The Blog for Men in Midlife - Midlife and Thriving

Family Traditions – Keeping What We Give Away

By | Family, Mirror, Mortality | No Comments

When I was growing up I don’t remember that my family had any traditions beyond activities associated with the major holidays of Christmas and Easter.

My wife and I are doing something different for our family. We have incorporated many traditions and activities into our year. One of our favorites is on New Year’s Eve, when we’ll walk through each month of that year and recall the highlights, the achievements, and some of the challenges. It’s a wonderful way to recap and appreciate the many gifts of the year.

Another tradition for New Year is that when we’re at our cabin in McCarthy I’ll blow my conch. It’s a massive shell with a hole drilled in the side that when blown into creates a resounding and beautifully deep call that echoes up and down our valley.

What’s so special about getting to blow the conch for New Years isn’t so much the fun of making a joyous noise, although that’s surely a big part of it, but the opportunity to tell again the story of how I came to be the keeper of the conch.

When I was growing up the conch was one of the few possessions of my stepfather and I used to love to take it outside and bring to life its resonant bellow. My stepfather was a rambler living in a converted school bus when my mother first met him. We lived with him for about 7 years and after their less than amicable separation we moved from the remote mountains of Northern California to the urban expanse of the Bay Area.

We didn’t see or hear much from him over the next few years, but one day he showed up as he was passing through town. At one point he invited us out to his car and after opening the trunk he pulled out gifts for my brother, sister, and me. They were each special and unique treasures, things that were meaningful to him that he wanted us to have to remember him by.

To my surprise and delight, out of that trunk came the conch and he handed it lovingly to me.

My stepfather’s act of giving was deeply touching and a first step on the long path of reconnecting with his kids (me included!). It was made more poignant by the fact that during the trip his house accidentally burned to the ground and he lost everything that he owned.

Everything that is except for the few dear possessions that he had given away to us that day.

So the conch holds many things for me … fond memories of childhood … connection to an important man in my life … and the very real lesson that we keep what we give away.

And to bring us back to the point of this story, the conch is an important part of my family’s New Year tradition. When the clock hits midnight we all take turns blowing the conch to raucously ring in the new year. And as part of that tradition I tell the story of how I came to be the keeper of the conch, sharing stories of my childhood and the important lesson of how we keep those things that we freely give away.

As we step into the new year, what traditions will you or your family celebrate in 2018? What makes them important to you?

Find Your Breath And You Find Your Life

By | Masculinity, Mortality, Relationships | No Comments

I love participating in workshops. If I didn’t live up in Alaska, which is unfortunately a workshop wilderness, I’d probably be completely broke from being a workshop junkie. Here’s the thing, what I love about them is the opportunity to step out of the chaos of my householder life, settle into my own rhythm for a few days, and reconnect with myself while making new connections with others.

I don’t like “talky” workshops; I want interactive, engaging, and experiential.

And that’s what I got this past weekend at a breathing and mindfulness retreat. For those that want the punch line here are the two big takeaways:

1) proper breathing requires filling the belly and literally breathing all the way down through your pelvic floor

2) the breath is the center of my universe, with the space between the inhale and exhale being the connection to consciousness and experience of Oneness.

For some of you this might sound pretty airy fairy. That’s okay, you’re released to move on to the next blog or return to your Facebook feed.

For those of you who are serious about upping your midlife game and stepping into the most powerful tool I have yet to encounter for shifting into unlimited possibility, stick with me.

I’ve known for years about the importance of proper breathing and how it can be the portal to great knowing. The problem was that I only really knew it intellectually. I needed to get it into my body through an experiential retreat in order to truly embody this ancient wisdom.

The challenge is that most of us don’t really know how to breath. We take in the breath unconsciously, we fill our lungs by expanding our chest, and we often keep it pretty shallow. That’s not really breathing, that’s just surviving.

If you want to deepen your breathing you’ve got to get your belly involved. That can be a challenge for many western men because we’ve been taught to keep our gut sucked in, abdomens clenched and forever battle ready. But being tight in our abdomen forces us to breath in our upper body, which keeps our breathing shallow and forced. Sometimes shallow breathing is okay when we’re doing it consciously, but rarely is it good when it’s part of our regular, autonomic breathing pattern.

