Are You Going Through a Third-Life Alignment?

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Are You Going Through a Third-Life Alignment?
Are You Going Through a Third-Life Alignment?
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No one told you this was going to happen.

You thought you were on the road to fulfilling your goals and dreams: you’ve got the career, the kids, the beautiful home, the degree, the full passport. But it doesn’t feel like you thought it would.

You’re not alone. There is something happening to women in their 30s and 40s: a transition that isn’t a quarter-life crisis, and not a mid-life crisis, and perhaps not even a crisis at all, but something. And it’s significant.

It often starts with a catalyzing event: becoming a mother, realizing that your job doesn’t fulfill you, a change in your relationship or health status, or the desire for a deeper spiritual connection. You realize that you trade your precious time for every thing, person or pursuit you bring into your life, and chasing society’s ideals and external validation - the career, the partner, the house, the kids, the travel - isn’t working for you anymore. Something feels out of alignment with who you thought you were, your core values, and how you want to show up in the world.

Women that I coach with who are going through their Third-Life Alignment share that they aren’t necessarily unhappy; they’re not completely dissatisfied with their lives, but there are some things that just don’t feel right anymore. After the catalyzing event that highlights these feelings, women go through an “assessment” stage of the Alignment process, digging deep to explore what exactly doesn’t feel aligned and authentic, and why. It’s a process of getting really honest with yourself, and it can be uncomfortable. One woman I spoke to said she felt like she was finally peeling back the layers of herself to better understand who she was at her core.

This transition is challenging for many reasons, not the least of which is that many women going through this stage in their life have what appears, at least to others, to be a wonderfully fulfilled life. Feeling uneasy or inauthentic about that life can incite questions like “who am I to want more than this?” and “what’s wrong with me?”

As their Alignment process progresses, women enter the “exploration” stage, where they begin to take stock of their options. If they are feeling misalignment with their career, for example, they may read books on a new topic that excites them, or take a university course that piques their curiosity. Many women find themselves returning to pursuits that they had enjoyed in their childhood or teenage years, before they were so influenced by society’s expectations of them. Often, the exploration phase starts out incrementally, with small and safe-feeling “experiments” on what feels more aligned, and it grows as women begin to feed their long-neglected authentic self.

The stage of the process before complete alignment is what I call the “courage/surrender” stage, and it’s the point at which women find themselves needing to summon the courage to make a leap of some kind, and then surrender to what the outcome will be. They may leave a relationship, decide to start a family, or move to another city. Though the women I’ve spoken to talk about this stage as being scary, interestingly, they all speak of using their intuition - knowing what feels right to them - as the antidote to this fear. This growing self-trust and ability to advocate for their authentic desires feels incredibly empowering for many women.

There is a distinct sense of rebelliousness in this stage of the transition, as many women find themselves moving away from societally-accepted benchmarks of a successful life. This rebelliousness is countered, though, by one of the other aspects of the Alignment process that makes it so much different than the quarter-life crisis we’ve all come to understand: at this stage in life, many women have a lot of responsibilities to others - their partners, their children, their mortgage, their well-established careers. It can be challenging communicating your desire for change to the people who have always expected you to remain the same. And for some, there is a process of letting go of some of these commitments so as to live a more aligned life.

Though these things can make the Third-Life Alignment process isolating and lonely for many women, there is hope. In my work both coaching with and interviewing women about the Alignment process, I was shocked at how similar their experiences were, and yet how alone each woman felt as she navigated this life change. The relief women felt at finally being able to identify themselves within the Alignment process and the fact that it had a name - was tangible. Finding a community of other women experiencing the same thing and engaging in practices of deep self-love and self-care are also paramount to a successful transition for women.

The women I work with who feel as though they’ve reached alignment have a different tone to their voices. It’s deep, self-assured, and calm. They have stopped striving, and they talk about feeling alive again, instead of just going through the motions. One woman I spoke with said,

“You know when you’re standing in the truth of who you are; it feels like home. You know what you’re meant to do, there’s almost a power you can feel.”

That lightness, freedom, peace and ease? That is Alignment.

If this article resonated with you and you’d like to explore Alignment further, download the Alignment Starter Kit here.