For some women, midlife is a total breeze whilst for others it can quickly become a nightmare.
We’ve all been conditioned to think our experience, our happiness or misery come from the things outside us – our situation in life, our health, our finances, the things that happen to us. So when all is going well – we feel great. But we also take it for granted that when difficulties strike it’s inevitable that we feel bad.
But this isn’t actually how life works.
You see our emotions and experience are never the direct result of what happens to us, these situations never cause happiness or unhappiness. Feelings aren’t a result of the world and life events, but a reaction to our thoughts about these situations.
You can test this yourself because some days, you’ll find, for example, your child’s cheeky comment charming, the next day, it will irritate you. Same situation, different outcome feelings.
And if a situation led to a specific set of emotions, your emotions would remain constant from day to day but they don’t do they? Because the same situation on a different day is likely to trigger very different thoughts about what’s happening.
Take another example. Standing waiting in a queue. One person may view this as a highly irritating interruption to their day. Another may be glad of the chance to stop, slow down and enjoy the pause. Again there is no one pre-set emotional response that we can have to this scenario.
So what impact does this understanding have on our midlife?
It means that what midlife means to us is less a reflection of what’s out there as some objective reality of how the world views this time of life and more a reflection of our thoughts about it.
And there are some very important ideas we need to understand about thoughts.
First of all we can’t control our thoughts – I have no idea what next thought is going to come into my mind and there’s no way I can predict whether it will be the type of thought I’ve had before or whether it will be something completely out of left field. Most of my thoughts are fairly repetitive but every so often a really odd thought will come into my mind that seems to come out of nowhere.
But what I also know is that these thoughts are not necessarily true, able to predict the future or in fact worth paying attention to at all. I don’t have to give them the starring role in my life and neither do you. They are just thoughts that come and go and the less attention and importance we give to them, the quieter our mind becomes.
So let me share how this can make a difference with an example. Coming across this awareness has been huge for me in my own experience of what my might be described as a mini midlife crisis.
When I hit my late forties, I felt really miserable for a few years thinking that my life was on a slide downhill. There were so many things that I still wanted to experience and I felt convinced that it was all too late for me. To be honest, I felt bitter, resentful, fed up. But when I discovered this understanding, I realized the downs I’d experienced were due to believing my thoughts. I thought they were reality, a true reflection of my midlife worth and future life prospects.
But these thoughts were never the truth.
And when I finally deep down “got” my feelings were due to believing my faulty, inaccurate thinking. That was huge.
I realised the feelings these thoughts generate, come and go. Thoughts about my age, the menopause, midlife, drift in and out of my mind. Some days they were focused around the new opportunities that I could see surrounding me. Other days, my mind was crowded by preoccupations about what was being taken away (smooth skin, youthful looks).
Now sometimes, yes I still worry about drooping and sagging body bits and regret past opportunities but I know these thoughts and feelings will pass. And if it's a useful thought such as needing to take more exercise or eat less chocolate, I take action without overthinking or analysing.
It might be worth pausing me for a moment and think about how this relates to you. Don’t worry if it’s not making complete sense, if it is that’s wonderful, but maybe you need to give yourself time to start becoming more aware of the thoughts you have. When you’re feeling happy and energized, what sort of thoughts are you thinking? When you’re in a less than cheerful mood, again what’s going on in your mind?
If you’d like to discover more about your own experience and know you want to do more with your midlife (and beyond) even if at the moment you haven’t the foggiest what that might look like, get on a free Flourish call with me.
Together we’ll explore what your version of a great midlife looks like and we’ll get you moving forward.
My guarantee: You will make progress during our conversation.
We'll also talk about whether 1:1 coaching with me is the right next step for you. For details of my current coaching package there is more info here.
I look forward to talking to you.