December 7, 2021

We’re, most of the time, at the intersection of where we are and where we want to be.

The older I get, the more I realize this.

Deep inside, we know which road we want to take. Except that road is just a little bit scary and a little bit overwhelming. So we choose to stay plodding along the “tried and true” path.

Even if our hearts (and sometimes are minds too) tell us otherwise.

We take a long glance at the road not taken, and we tell ourselves, “One day.”

It’s just that when the lights are off, and things have quieted down, we know. We can feel it in our bones … what that “one day” really means.

And I think, even if we don’t tell anyone else, we’re just a little bit sadder—more resigned, less hopeful perhaps—that we’re not giving it a go. That the road we’re on (who are we kidding) is where we’ll be for the foreseeable future.

• • • • • 

“Are you having a mid-life crisis?”

That’s the question he asked me after I excitedly shared my decision to shift direction. When I  opted for the other road. He was my mentor, the person I looked up to for a long time, whose career path (I once thought) I wanted to follow.

Of course, the question stuck longer than it should have. Long after the phone call ended. Finding the creases and settling where it’s most inconvenient.

Was I having a mid-life crisis? Was that what’s at the core of it? Did it matter if it was?

I think things are only a crisis when we fight it.

• • • • • 

There’s an art to reinventing anything… your career, your life, yourself.

I didn’t figure this out until I was thrashing about at the deep end of the pool. The fastest way to learn to swim is when your feet no longer touch the bottom. I learned this when I was 10. And learned it again recently.

The more I fight it, the harder it is.

The more I hold on to the railings, the harder it is.

The more I worry about how I might look to casual observers, the harder it is.

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Eventually, I realized what I was doing—the times when I was letting my fears dictate my actions and when I was making it harder for myself. Oi! There was a better way to bridge the gap between here and there. I just needed to be open to seeing it.

I gathered my lessons together and wrote them down. Mashed them with my observations, takeaways from books read, and nuggets gleaned from others people’s experiences.

Cross-checked them with friends, role models, the clients I’m working with.

I came up with what I’m calling The Imperative of the 5Cs.

They are imperatives in my view because you need these if you’re going to choose that other road. You know the one. It’s the one where you turn the corner. The one that leads you to new discoveries, new definitions, and new directions.

COMMITMENT TO SELF

Choose yourself. Choose your aspirations, your dreams, your own imagined future. Be there for you as you are for your very best friend. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York once said in an interview: “The most beautiful commitment you can have is the commitment you have to your dreams.”

CURIOSITY

You’ll never know unless you turn the corner, as they say. Walk toward your proverbial corner. Peek to see what’s just around that you may not be considering. I think all too often, we feel stuck because there doesn’t seem to be any other options. Be just a little bit curious about what else might be possible.

COURAGE

Be brave and bold. Not a whole lot. Just enough to give yourself a chance. ReDiscover, ReDefine, ReDirect… All these ReD’s can be just a little scary. That’s why we get stuck somewhere we don’t really want to be. But d’you know what? You’re stronger, braver, more resolute, more capable than you think you are. So have the courage sweetheart. You can do this.

CREATIVITY

You’ve earned the right to be less dogmatic, less prescriptive. To color outside the lines. To stop following the rules that someone, somewhere, made up. You were told to follow them because they were practical and proven. All that time the creative muscles atrophied. It’s time to exercise them. Flex them a little bit. James Altucher has this thing he calls idea sex. It’s the process of putting together two (or more) ideas that didn’t use to be connected. See what happens. You’ll know what’s right for you.

CONSCIENTIOUS DECISIONS

We have obligations. We don’t live in a vacuum. And while we’re not required to bring people along in our journey, we need to accept that some people will be affected by our decisions. Some people went dancing with you because when they met you, you were doing the Jive. You certainly have the right to change the music and do the Tango. But you have to clue them in about change.

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Of course, changing directions—no matter how unsatisfying the current one is—is not exactly a walk in the park.

Otherwise, everyone would be doing it, right?

The challenge is how to get out of one trajectory and into another, without losing our way. How to reposition ourselves so that we can make slight adjustments, and not have to make the scary 90-degree turns. How to find a new spot, make it ours, and not lose ourselves in the process entirely.

About the Author: 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.