resilience in midlifeThis was a recent clue in a crossword I was doing:

Goddess on film cried sadly, desiring lost youth (7,6)

The answer is “Midlife crisis”.*

What a shame that it focused on the negatives. I must admit that I’m much happier now than in my “lost youth” and don’t feel sad about it at all, let alone spend time crying. I am aware, though, that not everyone is as optimistic. It got me thinking about what the other positives of getting to this age might be, and how we can use them to build our resilience in midlife.

Midlife is only a crisis in that it’s a turning point

I have written before that midlife needn’t be a crisis; it is an opportunity to change direction if we want to. In this blog, I want to look in more detail at how we can make sure we do turn, and that it’s a turn in the right direction. Facing change can be daunting, and for that, we might need to build some resilience.

In the earlier blog, I suggested that we can benefit from looking back and celebrating our achievements since our youth – and I hope you enjoyed doing that.

As well as celebrating, another reason for reviewing anything is so that we can learn. And we can learn a huge amount from our younger selves. How on earth did we even get from the age of 20 to our current self? We must have had some strengths that helped back then, and we must have some that can help now. Building resilience is about building on our strengths.

To help you learn, try the following exercise. It’s based on one in The 100-Year Life, a book which has inspired many of my ideas for helping my clients build resilience in midlife.

Take a moment now, it’s time for some remembering

Find somewhere quiet to sit (or stand, or lie down!) and put yourself back to when you were 20.

  • What did you enjoy?
  • Where were you?
  • What were you proud of?
  • Who were you with – not in any precise moment, but who were the people in your life then?
  • What were your assets – what gave you strength and energy?

In my case, for example, at 20 I was just setting off for a year in Moscow, in what was then the Soviet Union. I was terrified at the prospect but did go because I had some confidence in the support I had – from my parents, university and friends. While I was away I suffered badly from homesickness. Remember this was in the days when I could not simply call home. To cheer myself up, I used to go to Red Square and console myself with the thought that not many people from the UK (or the west generally!) had even visited the place. Even fewer would have lived near it for 12 months. My pride in that achievement, and the feelings of uniqueness and good fortune, saw me through.

Once you’ve really enjoyed being 20 again, answered the questions, change your position and stretch a bit. Come back to the present.

Time for some analysis

Which of those strengths could help you now?

In my example, how might those two things – support and a sense of achievement – help me now? As I refocus my business onto MidLife Transitions, those strengths could certainly help me build my resilience. Making sure I have support would help me overcome some of my fears of not ‘doing things right’, especially where my supporters have the technical skills I don’t. A sense of achievement would be a useful motivator to get me moving with some of the tasks I need to do.

By the way, I’ve also found this great quote from Vaclav Havel, which is helping me move forward without worrying so much about it being done ‘right’:

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

What can you do to build on the strengths you’ve identified?

To celebrate my achievements, I now have a ‘Done’ list as well as a ‘To Do’ list. I review it each evening as a reminder of what I’ve achieved. I journal each morning, where I reflect on my gratitude and good fortune in life. I actively participate in groups where people do support, encourage and help me.

What message would you like to send back to your 20-year-old self?

By now you will have learned many lessons in life. Which are the ones that you could have done with knowing when you were 20? This is a useful exercise to celebrate just how far you’ve come and how you’ve developed over the years.

You will have different strengths to use and different aims now – but remember that your 20-year-old self is cheering you on and can be an excellent guide.

Don’t lose your youth – harness it!

* As for that crossword clue and answer – do get in touch if you want it decoded.

And let me know on Twitter @JPCoaching what you’ve learned from your younger self that you want to now take forward with you, get in touch here.