The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle. ~ Anias Nin

Have you ever felt stuck boarding on trapped because of all your responsibilities and life structure? It’s a huge problem for many women at midlife. There’s so much to take care of – work, kids, aging parents and an aging body. How do juggle everything AND find the time and energy to get unstuck and create something new?

A couple of years ago one of my clients Rhonda contacted me because she was totally stuck. The job she once loved was no longer fun or fulfilling. She was bored yet stressed because a cackle of millennials hungry for her job and were sniffing around her cubicle.

The things that once excited her weren’t doing a thing. Empty nest and an emptier marriage left her feeling completely drained. She couldn’t wait until 6 pm – cocktail time – when she’d dissolve her angst in a glass or two (okay maybe three) of wine. To top things off menopause and happy hour had resulted in a 50 pound weight gain eroding her confidence and energy.

During our first conversation she told me she had tried to make changes. She’d switched jobs, redecorated and joined Weight Watchers AGAIN, but nothing was slimming her midline or shaking her middle-aged slump.

That’s because she was doing the same old thing over and over again and expecting different results.

What Rhonda needed to do was stop focusing on her external circumstances and start re evaluating her life. To feel energized, enthusiastic and joyful again she had to know herself on a deeper level, acknowledge the changes that were happening inside, identify what was important to her and reprioritize accordingly.

It was scary and required Rhonda to let go of her old outdated identity and try something new. Listening to your inner wisdom, facing the truth that things aren’t working and mustering up the courage to break the habit of being yourself is terrifying – like watching The Blair Witch Project for the first time. But it beats the alternative: Riding a hamster wheel knowing that you’re running out of time yet getting nowhere.

Rhonda changed her life by transforming her mindset. Rather than fighting the internal shifts that were tugging at her heart, she embraced them. I challenged her to stop complaining, blaming, ruminating and “shoulding” all over herself and start focusing on what felt right at this time in her life. We got curious and looked at Rhonda’s strengths and what lit her up.

She worked on all her selves… self-kindness, self-compassion, self-love, self-care, self-worth, self-esteem. As a result her relationship with herself became the most important relationship in her life. And everything evolved from there.

Rhonda started a side hustle that blossomed into a successful business. She did more things she loved, visited Europe and made amazing friends. Happy hour became Zumba, and Rhonda lost weight and got in shape the best shape of her life without dieting!

During a coaching call last week Rhonda told me, “I can’t believe how brave I feel and how rich and beautiful my life has become. It feels like my life is just beginning.”

So often we joke about having a midlife crisis – moving across the world, getting plastic surgery, buying a sports car, having an affair… – but the cliché glosses over the inner turmoil that so many of us are experiencing. That angst is your soul screaming to be fed and getting a tummy tuck, Porsche or having a threesome with Ben and Jerry’s isn’t going to satisfy it.

If you feel like your life is grey and flat rather than sparkly that’s okay. You’re not alone. Research shows there’s a U-shaped happiness curve that hits bottom in our late 40s and early 50s and then rebounds.

As a certified health and wellness coach and Reiki Master, I’ve helped hundreds of women at midlife transform, and I promise you no matter where you are or how you feel there’s a ton you can to get out of the rut and find a new groove. And you don’t have to put it off. You can start today.

Here are 5 steps you can take NOW:

1. Create a positive new life story

We all tell our selves stories about who we are, where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. It’s neuroscience. Your brain has a default mode network that runs down the middle of your brain and constantly works on self-definition. That’s your ego at work.

You do have control over the inner narrative. Your story can be negative and reactive or positive and creative. You have a relationship with your life and can learn from what happens to you, move on and change your story so you are a hero, not a victim

You can complain and feel stuck or accept, adapt and take full responsibility for your life.

2. Shake up your routine

Every day you wake up on the same side of the bed, go to the bathroom, check your cellphone, take a shower, drive the same way to work, sit in the same cubicle, talk to the same people, eat the same lunch… You think the same thoughts, generate the same feelings, which trigger the same behaviors. You get the idea. All that sameness keeps you stuck. If you want to change do things differently.

Here are a few of my favorite routine shaker uppers.

  • Start your day in silence with a brief period of reflection. Ask yourself: What do I really want to do, be and accomplish? Set an intention for the day that reflects your desires Spend a few minutes counting your blessings for what is and what will be. (Gratitude is a powerful way to boost happiness and shift your energetic vibration.) Instead of bemoaning what your body can’t do be grateful for all it can do. Rather than feeling sad that your kids are gone, be grateful that they’re doing well and you have more freedom. Keep your vibe high all day long.
  • Take a class or do something that safely pushes you outside your comfort zone. Personally, I just started a 6-week Improv Comedy class that requires me to act silly on stage.
  • Change your appearance. Wear color! Get a new hair do. I know it’s an external change but it will shake things up.

3. Be mindful

One of the biggest changes marking midlife is the realization that there’s more time behind you than in front of you. The best way to deal is to slow down and savor every moment. Be a human being not a human doing. Let the past go and enjoy the present.

4. Discover your Why

According to author and thought leader Simon Sinek WHY is the life purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us. Knowing your why can help you find clarity, meaning and fulfillment and live in alignment with your life purpose.

Our why changes over our lifetime. For example in my 20s and 30s my WHY was accomplishment and success. I wanted a life that looked perfect from the outside. In my 40s I discovered mindful self-compassion and reconnected with my spiritual compass. My why was about finding peace, loving and accepting myself and helping others do the same.

5. Do what makes you happy

As a transformational life coach, I’ve realized that my clients number one goal is to be happy. This can be challenging because happiness is a moving target changing as we age. Think about it, what made you happy at 15, 25, 35? What makes you happy now? As we age ordinary events like spending time with family and friends and everyday pleasures like walking in the woods tend to make us happier then the exciting experiences that lit us up in our youth.

So do what brings you joy and don’t let anyone stop you. Let go of the guilt (It’s one of the barriers to self-compassion.) Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s self preservation! Take the advice of Joseph Campbell:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

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