To: M'Cues Readers

Published: January 16, 2022

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Hola, my reader friend. Welcome to the 95th issue of Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter that explores the joyful midlife. I appreciate you being here. Was this email forwarded to you? Thank the awesome person then sign-up for your copy here


THE MAIN THING …

There’s a word that showed up on my goals this year: Experiment.

I never thought of experimentation as a goal before. That doing the experiment — regardless of the outcome — is the desired result.

“Results-Oriented” was a badge I wore with pride.

I grew up following the values and practices promoted by Corporate America. Being tagged as someone focused on results was something I worked at. And this orientation led me to many, many successes. I am not at all complaining.

But but but.

These last few years, I’ve been re-examining my relationship with results. Is this really the “ball” I should keep my eyes trained on all the time?

Here comes the confession.

Ever since I stepped away from my corporate career and re-invented myself, I’ve experienced loads of frustrations and disappointments in my professional life.

That preceding statement isn’t to say that I wouldn’t do it again. It is not to say that I would rather have stayed within the walls of Corporate America. Quite the contrary.

But it is an admission that when you reinvent your career, you will likely find yourself in beginner’s land again.

And when you’re doing this reinvention in midlife, after enjoying a long career in one field, being a beginner may not be something you remember quite well anymore!

My frustrations and disappointments stemmed from a combination of things. But one common thread that cut across was the unrealistic expectation(s) I had of myself.

It took many, many moons before the brick finally fell on my head and I understood what was happening. I had forgotten what it was like to be a beginner. Perhaps, subconsciously, I was refusing to be a beginner again.

On the advice of a few learned folks, I began to shift my focus away from results and more on the process and the journey. To track the habits and the actions I’m taking, instead of only measuring results.

It’s the equivalent of tracking the healthy meals eaten versus the weight on the scale. And this shift in focus has made all the difference.

Back to the word: Experiment.

This year, I wanted to see how I could manage to do something (the something isn’t important, but if you’re curious, here’s where you’ll find it and the rest of my 2022 plans).

So, I found myself saying that as a goal for 2022, I would experiment. I’m not stating the desired outcome because I don’t yet know what’s possible or not. Or said differently, doing the experiment IS the desired outcome.

I’m allowing myself to be a beginner in this one specific thing, with permission to test things out, flail a little, and see how I might like (or not like) my experience of it.

BOTTOM LINE

In midlife, we find ourselves navigating new terrains often. Many of us are reinventing our lifestyles, our careers, and ourselves.

We’re certainly stronger armed with all our past experiences. We’ve walked all the miles; we bring all that knowledge and experience with us.

It also helps to give ourselves grace. To remind ourselves and give ourselves space to be a beginner again. To give permission to experiment and try things out. Without being attached to a specific outcome or results.


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INTERESTINGLY…
  • “Set goals, do your thing, work your plans — catalyze transformation knowing that everything you’re made of is already enough and worthy. And remember that your goals do not define you. There is no ladder you need to climb to prove yourself. You are not a problem to be fixed.” Your Goals Do Not Define You: A Gentle Reminder | Tara McMullin
  • If we use a projected lifespan of 80 years, someone who is 50 years old today can easily imagine living another 30 years! Think about that. That’s a lot of productive living ahead of us. But don’t look at these 30 years as “same old, same old”. It’s more than likely that we will undergo significant change during this time. Some of the changes will be internally driven whereas others will be triggered by external events. No matter how it comes about, some amount of midlife change is inevitable, and many are ill-prepared. The Existential Necessity of Midlife Change | Harvard Business Review
  • Time anxiety can take 3 forms: current time anxiety (the daily feeling of feeling rushed and overwhelmed), future time anxiety (caused by thoughts about what may or may not happen in the future), and existential time anxiety (the sense of lost time slipping away and never to return). Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Ness Labs has these steps to reduce time anxiety. Time Anxiety: Is It Too Late? | Ness Labs
  • Many of us are obsessed with efficiency. We schedule every hour of our day and scold ourselves whenever we get distracted away from our plans. But going about our life this way may not be optimal. In fact, what we may need to be scheduling into our schedules is a bit of slack. “If you ever find yourself stressed, overwhelmed, sinking into stasis despite wanting to change, or frustrated when you can’t respond to new opportunities, you need more slack in your life.” Efficiency is the Enemy | Farnam Street
  • “The party-going partner now prefers chamomile tea on the couch. The lover of wanderlust has started to cling to routine. The big spender has become a frugal budgeter. […] We don’t marry one person as much as we marry one version of a person, a snapshot of who we (and our partner) are individually and to one another at the moment when we say ‘I do.’” Watching a Partner Change is Hard. Accepting It Can Be Harder | NY Times

MULL IT OVER

“In my 20s, I was looking for validation in just about every moment. Looking for validation on the faces of other people and trying to figure out how to be and what to say that would have me feeling accepted and loved and valued. Today, I am focused on getting in touch with my grounded self, my wiser self, and the part of me that already knows what’s true, even though it’s still not easy.” — Annie Schuessler, Ep, 160: Answering the Call For a Midlife Reinvention


BOOK NOTES ▿

Midlife: A Philosophical Guide
by Kieran Setiya

How can you reconcile yourself with the lives you will never lead, with possibilities foreclosed, and with nostalgia for lost youth? How can you accept the failings of the past, the sense of futility in the tasks that consume the present, and the prospect of death that blights the future? In this self-help book with a difference, Kieran Setiya confronts the inevitable challenges of adulthood and middle age, showing how philosophy can help you thrive.


REMEMBER THE TIME…

The top 5 movies in January, twenty years ago were:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Black Hawk Dawn
  • Ocean’s Eleven
  • Snow Dogs

Okay, I saw four of those five movies. But what in the world was “Snow Dogs”?!


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LAST WORD

I was pleasantly surprised that so many of you read my 2022 Intentions and Goals. Thank you. There’s always a part of me that thinks, “Who’d be interested in your goals, Lou?” 

TBH, I shared them last week because someone dared me to do it 🤭  as a form of accountability. Anyway, I received several emails about that one goal I had with the word “experiment” so I thought I’d expand on it a bit today.

I would love to hear about your goals and plans for the new year or your process. I’m always interested in learning about people’s processes. So, please hit reply and let me know — or if you’ve written them up somewhere, like on Twitter or a blog post, please send me a link.

Here’s to a joyful and easeful week ahead.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser

About LOU BLASER

A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.

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