The classic midlife crisis was always associated with success: the sports car, the fancy clothes, the inappropriate girlfriend, but not anymore. That’s so Mad Men. Today’s midlife crisis involves getting laid off at age 46 and having your well-meaning friends suggest that you get a pink Lyft moustache for your aging, still-not-paid-off car as a way to earn gas money. Related: Career Transition For Middle-Aged Professionals Why does the Don Draper midlife crisis seem so ironic and dated? It appears laughable today because American midlife and mid-career have changed so radically in the last few years that it’s darkly amusing to think of what might have been for us. I’m not endorsing inappropriate behavior. I’m just pointing out that, until perhaps ten years ago, the achievable ideal of midlife and mid-career for most educated Americans was one of privilege, success, and affluence. If you wanted it and worked hard for it, you got it. You got the job, the salary, the benefits, the long-term employment commitment, all of the goodies. Not today. Not by a long shot. What happened? How did the mid-career success that looked so attainable when we were in our 20s become such an illusory mirage, a mean-spirited joke that is hammering our generation into a place of fear and stress? A lot has happened, it turns out, much of which probably could not have been avoided or predicted. But, it happened nonetheless. The Cold War ended. The rise of China happened. The Internet happened. The tech wreck of 2002 happened. The financial crisis of 2008 happened. The breakdown in corporate governance happened. If I had told you, in 1989, that over the next 25 years, China would overtake Japan as the world’s second largest economy, the USSR would disintegrate - causing a big reduction in the well-paying defense industry, that new technologies would enable real time white and blue collar collaboration anywhere in the world – enabling a vast shrinkage of the American employment base, that financial disruptions would flatten retirement savings schemes twice, that CEOs would face virtually no accountability or consequences for bad decisions and be able to enrich themselves dramatically without any reciprocal loyalty to employees – you would have thought I was either crazy or exaggerating. But, that’s essentially what’s happened. That’s the bad part of our new midlife crisis. It was forced on us. At least in the Don Draper days, if you wanted to act out, you had the freedom of choice. Skipping today’s crisis is not an option. It’s a very disempowering notion, disturbing perhaps, but think about it: Am I wrong? Surely, the reality is somewhat different for each of us. (I know. Stop calling me “Shirley.”) It’s not as if every American over 40 is desperate and in trouble. However, I think most people would agree that the risks of career instability and financial reversals are far greater than they were a generation ago, that the potential to get and hold onto a long-term high earning position have been significantly degraded. How secure do you feel about retirement? If you’re not worried, you’re not really paying enough attention. We’ve been disempowered as a generation. This is troubling. Yet, we do not need to be victims. I truly believe that we can achieve financial security, success, and satisfaction with our working lives. To get there, though, we need to rethink what it means to work. Getting empowered means discovering where we add value in the business world and executing a personal strategy for extracting that value from corporations. In a lot of cases, this is not going to involve having an actual salary-paying job. Jobs these days for people over forty are a bit harder to find than they used to be and their long term prospects are not as secure as anything we might have imagined a generation ago. I think self-employment is going to be our ticket out of midlife disempowerment, out of our unwanted midlife crisis. What does self-employment look like for you? You have more options than you realize. Maybe the whole idea frightens you to death. I understand. But, if you look at the alternatives, the idea of supporting yourself through your own initiative and value creation might start to look at lot more appetizing. Are you ready to empower yourself in midlife? Let’s start the journey. This post was originally published at an earlier date.
Balancing a career and family is a common concern for most individuals. However, it’s important to realize the smallest of changes can produce the strongest of impacts.
I’ve often worked jobs that required evening and weekend hours. The question is: What can we do?
1. Morning Gratitude Moment
When you wake up in the morning, don’t jump out of bed for your workout immediately, or drag yourself to the washroom. Sit up straight, relax, and close your eyes. Say to yourself, “I am grateful for those who support me, believe in me, and are always there for me.” Say this with a deep breath in between each time you say it, and I recommend saying it for a full five minutes. When you open your eyes and look at everything around you—keep that moment of gratitude with you, throughout your day, reminding yourself how you can’t wait to get home to your loving family.
2. Workout Partners
Begin your day by stretching with your family and doing some physical activity together. All you need is 10 minutes. You’ve accomplished a two-for-one: physical activity and family time!
3. Family Playlist
On your shared streaming service, make a playlist of your family’s favorite music. When you take a break at work or feel a negative moment getting the best of you, listen to that music, think about your family, and regain your focus. Music is a powerful voice and has the ability to affect our mindset. Your family playlist will energize you and improve your mood.
4. Daily Phone Call
At least once a day, call or text your significant other or your kids and repeat Stevie Wonder: “I just called to say I love you, I just called to say how much I care.” Let your family know they are always in your thoughts. Even in the face of a big deadline or an important meeting, that moment will relax you and make your family smile!
5. Clarify Your Work Hours & Expectations
Discuss with your boss his/her expectations of you in regards to your time and your position to foster a mutual and clear understanding of your role. Should your role involve evening/weekend hours, and tasks such as answering emails, working from home, or extra time needed for special projects, establish a strategy and discuss with your boss how to meet these expectations so you don’t feel overwhelmed and pulled between your family and your job. If you are a new parent, have family members who require special needs, or have personal circumstances which require attention, bring these up as necessary, so if you have to leave early, there is an understanding of why this is the case.
6. Socializing At Work
It’s common for colleagues to hang out after work. Say yes when your significant other and/or kids are also busy. This will balance things out more. There are times to have beers with colleagues, but there are also times to go home, relax, watch a movie, and simply have fun with your family.
7. Buffer Moment
We all deal with a lot at work and at times might get irritated or annoyed. Remember you are a human being, not a robot, and thus it’s acceptable to have a buffer moment for these feelings. Take a deep breath, zone into your happy place that involves your family, think about how your energy can be used towards something else, and move on.
8. Yoda Philosophy
As Yoda put it, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Don’t try to leave at 6:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.; just do it. Allocate the last half-hour of your day to do the following and leave at 5:30/6:00 p.m.:
- For two minutes, take deep breaths, in and out, looking away from your desk, feeling the moment of gratitude you felt in the morning. Turn back to focus on leaving to see your family at home.
- Organize your emails based on what is to be reviewed, what requires follow-up, and what needs a response after your breakfast/snack/meal. Your emails are emails, not a to-do list.
- Write out your to-do list, priorities, goals, and key items for the next day.
- Double-check that you have a water bottle and healthy desk snacks.
- Organize your desk so that your to-do list is in front of you, papers for review are next to your list, and keep a pen ready with blank paper to jot down extra notes. Don’t always rely on your computer; rely on yourself and your mind.
9. Phone And TV-Free Dinner
At the dinner table, leave your phone and turn off the TV. Focus on your family, not on work, and use this as a time to bring all your energy, your aura, and your being in the moment with the people who support and believe in what you do, and love you for the ability to do what you do.
10. Your Work Journal
Keep a two-week work diary: try to track every fifteen minutes of your work time. After that, analyze for, and attack, any inefficiencies! This will import balance in your day and yield a well-deserved coffee break, a breath of fresh air, and time to make your daily family phone call!
Does email control you and take you away from your priority list, and thus your work-life balance? Organizational skills are an important factor in how you balance your day, affecting your work-life balance. Get organized and get happy! You'll find that work-life balance sooner than you think.
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This article was originally published at an earlier date.