There are many great resources out there on the importance of proper breathing so I won’t make this a how-to. Here are a couple of resources I’ve come across recently that you might want to check out:

Dan Brule’s book Just Breathe. Dan is a member of the Midlife and Thriving FB group so we’ve got a local resource!

This interview of Belisa Vranich is a quick tutorial on the right way to breath and the importance of having a proper breathing technique.

Once you’ve got good technique, you’ll find that the breath is intense. Working with my breath over the weekend I found that I was able to quickly center myself in challenging situations, I found moments of deep clarity about my life purpose, I tapped into a deep source of wisdom and information to help bring answers to long-held questions.

Want to figure out how to make an important decision or handle an issue? Breathe, ask your question, then listen.

Want to know what’s really important in a situation and how to create an outcome in alignment with your values? Breathe, then listen.
Want to know how to regain a feeling of connection when you’re feeling isolated and alone in the world? Breath.

It’s like having your own internal Magic 8-Ball. You know the ones where you ask your question, shake it up, then wait for the answer to come mysteriously floating up through the dark purple liquid. Sure, sometimes you get an initial answer of “Ask your question again.” But if you stick with it, focus on breathing and letting go, the answer will arise – maybe from your heart, maybe from your gut, maybe from your mind, or perhaps even from pure consciousness.

Metaphorically the breath connects us to so many things: the expansion and contraction of the Universe, the cycle of death and rebirth, the ebb and flow of the tides. The All is contained within us through our connection to the breath and how we experience it in each moment. 

Ease, internal sense of peace, and connection are just a few of the experiences and sensations I had over the weekend and that I am taking with me back to the chaos of my householder life. I’m also returning with an embodied knowledge that conscious breathing creates an infallible connection to the deep wisdom of my body and to the present moment. Both are powerful tools for my continuing midlife transformation and growth.

To step into a deeper experience of self and your unlimited potential you just have to get into your breath and focus on the space between. It really is that simple and you can start doing it right now.

How are you breathing today?

The Intelligence of Your Midlife Body and Learning Its New Language

By | Mortality | No Comments

Today I feel my age. Or perhaps I feel what I imagined it might be like to be 47 back when I was in my 30s.

My lower back is tight.
My sciatica is acting up.
My right shoulder has been bothering me for over 2 weeks.
My ankle caved on me yesterday and I’m hobbling around the house.
My immune system took a dump last week and while I’m back to about 85%, I now have a hacking cough that’s keeping my wife up at night.

Okay, maybe I feel more like twice my age.

The state of my body this week has caused a bout of mild depression because I haven’t been able to be as active as I’d like and I find that I’ve been more aware of pain rather than vitality.

See, I’ve been consistently doing a daily routine of cardio for almost 6 months now.

It’s. Been. Freakin’. Awesome.

I’ve had tons of energy.

I’ve gotten my six-pack abs back (those disappeared for about 10 years).

I’ve been able to keep up with my young boys when we’re horsing around, and I can’t tell you what a boost it is to have them see me and my fitness as a model for them as they step into greater body awareness.

I’ve built consistency and a rhythm into my life around being more aware of my body, which has grounded me in a deeper way in each day.

And now this. A week where my body keeps throwing a wrench in my fitness plans. It’s as though it’s trying to get me to slow down.

So I do. I slow down. I sink into stretching and yoga.

I slow down and feel the tightness in my hamstrings – feels like I can almost play a bass run on those bad boys.

I slow down and put my consciousness into the parts that are aching and create space around them to release the tension or pain.

I slow down and realign my body in a way that stretches and elongates what has become collapsed and compressed.

I slow down and in the stretching and releasing I also become aware of how my body is holding fear and anxiety in my life right now.

By slowing down I connect with my sacred body in a new way, one of gratitude and compassion. Gratitude that at 47, I’m still capable of pushing it to new extremes and places. Compassion for the fact that yes, I am mortal, I am getting older, and that I need to balance the active with the passive. The daily workout is having serious positive impacts, yet I’m also aware that I need to intersperse it with more stretches and opportunity for resetting and recovery.

