The Love/Hate Crisis of Mid-Career
Kathy Caprino is a rock star. She’s the type of coach who is a great writer that easily conveys profound advice. You can read her wisdom all over the internet including here, where she poses the question “Will I regret it when I’m 80?”.
What will I regret when I’m 80? My husband’s mother is in her 80's and my grandparents are too. Watching them age is humbling and instructional. It feels so far away, but too close for comfort, and we’re definitely paying attention, trying to learn and prepare.
We’re watching from the vantage point of 40-years-old, which is kind of like being trapped on floor 40 of an elevator that goes up 80 floors. It’s too far to walk down or walk up so you just wait for the elevator repair guys. Some days I’m waiting in limbo where I haven’t exactly achieved all of my heart’s desires but I have so much to be thankful for, and I possess the wisdom to know that achieving my heart’s desires isn’t as perfect as it sounds.
It’s why I have a love/hate relationship with aging. I love counting my blessings and seeing them multiply over the years, I love feeling good about who I am and what I can do, and I love stacking up experiences and layering them with knowledge, creating a delicious lasagna of life that gets better and better every year.
But I detest missed opportunities, regret, conjuring up the willpower to make up for lack of energy, and I especially loathe the wistfulness of paths I didn’t take. I appreciate the choices I’ve made but it will never get easier passing on some things to choose others. I want to do it all, experience it all, revel in it all, maximize it all. I love life and it seems a little sad that I won’t get to see everything, do everything, go everywhere, and love everyone in this lifetime. I don’t dwell on it, but there it is.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot as I create my coaching materials, how to extract life lessons and leverage perspective to build packages that benefit my clients. For example, we can all agree that moms tend to put themselves last for a variety of reasons, but can I solve for that? Can I facilitate an easy way for moms to recognize and capitalize on their amazing gifts, so they can find personal and/or professional fulfillment in addition to relishing motherhood?
I’m working on some other big stuff too. I can’t stop thinking about iterative change, how when you make small micro steps towards a better future, you don’t have to know what will happen, or even see the whole picture, you just choose what matters to you and let the good stuff in.
For example, 10 years ago, in 2008, I elected to work from home as opposed to relocate when my regional office was closed. It meant a lot of flights and overnights away, but I was ambitious and excited and it worked. The interesting thing in retrospect is choosing to work from home then meant not choosing to relocate, but now I can see how the decision did reflect my values. I wasn’t not choosing relocation, I was choosing to live my value of squeezing all the juice out of each day. It’s high priority for me and eliminating the commute for 10 years has been incredibly significant to that goal. Cool how that works, huh?
Making the decision to leave my job after 13 years in 2016 was another decision that at the time that felt like one thing but now has deeper meaning. The answer to the question, will I regret it (staying at my old job) at 80? was an unequivocal yes. It was great for many reasons but when I envisioned my future, it was no longer relevant. That job wasn’t the only thing I wanted to try and it wasn’t all that I aspired to be. I deeply value growth and evolution and choosing to leave honored that choice in a way staying couldn’t. Put another way, my commitment to the journey became more important than the risk. Or uncertainty.
The same article referenced above links to this one about the top 5 regrets of midlife professionals. They are what you’d guess they are: 1) not trusting our instincts, 2) working too much and missing out, 3) paralyzing fears, 4) toxic situations, and 5) money issues.
My first reaction was why are we (you, me, society) still wrestling with the same nonsense year after year? Second, in my coaching practice, can I help solve for that? I’m not arrogant and I’m not naïve, but I do have a strong intuition about how to manifest positive change and how to align life with core values. My plan starts there, to act on my gifts, and see if it’s something that can benefit others.
Back to the 40–80 thing…
From this unique vantage point, stuck in the middle, I’d like to believe that the vast ocean of changes, experiences, and growth that happen from 1 to 40 can be replicated from 40 to 80. It’s counter-intuitive in some ways, health challenges might be a factor, but mental power can potentially offset that, right? The pace of life slows down, but so does the risk. The enthusiasm for life drops off to some degree, but the richness of a life well-lived can counteract that too. I’m optimistic.
Here’s a pep talk for those of you in your 40’s: 40 isn’t middle-aged, it’s a commanding vantage point where you can look forward to see the same quantity of years in your future that you can see from your past. If you take some time with that, celebrate life to date, and use that gratitude and hopeful energy to fuel what’s next, you can have as much to look forward to as you’ve already been gifted. Wow and thank you Universe.
40 is a chance to double-down. I’m going for you, are you?