October 27, 2023

Let Go of ‘I-Should-Have-It-Figured-Out-itis’ in Midlife

To everyone who beats themselves up for not having “it all figured out” in midlife, here are five things I invite you to consider.

1. You have already figured out more than you could ever contain, carry, or categorize.

Instead of beating yourself up for what you still don’t know or what still feels hard or challenging, how about celebrating how far you’ve come? Think back to when you were first starting out in life:

  • What would that version of yourself be in awe of that you’ve accomplished?
  • What would shock younger you about who you’ve become?
  • What do you want to celebrate about the many puzzles, challenges, obstacles, and milestones you’ve solved, crossed, and achieved?

2. It may be time to set down the idea that there’s one big thing to figure out anyway.

The idea that other people have “it” figured out is based on stories you tell yourself about who you “should” be and what you’re not enough of just as you are. Those stories come from a culture that highly prioritizes and values certain things.

Ask yourself, do you share those priorities and values?

If not, what is important to you?

What if the yardstick you used to measure your “success” is one created by your own?

3. What would you have more space for if you weren’t holding that thought?

How much energy and brain power thoughts can take up can be shocking. If you could release this one or shift it even slightly, what might that give you more room for?

4. If 50 isn’t the finish line, and I can tell you unequivocally that it’s not, why would you want to have it all figured out?

The other cultural component of the burden of “I-should-have-it-figured-out-itis is that we get constant messages that tell us that midlife is the beginning of the end. For so many people, this new chapter offers more opportunities than the ones that came before.

By letting go of the shoulds and the time pressures, you can be with what’s actually possible for you now.

5. Instead of “Why don’t I have it figured out?” what if you tried on, “There’s so much more to explore” and see how that feels?

There is so much more to explore.

Ask yourself, what would I do if I were 20 again, with no responsibilities and lots of resources?

Would you go back to school? Travel? Move? Start a business? Date?

Let the answers lead you down a rabbit hole. For instance, if the answer is travel, consider where you want to go. What would you like to explore? If hopping on a plane isn’t possible right now, think about how to bring a bit of that place into your daily life. Use your imagination to make small changes.

“Having it all figured out” has outlasted its usefulness as a concept. Life is a creative act, and we get to keep creating it. What would it free up to shift this one thought?

Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster
Hi, I'm Sara!

I'm here to reclaim the term 'midlife' and embrace the power these years offer us.

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Sara Smeaton Coaching SS-177 Photo by Marina Dempster


Sara Smeaton

Sara Smeaton is a certified professional coach and facilitator who helps midlife women follow their dreams after forty. She works privately with clients in Canada, the US and the UK.

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