Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Mid-life Career Rescue: how to avoid a crisis

Mid-life Career Rescue_v7On my way to the herb garden this morning to meditate, I thought to myself, in a week I’ll be 50. A question then rose in my mind, “what do the ‘experts’ say about turning 50, and of mid-life?”

The word, ‘crisis’ appeared.

Only, despite a lot of research into the phenomenon of a mid-life crisis, I didn’t feel in a crisis at all. “50 and fabulous,” I said to myself determined not to approach my next decade with anything other than joy and optimism.

“We are really advocates of just getting as happy as you can be-which takes care of everything. Even if you do not have reason to be happy – make it up. Fantasize it. Make a decision that you are going to be happy one way or another-no matter what. I am going to be happy. I am going to be happy. I’m going to be happy.” – Abraham


No dress rehearsal

Yet Carl Jung’s views that a sense of crisis occurs due to the finality of life, also resonate. Especially as I grow older and experience the increasing losses of friends and family close to me – many of whom have left this earth far too prematurely.  Friends and family – my own and others – who in their 20’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and older have died. Death has no official end of year – a reminder not to leave the things you really want to do until it’s too late.

Perhaps I had my mid-life crisis in my 30’s – something I’ll share with you at the end of this post. Given that the official retirement age in New Zealand is 65, that would have made me mid-life in my career. Assuming I plan to retire that is. Dame Judy Dench, has banned the word ‘retirement’ from her vocabulary.

“You retire, you expire, “ said one inspiring man in his 80’s who continues to work and live with passion. “I tried retiring three times, in fact. And it bored me,” he said.

It’s mindset shift, say some.


A mindset shift?

Not everyone agrees. For some the mid-life years are filled with fear and trepidation. For others a gnawing sense they have not lived the life they aspired to live.

Many men go through a phase when they take a hard look at the life they’re living. They think they could be happier, and if they need to make a big change, they feel the urge to do it soon. These thoughts can trigger a midlife crisis,” says Dr. Eric Metcalf.

A true midlife crisis usually involves changing your entire life in a hurry,” says Calvin Colarusso, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego

Whether you change in a flurry or take your time to get it right, redundancy, lack of security, escalating costs, mean many will have to continue reinventing their careers – working into mid-life and beyond.

Add to this statistics which are staggeringly predictable year after year with the barometer pointing to the fact that over half the working population hate their jobs. Anxiety, depression, health deterioration, substance abuse, relationship melt-downs…the list goes horrifyingly on.


Unconscious career choices

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Many mid-lifers have never sat down and thought consciously about their career choices. They often say they, “just fell into it.”

Others made their choices based on other people’s expectations. Hannah said she chose nursing to get away from her family. John, a dissatisfied lawyer, said he chose law because his father was a lawyer. Mary, an unhappy accountant, chose her career because she was good with numbers.

Alex chose a career in the IT industry because that was where all the jobs were. He hates it. “Every day I go to work, grit my teeth and bear it,” he says.

Perhaps you can relate to some of these stories. Maybe you have ones of your own. Whatever the reason for your unhappiness, rest assured, where there’s a problem there is a cure.

“Mid-life is a crucial point in the life cycle. Childhood, the warrior and power decades are past. Mid-life is an invitation to resolve the complexes not yet made conscious and move forward into the so happy years of creativity and health, of full abundance,” says my good friend and artist, Max Gimblett, now in his 80’s, in the foreword to my first book, Happy at Work for Mid-lifers.

Guides are necessary throughout mid-life, this book is a guide. Teachers to face and touch are guides. Mid-life will not be rushed. Everybody experiences mid-life. It is a sacred journey, a sacred path, the Way,” he wrote, then went on to say, “I urge you to utilise this book as an inspirational tool and carry it as a treasure. Persevere with your mid-life, bring into consciousness your childhood dreams, as they will become your living realities.

I love the sentiments he expressed. The hope and optimism and faith that I also share, that our dreams can become our living realities.


Making a living doing something you love

Nick Williams, Author of The Work We Were Born to Do: Find the Work You Love, Love the Work You Do, agrees. I had the privilege of interviewing and photographing him when I was in London for an article I wrote for The New Zealand Herald. Later he was good enough to write a review for my book.

“Too few of us have been bought up to believe that it is possible to make our living doing something we love, that lights our hearts up and stirs our passions. This I call the work we were born to do and is our true work. To find your true work is a great blessing, one of life’s greatest blessings I believe. And to be paid for your work rather than work for pay it one of life’s great joys.

More and more people today, either through choice or necessity, are looking for new and more fulfilling ways of working and earning their livings. Old ways are breaking down. Today, sacrificing your deeper passions for the security of a pay-check is no guarantee of security. Following your heart and deeper self is the new security. Your heart is the well-spring of possibility and opportunity that will never run dry.

In this book, Cassandra helps you find your work, inspiring you to consider new possibilities, gently guiding you beyond limiting thinking, and helping you find your own true self and authentic work.”


Mid-life Career Rescue

Book_v9My first book was such a success that it’s now out of print. Encouraged by people who keep asking for a copy I’m working on a revised version to be called, Mid-life Rescue: How to confidently leave a job you hate, and start living a life you love, before it’s too late.

Right now I’m in revision mode. It’s great to meet my old friend again and to remind myself why I wrote the book in the first place.

Remember the career crisis I told you I had in my 30’s? You’ll soon see the significance of the book cover design!

People often ask me, ‘what made you become a career counsellor and life coach?’

I remember, in my 30’s, being so unhappy in one of my jobs that I developed shingles – a painful virus affecting the central nervous system. I felt trapped and unable to leave.

My confidence and self-belief had eroded miserably and even when I was offered career counselling I couldn’t see any options.

My career counsellor asked me to draw a picture and I drew a grey bird in a black cage. I told my career counsellor, “I feel like a caged bird. The door is open, but she has forgotten how to fly.” She cried and I sat there still feeling hopeless.

Eventually she helped me rebuild my confidence and strengthen my awareness of my strengths and my skills. Importantly she helped me to dream.

I realised I wanted more from my life and my work than to go to work, grit my teeth and bare it. Getting a new job didn’t happen overnight but it did happen.

The work the career counsellor did with me was so important, so vital – saving me from despair and leading me not just to finding a job I loved, but creating one which gave me a sense of purpose.

She literally gave me my life back – and now happily, I can serve others in this way too, as an author, qualified holistic psychologist, career counsellor, life and career coach, and a trainer of other coaches who also aspire to make a difference in other people’s lives.

My hope is that Mid-life Career Rescue will continue to inspire others to have the courage and conviction to believe that happiness at work is something anyone can pursue – whatever their age and stage in life.

As one mid-lifer who’d read the first book said, “Your booked changed my life!”


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