Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Compass for the Middle

Earlier this month I wrote about the challenges of being in the middle of a major life transition—the period when we're hanging out in limbo and forced to live in the question, "What's next?"

Our natural tendency is to relieve the tension of this ambiguous state by rushing into something…anything. And yet, I encourage readers to not hurry through this stage. That the middle is a rich source of self-discovery, exploration and opportunity.

All this sounds great except for the question, "How do we do it?" If I'm asking you to hang out in limbo for a while, I want to provide a compass that will help you navigate this new territory. I won't hold your hand and walk you directly to "home" but if you use the COMPASS, you'll begin to get a sense of direction. You'll feel renewed hope, and a little hope goes a long way to helping you stay on the path.

Courage: It's going to take courage to create something meaningful in this next stage of life. When you commit to a courageous new beginning, expect discomfort. According to author Brene Brown, "We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can't have both. Not at the same time." Accept the fact that you can't have comfort and courage, then determine the path you want to be on. I hope you choose courage.

Organizing concept: When we've lost our sense of direction, an organizing concept helps us feel reoriented. Unfortunately retirement's old organizing concept—not working—doesn't work for Baby Boomers. We want more than 7 days/week on the golf course. A new organizing concept suggested by authors Nelson and Bolles is three-dimensional: Development, Productivity, and Leisure. Consider what you want to do in each of these areas, and then take steps to make something happen.

Matters: What really matters to you? What must you have in your life? I call these your Life Essentials.  They're what you value most and don't want to live without. They make up the best version of our life. If you want to spend your time doing what matters, then you need to know what matters to you. List your essentials and use them as a framework for creating this next stage of life.

Plan: Begin to create a plan. You don't need a detailed vision of where you want to go to get started. By being courageous, using the three-dimensional organizing concept, and incorporating what matters most, you have enough material to start designing a new beginning.

Adventure: Embrace the adventure of creating a new beginning. Be willing to experiment. You don't have to get it right the first time.

Sabbatical: If you're feeling lost and listless, claim this time as your sabbatical year. A sabbatical often includes some type of intense study, but there is also more time for personal growth and pleasure.  It's a time of self-reflection, realigning, and exploration.

Another way of defining this stage is a "Gap Year." Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife, suggests a gap year for grown-ups offers "the chance for reflection, renewal, and redirection." Freedman advocates a gap year as "an opportunity to disrupt familiar patterns (and inertia), to grow personally, to be exposed to new experiences, and try on potential future roles."

Stories: As you navigate this next stage of life, imagine that you're writing your own story—a book that is full of adventure, humor, challenges and successes. A plot that brings you to the edge of your seat, makes you laugh out loud, and leaves you feeling happy and eager to read the next volume in the sequel. Create a table of contents by reflecting on the past, observing the present, and looking ahead to your future. Then take the next step toward making this story a reality.

The COMPASS is a guide to navigate "the middle" and keep you from getting stuck in limbo. Fortunately you don't have to feel strong or confident about your ability to bring about change. In fact, as author Mallika Chopra states in her book, Living with Intent, "Change doesn't happen when we feel confident, strong, and rooted. The blessing of uncertainty is that it gives us the nudge we need to dig deep—to incubate and reflect on what we want—and to find the courage to carve out a different path."

Use the discomfort of "the middle" to make something BIG happen in your life!

Copyright 2016 Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

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