And I begin to see where I probably need to do that in other areas of my life … balance the active and the frenzy with time for reflection, introspection, and connection. Connect with and create space around the fear and anxiety so that I can address it and release it. Find the places in my life where I have collapsed things or taken on too much and slow down, reset, and recover.

Our body is our greatest gift, the temple in which our consciousness resides and through which we are able to wander through this precious life. Our body has so much wisdom and information held within it if only we slow down and listen to what it has to share and to tell us.

Our relationship with our body is a direct reflection of how we are living our lives.

I hope that you’re treating yours as the gift that it is.

 

 

 

 

In Midlife, Sometimes the Hardest Words Are “No Thank You.”

By | Mission, Relationships | No Comments

How we can use our multiple brains to make difficult decisions

I’ve been wracked with needing to make a decision about something for over a week. I’ve been struggling to reconcile multiple parts of my decision-making network in order to come to a conclusion. The process was so taxing on my system that my inability to make a decision literally made me sick.

But getting sick was actually what I needed in order to get out of my head, separate my ego from the decision, strip away the emotional aspects, and get to my core.

Literally, my gut.

Our gut is the place of our enteric brain, the neural network that decides what we take from our environment, or allow to pass through our bodies, which literally makes us what we are. The enteric brain and the guttural ecosystem select what we keep to sustain our bodies, and what we let go and return to the environment. It’s one of the first neural systems created during embryonic development and when fully formed has the neural mass approximately equal to that of a cat’s brain.

From a mechanistic perspective of the body (which is an old and frankly dangerous perspective) one might mistakenly believe the gut’s function is simply to perform the act of digestion. But what we know from a growing body of research and many esoteric wisdom lineages, is that the gut, with its enteric brain, is a powerful place of protection, a source of wisdom, and information.

For example, over 80 percent of the cells in our bodies that help to regulate immune function are located in the gut … protection lies therein.

The gut’s prime functions are around self-protection, core identity, and motivation. I learned a lot this cool stuff from an excellent book by Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka, called “mBraining – Using Your Multiple Brains to do Cool Stuff” Check it out.

Back to my story.

I got sick with a head cold and I could no longer “think clearly.”

And actually, getting sick was exactly what needed to happen because part of my challenge was that I was trying to logically figure out something that was not inherently a logic-based problem. I couldn’t “think” my way to a solution and thinking about it was just causing me to get stressed out because there were no real answers using the brain in my head. Sure I could do cost/benefit scenarios using logic-based decision-making processes, but that would only arrive at part of the answer.

Part of that was the challenge of quieting the ego, which was calling me a complete idiot for even thinking of saying “No thank you.” And we all know how well things turn out when we allow our egos to make important decisions.

And lastly, there was the potential complication of a relationship, a good friend who I wanted to work with and deepen relationship. Saying “No thank you” might have a negative impact, which I didn’t want. My heart brain (yes, there’s a neural network and center of intelligence there too!) was feeling conflicted. But I was clear that making this decision purely based on relationship was not an intelligent thing to do.

You see, there was still a disquieting in my gut.

So that’s where I found myself last night. Focused on my gut. And what getting sick was forcing me to do was slow down and listen.

When I am having a challenge I often go and take a steaming hot bath in what I call my Water Temple. I put on some quiet contemplative music, light a candle, and quiet the mind(s). And that’s exactly what I did, shut everything else out and focused on just my gut, that center of core identity and motivation.

And here’s what I got in touch with. What was proposed wasn’t in alignment with who I am at my core. It wasn’t in alignment with how I want to be as a transformational leader in my work with men. It wasn’t setting up the conditions under which I believe that I’d be successful in the long-term.

It would be an excellent opportunity for some men, but not for me.

I had to say “No thank you.” And so I did.

That was the core identity piece.

Another piece that I connected with in my guttural conversation was about motivation. I still felt compelled to DO something. I am a man after all, and we are typically action oriented.

If I said “No thank you” to one opportunity, then what would I say “Yes” to?

