Alchemist, Gardener or Vagabond Traveler – What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up (Again)?

Alchemist, Gardener or Vagabond Traveler – What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up (Again)?

Midlife is a time for reassessing: your career, your goals, your ambitions. Perhaps you’re looking to try something new, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it or what exactly that “something” is, but what you do know is that it’s time to find out.

It can be a daunting proposition to jettison a career you’ve spent so many years cultivating and growing. Not to mention dealing with the dreaded “C” word: Change!

How can you make it easier?

The first thing is to make a list of 15-20 things you’re passionate about that you can explore doing for a living. It’s important not to censor yourself or spend time picking apart your choices. It’s about brainstorming possibilities, so leave your judgments and preconceptions at the curb for this part of the process.

Here’s the list I put together when I went through my own reassessment period several years ago: 

  1. Writing
  2. Traveling
  3. Teaching
  4. Coaching
  5. Creating
  6. Designing
  7. Decorating
  8. Organizing events or projects
  9. Speaking
  10. Gardening
  11. Spending time exploring nature
  12. Collecting Native American artwork
  13. Researching
  14. Learning
  15. Making a positive difference in the world
  16. Mentoring

Be sure to reflect back on the things you loved doing as a child, because it’s often these childhood passions that still fuel our creativity, even though we may have cast them aside in order to become “responsible adults.”

The next step in the p.r.o.c.e.s.s. is to do an assessment of your core strengths. Having a solid handle on the things you do well will help you decide what direction you want to take in your career and life. It’s a key piece of the reassessment puzzle.

Again, don’t over-analyze. Just brainstorm freely, and be sure to include personal strengths along with actual talents and abilities that are more a function of what you do in your job. Ask colleagues, friends, family, and those you trust for their input, especially if you have the tendency to undervalue your gifts.

Here’s my list of core strengths (with a little help from my friends…): 

  1. Strong communicator
  2. Strategic thinker
  3. Goal-directed
  4. Empathetic
  5. Good listener
  6. Relationship builder
  7. Organized
  8. Intuitive, yet grounded
  9. Inspirational
  10. Resilient
  11. Curious
  12. Problem-solver
  13. Flexible
  14. Collaborative
  15. Able to see the big picture – 360 degree view
  16. Abstract thinker
  17. Believe in possibilities
  18. Risk-taker
  19. Humorous
  20. Teacher
  21. Spontaneous

We’re looking at strengths here – not things we don’t like about ourselves, or that we want/need to improve upon. It’s easy to come up with a list of what we don’t do well. Excavating your core strengths will probably take you much longer, because for many women the tendency to be self-critical is hardwired into our psyche.

Finally, ask yourself: “What is my big Why?” What motivates you; drives you to get up each day; sparks your innate curiosity? For me, my big “Why” is a strong desire to make a positive difference in someone’s life – whether it’s my family, friends, colleagues, clients, or the world-at-large. It’s the ONE thing that figures predominantly in all the decisions I make, and what commitments I agree to take on.

Less crucial, but still in my top 5, is the need for freedom, exploration and variety. Anything that tethers me too tightly, or keeps me from having the flexibility to travel, or doesn’t enable me to work in a way that takes advantage of my energy cycles, is not the career for me.

Neither is a singular career. Being an entrepreneur requires that I wear various hats, deal with multiple issues at the same time. It requires that I utilize my core strengths in numerous ways, and no two days are ever the same.

It’s my perfect fit. What’s yours?

Are you still charged up about your career? If so, what’s your big “Why”? If not, and you’re just beginning, in the midst of, or have already completed your transition to something new and different, I’d love to know what you’ve discovered about your “Why.”

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