Midlife isn't a crisis. It is an opportunity.

Midlife and beyond presents a new chapter in life and work. It brings with it all sorts of possibility and opportunity.

Yet, sadly, that is not the way it is often approached. Negative stereotyping would have us believe this stage of life is often some kind of crisis.     

Without doubt, midlife and beyond can present us with very real challenges to overcome in our life and work. But it is just another of the many transitional chapters of life. That’s all. Just like other transitional stages of life in our younger years.      

Each chapter of life has the potential to throw us into emotional turmoil and comes with its own challenges. How we respond and deal with that is up to us. The same is true of midlife and beyond.

However, midlife and beyond offers some benefits that younger stages of life don’t. We have the benefit of being able to learn from decades of experiences. All the choices, decisions, mistakes, successes, challenges, lessons, and experiences from earlier chapters of life can be learned from and used to inform and shape your next chapter.     

It is OK, and healthy, to question what really matters to you at this stage of life. After all, this is your one and only life. If you don’t take the opportunity to design life and work in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling to you now, when will you?

Betty Smith did just that. Betty was 76 when I met her when I was living in Ireland for a few years. It was day one of my Successful Women in Business programme. She had signed up because she had a financial need to earn some money and she wanted to get some clarity about the best way to do that and work out a way forward.

Betty came to the second day of the programme and announced to the group that she had come up with a business idea and had started a food production business. Given the economic climate in Ireland at the time (Ireland was going through its worst financial crisis in living memory) and that the food production industry is an extremely difficult one to get into, this was somewhat of an ambitious undertaking. Plus, she had no previous experience of the food industry or setting up and running a business. So the odds were stacked firmly against her. 

Her business idea was to produce Poitin (pronounced “po-cheen”) Marmalade and sell it as a premium product. (Poitin is an alcoholic spirit unique to Ireland. It can legally only be manufactured in Ireland - in the same way that Champagne can only be manufactured in the Champagne region of France).

Aged 76, Betty had set herself on a path to what would become a thriving business in just 12 short months that would transform her life. 

But before she got to the thriving stage, there were all sorts of challenges and obstacles to navigate and overcome. For example:

  • she needed money to cover the start-up costs of the business. But due to her age and the Irish banking crisis (most banks are being bailed out by the state to stop them going bust!!) she couldn't get a loan. Betty was determined to find a way to raise that money. So she had a good sort through her house and sold a load of stuff and that gave her enough money to get started.
  • she had no experience of running a food production business so there was a mountain of things she had to learn about production, business skills, industry regulations, and health and safety laws, etc.
  • she faced a lot of negativity and age bias, including a number of people telling her that her idea had no potential. And even some patronisingly suggesting she should pack it in, go home and enjoy her retirement!

Despite all these enormous challenges Betty persisted. She refused to be deterred by the many challenges that crossed her path. She found a way around each one. 

Twelve months later her product, which had only been an idea a short time ago, was in a national supermarket and a number of other retailers.

Betty is now in her eighties. Her product is in multiple supermarket chains and retail outlets across Ireland. She has expanded her product range. Poitin Marmalade has won prestigious awards in the Jam and Marmalade industry. She has been featured in numerous newspapers and TV programmes.

Her business is thriving. And so is she. All of this happened because she chose to see possibility and opportunity regardless of her age.   

Betty transformed her life, work, and finances as a senior and defied the negative stereotyping of life and work at this stage of life. She could have seen her situation as a crisis. But she chose not to. She just chose to design a new reality for herself and her life.

Betty’s journey is an inspiring example of what can be achieved in a short period of time, at any age, even when the odds are stacked against you.

Her story is a reminder that whether we choose to experience midlife and beyond as a crisis or a new chapter full of possibility and opportunity us largely up to us.

What will you choose to make happen in your life and work at midlife and beyond?

The bottom line….

If you aren’t designing your life you are leaving it to chance. And that is a hell of a gamble to take with your one and only life. 

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