Last week when I saw this wild turkey wandering outside the school yard in suburban Overland Park, it struck me that there are days I feel like the proverbial fish out of water – or in this case a turkey out of the woodlands!
Let me explain.
While I love the energy of working with Gen X or Millennials, I often leave these interactions shaking my head. I just don’t get it when:
- A talented Gen X designer submits a custom-made image with three lines of copy and three spelling errors. Back in the day, when I was that age, I wouldn’t have done that!
- A brilliant millennial, about to be named CEO of her financial firm, asks her business coach how to tell her assistant to dress properly when meeting with high net-worth clients. What’s a 32 year old doing being named CEO before she has enough life experience to explain a dress code to her staff?
- An ambiance-rich French cafe turns the music up and the lighting low during the dinner hour when the majority of its clientele is between the ages 50 and 75. Shouldn’t all businesses understand their market?
So what’s a boomer to do? How can we balance the idealism of our youth in the 70s, the stress brought on by change and find purpose in our encore chapter.
Author Gail Sheehy calls the disparity between Boomers’ can-do-anything, we-are-invincible mentality and the reality that another generation is shaping a new culture “middlescence.” Middlescence marks the death of the first phase of adulthood, following by the birth of a second adulthood…the what’s next years of our lives.
Sheehy, in her book New Passages, says that during middlescence we will explore questions similar to the ones we pondered in adolescence.
- Who am I?
- Where am I going?
- How do I find fulfillment?
- I’ve adapted to war and peace, love and divorce, success and failure – how much more must I adapt?
- Where do I belong?
In his new book “The 16-28 Solution,” executive coach Doug Campbell says the answers to these questions can be found through a conscious evaluation of the early adult years – ages of 16 and 28. These years point to:
- Key aptitudes and skills
- Personal interests
- Authentic inner compass
Once you discover your “true north,” according to Campbell, you have a powerful resource for figuring out what does and does not match up with who you are or what you want, personally and professionally.
Campbell recommends that you examine the following six key experiences for clues to define your encore journey.
Transitional moments. What were the key transitional moments from this time period that formed you to be who you are today? Your first break up? Handling looking for a job? Traveling?
Think about the best parts of these key experiences (adventure, community, intellectual challenge, etc.) and then explore ways to integrate these threads into your life.
Leadership. What were your first leadership experiences? Volunteering? Organizing a school or youth group event? What did you learn from these early experiences?
Consider how your leadership skills and experience (or lack thereof) might be impacting your satisfaction of where you are in your life. Are you itching to take on more leadership responsibility? Would you be happier giving up managerial responsibilities? Or do you think you’d be more comfortable running your own company?
Mentorship. Did you have an adult mentor who challenges and inspired you? Who were these people – a teacher, relative or coach? Ask yourself: “If I could talk to my mentor now, what might he or she advise me to do at this critical juncture in my life?
Community and cultural experiences. During your late teens and twenties, did you study abroad, go on a mission to another county or live with a roommate from a different culture? What meaningful community or cultural experiences altered your perspective, your view on life and the way you see the world? If you’re feeling like a fish out of water, perhaps it’s because you need a work environment that is better aligned with your values and priorities.
Big Projects. Think about a major project you successfully completed during your late teens and twenties. How did this shape you?
Identify the skills, abilities and talents you gained from big project experiences and then look for opportunities that allow you to grow these skills.
“Go for it” moments. Campbell defines a “go for it” moment as the point at which you decide which passion to closely focus on and commit to doing something you love. What were your “go for it” moments?
Think about the themes and values that were common in those experiences. Are your current job, lifestyle and relationships aligned with those values? If not, what changes do you need to make to achieve a more authentic you?
Finding the answers to these questions will help you find what makes you feel passionate, engaged and committed — all critical considerations to move from wandering the outskirts of the schoolyard, back into your natural habitat and personal comfort zone.