As the years move on, most of us make some adjustments. We make changes in life as we age – we may not party as hard as we used to; we may travel to holiday destinations that were not on our radar in our twenties; we might have quite different people in our lives nowadays. What happens though if we don’t take the time to reflect on what’s truly important to us as we age? If we can’t (or won’t) acknowledge that with aging comes a shift in perspective and most likely a change in values? If we can’t reach a congruency with this we’ll probably feel a sense of crisis. I know some label this as a mid-life crisis, but I think that’s too easy a term, and far too limiting. For me, this period was the start of a fundamental shift in my values that I am still trying to reconcile. Jung captured the moment so well when he said:
One of the reasons my struggles with Billie Goat in the last few years was so tough was because I was holding on to my morning program. I measured myself on who I was in the workplace twenty years prior. I was a corporate girl, a high achiever, professional and driven. I was only ever accountable to myself (even lived alone with my cat!) and I measured the value of myself by my work achievements. I still had a balanced life – I was no Gordon Gekko, but my values were largely measured by my control over career decisions and success in my chosen field. I loved the sense of control I felt I had back then. I could make career decisions and see the rewards in that work. I knew that hard work would yield results and I truly enjoyed it.
I carried (ah…more about carrying emotions next week!) those values with me to Billie Goat. Once the decision was made to spend time on the products as a business, I knew I could make something of it. Internally, I was driven to achieve. I wrote a strategic plan and I worked hard. As Jung would have said, my morning program was serving me well. The challenge began when my usual indicators of likely success did not produce the results I was expecting. That was the start of my personal crisis. I was doing everything I knew to generate sales (and therefore success) for the business. I was pulling every possible lever but sales had plateaued and budgets were squeezed.
For some people, an unknown shift to Jung’s evening values might be seen in facelifts, tree changes, flashy cars or affairs. For others it may be a welcome serenity. We look for something to numb the inevitable shift. For me it meant an inability to go to work. In my eyes if we weren’t growing then I had failed, and I hadn’t actually experienced that in such a catastrophic way before in my working life. The morning program I held so tightly to was not serving me well. I didn’t know at the time that failure doesn’t have to mean failure. Failure can be a gift – a chance to grow and be a better person – it’s just not that important. For a while I lost my sense of self.
Nowadays I get that the younger corporate me was somebody I used to know. Occassionally she stirs – “how can I make this blog commercially successful?” for example. I love her and admire her, but it’s time to move her to the backseat. I am developing a sense of self that is more than just concrete measurable achievements, and embracing failure as part of the ride. Being in my late forties is liberating. I realise that to embrace the moment, I have to release the past…to acknowledge that “what was great in the morning will be little at evening”, and that’s just fine. I can see how important it is to love myself without conditions… to stop beating myself up. How about you?