It is a well kept secret that most people feel lost at some point during their mid-life. Me included.
Being 40, 50 or 60 and admitting you don’t know what you want to do is tough. We are so used to problem solving, planning and deciding that not knowing can make us feel lost, or unsure, or vulnerable, or inadequate (or all of the above!)
Mid-lifers are no strangers to big questions such as …
- Have I achieved enough?
- Who am I now?
- Is there more to life?
- Can I stand doing this for another 15-20 years?
- Can I even do anything else?
… but answering them can be challenging and some end up not answering them or putting them off. It can be easier to just continue with their current job or to march into an available but unsuitable job. Me included.
Five years ago I was made redundant. It was a shock and not something I wanted. It may seem a bit dramatic, but I was honestly heart broken and my confidence was badly shaken. The next day a headhunter called with a fantastic job for a great brand – one that seemed to bring all of my previous experiences together. I was seduced and reassured that someone wanted me. The selection process took some time (as they do) and I found it hard not being able to answer when people asked me “so what are you going to do next?”. I was relieved to be offered the job and have an answer to that question. A month into the new job I realised I had made a mistake.
Five months later I left and this time I took the time I needed to figure out what I really wanted. I got busy trying a bunch of new things – some worked better than others and I learned loads. I worked with new people, acquired new skills, and said yes to doing things I’d never done before. I deliberately kept my options open. It wasn’t plain sailing though – it was tough not knowing how to tell people what I do, it was scary not knowing if I would earn enough to pay the bills, and it was hard having to be a self-starter all the time.
So, yes it is scary – but it’s also exciting! Like the people I spoke to in my research, reinventing my late career is a dance with fear and confidence. A dance that is dynamic and changing but ultimately better than marching in the wrong direction.