Stay tuned.

Waking Up at Midlife – It Could Happen to You Too

By | Masculinity, Mission, Relationships | No Comments

I spent much of my adult life living under the spell of a deceit. I thought that I was being myself, living my truth, living life on my terms …

The adventure begins

When I was in my mid-twenties I packed all of my worldly possessions into the back of a Toyota pickup truck and headed to Alaska in search of my fortune. I didn’t have a job and I only knew two people who lived there, but I had $800 to my name and all the time in the world. I was a free agent making my own decisions and carving out a life for myself through adventure and a trust that things would work out because the Universe always provides. It was intended to be a journey of discovery of self as much as exploration of wild new lands. And initially it was …

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m married with two kids, an Associate Vice-President rising up the ladder at a high-ranking national engineering firm, making a six-figure salary, and sharing time between a lovely home and two modest remote vacation properties. For the most part I was content with life. And why shouldn’t I be? I was creating the American Dream, my way.

But as I was rounding the bend of 40, something inside wasn’t quite right. I had a lot of freedom in my work. I was managing multi-million-dollar projects for multi-national clients and was considered an expert in my chosen field. I was continually given the keys to the kingdom and could have kept right on climbing as high as I wanted, but something wasn’t sitting well.

The midlife dip really sets in

On the cusp of midlife it was like there was an internal burr or a disquieting feeling that just wouldn’t go away. Sometimes it was an irritant and sometimes just a sense of emptiness or a hole.

When I’d ask myself the question, “Who AM I?” I couldn’t really answer. And worse, when I looked up the ladder at who I would need to be at the top, the single question that crossed my lips was, “Who IS that?”

I had noticed that my life was taking on a life of its own. I began not recognizing myself and noticed that much of my life was spent just going through the motions of what a life could be, not what it should be for me. It was as though I had become a character in someone else’s story.

It was someone else’s story: my wife’s, my boss’, my clients’, my banks, and the list went on.

Where once there had been desire for adventure and exploration, a settling for safety and consistency had slowly crept in.

Where once there had been desire to know myself and to live at my growth edge, a settling for stagnation and living up to others’ expectations had slowly crept in.

It wasn’t as though my work sucked or my marriage was in shambles or that my health was in the toilet. But clearly something wasn’t right and I sensed that if I didn’t attend to it I would have major regrets later in life. If I didn’t course correct, then one or all of those aspects of my life would unravel in the coming years.

Enough is enough

One day while on my commute I realized I’d had enough.

Enough of the settling
Enough of living someone else’s blue print for a life
Enough of being inauthentic with myself and with others
Enough of not living at MY growth edge and living MY purpose in the world.

Even though I didn’t have a clear idea of WHAT my purpose was, I knew that I wasn’t living it and so set out once again to carve out a life for myself through adventure and a trust that things would work out because the Universe always provides.

It would likely not be easy, most things of real value rarely are. It would not be as simple as packing up all my belongings into the back of a pickup truck and hitting the road.

Reality was that living someone else’s life wasn’t easy either. In fact, it was really freaking hard and it took a lot of energy to maintain the façade.

Seven years later after much internal and external exploration, and hard work, I am clear on my values, clear on my life’s purpose, and I am doing work that I absolutely love.

My relationship with my wife is stronger than it’s ever been in our 17 years of marriage.
I’m as fit and healthy in my late 40s as I was in my late 20s.
I have also created an incredible network of relationships that feed my soul, keep me connected, and continually push me to my growth edge.

How did I do all this?

Slowly and thoughtfully,
With care for myself and for others,
By changing paths without burning bridges,
By keeping the long-term vision without holding the outcome of that vision too tightly.

Can I get some answers please?

There were four things I learned in the process that were critical to my success.

Be curious about YOU – Know thyself. You need to be an expert on YOU. If you want freedom you have to understand your intrinsic motivators, what makes you tick and gets your juices flowing. It’s critical to identify what has real value and what is a must-have and cannot be compromised. Also, get crystal clear on what is ego and what is soul and don’t confuse the two.

