I’m not talking about selling all of your possessions and becoming a true nomad or quitting your job to become an entrepreneur tomorrow. (Though those drastic life changes may very well be in your future.) I’m talking about the little steps that you can take that will help you shift your mindset and truly set you on a course that will eventually, help you feel more in control of your life and your destiny.
Truth time. Responsibilities suck ass. They have a tendency to tie you up, make you feel stuck and cloud your future vision. Your commitments may include your children (and grandchildren), older parents or financial obligations. Maybe for you, all three. Sometimes, these responsibilities are real. Sometimes, implied or perceived. And sometimes, they are obligations we have nurtured and thrust upon ourselves because of our previous decisions and/or fate. It’s easier to just carry on as we have always done and play the martyr, isn’t it?
The most difficult thing, especially for midlife women, is changing the delicate balancing act we have mastered as working mothers, wives, and dutiful children, to one that includes our own dreams and wants. After decades of taking care of everyone else, realizing our dreams of career, marriage and children, it is really hard to even know what we really want NOW.
- What do we dream our second half of life to look like?
- How do we foster a healthy commitment to ourselves and our future selves without excluding our responsibilities?
- And how do we do this without feeling guilty?
It takes real courage to change the direction of your life and mold your future. We did it when we were young. We helped our children do it. Now it is time to do it again. For us.
5 Steps To Changing Your Life
1. Acknowledge what’s not working for you anymore. I come from a long line of “Just get on with it.” type of people. And while this philosophy has served us all well, I can see how this internal language, makes us stuck and unable to think outside the box. Complaining is seen as useless and the pursuit of one’s own happiness, self-indulgent. It took me a long time to figure out that being miserable is not admirable. In fact, it manifests and multiplies into all facets of our lives and infects others around us.
The tough part is deciphering what is not working in our lives. It is really hard to pin point specifically what is the true source of our malaise, but it is a very important step on the road to change. It is not good enough to say, “I hate my job.” or “I’m over-whelmed by debt.” or “I’m stressed by my obligations.” Ask why. Do you hate your job because it prevents you from pursuing your true passion? Are you over-whelmed by debt because you can’t stop spending? Do your obligations stress you out because you have too many? When you acknowledge what no longer works for you and why it doesn’t, how you can change your circumstances becomes easier and clearer.
2. Decipher what you can change. I used to frequently fantasize about running away. Screw you guys. I’m outta here. You can all figure out how to get along without me. But I didn’t escape. Why? Because I didn’t have the bank account to support me past the border. What I did instead, was change my life so that I didn’t feel like running away from it.
Almost 5 years ago, I hated my job. I’m an excellent employee. My evaluations proved that to be true. But after repeatedly being passed over for advancement, because they couldn’t lose a work horse like me in my current position, I made a financial plan. A plan about how to survive on less and how to create an income as an entrepreneur. When I decided what I could change, I did. I issued an ultimatum at work, was refused yet again for another promotion, and was able to finally utter those life-changing words, “Take this job and shove it.”
3. Adjust your responsibilities. If you are a midlife woman like myself, you probably had your babies in the eighties or early nineties, the advent of the “Super Mom”. As the song goes, you could bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. We worked full-time. We took care of the house and we reared our children. We juggled work and family like masters. Especially if we were divorced. We did it all. But what we didn’t learn how to do was delegate. Or say no. Or how to ask for help.
People will assume you are ok with all your responsibilities even if they can see you are struggling. You have to ask. If you have adult children at home, it could be handing over some chores or bills for them to be responsible for. If you are a caretaker, it could be asking other family members to step up, finding free resources or paying for help. If your job is over-whelming, it could be saying no to extra responsibility or over-time. You have to decide what is most important to your well-being and future self and adjust accordingly.
4. Try something new or embrace old hobbies you have long pushed aside. What do you enjoy doing? Do you even know? Take your new found freedom and explore your options. Take a class, volunteer, start a new project. Not in a million years could I have imagined that I would be blogging for a living. It affords me the freedom to be creative and be my own boss. I never would have started a blog if I hadn’t stepped outside of my comfort zone. You won’t know if something is for you until you try it.
5. Repeat. Times change. You change. This process isn’t a one off. It’s a cycle. Accept it and roll with it. Did you pass off some responsibilities that in retrospect you should have kept? Did you try something new and you found out it’s not for you? Oh well. Don’t fret or be hard on yourself. Lessons learned. Continue to evaluate what is working for you, setting new dreams or goals and making a plan to make them happen.
Life is what you make it. Even if you feel you have no choices, there is always one small thing you can change. It’s up to you to stop mentally blocking yourself and find it. Remember, even a small pebble, creates a ripple.