10 Reasons Why 40 is Your Watershed
Is it a new phenomenon; or do we see hitting 30, 40, 50, 60 as more significant than it may have been in the past? What is for sure is some of us do get quite worked up about these landmark birthdays.
1. The Big Day Looms
There are some people who almost float through their 40th birthday. There are many who are ribbed about it by family and friends, for whom the issue seems to be more important than it is to the person achieving the milestone. Then there is the category of people who are quite affected by it. Sometimes the effect lasts a long time and can be quite anxious-making. For some people it’s just in the preceding days and weeks. Whatever the case, it is trigger for some sort of emotional psychological and philosophical response.
2. There is a Shift
Whether people acknowledge the landmark or not, there’s a shift that happens to most of us who achieve that point in our life. How overt it is or whether it rests in our subconscious state only we will know but big issues that come up for us is that life is not a rehearsal. You get one chance at this and we may as well do the best we can. For some others who think on a different time basis, it might be more of an epitaph. What is it I want to leave behind? What do I want to be remembered for?
3. It’s All Happening
This is a period that can be quite unsettling both personally and professionally. When you reach this, there may well be things going on for you personally, yet there’s also the unconscious or subconscious state of mind associated with reaching 40 that you have to deal with and reconcile yourself to. The same thing is happening for some people professionally. Whether it’s because personal issues are louder and in your face, they may get more attention and be dealt with more quickly. With professional life, it is easier to hide from any disquiet around that needs to be sorted. If you like, think of it as avoidance, avoidance of professional issues.
4. Question Time
When we hit 40, there will be questions we ask of ourselves if we’re serious about this being a watershed for us professionally. The two big issues that come up for us are 1) what’s our purpose? and 2) what’s my contribution? We need purpose, we need a sense that we are going in a particular direction and that there’s purpose behind what it is that we doing every day in our working lives. Aligned with that is a sense of contribution to our professional work, team, organisation and our common purpose. At 40, if either of these two things is out of line, we can have that sort of questioning moment. Once these issues shared with someone else, it becomes a lot easier to tackle them.
5. Striving for Balance
We hear and read a lot about work and life balance and that is important. But what underlines it for us is what I want, what I like in my professional and personal life. It shines a lot of light on the question of what I do, what I earn money doing. Balance is not just about my time and being in the right space for the right number of hours every day and every week; it’s about the balance of my whole life. What am I getting out of the work that I do, whether that be economically or intrinsically?
6. You Explore
At this watershed, to a degree, we are exploring. We are exploring the questions of who I am and what I can do. What is it that I am doing and how close is this to what I know I can maybe be doing. Often this is an area of tension within us and at this stage of our life.
7. Wake-Up Call
You may get a wake-up call in the form of the concern that you’ve missed the boat. You get a sense that it’s a young person’s world, it’s fast, it’s furious and it is technological. You’ve got to this stage and you are not quite sure how you got here but there is the feeling that you’ve missed the boat and you wish you were 10, 12 years younger.
8. Peers Under Pressure
The watershed is reinforced by our peer group, people of a similar age and a similar status such as our professional colleagues and social friends. They are going to fall into two groups. There is going to be a small group that is very tame. They seem to be in the right place in their professional work, on the right pathway. Everything seems fine in their personal life too. But when you look around you are going to also see people who look similar to you. Something is slightly out of kilter and yet they’re not quite sure how to deal with it or why they need to.
9. Halfway Mark
Sometimes when thinking about yourself in the context of your life, it helps to look back at the life you’ve led right up to the present and look forward to the life you know you can have. You see yourself at 40 on each pathway along that time continuum. Now, depending on your definition, at 40 you might argue you didn’t become an adult until you were, say, 18 to 20. So you had your childhood and adolescence for half of your life so far and you’ve had a third of your adult life, with two-thirds left. This is a strong reason to appreciate and plan for the next phase of your life.
10. Opportunity for Action
If you feel any resonance with anything said in this article, do something about it. It’s easy to think about it and to feel that you need to take action. It’s sometimes harder to actually go and do something. One reason for this is reluctance to seek support, to seek guidance and to talk to somebody who will understand your context. That is why 40 is a watershed, not from a career perspective, but also within the context of wider life issues.
By Position Ignition (www.positionignition.com) and the Career Ignition Club (www.careerignitionclub.com), the UK’s leading career change and career development company and platform. Also the author of 125 LinkedIn Job Search Tips (http://www.positionignition.com/100-linkedin-job-search-tips). Follow @PosIgnition for more help with your career challenges.