Imagine what you’d tell yourself if you could go back in time, back to the same place last year.
Boy, would I have quite the conversation with myself. It reminds me of the SNL skit from a month ago …
Who knew we’d be washing our Doritos?
All jokes aside, for a lot of us here in midlife, 2020 was supposed to be a year of change. I know it was for me.
December is when I always sit down, look at the goals I established for myself for the year, and see how closely I hit the mark. I evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and use that to develop new goals for the coming new year. I even give myself a word of the year to focus on, something I’ve been doing for a decade now. (I’m currently settling on my word for 2021, that’ll be in another post.)
I read my post from December 2019, declaring my word for 2020 publicly. #2020Vision #2020Clarity It seemed like such a good idea back then.
And then 2020 happened. Pivot became the word of the year. Because without a whole lot of pivoting, 2020 stopped everyone in their tracks.
Pivot in midlife
In a traditional sense, the word “pivot” means to turn from whatever position you’re at, swivel, and move in another direction.
Pivot refers to a change, usually to help you get out of a situation you no longer want to be in.
Pivot isn’t a bad thing.
Here in midlife, we’ve all pivoted multiple times. Every change, every decision, every path taken has led us to where we are today.
I realize that without saying “yes” to a job offer, choosing to start my own business, and even deciding to have a child when I did, led me to where I am today. Every piece of my life was carefully orchestrated by me, designed by the choices I made.
And when I faced an unknown, I chose how far to pivot. I decided what road to take. Even if the choice was to do nothing at all.
It made me who I am today.
But I have noticed that midlife is different. I don’t look at the path before me in quite the same manner I did when I was younger.
And I know I’m not alone.
All of a sudden, we have different goals and values.
Our kids leave home and start homes of their own.
We question relationships. In some cases, we build stronger connections with the ones we love. In other cases, separation is the only course of action.
We move into caregiving roles.
We lose those closest to us.
We question our jobs, our careers. How did we get here? And more importantly, is this really where we want to be anymore?
And all of that questioning eventually brings about change. BIG change, in some aspects.
For me, I’ve faced all of that this past decade.
My daughter was off to college. We faced our empty nest and asked: now what? The answer came in the form of selling our forever home, getting rid of two-thirds of our stuff, and choosing to slow travel the rest of our lives. We headed out to the Pacific Northwest to explore and grow for a while.
Things were moving smoothly along. We were right on track for some pretty hefty changes in our future. And then – wham! – life threw a curveball.
When your old plans no longer work
The act of pivoting requires a sudden shift in direction.
But it doesn’t change who you are at your core.
I think that’s where confusion sets in. If you’re not strong at your core, if you haven’t worked on your internal self-worth, sudden confrontations can be that much more difficult. Because if you don’t have your core to fall back on, you’re left flip-flopping around trying to recover.
2020 has been rough.
But it’s also been a very good year in many aspects. I believe it’s because I know myself well. That didn’t happen by accident. I’ve been building this inner strength for a very long time. And it’s given me what’s necessary to pivot in a big way.
I can take the bad, assess it, deal with it, and use it to strengthen who I am.
Very little in life is completely unexpected. In your wildest imagination, you can see things happening. If not to you, to other people. (Even if you just read about it online.)
Self-worth starts at the core. And it requires you to rethink everything from time to time.
There’s a process – at least I believe there is. I know it exists, and I use it all the time.
Emotional – the first step involves moving past the anger. It consists of getting over the resentment you feel that this has happened to you.
That blame game is the first thing that shoots out of you: Why me!?
I like to give myself a few moments to wallow. But once I discover I’m wallowing, I also open up and realize I need to take a step forward.
That means mourning the old life, and moving on. Because the only way to pivot to something new is to have the emotional strength to accept something new. And if you’re still living with the way things were, you’ll never be able to find the new path waiting for you.
Wallow if you need to. Give yourself time to mourn the old world.
But it’s not coming back, not looking like it did before.
Change is coming. You might as well get on board.
Insight – is this really what I want? As you recover and find your new strength, it takes special skill to pull from deep inside, and ask yourself what’s most important now?
A few months back, I started a process of writing down my daily WINs. Every morning I ask myself: What’s Important Now? These are my WINs for the day.
WINs don’t have to be big. Some days, my WINs were barely there.
Sometimes it would be as simple as going for a long walk. To pay attention to my breathing.
Some days it would be to sit down and write several chapters in a book. I was in the right headspace, and I could hunker down and get work done.
Your insight is what’s deep inside, what you have to draw on to help you move forward. If you have a hard time defining what’s deep inside of you, that’s your starting point. What skills do you have? What strengths are deep inside? Who do you want to be now and in the future? The more you ask these questions, the better you’ll be at discovering the answers.
You may choose to write your WINs every day. It helps for me.
Vision – vision is often the one skill people have trouble acquiring. Vision is about seeing who you can be at some point in the future.
This is different from saying things like: I want to be a writer. This is about seeing yourself, defining the skills necessary to achieve the dream, and putting yourself into the position of achieving it. It’s seeing yourself at different stages, and doing what’s necessary to achieve those goals. No matter what.
If you want to be a writer, you have to write.
That’s my dream, so I make it a part of my day, every day, no matter what.
When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t see much beyond that first nonfiction book. But even as I began investigating how to create a business around it, I knew it had to contain multiple books. So I saw myself as a multi-book author. I say my name on the New York Times bestseller list. I saw myself writing no matter where I traveled in the world. I saw it as a part of my day.
And that’s why it’s a part of my life today. That’s why I have eight novels and over a dozen nonfiction books to my name.
To accomplish it, you have to see it. You have to see yourself in it, and believe.
Story – what story have you sold yourself? Oh, we’re all good storytellers, aren’t we?
Unfortunately, a lot of us feed off the negative. We love to weave stories that center around:
- I’m always broke
- I always have bad luck
- Bad things always come in threes
- What’s next?
- I’m too old
- There’s not enough time
- I have writer’s block
Do you see yourself in any of these? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Once again, the key is recognizing the story you’re selling yourself, and work to change it in your mind. If your story changes, you change.
As a storyteller, I tend to see things in long format.
Beginning. Middle. End.
I believe every life has a beginning, middle, and end, similarly to a novel you pick up and read.
If you live to be one-hundred, one way of looking at your life is like a one-hundred-page novel being written as you age. Moving forward one chapter at a time.
Chapter one. It’s the beginning. It’s setting the stage. It’s defining the main characters, setting up the story, explaining who you’ll become.
Chapter five added characters, you went off to school. You started learning, growing, defining your persona in greater detail.
You need chapters five, ten, fifteen, and twenty, each one built on the last, to create a deep understanding of the person you are today.
If you’re anything like me, somewhere in there, I bet there’s a chapter where others would say: whoa, what happened?
Maybe it was an epic failure. Or a breathtaking win. Something so out of the ordinary, it forever altered your life.
And that’s okay.
You did that because it was right for you. And it changed everything.
I did it when I quit my job and started a business.
I did it when I sold my forever house and got rid of two-thirds of my stuff. I did it for me.
How many chapters are left to write?
Of course, we don’t know the answer to that one. But we still can create plans.
My goal is to have 100 chapters in my “book.” Completely doable by today’s standards. And if that’s the case, I have to ensure what I do in my current chapter, and how I write the next.
There are hints as to where we are going.
That’s where your pivot lies.
It’s okay to pause your pivot. But don’t forget to work through change. This may just be a sign that you’re meant for more extraordinary things.
Pause. Think for a bit. Ask yourself what’s next. And then take the most critical step.
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