While working on developing products and services for the coming year, it occurred to me that I needed to ask a number of questions of the women I serve or hope to serve before I can create a workshop, retreat, e-book, or any other product that is spot on. So I began to do just that, and have spent the past couple of months talking with women all across the corporate spectrum about their pain points, their challenges, their goals and passions.
I wanted to get a better handle on what ignites a fire in the belly of a high-achieving, soul-driven midlife woman, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Everyone I talked with was wonderfully open, unreservedly frank, and touchingly vulnerable. While these women may have taken any number of divergent paths as a result of choice or circumstance, there are a number of places where these various paths intersect, and when standing on that sacred ground, their voices sound particularly unified.
As a general rule, successful career women engage in an ongoing inventory of their lives, their values, and their priorities in order to make sure these areas are integrated and aligned, and to make the necessary adjustments when they are not, but midlife is a time when that level of evaluation and reflection becomes increasingly essential.
Many of the women I spoke with commented on this kind of self-reflection and on their desire to combine both money and meaning to live a life rich in significance. For some women, that means reflecting on whether or not their current career can meet them where they now live in terms of their evolving values and desire to create an optimum life.
Midlife Reflections - Women Speak
“Is this all there is? I ponder that question every day since I turned 52. One the one hand, I love what I do. On the other hand, I’ve had this nagging restlessness the past several years – this subtle itch that’s telling me there has to be something more.”
“It’s not to say that what I’ve been doing these past 25 years didn’t have significance for me, but my needs have changed. The goals I had in my 20s and 30s are not the goals I have today. I’ve met those – achieved those – and what I value has evolved over the years. Now it’s time to align these values more closely with the kind of work I do. To do that means branching out in a totally new direction.”
“I am a child of the 60s. We started out with a lot of idealism and a belief that we could make things better in the world. What I’m seeing now is a lot of younger people in their late twenties, early thirties, who are seeing that in themselves, too. There’s a spark there that I relate to and I feel it’s important to keep that spark ignited so I can continue to make a difference – something I’m not so sure I’m doing in my current career.”
“If I am really honest with myself, I know I’m just not performing at my peak level any longer. To admit that is frightening to me, but at the same time it challenges me to step up my game or step off and into a new arena.”
“I literally woke up one morning and realized I’d been doing this for 25 years. It’s not that I haven’t loved what I’ve done, but I just can’t imagine myself doing it for the next 25 years.”
Over the course of his research, psychologist Erik Erikson emphasized the importance of having a sense of authenticity and integrity in later midlife. He found that the growth of the personality in the 40s and 50s is built on a heightened concern with the meaning of life and the process of taking stock, resilience in the face of setbacks, and greater self-acceptance.
There is a deeper sense of the core self, with fewer illusions and a beginning appraisal of where career and life has taken a woman. This re-examination is as natural as it is inevitable, and it often begins by asking questions and seeking answers from her internal world as well as her external world.
The questions a woman may ask herself are some of the same questions I asked during my recent conversations with various career women. As a favor to me, but more importantly, as a favor to yourself, take a break; make yourself a piping hot cup of herbal tea; sit down somewhere quiet, somewhere private, and allow your mind to consider the following:
After you’ve spent some time thinking about these things, I’d love for you to share your answers here or in the comments section below. Let’s continue the conversation we’ve started and see where it leads us. We’re all on a journey of discovery, and all roads lead to a more sacred kind of success…