“Whether we like it or not, each phase of life demands that we grow and change,” says life transitions specialist Avivah Wittenberg-Cox. If anyone knows about a midlife reset, it’s Avivah, 59. In the past 10 years she has moved countries, remarried and written seven books.
It’s why we are so thrilled to be partnering with Avivah on an online Midlife Reset workshop for Hylda this autumn.
Inspired by a trial run during the first phase of Covid, Avivah is selling her London home and moving to the country. It’s an idea that may have been at the back of her mind as she started to plan what she describes as her “third act”, but when the perfect house came up, she and her husband had to make some big life decisions quickly.
Avivah is not alone in this process of midlife reset and change. One of her oldest friends is launching a new business, another has split with a life partner. More are having to re-think their lives and careers thanks to the new reality of a world affected by Covid-19.
Because so many of us are living longer, healthier lives, we’ll face more and more of these moments of transition.
“Each one of us is working to let go of what was: Our old identities, our communities, colleagues, and skill sets. It’s to embrace what is next, which is as yet unknown, undefined, and ambiguous,” says Avivah of a midlife reset. “Of course we are all experiencing a combination of fear, excitement, confusion, and uncertainty.” And to top it off: “Because so many of us are living longer, healthier lives, we’ll face more and more of these moments of transition.”
Change is always around the corner, but for Avivah, the key to managing a midlife reset and transition is constant learning, growing, and truly being open to the options available.
She has written about this for Forbes. Women in their 40s 50s and beyond today have completely different life stories than the generations before them, she says. The opportunities are vast, as long as we take the time to listen to our hearts, and think pragmatically about real life issues.
Good endings are the best building blocks to good beginnings.
So how do we deal with a midlife reset in a healthy manner? “Now more than ever, we need to plan for change,” says Avivah. “People say you can’t have it all, but the gift of time gives us new options to have a lot more than we ever thought possible.”
Avivah looks at her life in seven year phases and thinks carefully about the kind of support she needs to make her transitions stick. As she points out, preparing requires more than updating your LinkedIn profile. “I’ve got an ‘advisory board’ which includes my husband, trusted friends and supporters who help me sense check my ideas,” she says. “I try to work to a realistic timeline – which isn’t always possible – and I ensure whatever changes I am considering, I have a financial plan.”
Endings are also about new beginnings
Knowing when it is time to end something is a valuable skill. Endings can come from within, the result of burn out, boredom, depression or exhaustion; and from without, thanks to restructurings and layoffs, divorce and other major life shifts. They are all a prequel to re-creation.
“It’s never an easy time for anyone involved, at work or at home,” says Avivah. “We often spend a lot of time loitering unproductively, wondering whether we should stay or go. But good endings are the best building blocks to good beginnings.”
Recognise your private passions
Self-knowledge is one of the hard-won rewards of ageing. For many of us, our inner selves remain unexplored territory until the second half of adulthood. “My friend Mary had yearned for creative outlets much of her life but had never considered herself artistic until she took up writing and painting in her 60s,” says Avivah. “At 80, she is a successful artist and published poet. The question to ask yourself is, what part of yourself might be waiting, hidden in the wings?”
Don’t just dream it, try it out
Transition plans benefit from feedback from the outside world. Go out and test your theory before you commit to full change: Rent a house in a seaside town for six months, spend a day a week volunteering in the field you really want to learn about. “This is a process London Business School professor Herminia Ibarra calls ‘outsight’,” says Avivah, “Actually visiting these metaphorical new lands to discover not only what you love but where you are loved. Her point is that personal insight alone may not be enough.”
“When you see people who have transitioned successfully to a new phase and invested in something they deeply care about, sometimes for the first time in their lives, it is an inspiring sight,” says Avivah, “Some people only really find, or allow themselves to find, their calling after they’ve fulfilled all their duties… to their own earlier expectations, to parents, to family. The freedom that comes from finally aligning with yourself is profound.”
The Midlife Reset is a three-part online workshop, designed by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, in partnership with Hylda, to help you design the next phase of your life. £45 for three 60-minute sessions in November 2020. Book your space here.