Am I ready for a mid-life career reinvention?

The honest answer is – we never truly are. Maybe a better question is – how do I know I am ready enough?

The idea of ‘systemic readiness’

In my recent research, ‘systemic readiness’ emerged as a key feature of mid-life career reinvention coaching. ‘Systemic readiness’ refers to a wide range of factors relating to the individual or their wider social system affecting their willingness or ability to reinvent their late career. The data showed it was most relevant at the start (readiness to think openly about something very different) and end of reinvention (readiness to transition to the new reality). At both points, participants had a real and emotional sense that there was a boundary to cross.

Some people prefer to plan and prepare in detail, whilst others are more opportunistic – but in the end, people who have reinvented their careers describe some kind of ‘leap of faith’ that has to happen.

“If you take a leap of faith, you do something even though you are not sure it is right or will succeed” (Collins dictionary).

In terms of coaching, experienced coaches often work systemically with clients as they consider a wide influences and factors that impact their working lives and potential changes – addressing risks to their system. They do this from a much more objective position that the client themselves who typically also feels this readiness at a more emotional and unconscious level. Not surprising really as it is their life, their future.

How do I know I am ready enough?

Let’s consider if this might be a better question. In my experience, people make sense of their careers individually, continually and contextually. In this paradigm, one persons readiness will be different to someone else’s and their own readiness might be different at different times. So, we can’t develop a checklist or an algorithm to figure this out. Instead we can enquire about what would ready enough look like / feel like / need to address / sound like.

If I were to critique my own question, I could argue it only pays limited attention to others in their wider social system – so perhaps an even better question is how will you know that everyone is ready enough?

Is everyone ready enough?

I have used this question a few times with coaching clients and have found, in this context, it can acknowledge the influence of others on our lives without diminishing the individuals agency in their own future. If the individual has done the work on what really matters to them, they can consider the positions of others with curiosity.

In summary, we know timing matters and a wide range of factors can influence our readiness to make a change (or hold us back) – so we can never know for sure that we will succeed – but we can respectfully and honestly consider “is everyone ready enough?”.

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