The pandemic led people to confront the near-inevitability of an existential crisis. And for many mid-career professionals, it exacerbated the issues researchers associate with the U-shaped satisfaction curve. In fact, research shows that the great resignation culled most of its victims from this section of the workforce.
With too many in this cohort struggling to stay buoyant, self-transformation becomes the key to reaching better shores. Afterall, you cannot help others or contribute to your team if you are struggling with self-doubt, disappointment, and disillusionment.
So how can you steer your self-transformation journey better?
Examine and accept the past
Youth is connected to multiple opportunities and pathways. With age, though, many old pathways close and the only option you have is to go further down your chosen path, one that might be becoming increasingly mundane (or limited due to ageism).
Often, this experience comes with regret – “I wish I had taken another path,” surprise – “But I had so much more to offer,” hopelessness – “Is it all there is to it?” or a feeling of finiteness – “I’ve had my run.”
The key is to examine these feelings, accept them, and move on. Renowned writer Arthur C Brooks has an idea on how we can do this: Focus on what age offers you rather than what it takes away. Fighting against time, and the changes to your skills, strengths, and opportunities will close the doors to new aptitudes, abilities, and paths that are part of maturing as a person and a professional.
It can also help to look back with positivity. Very often, we forget what we have achieved in our youth, focusing only on the recent past or on the negative aspects of our career trajectory. This could be easily resolved by refocusing our attention on what we did accomplish in our lives so far.
Focus on the present
Mid-life crisis is characterized by an inordinate dwelling upon the things not accomplished in the past and the opportunities that have closed in the future. The solution, therefore, could lie in resolutely focusing on the now. Do some soul searching to understand what, beyond the disappointments of the past and the anxieties of the future, is niggling at you in the present day.
The middle period of our lives is often when we realize that we have not allowed ourselves opportunities to grow beyond our professional lives. Many of us need to use this period to explore avenues outside of work that give us health, happiness, and a sense of purpose.
For some, this can mean a more active lifestyle filled with hikes, cycling, running, and sports. Others might want to give back to the community through donation drives or by adopting a school, orphanage, or old age home. Many may now settle into a routine that prioritizes self-care activities.
Actively work on your future
The mid-career crisis may seem like a stumbling block in your professional journey. Yet, there is ample room to consider this stage of your career as a springboard for new and exciting things.
Career coach Kavita Neelakantan recommends nurturing relationships and ties that will help you grow further. In particular, she asks us to pay attention to the “weak ties”, or our outer circle of friends and acquaintances who bring us new perspectives and opportunities.
She also recommends the process of job crafting for mid-career professionals, as it offers them the chance to chart a new course for themselves that is more suited to their evolving needs and goals. You can also do this by learning something new, be it a language that opens up global opportunities, or a skill or degree that helps you grow vertically or laterally in your career.
These mid-career transitions need not be taken independently. You can work with a mentor or a career coach to look back at your career trajectory, decide what direction suits your goals, and then chart a new course. This can help to quell your regrets about the past and your anxieties in the present and take care of the person you’ll evolve to become in the future.