Alison Deutsch Coaching Reimagine Midlife. Take the Next Step.
Not surprisingly, when I posted on Facebook about redefining “success” on our own terms generated a great deal of discussion. Apparently, that word is emotionally charged for so many.
What I found particularly interesting was the nearly universal agreement that the definition of success can be thought of as a moving target – one that changes with the decades of our lives. And when I gave it some more thought, I realized how true that has been in my own life. And it also makes sense when we think about it in terms of the arcs of our lives.
David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done – the art of stress-free productivity” writes: “You can’t decide if you’ve succeeded unless you hold it up to the criteria of ‘why’ you are doing anything in the first place, why it is important to you.”
In other words, “Purpose defines Success.”
I think that’s why my early years appeared so much “easier” - the metrics were clear and seemingly predefined. My 20’s was all about building my educational portfolio and starting my career. I was fortunate enough to meet my life partner in graduate school and checked that box off as well. In my 30’s we bought our dream house, started a family, and I was focused on climbing the corporate ladder. Check, check, check.
However in my 40’s I drifted off the traditional course – relocating 4 times to places as varied as Brazil, FL, CA, and PA. There were no set guideposts to follow. The “shoulds” became a moving target– each new location had its own cultural norms and definitions of success. In retrospect I can see what gave meaning, purpose and focus to my life was the desire to be a strong role model for my kids as I sought to rebuild and recreate a steady home life for my family. It became the singular “WHY” of my 40's.
A rather unconventional definition of success. And one that I did not value or appreciate at first since it didn't meet "societal norms". Yet when I hold it up to David Allen’s metrics- did I fulfill my purpose – for sure it was a highly successful decade. Alas, I only saw that in retrospect. As I was living it, the story I told myself was quite different. One that was not that empowering or flattering (here's a link to my interview if you haven't heard my story yet: http://bit.ly/2pRbGu3). One that kept me stuck, uncertain of how to move forward, yet knowing I wanted more.
I’m still in the early years of my 50’s and this decade has already been rather eventful. It seems to be a period full of transitions and recalibration. But having done all the hard work in my 40’s which generated self-awareness, self-compassion, and reconnection to my inner voice I released the shackles of perfectionism and societal “shoulds”. Yes I have finally come to appreciate Oprah’s definition of success: “…. Getting to the point where you are absolutely comfortable with yourself.”
Today I meet so many women in midlife who are going through common transitions:
* Redefining their role as mother as they send their kids off to college.
* Adjusting to their roles as daughters as they support their aging parents.
* Recalibrating career goals
* Dealing with personal illness or illness of a close personal friend or family member.
Be kind to yourself. And heed the helpful advice of David Allen: "Trying to brainstorm a good idea without first asking the question WHY am I doing this. For what purpose? Why is this important to me… only leads to a lack of clarity and increased stress." It's likely to leave you feeling stuck.
Reconnect to your WHY and your next steps will become infinitely more clear.
Positive psychology, the science of coaching, offers many empirically validated tools that can help you to uncover your WHY. It's inside you already, waiting to emerge. Sometimes it just needs a bit of help to reconnect to it.
Please visit my Pinterest page to find free insights, tools, articles and lectures to start you on your way.
Based on her unique life experiences, and certifications in the science of positive psychology and the art of life coaching, Alison offers practical wisdom that helps women navigate midlife transitions with clarity and confidence. www.alisondeutsch.com