Go against the grain!
When you arrive at 50, those around you will expect you to slow down and retire. They will ask what you are planning to do when you stop working. The marketing messages you see are pushing youth and beauty and the pursuit of material goods. You suddenly realize you don’t have an answer or a plan for what you will do. So instead you work harder, but it’s the same career you’ve been working in for many years—and you never really enjoyed it in the first place.
This is when you realize that you don’t have the energy or passion for THIS work any longer!
What can you do?
This is the hard part. Your friends and family have come to expect nothing different from you. You have defined yourself by your work. This is the image you project to others. Your work has paid the bills over the years, provided for a few fun material goods, and your family never complained.
But inside you, something—suddenly—is seriously wrong. You know and you feel it.
I am going to die soon if I continue this work…
At least that’s how it feels. You feel trapped, bored, and worse—empty of purpose or passion. You read stories about—and admire—others at 50 who have given up their banking and teaching jobs to suddenly move to an outpost in South America, or open an orphanage in Africa.
You wish you had the courage to follow your own passion, or at least figure out what it is.
Crises all around you
You start to notice that people your age are dying around you.
Your friend from college—the successful one—suddenly has a heart attack and dies, leaving his family behind. A person you work with is diagnosed with cancer. Your neighbor gets into a car accident and is unable to walk again. These things make you nervous.
You feel lucky that you are healthy; no crises yet.
Then your crisis hits…
…and it will. Perhaps one day you come home and your spouse of 20 years tells you he is not happy any more and wants out. Or you are laid off without notice or severance. Maybe you hurt your back, and now you can only work part-time.
Perhaps you crisis is a small one, but it feels just as large as those on this list.
You are tired of your boss reminding you of your mistakes, and the silly dress-down days at work make you ill—you just can’t bear the news of another mandatory office birthday celebration.
You feel trapped
You suddenly feel like you have died. What is left in life?
Each day seems like the last, and you suddenly feel like you are not contributing to anything that seems important or worthwhile.
At 50, life changes
In mid-life, and especially around 50, it is normal to start to feel a little hopeless about your life. While the messages around you suggest retirement, followed by death, you actually feel differently.
Deep inside, you feel 25 again. You know you still have the energy for something more if only you could figure this out. You still feel attractive, and actually a little sexy, although you would hardly broadcast this to others.
The problem is, of course, that there doesn’t seem—at 50—to be an outlet for all this youthful passion. All your friends are continuing their normal routines, and talking of retirement.
You think to yourself, retirement? I haven’t even started to live yet.
Make your crisis a crusade
There is a way out of your lackluster life.
It takes new choices, and a new purpose.
Can you start to live like you are dying? In other words, if today was your last, what would you do over and over again? What would you do if you had lots of courage and nothing to lose?
So many people live their life in protection mode; that is, they are seeking to avoid risk. They don’t make a move without first consulting their attorney, their financial adviser, and their CPA.
The problem with this strategy is no one else can throw the blankets off the passion and purpose in your heart. This must come from you.
I know from experience.
Growing up an only child, I saw my own mother work for years at jobs she hated, hoping to get lucky and meet the person who would take care of her.
At only 57 years of age, my mom died—broke and unhappy—and still looking for someone else to take care of her. I was with her when she asked me for that last gulp of juice as the cancer defeated her—at 65 pounds she had just enough strength to try to throw the covers off in one last effort to get out of bed. I told her to lie still, worried she might hurt herself.
I realized later that this was her effort to live.
But it was too late for her.
Are you struggling to uncover your passion and purpose in life?
Your 50s are your time to celebrate, to laugh too much, and to be overly optimistic. This is your time to quit your job, and find vocational passion.
This is your time to gather internal courage, stop asking others for permission, and start to live with an internal roadmap—not an external one.
I can’t promise you that the crisis won’t hit, but if it does, your life’s work will provide the protection you will need.
Start your journey now
You are young; you have energy; you can be happy!
What kind of work best aligns your interests and your passion right now in your life?
What kind of work calls you now? What is the right work for you now, and why?
How can you gather up the support you will need for the next stage of this journey called your life?
Celebrate your life. Today is the first day for the rest of your life.
The actions you take now will set you up for happiness and fulfillment for the next 30 years or more, and that’s a long time.
So look in the mirror today, and smile. See how great and sexy and alive you look. Start to appreciate yourself, and feel new purpose and excitement as you begin your own journey toward vocational passion.
Teach in China, join a non-profit, or contribute to healthy living, or …
What matters most is that you don’t buy into the messages around you—you don’t have to slow down and move aside.
This is your time, baby! Let loose, and show others what it means to live with purpose and passion!
As always, I’ll be cheering you on as you go.