No, not Dallas! Dissatisfaction. Especially the dissatisfaction that famously hits in our middle middle – upper middle age, most typically affecting men but women can be susceptible, too (although it tends to hit them younger – upper young adult to young middle age).
Pondering what I’ve learned over the past few years, it strikes me that what hits some people in their mid-late forties, early- mid fifties could be way more than looking at their plans & realizing all that they all that’s been left undone. It could also be that something is stirring in them, a sense of disquietude & discomfort that what their chosen professional life path has shifted as they grew, developed, MATURED.
Yes, there are factors of children flying from the nest; spouses getting reacquainted as something other than Mom & Dad; the displacement & sagging of physiques. But imagine someone whose marriage has remained on even keel all those years, who has nurtured a tender relationship with his spouse, accepts the less than ab fab state of a once swoon-worthy bod, yet is still slammed with a sense of antsiness, unsettled & unsure. It could be that he is NOT discovering that he made the wrong choice in careers or she spent all those years taking care of the family & now has nothing to anchor her life – – it could be that the disquietude & discontent that snowballed into chronic dissatisfaction is linked to having progressed beyond his current work, that he’s into a BEing he never imagined starting out as a callow youth on his career path.
Maybe – just maybe – what he needs isn’t a new car, snazzier new digs or a new companion – maybe he needs to step into a new life purpose, one that better matches the person he’s become rather than the one they imagined, way back in their early twenties.
Look at us. My career crisscrossed education & corporate paths, while John was first foremost an artist, but we set out on our current – we’d both say most satisfying – career path in my late 50s, his early 60s. It was not work either of us would have imagined at 25 or even 40. We’re only half-joking when we say the Universe is startled by our surprise – “You didn’t realize that what came before was training for THIS? How could both of you missed it??”
BUNZ & BEANZ – – Last month, I became friends with the father-daughter duo who ran a wonderful coffee shop/community oasis in the foothills of the Sierras, outside Auburn, CA. He was running a successful insurance agency when his daughter – in her early 20s! – asked him to consider if he was really satisfied with his work OR would he join her in the daring venture of offering delectable yums & hand-crafted coffee drinks to hikers bikers kayakers. She loves to bake, he brings great business sense – together, they opened up Bunz & Beanz two years ago near Cool, CA’s main (only?) business intersection – the fabulous Rt 49 – and the place is a huge success. Bliss for me is one of Missy’s fabulous mega berry scones, a cup of coffee & at least an hour just setting out on the shaded back porch overlooking a vast stretch of state park lands. Praise be her father followed his heart & amazing daughter , doing what beckoned NOW rather than sticking with what made sense ten, twenty years ago, heading toward his sixties doing something he never considered a few years ago, but which suits his fuller BEing to a T.
I LOVE Millennials – It’s hard for people coming up in the today’s business world to understand how tough it was as recently as twenty years ago to and announce to friends & family plans to ditch a steady pay check & benefits – especially the benefits – to try something more to your actual liking. I had friends who detested their corporate jobs, but stuck with them because the retirement benefits were so great. Most of them were cast adrift as the new millennium saw big & bigger firms massively downsize, a trend that intensified after 9/11. And people “lucky” enough to keep their jobs were handed work loads once handled by several people. They were stressed, unhappy ~ some serious big Dissatisfaction! And then came the Financial Meltdown of 2008. YIKES!
Yet forces came together that no one could have fully imagined at the end of the last millennium, part of which is the impact Millennials have had on today’s expectations around having a J O B. To name just three of so many – Adam Grant’s perspective-shifting Give & Take, Todd Henry’s spot-on Die Empty, Tim Ferriss‘ utterly disruptive & wildly inspiring, The 4-Hour Work-Week. I totally love these guys & am freaked out that their parents are probably way younger than I am!
It’s true that even in the 1990s, being shown the door from your job – whether at a Papa Bear, Mama Bear or Baby Bear company – was professionally & personally humiliating. Then came the financial disasters of the early 21st century & getting cut loose in midlife became commonplace, leaving men & women revamping career, with no money for a revved up new car, grateful for a supportive spouse instead of reneging on marriage vows.
Praise be! – While being shown the door by your company was a badge of shame in the 1990s, by 2010 it was almost a rite of passage!
Men & women in their 40s & 50s considered too old for a youth-oriented work force often realized that the job they’d lost had been work they’d come to loathe. Many discovered that the same economic forces that created havoc also unleashed previously unimaginable opportunities. We swapped business attire for the hat of entrepreneur. People took what they’d learned & refined for decades & funnel it into work they genuinely cared about. And fewer folks suffered midlife crises because they were too gosh darn busy getting new enterprises off the ground!
Women Rock! – Women often found themselves better equipped to handle the upheaval than men. Whether from nature or nurture, we tend to be more flexible, more able to cope with curve balls & problems, knowing that what looked like calamity could turn out to be… fabulous! We’re more inclined toward what Kare Anderson calls a mutuality mindset, more US oriented. We tend to be greater “opportunity makers, with & for others. And we’re more at ease with collaboration.
Ten, twenty years ago, women like me were painted as pathological givers, a quality felt to drain productivity. It’s true that I was generous with my time & energies, offering help without demanding pay back, yet I always found it weird that the people who sneered at my “Pollyanna” ways seemed to forget that I was being laden with professional accolades recognition awards.
Let me say, loud & proud, that women have taken great strides in feminizing entreneurship, to EVERYONE’s benefit. We’re naturals at making contacts rather than seeking advantage, we are better builders of trust, care more about solving a problem than getting credit, put diversity of opinions above agreement – all qualities that a typical late 20th century male mindset might find antithetical to success, yet all qualities that add up to POW! & WOW! in today’s work place. We’ve even helped guys see the power of serendipity in rolling out the best business plan.
My thanks to Karen, whose blog post takes the concept of midlife crisis in a totally different direction than I’ve piffled my way through here, so be sure to read it.
And if you find yourself – at any time in your life – feeling a niggling sense of dissatisfaction & discontent, look inward & ask, “Am I feeling disquieted, discomforted, dissatsified?” ~ ~ look for the source, stare it down, recognize instead of reject, then STOP any wave of negativity before it crashes into discontent. You might be itching to branch into something new, to find a way to express part of yourself that didn’t exist ten or twenty or thirty years ago.
Or maybe something totally different, totally guest-post worthy!
Keep an eye on this blog for a posting inspired by Karen* in the 08/21/17 Huffington Post – FALSE ALARM: reinvention is boomer friendly!
*Karen Sands – “leading “GeroFuturist”, best-selling author, firecracker speaker, trailblazer & thought leader on the Longevity Economy &Ageless Aging