Midlife is that time in our lives that calls for pondering our first half and deciding what is next. Most of us find ourselves disappointed and wondering about the unlived or even unexplored. Since we identify so much with our professions, dissatisfaction in this area impacts how we feel about life in general. One of the calls in midlife is to revisit our occupational choices and decide if they align with our calling.
A few years back, I dealt with a personal crisis that led me to question everything about my life and career. Just as in an initiation in the heroes’ journey, a trip to South America reconfirmed my decision to leave behind a long career in Human Resources over my vocation of helping professionals overcome the internal barriers that get in the way of living expanded lives and careers.
After more than two decades in Human Resources, I found myself disliking many areas of my profession, such as reorgs and managing layoffs. I needed to explore my calling. I was longing for more leadership and career development work. The field of Positive Psychology was rising, and I considered reconnecting with my profession. I researched many options until I found the Brave Thinking Institute. I traveled to California several times until I became certified as a Life Mastery Consultant. I learned there is a repeatable, predictable, and consistent method of creating positive changes. With my new toolkit and a passion for making a positive difference, I created a vision for my new professional identity. I envisioned working with professional Latin women pursuing corporate careers, just as I did. This niche would allow me to bring all my own experiences, my successes, and failures, as well as my expertise in talent development and organizational know-how.
Mapping my destination took me to a new set of skills I had to learn, such as business development, marketing, and branding. With the help of trusted business developers, I created my branding, website, logo, and materials. How could I learn more about my audience? One day, when I was doing my morning run, I got a bold idea: What if I travel to South America to do speaking engagements? This hint was exciting and scary at the same time. I lost sleep for a couple of days while considering the pros and cons of such a plan requiring self-funding. My primitive brain presented me with all the scenarios of what could go wrong.
- What if I make such an investment and no one shows off in my workshops?
- What if something happens to me during the trip?
- What if my message is not well received?
One day, when the voices showed me all those things that could go wrong, I stopped them in their tracks and said YES, I am going! My desire to share my message was much stronger than any fear I had, and I committed to the journey. I started sourcing ideas and possible destinations.
Next, I noticed I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help deciding locations and support in getting audiences for my presentations. I made a list of the Latin American networking connections I had nurtured over the years from my work in the region. With the help of those available, I sorted my itinerary, purchased the airfare, lodging, and transportation. I named my tour “Construyendo Tus Sueños”, or Building Your Dreams. A morning in August I left for my month-long journey with a suitcase full of workshop materials and my own dream in my heart.
The first stop was in Mexico City, where I reconnected with my dear friend Rafael Rivera Silva. His parents hosted me in their home, and I shared an audience of very engaging and participative couples. The second stop was in Quito, Ecuador. I did not have local support so I posted my event on Facebook hoping that women show up and they did! The third stop was in Lima, Peru. With the help of my dear friend Ceci, I had significant participation and had a great time speaking in front of this audience. Then I went to Buenos Aires to share with a small but heartfelt audience, and then to my last stop, Rio Negro, where I met my dear Erika and her friends. In every step of the way I managed my expectations adapting to the situations I faced and tailoring my message to each audience local nuences. When I finished my presentations I took some time off in Argentina to reconnect with friends and explore some amazing places. I was delighted with the experience of meeting more than 250 women who shared their dreams with me and gained awareness and inspiration.
When I returned to Houston, I took some time to extract the learnings and integrate my experiences, the beautiful souls I met, their longings, discontents, and dreams for a better life. I learned that women in Latin America have similar dreams to those I have met here in the United States. They have important needs and face conflicts with their many roles and how to balance them all: Marriage, motherhood, family, and career. I confirmed that being a career coach allows me to create a positive impact by helping them gain greater clarity on their values and how they can better balance their different roles, identities, and aspirations.
Few years had passed since my speaking trip to Latin America. Some of my participants became my coaching clients and I saw them flourish. I became an ICF coach and continued honing my craft. Hundreds of coaching hours later and many speaking engagements in front of female audiences had solidified my vocation to support bilingual-bicultural career women to achieve success. Now, I feel peace and joy knowing that I found my calling and I am aligned to my purpose.
I had extracted from my own journey seven steps that can help your mid-life career reinvention:
- Explore the calling. This idea suggests that our lives respond to something beyond ourselves connected with our strengths and gifts to make the world a better place. What impact do you want to create and the legacy you want to leave through your talents and gifts that are uniquely yours?
- Create a vision: See yourself in your best environment and job-organization fit. Use your guided imagination to visualize yourself doing what is life-giving. What emotions do you experience? Whom do you serve? How does it feel to be already in your vocation?
- Map your destination: Formulate actionable goals. Plan and take consistent actions aligned with your intentions. What are some steps to help you get to your final destination? In some cases, it is retooling by learning new skills, changing locations, making new connections. Every single step counts.
- Dare to say YES to the journey: A mid-career reinvention is a bold step and a life course change. Be willing to face your fears and say yes to that part of you who wants to grow and change for the better. There is power in deciding. Once you say YES to your calling, resources, information, and support will come your way. The key is to commit to yourself.
- Please do not do it alone: Being a long ranger will not get you there. Surround yourself with a support system. Create a Mastermind with trusted advisors, mentors, and those colleagues who believe in you and can provide ideas, perspectives, and support along the way. Consider working with a career coach with experience in changing careers.
- Adjust the sails: Be flexible and adaptable. Manage your expectations. When you venture into the unknown, you will find many surprises that will require you to take different tweaks and turns. It is ok to make corrections on the go, even if it feels like a failure. Keep going, and tackle to the wind adjusting your sails.
- Integrate the learnings: Take the time to reflect upon your experiences, successes, and failures. Know that every challenge that you face contains a gift and an opportunity. Overcoming difficulties will make you more resilient and better equipped to embrace your new journey.
Midlife is a time when people sometimes lose their way and flounder but it does not have to be that way. It can also be a time of reflection with the potential of becoming your most significant project: Reclaim your authority by choosing a vocation over a career. In other words, favoring who you are over what you do.