By midlife, most of us are experts at "going through" things -- going through divorce, going through layoffs, going through child rearing, illness, accidents or whatever life has thrown our way. Life has had its way with us; we've survived, but not necessarily thrived.
But instead of getting rocked by what life throws at us, what about rocking life on our own terms? How about creating our own life-altering transformation?
It doesn't require changing jobs, moving, getting divorced or any other drastic measures -- though it could. Though I did leave my job and move, I also revitalized my long marriage; more importantly, I changed my frame of mind. I gave up the grin-and-bear-it years and started creating life on my own terms.
Here's my five-step recipe for transformation.
My first step was to own life and everything that happens in it. So instead of seeing things as happening to me -- the boss didn't give me a raise; my kids are making me angry; I'm getting sick -- I began to look at the ways I was responsible for the results I'm getting: what can I do to make the case for a raise; how am I choosing to be angry at my children; how can I take better care of my health?
As soon as I stopped blaming the outside world for the things I didn't like and owned my role in creating them, I saw things I could do to create the life I wanted. Today, when I have a complaint about something, I ask whether I have any part in it -- even just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time -- and then I can take action to move closer to what I want.
Question Beliefs, Find Perfection In What's Happening
I used to have very definite ideas of how the world was, what was good and bad, and who was responsible for blocking my happiness. That made life simpler to navigate, and it also made me unhappy. I had a long list of "bad things that happened to me" that I obsessed about and yet was powerless to change.
And then I started questioning those beliefs. Was it really a bad thing that I got laid off? After all, they gave me money to leave a job that was holding me back from what I really wanted to do. Is it really bad that my knee is hurting? It gives me the chance to lay off the running and ride my bike instead.
Now I ask myself, how is that just the perfect thing to happen to me right now? What can I learn from this?
Giving Up Being Right, Put Learning First
American psychologist Gerald Jampolsky famously observed that "you can be right or you can be happy." I spent years using my energy to be right about my life, and it wasn't making me happy. Then I tried giving up being right and instead committed to learning -- that made a huge difference.
So when someone cut me off in traffic, instead of dwelling on what a jerk he was, I asked what I could learn about driving in New Jersey. And when an ice storm knocked out the power to our house for eight days, I learned the importance of stockpiling water and a backup heat source.
I also applied it to my marriage with Meg. When we got to a stuck place where I wanted to be right, I asked the question of myself: Is it for me to be "right" about this issue, which we could argue about, or would I rather let it go and be close to Meg.
Putting learning ahead of being right improved both my happiness and my life skills.
Focus on Now
Whenever I want to feel bad or regretful about something, all I have to do is look to the past and remember some embarrassing incident or stupid move. And whenever I want to worry about something, all I have to do is look into the future and think about all the things that could go wrong.
And if I want to give up regret and worry, all I have to do is focus on what is happening right now. And almost every time I check in about the now moment -- unless my hair is on fire or I'm bleeding a lot -- I am just fine.
Sprint and Recover
For me, life is not a marathon and not a sprint, either. It's a series of pushes and periods of recovery. That goes both for physical exertion -- working hard to get a project done on time -- and for self-growth.
So if I've been working a lot to meet a work goal, I'll be sure to build in rest time after. And I'll also build in rest time during -- a few minutes to get up and move or listen to some music every hour that improves both productivity and creativity.
And if I really want to take things to the next level, I'll build in play. So instead of making life a long series of "going through" things, it's become a long game where I'm enjoying each toss and catch instead of obsessing over the score.
Tim Peek is a certified executive coach who advises leaders and their teams on using disruption, consciousness, and strategy to create their desired future. www.peekdisruption.com
Meg Dennison is a certified conscious leadership coach who has reinvented herself many times. She coaches busy women midpoint in their life or career to consciously create their next step based on genius and life goals. www.megdennison.com
Together, Meg and Tim write about how they turned around what had become a stale and uninspiring 28-year marriage to return to the passion and purpose to their lives. Motivated executives come to Meg and Tim for help reinvigorating their careers, companies and intimate relationships.