A Coaching Case Study By Irvan Saputra Masyulhak, Career Coach, NETHERLANDS
Coaching Midlife Professionals to Redefine Their Life Purpose
I was exposed to one particular niche of clients when I started my coaching practice. They are high achiever professionals that are having good careers in their corporate jobs. The ages are around the late-30s to late-40s. The recurring topic during the coaching sessions with them is they feel inadequate, lonely, numb, or dissatisfied with their job. Most of them came to the coaching sessions to find the reason why they feel empty feeling and they want to feel more alive, present, and peaceful while continuing to grow and achieve. In the bigger picture, they are looking after the meaning of what they are currently doing and redefining their life purpose.
It triggers my reflective mind. Why is this a special topic for this age? All look good from the surface; they are successful in their career and financially stable. However, there is the missing piece in their life, which is fulfillment.
I am questioning whether it is a midlife crisis. What’s driving this? Having this curiosity, I started to do some research on this topic.
According to Michael G. Wetter, Psy. D, a clinical psychologist, “A midlife crisis is a period or phase of life transition when a person begins to question the things that they have accomplished or achieved and whether those same things still provide a sense of fulfillment and meaning. If not, a person may begin to question what can bring meaning and fulfillment to the later part of their life that may be missing or unexplored.
This crisis can affect self-concept and self-confidence, leading to changes in moods, behaviors, emotions, and relationships as people cope with the midlife transition.
It’s thought that aging leads to feelings of depression, remorse, and anxiety. And a midlife crisis is a phase that helps people feel youthful again as they struggle to come to terms with the fact that their lives are half over.
Coaching Midlife Professionals Coaching Session
Having some pre-research about the mid-life crisis, I start the coaching journey with the exploration of their feeling.
I start with a question; how can you explain your feeling now?
I observe that it is not an easy question to answer. It is not so obvious to describe a feeling of emptiness. However, when I go deeper with the questions, the answers are mainly major mood changes, antisocial, less self-care, sleep pattern disruption, and low energy.
There is nothing that can motivate them when they wake up in the morning. Going to the office is such a regulation, no longer a purpose. Life becomes more on auto-pilot mode, they are not engaged with their lives, and they are not present for a big part of day-to-day routines.
It’s so subtle that they can’t point out specific experiences or when it starts happening. They are too late to recognize this. They are too busy, leaving little time for self-reflection. They ignore what matters to them.
Having adequate exploration about the current feeling, I ask the question; what kind of feeling that would you like to regain?
Most of them answered I want to feel happy again.
The clients and I are started to delve into the definition of happiness. There are some shifts in the definition of happiness. Most of my clients are no longer answering about achievement and being successful in their careers. They are evolving with their values, what was relevant 10 years ago, may not be the case now.
Happiness is no longer found in tangible items like a good career or possessions. The definition of happiness now is by starting to believe you have control over your life and grow by making choices that will give you a sense of well-being. Happiness is now defined as an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. Happiness is about making the best choices you can about what you do and who you spend your time with.
As they reach midlife, they also start to realize life expectancy. The realization that their lives may come to an end begins to hit. Suddenly the importance of achieving goals and doing what makes them happy becomes much more important. They are determined to pounce on their one last chance for a career that could make the second half of their life more meaningful and fulfilling.
During the coaching session, My client and I start to build a bridge and make a conscious effort to pay more attention to the gap between the reality of their life and the dreams and passions they once had.
Understanding What Is Important in Their Life
I started partnering with the clients to create steps on how to regain the energy and redefine their life purpose to be able to find happiness and fulfillment. We start with exploring what is important in their life, and we conclude that it is essential to answer these questions:
- Understand the passion and what are their strengths.
It’s critical to take start reflection and create an inventory of the passion. Passion is defined as a strong inclination toward a self-defining activity that people love and find important, in which they invest time and energy regularly.
This is important to know passion as when people enjoy what they do it will have a significant impact on ending up being happier. Life itself becomes much more interesting and fun. I see an energy shift when my clients start to share about what they like to do. They speak about it passionately.
I ask my clients: How do you find your current job aligns with your passion?
There are different answers, yes and no. Some say they love their job, however, they don’t enjoy it anymore. However, some say that their current job is a result of historical decisions made with the influence of others, mainly parents.
The two answers lead to different follow-up questions.