Be bold – Leap and the net will appear. You have to get to know your shadows and what scares the crap out of you and head in that direction. Be ready for changes within you to be uncomfortable and get really comfortable with that change. It’s a learning edge for a reason; growth occurs where the known and unknown intersect. Learn to trust your inner voice of “Know thyself.”

Get good at relationships – Treat others as you would have them treat you. Acquire tools to help you communicate clear boundaries and what you need, without making what others want wrong for them. Getting good at relationships requires that you get good at being compassionate and to practice the rarely used art of forgiveness – on yourself and with others.

Be relentless – Show up every day. If it’s hard, show up. If it’s uncomfortable, show up. If it’s joyous, show up. If it’s boring as hell, show up. It’s only a battle if you want it to be; your mindset determines your experience. It’s your life, show up every day willing to take the next step, and then the next, into the life that’s waiting for you to simply show up.

A Midlife Awakening to a Grandfather’s Gift

By | Family, Masculinity, Mortality, Relationships | No Comments

How Tales From the Past Spark Adventures of the Future

Last night was probably the last night I will get to spend with my grandfather. We sat at the dinner table as we often did in the evenings during my visits. He in his seat to my right, in front of the bookshelf that stores many of his treasures, the props used to spark memories and kindle stories of his life’s adventures.

I would sit for hours listening to his tales of travels as a salesman throughout the U.S.; hunting trips in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico; river trips down the Rio Grand or the Pecos or the Colorado. He had done so many things and had so many adventures.

He was a great weaver of long stories with dramatic pause and em-PHA-sis (as he would say), which would keep me spell bound for hours. It’s part of the reason I’m such a good listener. Listening was my part in the magic of our relationship.

But during this visit his well has run dry. Those memories are no longer in him. His nearly photographic recall of those stories is gone. Many pages of his grand and adventurous life are blurred or just blank.

No more fountain of stories.

No more images of the American West when it was still wide open enough for the imagination to run wild and there was still wildness in it.
The first couple of nights during this visit it was quiet, something had shifted.

Clearly something was missing.

And then I realized what it was.
And then I realized our roles had changed.
And then I realized …

It was now my turn to tell stories, and that I had some that needed to be shared, for me and for him.

So I spun tales of my trips above the Arctic Circle during my time as a wilderness guide, of bounding across the vast, open tundra and running its wild rivers.
So I spun tales of my adventures exploring the great glaciers in the icy realms of the Wrangell Mountains.
So I spun tales of adventures flying white-knuckled through Alaska storms in single-engine planes and swimming naked in the Pacific Ocean while a lone wolf loped along the beach.

It turns out that I too have many stories to tell. I too have adventures to share. I too have lived a life adventuring in the last great reaches of our country’s wilderness.
He sat there quietly enjoying each telling, swelling with pride at my adventures, as listening now became his role in the magic of our relationship.

I realize clearly, with this shift in our relationship, that my grandfather’s stories were part of what got me to the wilderness. His stories had lived in me as the seeds of my own adventures. His courage and yearning to live a life of exploration was an example by which I would live mine.

To my grandfather, I will always be grateful for the life of exploration that your stories sparked in me. Grateful also that I got to thank you for your gift in my life and the important part you played in instilling adventure. And so too my sons should be grateful for a great grandfather’s contribution to their lives of adventure in the wild places of this beautiful world.

A Glue That Binds – Strengthening Men’s Relationships in Midlife

By | Brothers, Masculinity, Relationships | No Comments

It was a powerful weekend, the third retreat for my men’s group this year. With each retreat it feels like I reach into new layers of understanding and push through more of my self-inflicted fears and shame.

In my circle of men I witness the real power of the masculine. The power that comes from doing the life-affirming, gut wrenching work of wrestling with our own humanity. We share the scars and battle wounds of our childhoods, the re-enactment of these wounds in the challenges we face, and the subtle seduction of our internal saboteurs that keep us stuck in smaller versions of ourselves.

These men that I call my brothers continue to amaze me with their wisdom, their trust, their authenticity, and vulnerability. They are courageous and strong, doing battle with the real demons of hubris, self-deceit, shame, and isolation. They are also loving, supportive, and a hell of a lot of fun to be around.

