Mid-Life Crisis or Opportunity? It’s Your Choice!

midlifecrisis“Be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of life it may occur.” ~ Muriel Spark

At a recent gathering, I asked someone for the time as it was too dark to see my watch clearly and I did not have my cell phone handy for a quick check. “No one wears watches anymore. That makes you sound so old,” she pronounced. While I suspect people in droves are not tossing out their designer timepieces or condemning them to a junk drawer, her snippy observation gave me pause to absorb her words. Manners aside, I really do not care how you access the information; in this case it was a simple request for the time. Use a sundial if it suits you better but it was my reaction to being thought of as OLD that was noteworthy. Could one simple comment begin a rapid spiral of negative thinking or was something else available to me if I could step back and notice its impact?

Mid-life and the process of aging can take many of us by surprise. In fact, it can feel like a much faster trip than we planned for and not the ticket we intended to purchase…yet. In our youth oriented environment, growing older is not as honored as it is in some cultures. It may be a time for feeling marginalized; like someone who should take up less space, leaving room for the next generation, those who are energized with fresh ideas to lead.

On the other hand, at a recent workshop I conducted, participants were asked to name four words that best described “aging”. The responses were fast and furious, underscoring the negatives they associated with the word. As these descriptors were recorded, I suggested we look beyond our initial reaction and consider the following choices like:
• Wisdom
• Character
• Strength
• Confidence

How did that feel? It was as if a light switch had been flipped on and from this newly positive perspective, we were able to collaboratively fill pages with many more words that were energizing and a reflection of the pronounced shift in thinking.
The words you choose are very important. They can empower you as much as they can weaken you. Words can be used to create clarity or confusion; crisis or opportunity; motivation or disinterest. They are powerful tools with which you can shape your life. As always, it is your choice.

• Select a word at the beginning of each day as a focus for the day
• Notice the language you use positively or negatively
• Become aware of your choices and how you can influence others by making conscious selections


Lighten Up

A young woman steps into the elevator moments before her boss does. Earlier that day, she had delivered what she thought was a well received presentation to her team. No acknowledgement is made on the ride to the lobby. Our junior executive jump-starts the following silent dialogue as the car descends:

• I blew the talk
• I embarrassed myself and my team
• I shouldn’t have volunteered to present
• I’ll never be promoted
• I hate this job
• I should have gone to medical school
• I’m too old now
• My husband never supported my dream
• I’m asking for a divorce when I get home

An extreme reaction? Perhaps, and yet how many times have we had an over the top response to the perceived behavior of someone else? If so, you are not alone and while we can snicker at the very detailed internal responses in the previous example, this negative self-talk took mere seconds from beginning to end. How many times in the course of the day do you engage in other sorts of negative thinking that in the long term is like a slow, toxic drip? Keep in mind that the average person has over 10,000 thoughts in a 24-hour period.

There is no evidence in this encounter that her boss’s behavior could have been attributed to a poor performance by our presenter. In fact, she was preoccupied with other pressing issues and completely unaware of her fellow elevator riders. According to Ben Battner, author of The Blame Game, “For most people, the fear of being blamed looms larger than the hope of getting credit. This means that in an attempt to avoid risk, people often make the wrong choice- or no choice at all.”

So, how can mini dramas like this be short circuited in the future? We can take deliberate steps to prevent our minds from getting hijacked by pessimism, muffle the inner naysayer and identify the source.
• Slow down…you are not powerless
• Ask yourself why you are feeling so sensitive at that moment
• Is your reaction reasonable based on the facts or a fall back habit?
• Identify someone you can share this with for reliable feedback
• Slow down…you can change your self-talk

©2013 MWeisner, All rights reserved