If you find yourself in your 40s or 50s, suddenly feeling like life is a dense and twisting forest full of unexpected obstacles and you’ve lost your compass, you’re not alone.
It’s not at all uncommon to get to midlife and feel like everything you thought you knew is up for grabs, or that you’re stuck in a rut, or that you’re running out of time.
To others (and even to yourself), your life probably looks great. People compliment you on any number of things like your home, or your kids, your glamourous travel schedule, or your career. You’re grateful, of course, for all that you have and all that you’ve built.
But on the inside, you can’t help but wonder if this is all there is to life. No matter how much you love your life, you can’t help but think about what else might be possible, and you stop yourself with a stream of “but, I can’t,” “what would people think?” and “who am I to ask for more?”.
Welcome to midlife.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. These feelings are an opportunity to embrace your Power Years – the only time of life when we have as much experience behind us as we have possibilities in front of us.
These 9 habits are how you go from stuck in the midlife muck to your Power Years:
- Check your attitude about getting older. If you’re filled with negative beliefs about aging, this is not going to be a powerful time of life. Catch yourself judging “older” as less than and start changing your language. Surround yourself with images and stories of powerful, vibrant, engaging, older people. A recent study shows that our happiness curve goes up, not down, with age so, there is a lot to be hopeful about.
- “Be the Chooser.” I recently shared this quote from Tracee Ellis Ross, in an interview with Oprah, where she talks about how women in our generation were raised to wait to be chosen. This isn’t just true about marriage and relationships. Regardless of gender, many of us are waiting to be chosen instead of actively choosing. Notice where you default to being passive in your life: waiting for a promotion, waiting to be invited out by friends, waiting to be asked to work on a project or to collaborate with someone, etc. Evaluate what you really want and consciously choose it.
- Declutter your stories. You know those stories of yours that have been autoplay for decades? The ones like “I’m not athletic.” or “I’m not good with money.” or “I’m not the type of person who takes risks.”. Make a habit of noticing these and start to question how true they really are. Now is the time to say goodbye to thinking you deserve anything less than absolute joy and fulfillment. Imagine going into the second half of your life clear that you are worthy, lovable, and capable, no matter what the little voices in your head say. Think about how much more would be possible. It’s time to replace these old stories with new ones. Look for the counter-evidence and start telling yourself something new, for example, “I love to move my body,” “I’m committed to learning how to manage my money,” or “I’m open to trying new things.”
- Be curious. What makes life worth living for you? What energizes you? If you haven’t found it yet, it’s not too late. It’s actually perfect timing. Get curious about what energizes you, pisses you off, puts you to sleep, and fires you up. These all offer clues about your values and your purpose. And if you’re still unclear, get curious about what you’re curious about. Follow it like breadcrumbs. Take yourself on a walk in a neighbourhood you don’t know well. Notice what catches your eye, what stores draw you in, what people do you chat with, what are you reading, touching, and tasting? What does all of this tell you about who you are and what inspires you? Following your calling means being the most you, you can possibly be – that’s all “a calling” really is. Understanding who you are begins with curiosity.
- Celebrate your gifts. We all have things that come naturally to us. Stop discounting whatever that is for you. Just because something comes easy doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Notice what people ask you to help them with. Celebrate that you are uniquely gifted at that thing and CHOOSE what you want to do with that knowledge. Maybe you’re ready to take the leap and start getting paid for what you are able to do so effortlessly. Whatever you decide, acknowledge this is a gift and treat it with some reverence.
- Accept yourself. Now is the time to stop beating yourself up for past mistakes like that awkward thing you once said to a parent in the schoolyard (just me?), or a failed relationship or business. Accept what you perceive as your flaws. Accept what you see as your weaknesses. Accept that you are a human who is doing your best and shower yourself with kindness. Because this is the time to do it. You don’t want to be 80 and still judging yourself, do you? Show yourself you matter by the words you say to yourself and by your actions. Whenever you feel the self-judgment welling up, ask yourself what the self-accepting perspective would be and try that on to see how it feels.
- Seal up the leaks. If you’ve ever owned a home, you know how much energy can escape through small holes. Time to seal up your own energy leaks. Where are you giving more than you really want to be? What are you saying yes to, and what are you saying no to? Do you have people in your life that take advantage of you? Midlife is the exact right moment to make a habit of this type of boundary maintenance if you haven’t already. Sealing the leaks means you can CHOOSE to open the door, how wide, and to whom.
- Gather your community. This is no joke. Loneliness is a killer, and connection becomes increasingly important as we age. If you’ve been neglecting your social life and friendships, now is the time to rekindle them or find new ones. Join a walking group, take a class, reach out to old colleagues or friends, and go for a coffee, follow your curiosity in this regard too and CHOOSE who you want to spend your time with.
- Go inward. Midlife is a time when we start to feel the call to go inward and reflect. Please don’t ignore it. Making time to know yourself more profoundly pays in dividends. Carve out time for solitude, journaling, breathing, and being in nature (or whatever works for you that helps you connect to yourself). Talk to a friend, a therapist, or a coach. The more you know about who you are and who you want to become, the more you can take powerful action towards a fulfilling and joyful second half.
As a Midlife Coach, I help people with all these habits. If you want support to make the most of this time of life and show up as fully as possible in your Power Years, let’s connect.