By Rachel Lankester
Midlife, Covid and starting fresh
Midlife is often when we start thinking we want something different from our lives. Menopause reminds us that while we still have lots of time left, if we want to do something else, we better get our skates on!
I started this process when early menopause at 41 prompted me to start questioning everything about myself and my future role in the world. I quickly realized this was a whole new chapter in life.
I reckon the potentially biggest impact of Covid-19 will be that we have had the time and environment in which to contemplate a new ‘normal’ for both the world and ourselves. It’s certainly prompted me to start focusing on what’s truly important, rather than all the distracting less meaningful ‘stuff’ of ‘normal’ day-to-day life.
There’s nothing like a global pandemic to make you realize exactly what does and doesn’t matter! What you actually need. As well as reminding you daily of your own mortality!
I don’t find this depressing, I find it exciting. Finally the world seems to be waking up to the possibilities of difference. I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’. I was already determined to make my life the best it could possibly be, but now I feel even more inspired to just get on with it! No more time wasting!
How about you? Are you feeling that itch to live differently going forward? Are you wondering what next? Has that annoying niggle in the back of your head that there must be more to life, become a stroppy roar? Do you want a significantly different new chapter in life?
If it has, you’re not alone. We’re already seeing a huge increase in creativity since the world started coping with Covid and I don’t see that stopping any time soon. It’s exactly the restrictions on our daily lives that have led to this explosion of creativity.
You may still be restricted in your movement out and about, but that doesn’t need to restrict your next chapter planning and, depending on what you actually decide to do, putting that in place. Darwin proved long ago that it’s not how strong you are that determines your survival, but the extent to which you are able to adapt to change.
Working out what next
If ideas for your next chapter have already arrived fully formed in your head, congratulations! Your challenge will be how to make that a reality in a post Covid world. What I talk about below will still be of use to you to make sure you’re on the right track.
But what do you do if you know you want change, but you don’t know what?
1. A good place to start is with your values. Find a good extensive list, Brené Brown has a great one. Take some time to work out your top three. There’s no point in creating a sparkly new next chapter that isn’t aligned with your values. You’ll just feel like you’re treading water still.
2. Another useful thing to understand better is your strengths. We often go through life focused on improving our weaknesses. But if we can align what we do with what we’re best at, we’re likely to be much happier. I don’t mean specific strengths like being able to cook or paint.
I’m talking about our innate strengths that form a fundamental part of who we are. The Clifton StrengthsFinder is fantastic for this. My own latest chapter has specifically focused on what I found to be my strengths: ideation, input, empathy, belief and connectedness. I love it!
3. Next, work out how you want to feel day to day. Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map work is great for this. How do you want to feel in various areas of your life: career, money, home, sustainability, fitness, food, sensuality, interests, education, hobbies, romance, relationships, family, community, soul, faith, intuition etc.?
Brainstorm feeling words that inspire and empower you. What feelings do you not want to feel? Find a journal and write down your thoughts. Let your subconscious mind take over and guide you. My core desired feelings which continue to motivate me are: inspire (to inspire and be inspired), vibrant, centred and authentically brilliant!
4. Hopefully by now you’re learning quite a lot more about yourself! Now you get to create your Chuck It List (the opposite of a Bucket List). What don’t you want? What do you never want to do ever again? What will you do to stop yourself having to do that ever again? Get out your journal again and just write whatever comes to mind.
5.The final step in this mini reinvention process is to start dreaming. Remember, you’re never too old and it’s never too late. You have so many life skills and the world needs you to use those just as much as you do.
Make an inventory of all the things you love doing and all the things you’re good at. What do people always ask you to do? What are you well known for doing?
What did you used to love when you were younger but which you perhaps gave up as you progressed through a more structured and sensible life? Get out your journal and write everything down. You’ll find the gold for what will create a magnificent next chapter in the intersection between what you’re good at and what you love.
The Japanese have a wonderful word for exactly this – ikigai – the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing. Your reason to jump out of bed every morning. It’s thought to be the secret to a long and happy life too, and centers on the central core of making life meaningful. If your ikigai is also what the world needs and you can be paid for it too, so much the better!
The secret to creating a next chapter that delights you is to find your ikigai and make it work for you. Whatever you do to create a sense of meaningfulness in your next chapter doesn’t have to be big. It could be something small or as big as you choose to make it.
What matters is that it fulfils you and provides a sense of purpose. But connecting with that will enable you to create the magnificent new chapter in life that you crave.
So where are you going to start? That clock is ticking…
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Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. She’s had several careers, including banking and PR, but most loves what she’s doing now – helping like-minded women in midlife and beyond feel great and live life to the fullest. She believes we just get better with age not worse. She loves yoga, running, singing, travel and most things techy.