Just under two years ago, Mike Benz realized he was failing at retirement.
He’d spent his career in information technology, eventually becoming a chief information officer, and had earned a master’s degree in cybersecurity in his 60s. But without something to focus his energies, he was at loose ends.
So two months after retiring at 65, he went back to work as an interim CIO and finished a second master’s degree, this time in technology management.
“I wasn’t built for sitting around and didn’t have this great vision of going fishing, or moving to Florida, or something like that,” says the 67-year-old from Minneapolis. “I thought, What’s my purpose? ... Is there some mission I should have to keep me invigorated and wanting to get up in the morning?”
It was a pivotal moment in Benz’s life. But instead of despairing over where he was, making rash decisions to try to fix things, or falling into a rut with the feeling that this is how his life had to be from now on, Benz hired a life coach — a member of a profession he hadn’t even known existed. And instead of a midlife crisis, he opted for a midlife evaluation, doing a deep-dive assessment of his experiences and pinpointing what he valued. He used that knowledge to create a road map to an exciting and satisfying future.
Get out of that rut
At midlife and beyond, many people grapple with changes in their lives — work, family, romantic partnerships. A feeling of being stuck or a need to find a greater purpose can be kicked off by a milestone birthday, changes in sexual function or fear of mortality.
The good news is that this time of life has its perks too — experience from decades weighing and making decisions, and presumably decades ahead to use that experience in ways that make you feel proud, at ease, accomplished or any number of feelings that turn the word “crisis” on its head.
That said, keep in mind that time is indeed ticking. Figure out what you want without too much delay so that you can enjoy having it instead of chasing after some nebulous fantasy. It can help to put goal dates on the calendar, for example, or set aside a dedicated amount of time each day (even 15 minutes) to think deeply about your future.
If the aim is to get clarity, a life coach can help take the “crisis” out of midlife reflections.