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By Ilze Alberts*
As you journey through life, you will experience success and failure, support and challenges, gains and losses. Some of the challenges and losses most people will experience at different stages in their lives are changes in identity and a consequent identity crises. It can throw you off the track, especially in your later stages of your life as an adult. This article looks at the ability of men and women to experience success later in life.
Life was great and you were building your business or family with enthusiasm, focus, and determination. No challenge was too big and no pain too much. Your dream to build your powerful business and/or family was your jet fuel. But slowly it started to change. Initially, you try to ignore it and you pretend you don’t feel bored and ready for a change. Your fear of change and giving up on the very familiar is too daunting. You deeply resist any thoughts of empty nest syndrome, midlife crisis or menopause.
You equally resist your nagging inner voice whispering to you that you have changed and what was of importance and priority and value to you before is no longer the same. You just cannot understand why you are feeling different and why you are not inspired and driven by the same as before. Your outer world also starts to change in unison with your inner world and these changes can be surprising, challenging, nerve-wracking and cause an identity crisis.
Welcome to your next phase in the development of you as a man or women in your late forties or fifties. Maslow described the hierarchy of man’s needs from basic needs of safety and security to the highest need of self-actualization. Self-actualization refers to the actualization of one’s highest potential, talents and capacities and maybe you are now facing the developmental stage of your life of “actualizing self”. Your higher self cannot develop without the solid foundation of the basic needs of safety, security, belonging, self esteem and self respect. You have by now established your strong foundation of safety, security, belonging, self-esteem and self-respect. You do not grow from a baby to self-esteem and self-respect.
You grow through many developmental stages and ages to step through the doorway of self-actualization. As you feel the stirrings of change and dissatisfaction with what is, you feel the pressure towards unity of personality, spontaneous expressiveness, towards full individuality and identity, towards seeing your truth and being more creative. You are transcending from becoming to being, with different forms of pain and pleasure, benefits and drawbacks, losses and gains. Growth has its rewards and gains equal to its challenges and pain. For rebirth to happen, death has to proceed the process and with that, the challenge to leave the familiar and easier, less effortful, simpler life for a more responsible, demanding and difficult life. To step into your next phase of self-actualization you need courage, will, strength and the freedom you give yourself to choose it.
Martin is a successful businessman in his early fifties. He landed in my office with a cry for help – these were his words: “I don’t know what is wrong with me? I have dedicated the last eighteen years to building my successful business and I have done it with enthusiasm, focus and my full dedication. I can’t get it but I’m losing interest and I feel I have reached my ceiling. I feel lost and disappointed in myself and scared and anxious. I also feel I am changing and that is unsettling because I don’t know what I’m changing to.” Martin is married and he has grown up children. Martin is facing the transition from one developmental stage to the next in his development as a fulfilled and meaningful man.
The greatest moments of pain will birth a person’s magnificence and brilliance like never seen before. The pain he is feeling is caused by his uncertainty about what is happening to him. He is facing a new “growth spurt” in his existence – growing to express his next phase of brilliance and unexpressed desires and wishes. As Martin got insight into his subconscious strategy and acknowledging that it is ALL ON HIS WAY and not in his way, he verbalized his deep heart’s desire that he has held close to him but in secret. He said, “I want to be one of the world’s top business coaches.”
Once he gave himself permission to express his unexpressed desires, he acknowledged to himself that he had a change in his intrinsic hierarchy of values and priorities. What was of importance and priority before is no more, nothing is missing anymore. He has built a successful business, he has grown financial abundance, his wife and himself raised good kids who are on their own pathways into adulthood, they have a great marriage and his wife is his best friend and lover. He has achieved so much and there is much of life to still live. His higher mind (or that part of every person who knows so much more about you) has guided him into the expression of the next phase of his life – a life of fulfillment, meaning, purpose and inspiration. A life that is different with new goals, new purpose, new direction and new action steps. It’s not better than the developmental stage before. It is just different.
These men and women were not too old for success:
- Abraham Lincoln: Most probably he was the most defeated man in the world. After losing so many times in different elections he succeeded in becoming the president of the United States at the age of 51.
- Colonel Sanders (Kentucky Fried Chicken): Colonel Sanders started his idea when he was 65 years old and in few years he had one of the largest restaurant chains in the world.
- Peter Mark Roget, started at the age of 73: The following line is copied from Wikipedia “He is best known for publishing, in 1852, the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Roget’s Thesaurus), a classified collection of related words”. The one thing that Wikipedia didn’t mention is that Peter published his Thesaurus at the age of 73 and he became famous for it.
- Grandma Moses started at the age of 76: Grandma Moses was an old lady but she started becoming passionate about paintings. Grandma Moses started to sell paintings for 2 and 3 dollars and as the time passed she became so successful that many of her paintings were sold for thousands of dollars. In 2006 one of her works was sold for 1.2 million dollars
- Laura Ingalls Wilder became a journalist in her forties, and was 65 years old when she started writing the “Little House on the Prairies” series.
- Nelson Mandela became the oldest elected president of South Africa in 1994, when he was 74 years old. Prior to this, he was imprisoned for life.
- Julia Child was 49 years old when her first cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, was published. At 51 years old she gained television fame in a cooking show, which premiered in 1963. At the age of 69, she became co-founder of the American Institute of Wine and Food to help advance the knowledge of food and wine through restaurants. In 1984, at the age of 72, she completed the series of 6 videotapes about “The Way to Cook”.
What do you perceive is holding you back from the success you wish to achieve in your life? Are you saying any of the following?
- I am too old.
- I have wasted too much time.
- I never studied what I wanted to, I studied what my parents expected of me and that became my career. I wish I studied something else.
- I am too entrenched in my business and it can’t survive without me.
- I lack self-confidence and self-believe.
- My marriage is too stressful and my energy is leaking out through the stress-holes.
- I don’t have enough money.
- I waited too long.
- The younger generation is passing me because my skills are no longer needed.
- It’s too late.
If any of these sound familiar to you, you will be wise to revisit your plans, desires and goals you have for your life. Shake them out, unpack them out of the boxes and dust off your heart’s desires. They are waiting to grow; they have been seeds long enough. Go and sit under a tree and think. Do a lot of thinking and pondering. Write down your heart’s desires and give them the right of passage. Then action how you are going to grow your seeds into full-grown plants or trees. What would have happened to South Africa if Nelson Mandela came out of prison and said he is too old and it’s too late? What are you robbing the world and you of if you ignore the promptings in your life of stepping through the doorway of self-actualization? If you don’t know how to step through, ask for help. Resist any urge or limiting belief to keep you back through lame and minimizing excuses.
“She said she would and she did”
- Ilze Alberts is a Psychologist and Human Behavioural Specialist and she is known for her skills in mentoring leaders in families and businesses. She is an accomplished international speaker and author. You can email her: [email protected]
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