The Transition Decision: Thinking Big for 2019
Champagne pops, songs are sung, and resolutions get made. And this year, you want to make a big transition.
For me, it always starts with how I feel and my ability to chase around my children with increased energy. And so, I begin my annual diet/workout regimen, in hopes of winning the bet with my friends. There is some sort of re-birth that January 1 brings to all our hopes and dreams. You’ve been on a path for a while, perhaps it's a career or a relationship and now, as you’re reaching mid-life/mid-career, you are starting to question if it’s the right one for you. Before you make any rash decisions let’s take a moment to explore what you want to change, why you want to change, and then the all-important how of making a major life course correction. In this article, we will go over some techniques and thought exercises that everyone who wants a life change could benefit from.
Mid-life is often defined as between ages of 35 and 55,[i] although that seems to be pushing higher and higher in our minds. The desired course correction may be in your career, relationships, family obligations, retirement plans etc. Wanting to make big changes in this age-range often gets labeled with "mid-life crisis". The reality is that making modifications in this period can be fulfilling and successful.[ii] A career or routine may grow stale, or a relationship may come to an end. Life is a constant series of changes, and as kids grow up, as parents get older and pass away, and as we start to consider how we are spending the time that we have, we may want to change tracks. In fact, often the catalyst for a mid-life transition is triggered by a significant life event. We start to see our life and legacy a little clearer and may want to make some changes.
Wanting change in mid-life or at least reassessing all your choices is a good thing. Making course corrections with the goal of a more fulfilling life or career is a good thing. Before indulging in a reckless cliché (red sports car, for example) best to step back and ask yourself why now? Outside of feeling in a rut or slump, is there something more? Exploring whether the feeling comes from is the first step. Some little alterations, like diet and exercise, may be good places to get started.[iii] Next, you should ask yourself what changes you could make to the current path to make it more satisfying. Adjusting your work schedule or discussing new title/duties for example. Seeking couple’s therapy for a relationship that is in a rough patch.
Creating a Realistic Plan
You’ve thought about the why and decided you need to make the change. The next step is making a real plan and figuring out the how. Want to leave your established career and start something new? Great, what do you need to make that happen? What new skills, technologies or education will you need? How will a career change affect your retirement savings, emergency funds, and overall household budget? Do you have enough to make the leap? It may be worth discussing anything with a financial advisor to make sure that you don't take the plunge without having a contingency plan. Making smart, well researched major mid-life course change is what separates it from the oft-mocked “mid-life crisis” where one may make risky gambles and impulsive choices.
No one can see the future, but what we can do is plan for as many variables and scenarios as possible. On your current path, you have an idea of what the end will look like if you stay the course. Now you need to explore what the future would look like if you make a major change. After you do that, the next step is planning the possibility that the new plan will not work out.
Having contingencies in place if your new business fails, if you lose your savings, if you can’t find work in another field etc. is of vital importance before striking off on a new adventure. You don’t want to compromise your financial well-being, or your family’s, on an unlucky roll of the dice.
For any successful life transition, you will need not only a good plan but also the follow-through to commit. Making a New Year’s resolution to make a major life change is bold and brave. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are and because of that, it’s important to take the time and look within before acting. Ask yourself why. Why are you dissatisfied? What will happen if you stay on the track you are on? Once you can answer that, the next question is how. How do you make your plan a reality? Who can you talk to for support? What type of changes will this big move make in your life? Your family? Your finances?
The next step is to arrange for the scenarios when the big change doesn’t work out. If your new business fails, what next? If you can answer the questions above then you are ready to make your big change. Take to heart as well, that this mid-life desire for change is called the U-Curve, where a person in their mid-life hits a low point and feels dissatisfaction. As with the shape of the letter, what comes down must come up, and those later in life report being happier and more fulfilled.[iv] What that means is, with a strong plan in place, a mid-life change may be just what you need. Good luck on your next chapter and adventure. Happy New Year! And thanks for your support as I try to drop that tough 20.
About the Author
I am an avid gardener, a trait I inherited from my Sicilian grandfather. Herb, cucumber, spinach, lettuce, and tomato varietals fill my yard each Summer. I am the only person in my neighborhood bold enough to plant vegetables in the front yard (best sun). Get me talking about growing tomatoes and the conversation might never end. The garden is a special place for my two daughters and me. We chase each other around the eggplants, search for cucumbers hiding under the vine, dig for worms, and pluck tomatoes just as they show a tint of ripeness.