- If they love their current job, what makes them not enjoy it anymore?
- If the career they have now is not aligned with their passion, what is their plan, and what stands in the way of pursuing the plan?
I notice that there is no perfect job or business. There is always something that one can complain about in their job. The important thing is to enjoy. When you have the feeling of enjoyment, that is when positive energy and gratitude occur.
We should have ownership of our own lives and make a change, including how we respond to the situation and the feeling generated by the situation.
It may take some time to figure out what we want to do that will make us feel joy. Finding and doing what we love is worth it. The older we get, our tastes change, our view of the world changes, and even our goals change. So refining our passion is a natural process.
- Understand what is missing in life.
The empty feeling that my client experience is the result of inner restlessness and longing. It is a sign of there is a missing piece in their life. It may be abandoned for so long that it is now craving some attention.
I try to tap into their wisdom and experience to re-evaluate their current career. Ask themselves what’s not working and what they want to change.
To be able to have a legitimate answer to this question, We need to slow down and recognize the pattern to understand what matters to us. Use the time to reflect on their life. For example, are there any passions or dreams that they abandoned in their youth?
The important milestones during the exploration are to find out their absolute passions and what matters in their life. As soon as they find the answer, it is important to use the momentum to trigger the action. What can help them to fulfill the missing piece and do their passion?
My clients come up with some action points to focus on some activities they like to do and build new habits as a start. It is essential to identify small, achievable ways that can be incorporated into their life. It will help to focus on passion and change the perspective of intangible feelings into something more concrete.
Some come up with the idea to try to volunteer. It will help to develop new interests, but on a higher level, it will also connect with different people from their current circle. Volunteering may also help to find that feeling of fulfillment by helping other people. As there is no compensation, it’s a genuine process. As people who used to attach self-worth to work and vanity, I discovered that having alternative sources of fulfillment allows them to “diversify” the avenue through which they can feel accomplished.
It is critical to creating some structure for implementing the action points, so that they can be evaluated, gives a sense of direction, and help to organize the activities. Based on my client’s journey, there are a few things that could support them in implementing the actions:
- Being mindful of distractions.
Many distractions could be barriers. It is seemingly negligible, such as daily traffic jam and the time one spend on social media. These inconveniences can accumulate and keep people in a constant state of agitation. When they start to limit their exposure to those, they will have more bandwidth to care about things that matter.
- Being healthier physically
Physical health is affecting aspects of mental health. Exercise can help as a way to stay sane and energize throughout the day. Consistent energy can help to boost the motivation to do the activities. It is worth it to research the right exercise that fits the situation. The research shows that regular exercise can help to sharpen people’s focus, coordination, and collaboration abilities.
- Mapping and milestones on the alignment of the activities with passion.
The eventual step in the journey is to map the action points to the ultimate purpose. They need to be conscious of the activities that they have chosen, and whether it is aligned with their passion and underlying purpose. The milestones are important to monitor whether they are still on the right track, but most importantly to provide a time to reflect. Milestones can be something to celebrate, it represents continuity and growth.
By incorporating the chosen activities in the lifestyle, I realize that my clients start to be able to begin living the principle out every day. The activities are chosen by themselves, which create a sense of control that they can make a change in their life. In the long run, I witness that they start to feel the difference in their enthusiasm for life as a whole.
A midlife crisis is a shifting identity. It typically happens during the age of late 30s to early 50s. The most common feeling is that people have a higher level of anxiety, mood changes, and feeling of emptiness. This period of transition may be driven by shifting values and life purpose. Some people could not navigate themselves smoothly during this period resulting in the feeling of emptiness and loss. It can also lead to depression.
A good remedy to fulfill the emptiness feeling is by finding the missing pieces. It can be observed by exploring what matters in their life. The first step can be by enlisting the activities that they love to do. The feeling of love can be representative of their passion. As these activities that they choose by themselves, it can create a sense of belonging, control, and joy. freedom is the most important thing in everyone’s life. Happy can be defined as having control over the things you can control. It means that it can have a bigger impact which is a happier life.
Happy people is having more energy. They live their dreams. They can focus on the important things. The content people think bigger than themselves, so they come to the level where they start exploring what is their life purpose. When they start to pursue this, love can be more meaningful. To be able to reach this stage, willpower is all that is needed.