Many experience a time in their life when what used to matter no longer does. This feeling tends to bring about thoughts and desires for experiences that are in contrast to the way they’ve lived their life thus far. The most common example is the new car – when someone buys a Porsche after driving a Honda most of their life. Some make radical changes such as quitting their job and moving to another country. Others may make small modifications such as changing the color of their hair.
I work with many who hit this phenomenon commonly termed “the mid-life crisis”. It’s interesting however, how most feel a little silly and embarrassed about feeling this way. I hear “pipe dream” a lot. I’ve begun to wonder…isn’t this just wisdom? Smart, well-educated professionals who’ve done well in their careers but no longer find it meaningful? The wisdom to understand that life is short, live it the way you want to, not how others think you should live it?
I recently came across an interesting study as it relates to career choices and mid-life mental health – “Psychosocial Development in Adulthood: A 34-Year Sequential Study,” by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which has tracked three generations of college students. The study found that people who had switched jobs early in adulthood scored higher in a category she calls generativity–a sense of productivity in work and a desire to leave something of yourself behind for future generations–than those who settled down and stuck with an occupation for 20 years or more. “Job changes in people’s 20s and 30s tended to be beneficial in midlife,” says Whitbourne, adding that even job changes made in midlife seemed to have a beneficial effect. “The assumption is these people didn’t feel stuck.”
The term “getting unstuck” is a common term in my profession of coaching. Dr. Timothy Butler, whom I work with at Harvard Business School’s Career & Professional Development, says “ Far from being a sign of failure, these dead ends are in fact a developmental necessity. We have, despite our feelings of hurt, self-doubt, or depression, arrived at a new frontier.” in his book’s website introduction for “Getting Unstuck, How Dead End Become New Paths.”
With career being the center of each day for most, it’s critical that we get this part right. Living for the weekend, 3 weeks of vacation/year, and now looking forward to retirement…is that a way to live? Start researching your pipe dream and make it a reality. You’re not crazy, you’re wise.