Doing this work with them I ask, “Damn it! will there always be more layers to peel back? Will this work never be done?”
My Wise Self assures me, “No, even with the last breath there will be yet another layer waiting for you to release into, to push through.”

And so we show up again, committed to doing the work, consistently pushing forward one step and one day at a time,

~ with love
~ with reverence
~ with humility.

And part of what makes these weekend retreats so powerful is the time we give each other.

The time to drop out of the warp speed of our daily lives and slow the hell down.
The time we create to dig deep, and deeper still.
The time we give to really see each other, and also to really be seen.

It’s about the space we create, which allows us all to drop our masks and allow others to see us for who we are … there … hiding behind the mask. It’s the more complete picture of who we are, the one we don’t really allow others out there to see.

I’m still processing much of what was revealed in me this weekend, and imagine that I will be for some time. The richness of the work has given me such great gifts and things to contemplate as we head into winter, the season of going inward, of releasing and letting go.

And thanks to my brothers I am much better prepared for the death of those parts of me that are no longer in service to the man that I AM continually becoming.

It’s Not Her, It’s You

By | Mirror, Partner, Relationships | No Comments

Midlife relationship

Are you being truly seen in your relationship in midlife?

Is your partner understanding who you are, the man that you are?

If not, why not? Have you been holding back your true feelings and needs, afraid to let her in, to see you for who you really are?

If so, you’re not alone. I used to be like that too. Afraid to share my desires, my needs, my true self. I thought that my needs were not worthy or would drive her away, or make her think less of me.

And so I held back, not ballsy enough to really be vulnerable, not strong enough to stand up for who I really was and what I knew to be important to me. I withheld who I was and resented her for not giving me what I needed. And worse, I blamed her for not knowing WHAT I needed even though I was the one holding back what I truly wanted.

How screwed up is that?

But I finally figured out that:
the pain of not being seen,
the pain of not getting what I really needed,
the pain of blaming instead of being responsible for my own happiness
was worse than the POTENTIAL discomfort and pain of speaking my truth.

So I started to reveal.
I started to ask.
I started to speak my truth.

I made it about me and what I needed, NOT ABOUT HER.
I made it about what was important to me, AND WHY.
I also made it about us … as in how NOT speaking my truth was INFECTING our relationship.

So if you’re tired of not getting what you want in your relationship in midlife, look inside and see what you might be keeping hidden. Then take whatever first step toward freedom you need to speak your truth. Do it lovingly, do it without blame, do it for yourself.

Be brave, and know that you can do this and that it’s worth it.

What? Men have conversations about their challenges and successes? Yes! Check out the Good Men Project!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

people-1099796_1920When I was first heading into the brave new world of blogging and social media I was looking for a place where real conversations were going on about stuff that I was interested in as a man in the 21st Century. What I found were a lot of websites that focused on things like men’s fashion, muscle-building and training, sports, and business.

I was hard pressed to find a place where gritty, real discourse was published on topics like masculinity, being a dad, relationships, mental health, spirituality, or frankly, anything substantive on the challenges that men face in this ever-changing world.

And then I stumbled upon The Good Men Project. It truly seemed like they were having the conversation no one else was having about the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Their vision is to challenge and break down the stereotypes of what it means to be a man and create a space for the spectrum of masculinity that exists within the world today. Did I agree with everything I read? … hell no, and that was what made it all the more valuable. 

It was a fantastic medium for me to post articles and also to participate in conversations. They are truly developing a “Participatory Media!” model and growing a platform for men to share stories, have conversations, connect, and grow their reach. I’ve been published there multiple times and have personally benefited from working with their team of editors.

The Good Men Project also give classes on how to build an online platform. They helped me to understand what was needed to grow an online business and how to get my unique message and stories out into the world. They want to provide men opportunities and tools to share their perspectives, experiences, and dreams of what the future can hold for men and masculinity.

They have also developed and launched social interest groups in the time that I’ve been a follower. These groups provide a medium for conversations about the challenges facing men in today’s world.

