I DO NOT BELIEVE IT the idea of a midlife crisis. Instead, let’s call it a midlife revival. That time in your life when you might feel stuck and question some big issues, like: Am I in the right profession or have I derailed from my purpose? Has my grip on my fitness and health loosened? Am I satisfied with my family life? Of course, this is sobering, but also exhilarating.
After 30 years in the publishing world, I felt stuck. I came to the realization that I had accomplished everything I could. As I took a step back to assess the situation, I realized that the digital revolution was coming fast and all those zeros and ones would disrupt my world in a big way. Rather than quitting, I decided to dive headfirst into trying to understand this rapidly changing digital space. It gave me a whole new impetus taking me out of the inertia that had trapped me. Sometimes you just have to look around to find out how to restart.
It takes time to get took off. for my book ROAR in the second half of your life (before it’s too late), I interviewed over 40 people – reinventors – who had all made significant changes in quarantine. What they had in common is that they did the work of going deep within themselves to figure out what was bothering them so they could find a way to escape. Most of them said it took them a year or more to find their solution. These are some of the mental tools that have helped me (and the reinventors) unlock myself.
1. Do a skills audit
If you are in business, you know SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Do your own SWOT analysis: write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Although I’m good at reading financial statements, I know I’m not good at math. Therefore, I avoid projects that require deep digital skills. However, I am good at identifying market trends. If your company is going through a reorganization, this could give you the opportunity to showcase your accomplishments. As for threats, are you happy with your health and weight? There are also digital tools, on sites like UnderstandMyself.com and RichardStep.com, that can help you identify your best traits. Some of them can validate what you already know, but you can also uncover hidden talents and skills.
2. Tap Your family and friends
prepare yourselves– this next task may make you feel vulnerable as it explores whether the way you see yourself is similar to how others see you. Write down the five words that you think best describe you. Then ask ten family members and closest friends to give you five words they would use to describe you. Take these 50 words and look for the ones that appear the most often. Are they on your own list of five? When I did this the main word that came from my team was generous. It’s an identifier for me, so it’s validated how I see myself. Now start extracting your main words. How to turn them into action? This will give you the fuel to go from blocking to deciding what to do next. For me, that included starting a foundation based on generosity, as well as being involved in philanthropy, mentoring, and multiple nonprofits. Although I didn’t ask everyone to give me five negative things, it’s also a good exercise. I should include impatient, sometimes rigid and possessive. Having ideas on how to progress from these traits has also helped me unlock, especially in my personal relationships.
3. Imagine it. Plan it. Do it.
My grandmother always taught me to dream big and imagine what I wanted my life to look like in the future. If you don’t know what you want and who you want to be, how can you get there? Every January, I create my one-year journal plan, identifying what I hope to accomplish that year in all areas of life. You can do this anytime, but thinking about the next 12 months gives yourself a chance to focus on long-term plans when so often we just stare at our smartphone screens and think about the next five minutes. My 12-month plan includes relationships, career, health and fitness, passions, and more. This “vision board” also includes images, inspirational ideas, and even phrases. Earlier in my adult life I was a marathon runner, but eventually transitioned into triathlons. What I realized a year was that I felt stuck in my fitness regimen. I missed the simple pleasure of running long distances. In my mid-fifties, I took up the marathon again! Running puts me in a Zen state, a kind of moving meditation that allows me to get rid of my anxieties, solve problems and clarify what is important to me. At ten miles, the endorphins are running full blast and my mind and body are in sync. I make most of the big decisions in my life during a race. Figure out which physical activities work for you and use them to help free yourself from whatever issues you are facing.
4. Excavate your younger self
Return trip to my younger self to find the direction of my future path has really helped me. What did you leave behind that brought you joy and excitement? We all know the story of the person who wanted to be an archaeologist but became an accountant because it was the most practical choice. How do you re-engage with your younger self and reclaim what turned you on? Spend time finding at least one thing you’ve given up on and dedicating yourself to embracing it again. I started my career as a journalist, but moved on to the business side of publishing, where the pay was better. In my fifties, I started writing again. It made me realize how much I loved the process of sitting down to compose a story about a topic that interested me. It also piqued my inherent curiosity, which had first led me to journalism. I plan to continue writing as my creative passion. What did you leave behind that you can come back to moving forward?
This story appears in the September 2022 issue of Men’s health.
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