This is the eighth article in a ten-part series based on Craig Nathanson’s trademark “Ten P” model for vocational happiness.
What would your perfect life’s work be?
In mid-life, it’s a question we seldom ask. It could be the one question that saves you from lackluster jobs, faceless bosses and endless commutes.
Are you stuck out of fear?
This happens to many people when we pass 40. We get stuck in habit, routines and day to day living.
What are you afraid of?
Probably the things most of us fear; damage to our relationships, our financial status, our routines and our emotional state. After all, change is scary!
Don’t wait for a mid-life crisis, make one!
That’s right; don’t wait until you are forced to change by divorce, illness, job layoff or financial disaster. This is what most people do.
Make your own mid-life crisis a crusade!
This is what I did and you can do it, too.
After 25 years in Corporate America being good at what I did, but never liking it, I walked away.
I walked away from faceless products, faceless bosses and pointless meetings.
Over the next 4 years, I pursued my life’s passion — helping others of my age find the will and the strength to pursue their own passions.
This change has given me peace and joy because I am now living my life with authenticity and integrity, and I am now being true to who I really am.
But this change did not come without a price.
I had to give up my million dollar house and I ended up in bankruptcy. The best I could afford was a 400 square foot, one bedroom apartment.
Living an authentic life also meant that I could no longer stay in my lifeless and abusive marriage.
As you can imagine, this was a very difficult time and there were days I wasn’t sure that I would be able to feed my kids. I remember once trying to find a pawn shop to sell my wedding ring to buy food.
But we grew closer as a family and we had many fun-filled pizza and popcorn nights at home on the floor (no furniture!). Although I didn’t plan for this extreme situation, I did want to teach my kids a lesson about life and authenticity and what it meant to have integrity.
Will you go homeless or die?
You probably won’t die but you may have to re-define what homeless means. Following your vocational passion is not easy. It may be the hardest thing you will ever do.
I had days with no money, no gas and little food for the kids to eat. Yet somehow, someway, I always managed to come through when it counted.
Even as I went through this time of crisis, I wrote and published a book, started a private practice, and started teaching, speaking and creating CDs and other products all targeted at those over 40.
My father’s suicide not long after his retirement just served to strengthen my belief that we all should be doing what we love. If he had found and pursued his life’s passion, perhaps he would still be alive today.
One of the things that got me through was my deep belief in my new life mission: that the world would be a better place if we all did what we love.
What were my secrets for survival?
I’ll tell you what got me through so that you can create your own path towards greater fulfillment and meaning in your life and work.
- Defeat your fears with actions toward doing more of what you love.
- Seek out a support network of people who will honor your integrity and who will believe in you.
- Take a stand about something you believe in.
- Create your own work around your passions.
- Don’t let external views get in the way.
- Get creative about how to make a living doing what you love.
- Downscale where possible to make the journey smoother.
- Do something small in your passions each day.
- Live with the intention that you will create work for yourself that is both fulfilling and meaningful.
- Smile a lot, laugh a lot and be grateful for the life you have now.
As I continue to happily anticipate my work every day, I know I made the right choice. I feel positive and happy and I know that, although I may never be wealthy again, I will be able to build my business to the point where I can comfortably support myself and my children. Best of all, I am now living with integrity — what a wonderful thing to be modeling for my kids!
Your life and work will be deeper and richer
Your life will be deeper because you will spend your days doing what you love. And richer because you have seen the OTHER side and in the process redefined for yourself what it means to live as a person with integrity.
Can you too live an authentic life after 40?
It will take hard work and it will take time. You will have to believe in yourself and your vision even when it seems that no one around you ever will.
But once you get going, the momentum will build and your life will never be the same. It’s your time now to finally recreate your own life and your work.
As you do, you can be sure I will be cheering you on as you go.