ignore their inner needs at mid-life and what YOU can do differently
By Craig Nathanson - The Vocational Coach
We humans are terrible at preparing for the crisis
It seems to me that many people tend to ignore their needs
in mid-life. We tend to be very good at reacting to a crisis,
but terrible at planning for one. I think this is the root of
the problem. For example, many people stay in mundane, unfulfilling
jobs because, in many ways, this is easier than confronting
the unhappiness of a work life that is empty. Only when a crisis
hits — and it usually will after 40 (a divorce, a layoff,
an illness, children going off to college, money problems, and/or
emotional problems) — do people finally start to spring
Why does it take so long?
While many people over 40 no longer feel contented with their
work, they may still be challenged just enough so that they
are not driven to make a change. As a result, their moods and
their responses to their work tend to go up and down depending
on the day. They may be very negative at one point or another,
but then the next day is a little better, and they postpone
making a change yet again.
It also can be easy to escape the need to change — people
become so busy each and every day that busy-ness itself becomes
the escape and the excuse.
Beware of the simple tasks
Some will suggest that mundane jobs are good. Mundane and boring
work gives you time think about other things, and perhaps even
allowing time to work on other things. People feel trapped by
the promise of reward, and the threat of punishment at work.
This too becomes a trap hard to escape from.
There is a lever in the cage of work
Early experiments by B. F. Skinner involved placing animals
in a cage without an escape route. Then later, he placed a lever
inside the cage, and eventually the animals figured the way
Humans are very similar, except that the lever is there all
the time. It’s just that it takes a crisis for us to be
able to see it. It is much too easy to become trapped by what
is comfortable and routine until we suddenly find the secret
Our self worth gets damaged when we are JUST working
Since we tend to carry our self-worth around with us, if we
experience any failure in life, and especially in our work,
we hesitate before trying anything new because failing again
will, of course, hurt even more.
People over 40 who have built their lives to this point are
very risk averse. Any new venture or idea must be checked with
others to make sure they will approve. If not, then surely we
must not take a chance.
And discussing with co-workers that you are no longer finding
joy in your work doesn’t help — this subject causes
more discomfort than discussing sex. They don’t know how
to respond. There doesn’t seem to be an immediate solution.
After all, work is work, isn’t it?
The problem: WE live our lives
YOU are the person who has to live with yourself. YOU have
to look at yourself in the mirror each day, go to work, be active,
and be comfortable with your decisions. Regardless of what others
think or see in you, it is your own perspective of you that
Your work determines who you are
I see so many clients who initially come with their arms crossed.
I see right away that it is not THEIR arms that are crossed,
but perhaps their parents’ arms, or their spouses’
arms. All of us carry a huge set of beliefs passed down to us
To prove the point, take a piece of paper right now. Write down
“I believe the following about myself:”
Under this line, make your list.
Now examine your list. How many of these beliefs have come
from you, and how many came from those around you? Now go through
your list and change those beliefs that are no longer useful.
For example; perhaps you realize that you had parents who taught
you never to take a risk, try anything silly, or impractical.
Reflect how this has kept you from changing your work —
is it fear of failure?
Change those beliefs on your list that are no longer useful.
It is as simple as this and as difficult as this. I believe
change can occur in seconds. It’s all a matter of acquiring
a new perspective about your life and your work.
It’s time to recreate
If you are a mid-life adult who no longer finds meaning and
joy in your work, you must make a change now. The changes you
make now will impact the rest of your life. If you don’t,
you will simply work until you retire, spend a few years wondering
what you COULD have done, and then well; you know the rest of
Traditional approaches to career development do not work
Traditional career coaching focuses on assessments to figure
out exactly what you should do.
The problem with this approach is that, while these systematic
methods may recommend that you should be an engineer, for example,
only you can determine whether you would actually find joy and
passion in this work.
Most traditional job searches are done backwards. A job gets
posted and people look for jobs that match some of their requirements.
The problem with this approach is that these jobs were not designed
with YOU in mind. They were not designed around what —
exactly — would be just perfect for YOU.
Don’t ignore your inner needs after 40
What becomes most important after age 40 is: Do you find your
work meaningful? Is the purpose of your work clear to you? Is
it clear why YOU are doing this work?
Does your work bring you joy and happiness?
Only you can answer these questions.
It starts with an honest assessment of what you want out of
your life and your work
Self-discovery and work renewal will result in more passion
and joy in your life and in the lives of all those around you.
You will wonder why you didn’t start earlier.
Maybe you didn’t take the plunge before now because you
did not experience the crisis until right now — that is,
the crisis of your mid-life — and what you plan to do
now to make the second half of your life even better. This can
start with your work. You have the wisdom and maturity now to
make this change.
The only permission you need now is permission from yourself
— I’ll be cheering you on as you do!
Craig Nathanson is the author of P Is For Perfect: Your Perfect
Vocational Day and a coaching expert who works with people over
forty. Craig’s new E-book, Discover and live your passion
365 days a year is a workshop in a box designed to help busy
adults go insane with their work. Craig’s systematic approach,
the trademark "Ten P" process,’’ helps
people break free and move toward the work they love. Visit
Craig’s online community at http://www.thevocationalcoach.com
where you can take a class, get more ideas through Craig Nathanson’s
books and CD’s, get some private coaching over the phone
or read other stories of mid-life change and renewal.
Craig lives and works in Petaluma, California. His office is
located atP.O Box 2823, Petaluma Ca, 94953. You can reach him
at 707-775-4020 or at email@example.com.
Craig's Vocational Passion Newsletters are edited by Anita
Flegg at The Sharp Quill. The Sharp Quill -- www.sharpquill.com
-- specializes in writing and editing for small business. You
can see Anita's vocational story at http://www.thevocationalcoach.com/_vocational_community/_real_stories/story_anita.html
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