It is a paradox that as we reach our prime, we also see there is a place where it finishes.
Are you dissatisfied with where you are now, in work and life? Are you unclear about what would make you satisfied? If yes to both, join thousands out there in the same situation and read on.
I read Gail Sheehy’s Passages, Predictable Crises of Adult Life many years ago. This book changed my life, as it did of many before me and since.
A central message of this book was the following. In our twenties we are invincible, immortal and all knowing. As we move into our thirties, as we grow paunches and our hair turns thin and grey, we see an expiry date. We are pressured to achieve. But what we do achieve seems irrelevant. We need something else or more.
In what is termed the “prime of life,” many of us experience discontent. Wealth and power, which seemed the Holy Grail, no longer satisfy. What would satisfy us is not clear. We are confused.
Zone of Discomfort
A young hot shot executive in his late twenties once told me that in 2 to 3 years he wanted to be three levels higher, sit next to the corner office and make oodles of cash.
I asked whether he could envision what he wanted to be 20 years later.
“Are you crazy?” he said. “All I can think of is a few years ahead.”
“Why?” I asked.
“It is fuzzy if I look farther ahead.”
“So what, let it be fuzzy. What do you see though?”
“No I don’t want to see. I cannot control my future that far,” he said.
“What can you control within the next 3 years that is more certain?”
Silence. “I don’t know. It is scary to look at what I don’t know.”
My young client felt more comfortable to imprison himself in time space boundaries. He felt psychologically safe in his zone of comfort, which did not frighten, though it did not satisfy.
My client is in what I call the Confused Generation. As long as we stay bound in this zone of discomfort we are confused. We want to breakout but we are scared. Often we don’t know how. I often find this generation of people, men and women, to be in their late thirties and early forties. Over time I find the age range coming down as success comes earlier in life and clashes with ideals.
Break out of your prison
What can you do to break out of this prison of seemingly safe comfort that emasculates you leaving you discontent and short of growth? Your potential is far greater than what you think.
The frightening world of VUCA, the accelerating change due to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, frightens even the courageous risk takers. The solution is to face it and embrace it.
What can you do?
1. Find meaning in life
You are genetically programmed with a purpose, meaning or passion. It seems easier to recognize genetic markers for diseases than for success. There are other ways. You can learn to figure out that sweet success spot through awareness and discovery. This can be a Hero’s Journey.
Many executives I work with find internal reflection very helpful. This reflection should use a structured approach that aligns their strengths with what they find joyful in life to potential opportunities.
2. Create a holistic vision
Wealth and power are dissatisfiers, not satisfiers. Health, relationships, service, learning, spirituality and several other factors that can help fulfill us. You need to create a holistic vision of what you wish to be and what legacy you would like to leave. Being in the present moment needs to help create a fulfilling future, not become a lotus-eater.
I request executives I work with discuss their long term vision with their loved ones, including their children, to develop a future that is inclusive and fulfilling.
3. Anchor that vision in action
Vision alone will not produce reality. You need to internalize and anchor vision in your collective unconscious to turn it into reality. The process is science not fiction.
As Paul Coelho said so well, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Meditative visualisation helps you tell the universe that you want something badly enough for it to conspire to help you achieve it.
I lived with the same confusion for several years before I decided to face my zone of discomfort and break out of my own time space prison. The universe helped.