For more than twenty-years, Lisa’s primary focus was working her way up the corporate ladder in the Human Resources (HR) department of a large publicly traded company. Day after day she worked hard to meet the demands of her superiors and colleagues, until one morning she woke up with a sickened, sinking feeling in her stomach.
It was her career, she realized. Having spent nearly half of her life working in an unsatisfying job, with few genuine accomplishments and the goals of her youth long forgotten, Lisa had hit midlife and she didn’t like it. She came to the realization that God was calling her to do something different.
To alleviate the feeling in her stomach, Lisa began making a conscious effort to pay more attention to the gap between the reality of her life and the dreams and passions she once had. She had always enjoyed serving others, especially the elderly. Through a series of events and conversations with a Christian leadership coach, Lisa came to believe that God was calling her to serve the elderly as a ministry career. She was determined to jump on this and make the rest of her life more meaningful and fulfilling.
Today, Lisa, is the owner and operator of a Christian adult day care facility in Houston, Texas. She is now planning her next venture—an assisted living program for low-income elderly residents. God is using Lisa in wonderful ways to add hope and purpose to the growing elderly population around her. Her own life is blessed beyond her own hopes and dreams. God is using her previous experience in HR in addition to her love for Christ and his people to create enriching, faith-filled environments for those reaching the end of their lives here on this earth.
Craving a more fulfilling and meaningful career is just one area of focus as adults near these mid-life adjustments. As they get older, they experience parents and older relatives begin to die. There is the realization that their lives, too, will come to an end. They start moving from chasing “success” to instead, seeking after “significance”. Success and significance don’t need to be mutually exclusive. The priority of making a lasting impact and doing what makes us fulfilled becomes more important. This is the time closet authors, dreaming entrepreneurs, hopeful worship leaders, delayed missionaries, potential church planters, and budding artists will begin thinking about careers to match their energy, vitality, values, faith, talent, skills, and passion for life.
The life cycle is, for most of us, fairly predictable. From adolescence to age 30 plus, most of us are consumed with learning how to become who we think we want to be. We go from our 30s to our 40s working and living that role. But in the later 40s and 50s, after having reached this goal, many discover it wasn’t what we wanted to do after all. At this midlife point, after having worked so hard only to find ourselves wanting, many are willing to take on the challenge of more risk and freeing ourselves from the burden of others’ expectations.
Longer life expectancy plays a part too. At midlife and later, people realize they still have decades yet to live and wonder how they will spend those years. They know they’re going to have lots of healthy years, so I think it’s a period of making choices to live out a new assignment that is the calling of God on their life.
Like Lisa, more women than ever are using their midlife and later years as a springboard to experience career and ministry makeovers. They want a vocation that matches their energy and makes them feel useful, significant, and fulfilled. After all, God made us with these desires.
The lesson we can take from Lisa’s story is that midlife should not be feared, and that the sinking feeling in your stomach should not be ignored. Both are an accepted call to action. God may be calling you to take what you have learned and who you have become into a new and exciting chapter of your life.
Are you ready to make a change? Is God calling you to something different? Here are seven tips for getting started.
1. Make a list of the things missing from your life
Do you long to revive a passion from your youth that you never found time to pursue? Is it music, a sport, writing, cooking, entrepreneurship? It doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s something you truly have a desire to do. Could it have been a call from God to a ministry? If you've already got a clear picture of things you'd like to pursue, then identify small, achievable ways you can start incorporating them into your life.
2. Imagine that you already have over a million dollars in the bank
I’m suggesting this in order to free you up, at least for a little while, from the cares of daily life. If money were not a consideration, how would you spend your time each day? Think of the environment you'd like to be in, the people you'd want to know, and how you would relate to them. What activities would you engage in? Chances are your passions come to the surface when being concerned about paying the bills is taken off the table. Although we’re not all destined to be millionaires, that shouldn’t hold you back from following your desires and placing more value in yourself, regardless of your bank account balance.
3. Tap into your wisdom and experience to re-evaluate your current career
Ask yourself what’s not working and what you want to change. Use this time to reflect on your life. Are there any passions or dreams that over time you abandoned? If you don’t know what you want to do, try volunteering as a way to develop new interests. Find a way to live your passion everyday. I once heard someone say, "You don’t get what you want out of life, but what you believe."
4. Tap into the wisdom and experience of another person
Lisa shared her thoughts and desires with other people she trusted. It’s good to have close friends in your corner, but sometimes they will not share with you some of the hard realities they see in the choices you are considering. If you are serious about exploring a change, then you should consider talking to someone experienced in life-changing transitions. There are Christian leadership coaches who specialize in helping others find God’s calling and vocation. If you know what new vocation you are wanting to explore, then find someone successful in that career and get their advice. Most people want to help and will jump at a time to give their wisdom over a cup of coffee. Sometimes doors are opened as a result.
5. Understand your passion, but also where your strengths lie
It’s critical to take an inventory of your life and to determine what is really important. Make a list of the things you are passionate about, and then narrow the list to items that present an opportunity to generate income. If you’re not pursuing these desires, what’s in the way?
You should also know your talents, gifts, temperament, and personality traits. Self-knowledge and self-awareness are the place to begin. The great reformed theologian John Calvin even wrote about this in the beginning of his Institutes of the Christian Religion:
“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”
Wisdom in life is tied to knowing God and knowing self. We should be students of both. One of the best ways to know more of self and to develop an understanding of emotional intelligence. This will apply to all areas of life, not just what you have chosen to work on. One of the best tools I know of for self-discovery is the Enneagram. I have been so impressed with its potential for personal discovery and growth that I became a certified practitioner, working with individuals, church staff, and non-profit boards of directors.
6. Keep your day job
You don’t have to quit your day job to focus on your new calling. It’s not an all or nothing proposition. I meet people all the time who say they’re working full-time and pursuing their dreams on the side, in their free-er time. You may still need to earn a living while you transition onto your new path. This is true whether you’re planning to start a business or preparing to establish a new career.
7. Start right now
Over the next 30 days; make a commitment to yourself to identify one thing you can do to begin pursuing your passion—and start doing it! Research ways to integrate your passion with your current obligations and take those first steps into your second career with achievable goals. You’ll soon discover that living and working your passion is being in control of your own life.