Now The Good Men Project has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to scale the social interest groups. Their goal is to really re-invent media, to help people process a rapidly changing world with too much information. Their vision is to create opportunities for real, live conversations about what is important to men: how to show up, how to engage, how to connect.

This is exciting to me! I’m thrilled to support their efforts and I hope you will too. Check out their campaign here. Share it or donate if you believe that conversations of this kind are as worthwhile as I do.

Stay connected! 

Midlife is No Time for Living with Regrets

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

midlife regretLearning from the dying to live a life you won’t regret

I was recently reflecting on an article I read on the top five regrets of the dying. The article summarized the findings of Bronnie Ware, a nurse who worked with the dying and captured their wise words in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

What struck me most was the fact that these top five regrets are strikingly similar to the top challenges expressed by the midlife men that I work with in my coaching practice. The regrets of the dying that Ware captured are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

 

What would our lives be like at midlife if we allowed ourselves to follow our own internal compass, rather than the wishes and demands of others? I’m not talking about walking through life as some self-centered and selfish egotist. I’m talking about living life as someone who has let go of folding to the expectations of others. Especially when their needs for us to be a certain way are not in alignment with who we know we really are.

What would life be like if we could tackle our challenges around being our own person and living life wearing one hat, not changing hats at the whim of others or to meet the expectations of someone else?

It would be a life of freedom.

What would our lives be like if we were able to create an approach to life at midlife where we truly worked to live not lived to work? What if we knew our life mission, lived in alignment with our intrinsic values, and made a living doing what we loved? I’m not talking about some fairytale fantasy-sell where you work an hour a day and make millions. You might get there, but it takes commitment, willingness to change, and perseverance.

You have to do the internal work to clarify the difference between a life that would be NICE to have and one which is a MUST have. What would you have at the end of such a life? Not regrets. You’d have a life lived with purpose and balance, where work wasn’t something you clocked into, but where you showed up and lived it because you loved it.

It would be life of mastery.

What would our lives be like if as men we were able to claim our emotions and own them rather than bottling them up? As men we’ve been told to deny our feelings and so we stuff them down into the darkness of that denial. If we are able to connect with emotions, it’s typically either as anger or disappointment, the few socially “acceptable” forms of masculine self-expression.

What if at midlife you could name all of your emotions, live into the depth of their expressive experience, and use the universe of information within them to inform your relationships and understanding of the world. I’m not talking about recklessly setting yourself adrift in a sea of emotion. I’m talking about truly owning your emotions, experiencing them, and interacting with them on your terms and from a place of choice. What would it be like?

It would be a life rich beyond compare.

What would our lives be like if as men in midlife we allowed ourselves real and honest connections, a band of brothers or a tribe of men we could truly call friends? We’re constantly fed misinformation about men needing to stand tall and alone, get through it on our own, pull on our boots and grin and bear it. As a result we often feel isolated and alone, which can feed mild to severe depression, a sense of malaise, alcohol or drug abuse, and serious midlife crises.

What if at midlife you claimed your right to have a tribe of men. What if you claimed your right to be seen by and validated by a band of brothers? What would it be like to prioritize time and capacity for having meaningful connection with men? To be yourself without fear of being judged or ridiculed for wherever you stand on the spectrum of masculinity? What would that be like?

It would be a life of finally coming home.

What would our lives be like if we could give ourselves the permission to be happier or more content? I argue that by achieving success with the first four regrets of the dying we will have achieved in avoiding most of the fifth regret. If you think about it: living courageously as ourselves; having a balanced relationship with work; expressing the breadth of our feelings instead of bottling them up; and allowing ourselves to be surrounded by friends … living a life on those terms would make you happier and more content with your life. What would success with these things be like?

It would make a life worth living.

Life’s too short to wait until your death bed, wishing that you had lived it differently.
Life’s too short to pass with regrets.
Life’s too short.

Over the coming weeks I will be creating blogs and videos to take a deep dive into ways that we can course correct in midlife and tools to avoid living our last days with regrets.

I hope you join me.

You can be part of the conversation by following me on Facebook, joining the Midlife and Thriving Facebook Group, or signing up for my blog.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the corner of Midlife and Thriving!