Mid-life brings about many transitions. Children leaving home, aging parents, divorce, remarriage, and career changes can leave us asking the questions:
Who am I? What do I really want? How do I even know what I want?
I spent many years, decades actually, not having a clear vision and path for my life. I was a wreck in every way: physically, emotionally and mentally. Thing was, I didn’t even know I didn’t have a clear vision and path for my life until just recently.
My life had been spent living it the way I was told to live, by family, friends and society. However there was always a part of me that just didn’t feel right about the path I had taken. I never really felt like I fit in and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. The “right” way to live was so ingrained in me I thought I was the dysfunctional one. I couldn’t see that there was nothing wrong with me and everything wrong in trying to fit this square peg into a round hole.
What happens to us when we lie to ourselves as we pretend to live this life that is not really ours? We are unhappy, we self-medicate, we always feel there is something wrong with us because we just don’t live up to the standards set forth by others. We over-eat, we drink too much, we have affairs, we yell at our kids and spouse and the list goes on and on.
Then there comes the day when you figure out that your unhappiness and self-destructive behavior is a manifestation of years of not being true to yourself.
Starting to develop your own sense of where you want your life to go is difficult. It’s a strange territory and you don’t speak the language. Here are four ways you can begin to understand your true self, which in turn will help you create your life on your own terms.
Create Awareness – There are a few things I found out about myself that, looking back, make total sense. Here are a few: I am an introvert, I do my best work before noon, I get cranky if my routine is disrupted and I don’t like to exercise or eat breakfast in the morning. Seemingly small items right?
But what happens when an introvert enters the work force and can’t seem to understand the need for social hour around the water cooler? I appear to be a snob to my co-workers. (I have actually been called a snob by co-workers.)
What happens when I agonized for years over not eating breakfast because I was always told, “it’s the most important meal of the day”. I worried that my health would suffer because I didn’t get hungry until well in the morning. After all I am not an expert on nutrition.
What happens when I am on vacation and by the end of the second week I am tired and just want to go home? I appear ungrateful and odd because aren’t we supposed to enjoy every minute of our vacation?
Creating awareness is key to understanding what will work for you and what won’t.
Create Vision: I have told countless people through coaching and training that if you don’t have a clear vision of where you want to go, you will be easily taken off your path. Creating a clear vision of where you want to be requires self-awareness of your strengths and values.
Create Goals: People get hung up on goals. There are different ways to set goals and the way you approach your goals will depend on your unique vision. For example, if you want to run three miles, but you are a true coach potato, you won’t get very far with a goal of running a mile the first time you lace up. Some goals you have to start small. For example, can’t run a mile then walk around the block.
Other goals, such as a financial goal for retirement or starting a business, requires timelines and concrete actionable steps.
Take Action: This is the hardest step. When we Create Awareness, Create Vision and Create Goals, we are deciding to make a change. People in your life are often uncomfortable when you change, because that upsets their world. They have come to expect certain behavior from you. Your behavior is a cue to how they are to act and what to expect. Your spouse may be afraid you will leave. Your change may trigger resentment in friends. You may start to witness family and friends trying to sabotage your program, either covertly or overtly.
To succeed you will have to understand what your family and friends are feeling about your new path and knowing the correct ways to gently, yet firmly, lessen their fears. Also, be aware, that not everyone is going to take this journey with you. Ultimately though, the final decision belongs to you.
Shelly is a personal development strategist and founder of The Rescue Yourself Project helping women over 40 step into their unique selves so they can create a life they love! A few years ago, she found herself living a life that wasn’t of her making. Deciding that wasn’t what she wanted she ran away from home and spent eight months “re-branding” herself. Today Shelly helps women find their unique selves by becoming experts about their values, strengths, passions, goals and purpose so they can design a life they love.