I find myself attending quite a few 50th birthday parties these days. They’re often some version of a ‘Fabulous Fifties’ theme and always end up with dodgy ‘Diva Dad Dancing’ as the glories of 80s pop culture are re-lived through a misty-eyed fog.
These events are a great chance to catch up with friends. I’m struck by how many of the conversations arrive at the same destination. A lot of people want to change direction. Having worked for themselves or an employer for several decades, they are looking for a new challenge.
The great escape
This is a theme I also see in my work with organizations. Invariably at the end of running a corporate session about building influence or leading change, one or two people take me aside and quietly share an ambition to set out on their own. They are in the room wearing two hats – one as an employee and one as a would-be consultant or entrepreneur.
Whether this is a mid-career/life crisis or the result of increasing pressures and insecurity in the traditional employment market, it’s clear that more of us want or need to create a new ending. We are looking to do work that is meaningful, that fulfils our inner sense of purpose and that we can be proud of. We are looking for our Second Half Hero (the title of my upcoming book).
Where to start?
Heroes come in many forms. From the cartoon ‘super’ to the brave individual who steps up when others fade, or the driven visionary who selflessly creates something for others. In our own way, we all hanker to release our inner hero. The challenge is giving ourselves permission to bring it out.
My model explains the forces at play. We’re wrestling with a complex combination. FEAR holds us in the past and unhappy present, yet HOPE pulls us towards our heroic future. On the other axis, INERTIA has its own tug-of-war with MOMENTUM.
In the bottom left hand of the model, we are both fearful and stuck in inertia. We’re unhappy, frustrated – possibly anxious, depressed or worse. We’re doing nothing to move towards our better future. We may have spent a very long time here. Chances are we beat ourselves up with comparison to others – who we see as luckier or more talented.
Time to get Disturbed
It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to get out of Small is to become Disturbed. There’s a necessary energy in the angst of Disturbance. It’s where ambition to move towards our heroic future is countered by dissatisfaction with where we are. To move on we need to commit to a positive course of action. We need to make some decisions that will involve taking on risk. Getting comfortable with risk is key to moving towards our more hopeful future.
Dare to Dream
If hope is the DNA of our heroic future self, we’d better have a dream. We need a vision of what it is we want to achieve or build. It’s what will inspire us to action. Dreaming is necessary – but it’s not sufficient. Hope without activity is just wishful thinking. To create energy around our vision we need to become focused and committed to a course of action that will turn our dream into a reality.
Purpose is the goal
When both hope and momentum on our side, we have a Purpose. GAME ON! Purpose is the foundation for our Second Half Heroic self. When we have a guiding vision, a practical plan to fulfil it, support to help us and clear metrics around our progress, we are ready to achieve what we want for ourselves and others.
I reckon we all owe it to ourselves to have a red-hot crack at becoming our Second Half Hero.
The world needs us!