I didn’t see my midlife as a ‘crisis’, but it did feel like a time of significant change and challenge – a watershed in my life as a woman.
I feel we do need to redefine ourselves and our lives as we reach midlife and to use it as a chance to reassess what we’d like to do and be in the second half of our lives. It’s important to be grateful, too, for being fortunate enough to reach this milestone – one that sadly many don’t achieve.
Physically things are on the move, so to speak, as our bodies and our hormones begin to play up. But it’s also about reaching a critical point in our lives where we know time is ticking and a sense of our mortality becomes more tangible. So many women I talk to meet midlife with a sense of dread and denial. It can even cause depression.
But what if we could see this pivotal point in a positive way and as a new beginning, rather than a crisis or an ending?
I love what American author Brené Brown has to say about midlife:
“People may call what happens at midlife ‘a crisis’, but it’s not. It’s an unravelling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re supposed to live. The unravelling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”
Making changes in a time of change…
Midlife can be the perfect time to make some fundamental changes in our approach to life.
Pivoting your life is about finding those things that will turn it around; hopefully making us much happier and full of a new sense of purpose, eager to get on with this new phase of our lives. It’s about taking stock and looking at what’s working and what needs to change. It means getting clear on what’s important and then building on that to construct the midlife that works for you.
So how do you develop those new strategies?
You’re going to need to take a honest look at all the different areas of your life – from finance to friendships, family to career, fun to personal growth – so that you have a clearer idea about what you’d like to change.
Here are my tips:
1 Take a snapshot to see what parts of your life need some improvement and where you feel a lack of joy and fulfilment
Get some paper and pens – or your tools of choice – and write down headings. I’d suggest health, love/romance, physical environment, friendship, work and money, at least. Include ones that suit you and your life (some others might include family and physical activity).
Think about what your life looks like now, not what you’d like it to look like, and be really honest with yourself as you score each area of your life from 1 to 10: with 10 being that you absolutely love it and it couldn’t be any better, and 1 being that you’re really unhappy and upset about it. Don’t overthink this – go with your gut instinct.
2 Be grateful for what you already have
You may be better off than you thought and you may be surprised by what your snapshot revealed. You don’t want to move on to the next step without acknowledging all the good things in your life right at this moment.
3 Let yourself dream about how you’d like things to be
Using the same headings you’ve already written down, you’re going to create your ideal life. Let your imagination run riot and don’t be bound by practicalities; this is an exercise in dreaming and creativity. Under those headings create your fantasy picture of how you want your life to look – if it helps, create a vision board for yourself, a kind of scrapbook of pictures for each area of your life, using images and words cut out of magazines or printed from the internet.
This can be good fun. Be as wild and wacky as you like with creating your dream life!
4 Create an action plan for your dreams
Hang on a minute, you might be saying, I thought this was just a big fantasy? Okay, but ask yourself why your midlife can’t be the start of a new reality for you – what’s stopping you moving from where you are in your snapshot to where you are in your ideal life?
Walt Disney famously said: “If you can dream it you can do it.” And in NLP (neurolinguistic programming) there is a technique which is sometimes used called The Disney Strategy.
To create your action plan you need to think about it with three different hats on – the Disney Strategy uses The Dreamer to come up with the ideas (well, you did that part in step 3), The Realist to look at how to implement the ideas and The Critic to identify the barriers and then find ways to overcome them.
I know this might sound completely idealistic and impossible, but if you think outside the box like this you may find there are ways to get nearer to your dreams than you think. Whatever possible blocks The Critic comes up with, The Dreamer and The Realist in you can find solutions.
Don’t believe me? It really does work
I like to think I’m living proof that you can make your dreams a reality. When I stepped out of my old life in my 40s and created something new, this is exactly the process I went through myself to make a plan for the next five and 10 years. It changed and developed along the way but that initial pivot I made, giving up permanent full-time work to go travelling, has remained the basis of my life strategy.