by Sandy Burgham
I have always been loathe to call myself a life coach as it sounds lightweight and fluffy and strangely indulgent like having a personal aromatherapist. But because I work in the area of leadership development, it is important to consider that the leader cannot help bring their whole self, their beliefs and values, hopes and dreams to their leadership practice. So invariably, professional development – which traditionally focused on the outer game of leadership – often wanders into personal development territory where we look at the inner game, what’s really going on for the executive. And in many cases when working with someone close or over the 50 something milestone, there is a real desire to reinvent.
That reinvention is not necessarily a new job or career path, often it is just reinventing the way one goes about their lives. And that’s where the idea of a column called The Second Act came about. The editor of The Hobson approached me, not because of my professional leadership development work, but actually because of my personal interest and personal history of reinvention. From a career perspective, I am up to my 4th industry or professional after accidentally following my interests into leadership positions in three different industries. I never followed the career advice of making sure there were no career breaks on my cv for fear people thought I couldn’t hold a job. Four times over, I have simply resigned when it didn’t feel right. I needed space to think about options and to act on instinct. I found working got in the way of thinking. (And to be honest, in all cases I wanted a ‘staycation’ style holiday).
Sure, it was scary as the phone didn’t exactly ring off the hook with job offers on day one but it forced me into taking some action which lead to many wonderful things. So I know a little bit about it reinvention not just from those who work with me but also from my own experiences. And this is what I want to offer: It’s momentum that will lead to change not having “a big idea”.
Most people sit around trying to conjure up the idea of what to do next. They assume that as soon as they get ‘the idea’ they will be so filled with inspiration that nothing will stop them. But it doesn’t work this way. What I have come to understand and come to have witness is that even if people come up with the big idea of ‘where to next’, they are still faced with the discombobulating feeling of being out of one’s comfort zone, of acting in unfamiliar ways, having conversations with new people, facing a lack of traction. Moreover, it is paying attention to action and momentum that gives more shape to an idea and sometimes out of momentum another completely different direction will emerge.
Oddly, I never wanted a career as such. I dreamt of being a writer in my teens but somehow work got in the way. Hence I treat writing for The Hobson as a hobby, a sidebar to my main ‘life’s work’. But recently I was approached by a number of individuals who wanted to work with me not for leadership development but for plain and simple reinvention knowing that I have done it a few times. They are stuck, not on the outside but the inside. Some are stuck knowing that they probably want to do something else – but what is it? So, I’ve decided to create a course specifically for them and it’s called The Second Act after this column. It never occurred to me that the monthly discipline of writing a column on ‘life after 50’ would lead to an opportunity like this. But now it seems like a natural extension.
I know I am going to love working with these potential reinventors and who knows where this will lead for them – and for me. But the most important thing is that it will lead somewhere! A friend once gave me a wall hanging with one of my favourite quotes from Buddha. It reads Success is not the key to happiness, Happiness is the key to success, if you love what you are doing you will be successful. That’s my mantra.
For more information on the pilot course called The Second Act Re-inventing at Mid-Life [click here]
This article first appeared in The Hobson Magazine October 2017