It’s a lot more common than is generally believed for people to re-evaluate and change direction in midlife, says life coach Louise Thompson, author of The Busy Woman’s Guide to High Energy Happiness. Among her clients she commonly sees an “incredible rush of empowerment” that accompanies such a big transition. It might be a graphic designer of 20 years going back to retrain as a vet, a jaded lawyer throwing in the safety of partnership to run his or her organic produce business, a sales manager retraining in his or her passion of tech consulting or stay-at-home mums setting up their own businesses, relishing the new challenges and financial independence.
“Midlife is a great time to take stock and re-evaluate. We have so much more experience to draw on and are so much more resilient,” she says. “We have been through the ups and downs that life can throw at us and know we can survive and come out stronger and wiser.
“Just as importantly, we also have a much more rounded idea of who we are, our strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes. We know what we want, what we can tolerate, what we can’t.”
“Clients who make big changes and transformations in midlife generally have more drive and more commitment than those who are younger. Their responsibilities are usually larger – mortgage, family – and so they are doubly committed to making a new direction work. They will work with more focus and productivity, as burning the midnight oil every night is not an option with family commitments.”
Small wins can build not just confidence but also momentum. “It’s a great way to check that the new direction or goal you have decided on is all you thought it would be before making a big leap.”
It’s also sensible to be pragmatic about the changes, given the responsibilities people generally have by this stage in life. “To start up the new business quietly on the side while still retaining the day job and salary. Or to save six months’ salary before making the leap. Or to retrain part-time.”
Late bloomers generally appreciate their successes more, she says. “They don’t take it for granted and generally feel incredibly grateful to have had this second bite of the cherry, so really relish not just the outcome but the process of getting there.”
How to deal with feedback? “Not everyone will understand why you are leaving the security of your comfortable life. You will have supporters and nay-sayers. It’s just part of the process, so don’t freak out. Your move towards a more fulfilling life can bring up other people’s stuff, resentment, jealousy and so on,” says Thompson. “Listen, but listen to yourself harder. Be smart: do your research, do your planning, get appropriate advice. Get your immediate family on board as much as you possibly can. Know you are in this for the long haul: there will be ups and downs along the way even when you are doing what you truly want to do.
“Stay true to what your vision of what the future is; you only have one life and it is for living.”
Read our interview with New Zealand-born writer Deborah McKinlay, and other late-blooming successes in this week’s Listener.Subscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content