My Third Age is evolving in new and exciting ways. What would it make feel the same for you?

Some people need a nudge, some a guide. Some just need a witness. What do you need as you navigate your Third Age?

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