Bust those Midlife & Beyond Fears Through Prototyping!

Midlife. We are all lucky and happy we got here! Now what? Some of us breeze through midlife, hardly thinking about whatever birthday just passed by. Some of us even try to hold onto our old selves as long as possible. The best of us though, realize that at midlife, we are entering a new life stage and at this stage, we need to explore unrealized yearnings and dreams. Research supports that it is in midlife people often question what really matters.  In midlife, there may be a need to make money, but more often I hear there is a strong desire to make a difference.  For some of you, that desire is a whisper and for others, a roar. But how to find that next step when so many ideas are floating around in your head? You have to slow down, explore options and design/build a plan that works for you and makes you happy. Think back to our early college years. That was a life stage when most of us tried out different majors, thought about different career paths, checked in whether we had the required natural talent, dove into causes we deeply cared about, and explored new friends and partners. We changed directions multiple times and never once thought of ourselves as failures, It was just part of the excitement of having options and the time to try them out.  To create a fabulous midlife, we have to revisit those key beliefs we all held at that time, embrace those beliefs again, and with as much hope and energy as we had in our youth.  

  1. Stay Open & Flexible. For a while now, there has been a lot of buzz around the “growth mindset.” Carol Dweck wrote a fabulous book on the topic titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  One of the important aspects of gaining a growth mindset is that it helps leave judgment at the door, which allows us to bust our midlife fears. In Designing Your Life coaching, I call it your Point of View. Changing our point of view means we step out of ourselves and look at something from an entirely different viewpoint.  Children easily change their point of view. What does the swing set look like while laying on the ground and looking up?  What happens if I try a new way to slide down a snow-filled hill? What if we had races where we all ran backward?  That is a growth mindset! By changing our point of view, we let our creative minds come up with options. 

In contrast, when we become “grownups” and face life’s crises and problems, we learn to use our rational or analytical mind to solve problems. The rational mind will analyze a situation or choice primarily based on past experiences and/or data. It loves a definitive yes or no and gets energized by pro/con lists. Your rational mind gives feedback such as…”You can’t do that!” “You’re too old to write a book, or start a business, begin that non-profit. Are you crazy??”  “At your age, you can’t take on those risks!” Possibilities are rarely part of the rational mind’s process. If you use your rational mind to come up with the next version of your life, you’ll definitely stay stuck! 

Try something different. Connect to the kid inside you. No matter how you have aged, deep inside, you are still that kid. Inside we don’t feel 50 or 60 or whatever age you are, which is exactly why there is a certain age when we become shocked by photos of ourselves. I remember looking at photos from one of my high school reunions and I asked myself “who are all those old men?” Funny. In the mirror, my face didn’t look any younger than theirs! Why connect to that kind inside you? That kid is the keeper of your creative thinking. In Design Your Midlife & Beyond, we’ll do mind mapping and what I call “odyssey planning” where you’ll prototype at least three possible next life stage versions. 

  1. Next Prototype those Possibilities! 

Prototyping is a design term for talking to people and doing your research.  Prototyping is not about getting a job or jumping into a new venture; it is about trying something out.  Here are some examples:

  • You love Paris and want to organize small tours to experience Paris not just as a tourist. That might mean you’ll be interviewing small tour creators and operators to find out the challenges and joys of organizing and running tours. 
  • You want to write a book.  Talking to a couple of writers about their writing schedules, how they publish and market their books. Enroll in a writing class to improve your writing skills. Join a writing group to get feedback.  Go to writing conferences. 
  • You want to teach at your local university. You founded a highly successful medical device company, loved your work and now face retirement. Set up coffee with other former executives who are teaching, to learn more about the process and experience.  Have coffee with the dean of the school. Have informal coffees with some of your company’s young hires to explore their interests and challenges. You might find you want to mentor instead of teach. 
  • You have a great idea for a business but have no idea how to start.  Prototyping could include talking to others who have successfully started a solo business. Have conversations with website designers and promotional people to find out how to get your idea to the public.  Take a class or two on business ownership basics. Corporate work is very different from being a solopreneur, and you’ll want to know if this business structure suits you. 
  • You want to renovate homes. Meet with people who have done it to get the bigger picture beyond HGTV. Find out how to make sure you make money, and what do you need to know before beginning. Shadow a renovator/flipper for a few days. Dig deep into the questions you have. 

You get the idea. To prototype an option, multiple things are happening at once to fully explore your questions and further develop your unique plan. It is not just about doing one thing, but how the Life Plan works- all the pieces and people. Having a good friend or even better, hire a coach to brainstorm ideas and questions. Designing is always better when done in teams. You just need to find your team. 

Busting those Midlife fears requires action! Fear and anxiety hang around when we are stuck and not moving. Design Your Midlife & Beyond Coaching is a FUN process to help you to unearth options for your next life stage by engaging your creative mind through mind mapping interests, prototyping options, and ultimately choosing and building an action plan for today, tomorrow and the next few years.  

Contact me if you are interested in exploring coaching and join our Facebook Group to connect with others in the same life stage!