For months, Michele Woodward kept hearing the same question pouring out of the mouths of many of her female clients who came to her office frazzled, frightened and asking: “What’s next?”
That’s when the Washington D.C. master certified life coach decided to pull together a group of women in mid-life to meet three times a month and explore that aching tug: “Am I really happy? What is next for me?”
They came from all walks of life – a CEO of a real estate investment group, a mom of teens leaving home for college, an executive director for a non-profit and others. At first to commiserate and then to support each other and get clear about what they were and what they want to do. Next, they created a workable plan to do it.
The common bond: “They all were terrified about ‘what’s next,” says Woodward, who also shares her coaching insights on her Web site (www.lifeframeworks.com.) Mentoring each other, they met, week after week throughout the spring and summer to create a plan to reinvent themselves. For some it was changing careers, for others finding more fulfillment in their current role, or improving the work-life balance.
Out of their experience, Woodward offers this checklist of tips for answering the “what’s next? “question and jump-starting reinvention:
1. Ask yourself: “What do you want more than anything right now?” “You have an immediate answer, don’t you? That’s your gut talking to you. And you immediately reject your gut, because what its saying isn’t politically correct, or is hugely inconvenient or it’s not what you’re supposed to want.
2. Trust your gut. If you want to feel better — more passionate, happier, alive — you have to pay attention to that poor little rejected feeling. Because the first glimmer is the key to unlocking whatever it is that’s holding you back.
3. Get clear about what you want. Envision it. Believe you’ve actually achieved it.
4. Take stock of your strengths and make a list of what you are good at. The CEO, for example, discovered that her strength was working in turn-around companies, reorganizing them and driving their success. Realizing this, she knew what to look for in her next, says Woodward.
5. To change or reinvent yourself, you have to get over the “what will people think” issue. Do what makes YOU happy.
6. Accept that change is scary.
7. Find mentors. Despite their different backgrounds and paths of reinvention, the women in this group became mentors and encouragers for each other.
8. Take action.
9. Engage in self-care. During the process of reinvention, it is important to care for oneself and to be compassionate with oneself during the transformation.
10. Stay connected with your supporters through and after the reinvention.
Mary Beth Sammons is the author of Second Acts That Change Lives: Making a Difference in the World. (Conari Press, 2009). She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her three children. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.