We experience different kinds of change in midlife.
Some changes happen no matter what we do. All the hormonal changes and the automatic things that happen inside our bodies fall under this category.
There are those that happen where we have some influence over but we wished they didn’t happen anyway. Our kids growing their wings and leaving the family nest. Break-ups. Illnesses.
Then there are some that we welcome. Some that we embrace or even initiate ourselves.
But the fact that we want these changes to happen does not mean the experience will be altogether easy. Or painless.
Often, there will be growing pains. Struggle and resistance.
We may make unplanned errors and encounter unexpected roadblocks.
And at times, it may feel like we’ve stalled completely. Or like we’re caught in a dark tunnel and we need a flashlight stat.
We feel alone.
Nobody talks about this period of the journey. So, we feel so alone when we’re going through it ourselves.
We look at other people who may have gone through similar journeys and think, “They didn’t go through what I’m going through. What’s wrong with me?”
Of course, the secret is that more than likely, they did too. We just didn’t hear about it.
Nobody likes talking about the messy middle.
We like hearing about heroes and legends. Stories of people stuck in the muck don’t make for great posts on Instagram or LinkedIn.
We like stories of people making leaps of faith. And how they stuck that landing ala Simone Biles on the balance beam.
The false starts and stops, the imperfect landing, the fact that they landed first on their butt before they managed to get up… those are glossed over.
You know, I get it. The heroic transformational stories are inspiring and motivational.
We hear those kinds of stories and we think, “Hey, if they can do it, I can too.”
The problem is we run the risk of going into our change journey with unrealistic expectations for ourselves.
And then we beat ourselves up over the head when our experience doesn’t turn out as smooth and rosy. (I know how that feels.)
Embrace the thrash.
Jonathan Fields, the host of the Good Life Project podcast, says there’s something that accompanies the early days of any visionary journey. He calls it the “thrash”.
And we might as well expect that some amount of thrashing is going to happen — no matter how well we plan or prepare for our change event.
Thrashing is not about wallowing, it’s about acting, succeeding, failing, observing and adjusting, expecting a lot of things to not work, and being okay with that, because it’s the only way to get to what will work.
What we resist, persists. Or so the saying goes.
I’m learning that the more I fight the thrashing, the harder it is. The more I unclench my fist, relax my jaws and shoulders, and just try to enjoy the ride as much as possible, the better the experience generally gets.
So, if you’re planning on or going through some kind of midlife pivot or reinvention — expect the thrash. Better yet, embrace the thrash.
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTED READING
- “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack, or in a beautiful house. Here’s how to deal with a future you didn’t imagine.” How did I get here? When your third act has an unexpected twist.
- Advice From a Serial Life Reinventor. Give yourself some runway. It’s going to take more time than you think. And no matter how well you plan for it or how much you want it to happen, know that there will be surprises and even difficult times.