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The Four Pitfalls of

the Middle Years

In my life, I am continuously highlighting what does not work about me.

I recently experienced being in an earthquake. At about 2am the bed started to sway and the walls to lean-in. We picked up our baby and rushed out of house with the other 3 kids to stand in a rice paddy and watch nervously as everything that should be stable suddenly wasn’t.

It was amazingly scary.

The one thing we rely on the be stable, the ground, wasn’t. It felt like there were waves passing through the earth and everything on it had become flotsam, being tossed around randomly by forces completely beyond our control. It made you feel very small.

For weeks afterwards I, and everyone I spoke to, had the feeling that not only could it happen again at any moment (which of course it could) but that the very foundations of our life were no longer stable. You could feel the uncertainty and insecurity of it just below the solar plexus – nothing was really stable.

Living through the middle years of life can be a bit like that. The very foundations of your life, your future and the kind of person you thought you were – those things you’ve spent a lifetime working toward – can shift in an instant.

It can be (is) very destabilising.

Reviewing your life

Somewhere between 41 and 43 (if not before) we tend to start reviewing our lives.

We tend to start a tally: What have I got to show for all the effort? My kids are older, I am older, I haven’t amassed a great fortune … what are the results that qualify the past ten years of striving? Is a great resume enough?

Sometimes it can feel like you’ve less confidence now than you did ten years ago, whereas in our early 30’s all was ahead of us. We were carving our own destiny, a destiny that now, ten years on, can seem a little shallow and elusive.

Who’s plan are you following?

In my 30’s, I delivered what I now think of as ‘Version 1’ of the Midlife Creation program (the young person’s version). In that program, the first step was to create a vision of your life at 80 years old, and the rest of the program was hung off that piece of work to create a life path that would get you there. It was a very successful program but, though it worked for younger people (and I was younger) as you age what fulfils you progressively becomes a discovery rather than a creation, and this demands a more inward-looking stance on your life – an exploration of what you have discovered.

Past 40, looking out into the world and saying “I want that please” is not enough. In my experience when put into black and white, many of us discover that the vision we’re working hard to fulfil tends to reflect the values we had ten or twenty years ago, and hasn’t really been upgraded to fit who we’ve become.

This disjunct between what we’re striving for and what actually make our heart sing can lead to all kinds of perverse outcomes for people… and a lot of stress and unhappiness.

Interestingly, I still start my programs with a vision of your life at 80, but for a very different purpose. Now it is more of a straw-man, a base-line that tends to show more about how you have evolved and who you have become than what you actually want in life.

What are you actually working hard to create? Is it what truly makes your heart sing, or is it a vision of your life that isn’t really yours anymore?

For many of us this exercise represents the first time we have ever really, deeply considered the life we are creating - in detail[1].

Invariably, what gets created at the start of the program is a pale version of what people create at the end.

Pitfall no. 1

Working really hard to an unconscious plan that, once fulfilled, makes you unhappy.

A good example of this in the material world was provided to me by Robert Kiyosaki of “Rich Dad Poor Dad” fame when he said something like “people work all their lives in order to retire, accept a pension and downgrade the quality of their lives… what kind of plan is that!?”

We often do a version of that in the emotional and spiritual areas of our lives also. The 40’s are the time to address this and get real about what you are actually creating for the second half.

Your Life in Review - Looking Inwards and Backwards

Instead of leaping in and creating a plan for how to get to that fantastic end-point, we tend to slow down a bit and take some time to look inwards and backwards into the life you have already lived. This really is the critical work.

It’s actually the work of the 40’s. It is work that is hard to do unsupported in this, the crux-period of life: the overwhelmed, over-busy 40’s!

I often tell clients that if this is the only work they do with me, if they never get to create the next phase of life, it’s still enough. This is the critical work of the middle years: a rediscovery of who you really are.

Pitfall no. 2 

Looking forward and outwards and not inwards and back an upgraded vision of your future

Our hearts mature much more slowly than out minds (we reach intellectual maturity by around 21, but emotional maturity not until the early 60’s!).

That’s what we are doing in our 40’s: our hearts are catching up with our minds.

Pitfall no. 3 

Thinking that what you are experiencing is personal to you. It is not, it comes with the period of life you are living.

In the middle years you will experience:

  • uncertainty about the future and the value of your past;
  • lack of confidence about your ability to ‘maintain the pace’
  • doubt about the choices you have made (in fact, I’d go so far as to say that you will, certainly, feel you made wrong choices!)

This bring us to the last AND MOST IMPORTANT pitfall:

Pitfall 4.

Blaming other people for your experience.

It’s human nature. The wife who doesn’t understand what we have done and how hard we’ve worked; the husband who doesn’t care and doesn’t appreciate what we’ve sacrificed….

This stage IS destabilising.

Be gentle on yourself and each other. It is THE MOST CREATIVE PERIOD OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE and the most unstable (apart from teenage-hood, which it is essentially recapitulating)

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[1] By ‘life you want’ I do not mean just a lovely retirement house on the beach - that’s a dream – in and of itself it will not give you the experience of life you crave.

P.S. Whenever you’re ready to look at new ways to take charge of the second half …. here are here are four ways we can help:

1. Request some articles on how to take charge of the second half of life by discovering you Leitmotif (the recurring theme of your life) email me

2. Join our private group on Facebook: a great place to share and learn from other’s sharing, get ideas, ask questions and hangout with others the same place you’re at

3. Get a free pre-order of our book (just pay shipping). It’s called “Midlife Creation: how to take charge of the second half of your life. Just email “BOOK PLEASE” and I’ll send you a copy when it is published (around December).

4. If you want to ask some questions or get a sense of how to start looking for your own Leitmotif you can book a quick private chat with me HERE(pls note you can't register into a program this way, but you can check me out and see if we click)

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