I work with folks of all ages but mostly professionals between the ages of 35-55. I’d say an almost equal number of men and women. Often, they get in touch with me because they are feeling like something is “off” in their career. They say this feeling – call it restlessness…frustration… boredom…stress seems to be building and they can’t shut it down. Intellectually, they know they have a good life—even a great life but there’s a piece that isn’t fitting properly and it’s really starting to rub.
I’ve had people ask me if what they are feeling is a mid-life crisis. They say they worked so hard to get where they are in their career and in their life, did everything “right”, they juggled, they balanced, they “put up with” for many years but have stopped feeling content to keep up the status quo. They want to know why.
Some try to label it and most seriously question it. Why? Why am I changing? What is changing? Some have spoken to their doctor to rule out clinical depression because there is a hollowness, a thirst, an itch…but they can’t fill it, quench it or scratch it. They may have been drawn to self-help and personal development blogs and books, read about spiritual awakenings, and become worried their life was turning into one, big cliché.
Is it? Is what they are experiencing even real?
I don’t know what I want or need, but I know it’s not this
What I hear very often is “I don’t know what I want or need, but I know it’s not this and I need somebody to help me figure out what to do”.
It’s a tall order.
And yes, it’s very real.
The truth is, this can be a painful experience for my clients. For many professional people who are used to being high achievers, problem-solvers and in control, this “midlife unraveling” (as Brene Brown calls it – read more HERE), is something they’ve been resisting and pushing down deep for weeks, months or years.
I wish I could say I had a sure fire “cure”.
BUT, this my friends, is something that needs to be lived. There is something calling you to live your life more fully…to expand and grow.
Yes, this type of transition can hurt and I don’t have a cure but I CAN help and I firmly believe that not allowing this transformation to take place hurts SO MUCH MORE.
Another truth I’ve come to learn is that sometimes, your career is not actually what's making you unhappy. Sometimes it's just the easiest scapegoat. Other times, it actually is what is making you unhappy and you are left with the daunting task of figuring out what to do about it.
No matter the problem, there isn't actually a problem. In my opinion this restlessness, unease, unhappiness etc. is a natural, human experience that we all encounter to different degrees. The reason it feels problematic is that our tendency is to try to resist or control these feelings and neither of these approaches work.
The bills and mortgage don’t pay themselves
It is also a time where we might be feeling very much alone. Loved ones might not understand why we have this unhappiness, and we might feel like we are “flaky” or ungrateful or unrealistic for feeling like we need more from our life or our career. "Who am I to think I can do work that really lights me up while keeping my actual lights on?" We are scared and they are scared. After all, the bills and mortgage don’t pay themselves and most of us find it hard to imagine living a life on our own terms and being able to pay for it.
Sadly, these beliefs often limit and prevent us from ever even contemplating different choices that might actually allow us to live in a way that honours our true needs. Needs beyond achieving money or goals. Often, there's a whole side of us that is starving to be nurtured.
We might be able to deny these needs but that doesn’t mean they go away. The feelings of being misunderstood, alone or different will not go away by simply ignoring them. They might get worse or they might get numbed—but they will not go away.
So, are you having a mid-life crisis? A spiritual awakening? What is happening to you?
I ask you to put the labels away and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Don’t rush to try to “fix it”. Remind yourself that this is a natural, human experience and that you are not alone. Remain open to your instincts, your longings and the directions you feel you are being pulled into but don’t act on everything right away. Find a way to process the thoughts coming to you…talk to someone, journal, get this stuff out of your own head. Give yourself time to be with these stirrings.
If you keep listening and stay curious you might come to identify some things you dream of doing or being or learning about or becoming. Start writing these things down. Invite and allow these little nigglings or wantings in. Be open to things and try not to judge them as not possible or realistic. The point of this isn't to try to figure anything out. Just note what is coming up for you. As soon as you start judging or reasoning, you close up the space these dreams and desires need to live in. Make the space and then sit with these for as long as you need to. The more you allow them, the more real and possible they will become to you.
At some point, once you've opened yourself up to your stirrings, you'll feel compelled to act on something. It's normal to not know how to act on it and to even feel a bit afraid or unsure about it. Start thinking of small ways you might. Write these down and be open to them for awhile. Dream and imagine. Again, the more you allow, the more real and possible things will become. Keep rinsing and repeating and see where it takes you.
Want more? Sign up for my Sunday Night Letter.