When I first began feeling the rumblings that I wanted to change careers and follow my bliss, I continually chided myself for entertaining such “pie-in-the-sky” thoughts at my age. I was 41.
When I wasn’t sticking pins in my own balloon, I was freaking out about what exactly I’d actually DO for a living if I took the plunge and struck out in a new direction.
There were times when the fear was palpable; when the doubt screamed so loudly it drowned out all of my talents and abilities and left me feeling nekked. Fresh-from-the-womb-really-truly-nekked.
Fortunately for me, the yearning to follow my yellow brick road to a life of significance became more persistent, more urgent, than my doubts and fears.
One of the things I did to gain a sense of clarity and purpose about my next “career” was to do a thorough excavation of my likes, dislikes, hobbies, skills, values, even what I loved to do as a child (because so often it’s these childhood outlets that fuel our creativity and that we cast aside in order to become “adults”).
This come-to-Jesus moment also meant getting clear on what I was willing to sacrifice in order to create my fully-actualized life, and just exactly what I wanted it to look like. Like so many other things that involve lasting change, it was a p.r.o.c.e.s.s.
And I discovered quite a lot as I sifted through layer after layer. It’s these discoveries that have helped me understand what so many midlife women are wrestling with as they reach their individual crossroads.
My excavation shined a mega-wattage light on the fact that I’m a high-achiever (“Duh!” would say my friends); that I like wearing many hats, being involved in multiple projects. I like a certain amount of chaos.
If you’re anything like me, you:
- don’t want “work-life balance.”
- like doing multiple things and doing them well (in fact, you’re happiest this way because it ticks off a number of your fundamental motivational boxes).
- are more interested in getting rid of negative kinds of stress, not stress itself (because you understand that to be alive is to feel stress, and not all stress is bad).
- are a high-achiever.
- crave leadership opportunities.
- want to be part of the solution.
- are fueled by action, creativity and effecting change.
- recognize that despite your kinetic energy and love for social interaction, you need some time alone (maybe even a lot of time) to process and integrate all you’re doing and learning.
- can be a walking contradiction who is exceptionally busy and then suddenly, BOOM! you need time to decompress and recharge. It’s when you don’t give yourself this necessary break that your circuits begin to fry.
There’s not enough focus on high-achieving women (especially those in their midlife years) who like being busy and constantly challenged, and who have a need to be part of the solution.
For us, the “distress” comes when we’re pressed to abide by the current work-life balance mantras, when we’re no longer sure what we’re “busy” for and are just going through the motions, or when life is filled with too much negative stress that depletes, exhausts and confuses us instead of eustress which fuels us and keeps us feeling fully alive and engaged.
If you recognize yourself in any or all of the above descriptors, I’d love to hear from you. What else do you know to be true, to be inescapable about reaching midlife as a high-achieving woman? How has that impacted your career choices or your decision to change careers? How has that impacted your relationships? Has your life been overrun by negative stress, and what are you doing (and not doing) to get that under control?