3 years ago I was sitting on my sofa in Shenzhen.
I had worked hard my whole life to get to this moment. I had a beautiful apartment with mountain views of the New Territories of Hong Kong (they're lovely). I was head of department. I was living the jet-set lifestyle. My family was proud of me. I'd made a list of all the places I wanted to visit, all the experiences I needed to have and one by one, I had crossed them off.
I had done all the things I was supposed to do. I was chasing promotions, making sacrifices, working overtime. I had "made it". Why was I so utterly miserable?
Is this it? Is this my life now? Is this how I'm supposed to feel? I'm in my 40's and so I need to spend the next 25 years like I'm fighting off panic attacks and the urge to scream F*CK OFF?! This can't be right, It's sh*t. I knew I had to get out but I had no clue where to start. I was 39. 2 years later A dear friend came to visit me in Italy. She had lived the expat life for years and shared some time with me in China. Her and her partner took the holiday of a lifetime and visited remote places, diving the most perfect coral reefs and arriving back in her home in the US for good. Repatriation was combined with lockdown and it had been rough to adapt to harsh winters and isolation. She didn't feel the same enthusiasm for anything anymore. She was unsure about the her career and her future. Was this just mid-life? She was 38. This weekend I talked with someone close to me. They were talking about plans for the holiday period and beyond and were reluctant to make further plans because…. In reality they weren't so excited about holidays anymore. They felt that things were only ok. There wasn't the same enthusiasm about life in general. They are 39. See the pattern? We go through life ticking boxes, keeping up expectations, going through motions when really we need to stop and take stock of our situation.
This isn't 'it'. When you hit your 40s you don't have to accept things as they are. You don't stop living.
As a coach, this is literally why people knock on my (digital) door. They know that something just isn't right but have no idea where to start. Luckily I am able to tap into my recent experience and transformation to offer solutions. I felt that it was important to share what I said this very weekend…. The lack of enthusiasm comes from when you feel that you are 'done'. That you've reached the end of your list of things to try, places to go, experiences to have. It is QUITE NORMAL to feel like this in your mid-life. I can't stress this enough, you are not alone in this. And where did you get the ideas to do all these things in your life before? Most likely from the people around you, from suggestions, from social media. THIS IS AMAZING AND YOU MUST TRY IT. So you did! But did you consciously ask yourself 'Is this what I WANT to do?'. Possibly not.
And not everybody has this type of awareness because people often don’t have the time or the skills to reflect. People are caught up in the moment, making plans, making families, making homes, doing the school run, arranging the schedules, chasing the deadlines, aspiring for the next thing.
The thing in common with the three people here who's story I tell is that we are overthinkers. We take the time to make space for ourselves to ponder. In that space these thoughts come running. But never fear, I'd like to take you through what I've learned.
Be clear about your values.
As cheesy as this will sound, they are pillars for your soul. They drive your decisions, your thoughts and your actions, start arguments and create connections. They are rooted in WHO you really are. If you are not making conscious decisions with your values in the background, you are almost certainly going with the flow and not being true to yourself. Look to your values and realise what makes you tick. There are a number of ways to tune into your values, but it all comes with reflection. Ask yourself, 'when was the last time you were really proud of something?' then 'why is that important to you'.
2. Build on what you've learned
For me, back in 2019, I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge base because growth is SO IMPORTANT to me and started looking into an MBA. 'This is what will help me sit amongst my peers, with THE RIGHT TO BE THERE'. I read up syllabuses, I made budgets and timelines and asked around as to what I would really learn. But it just didn't EXCITE me. I didn't want to dedicate my life and best part of 50000 euros only to push myself into a career or activities that didn't interest me. If you feel like 'is this it', the next thing to do is make a list of new things you aspire to do that BUILDS on what you know. You made that to do list when you were younger and less experienced, now you are older, wiser and know what worked for you.
3. Pay attention to your PASSIONS.
I knew there was something more that I was thirsty about, so I sat on it and kept reflecting on what I liked about my job. A year later, after having realised that I loved working with people and watching them thrive in my most recent director job. I knew it was coaching. I'm a natural cheerleader and love to talk to people and have juicy conversations. It felt like a natural fit.
4. Tune into your instinct and curiosity
In 2019 I knew that China wasn't my home. I loved the hustle and bustle of it all, but there is such a thing as TOO MUCH bustle. Without mental health support and an understanding of why I kept pushing myself to my limit and beyond, I was going to burn out completely there and probably end up with a serious health condition. I sat with a dear friend of mine who asked me 'Where would you want to live if you could live anywhere'. I could answer her at a drop of a hat; Italy. That same year I had asked my brother in law for a guide to Italy for my Christmas as I was cooking up some plans for my 40th Birthday celebrations (spoiler alert, covid happened and I spent my 40th alone, womp womp). We created a top 10 list of cities and countries that interested me and over the coming months I would investigate which companies I could work for that resided there. It was all coming from my gut.
5. Surround yourself with people who think like you.
It's quite scary to ask yourself 'is this it?' and its even scarier to say it out loud to another person. Someone's reaction to this conversation isn't a reflection of your relationship with them, but more about their own projections and own sh*t. If people avoid the topic, shut down or get defensive, it's probably because they probably can't or don't want to process this at this time. I'm very lucky to have friends and loved ones who are on the same wavelength as me that think outside the box and aren't scared to go 'off piste' from a life perspective. Pay attention to the way people speak and what people are posting on their socials. Get curious and ask questions to allow conversations to flow naturally. I've had the best conversations and friendships with people when I got curious about something people were also passionate about. Having people on your wavelength inspires you to move forward instead of staying in the safe. If others encourage you to stay put, then they just aren't in that same place of understanding and ultimately, this is YOUR life, these are YOUR feelings and staying where you are is NOT serving you. On a final note, if you're having these awareness's or reflections, pat yourself on the back! It's quite profound to think in this way and not everyone gets there at the same time, if at all.
Recognise that change is coming. And that you need it and deserve it.
Luckily, helping people navigate change is what I love to do. There's more where all this came from, so if you are looking for support and guidance from someone who has lived and breathed real transformation, then click to register for my live workshop - How to get what you want from 2023: A Beginner's Guide to Values. It's absolutely free!