This isn’t about being a “Drama Queen” or an “Adrenalin Junky”.
It’s about whether, in the midst of the mayhem of midlife, you live your life pulled constantly by external exploits, or driven by internal intentions.
Perhaps you find yourself constantly reacting to people and situations in ways that, on reflection, didn’t really help you - or the situation?
You’re not alone. We all have autopilot behaviours that play out without us really thinking. You believe you are outraged, justified and right, or you believe someone has neglected, disrespected or devalued you, or you believe you are, can’t, or should [fill in the blanks]. You think these beliefs are rock solid, which trigger autopilot behaviour - but as coaching reveals, your beliefs aren’t always true!
If you keep having the same argument, or keep coming up against the same issues at work or in relationships, it might just be that you are stuck with a belief, and haven’t realised the powerful difference between living with drama and living with adventure.
When I talk of adventure, I don’t mean jumping out of planes or heading off to Bali for a year to live off passion fruits and passion.
I mean the adventure of living from the inside out. Of living with intent and curiosity. Of living from a place of growth, development, looking outward, from feelings inward.
Of living, as Walt Whitman wrote, both in and out of the game: fully engaged in life, but also detached enough to observe yourself and be clear how and why you are acting.
Although I loved the idea of adventure, often my exploits ended up in drama, because I never realised there was a difference. It was all adrenalin; it all felt like living large [with “jazz hands!"].
However after a particularly painful decade a few years ago, I began to realise there is a distinct difference between drama and adventure.
And which one I was playing to had a profound impact on my life.
Drama felt like being sucked into a never ending TV show where you can’t press pause or turn the volume down. Adventure on the other hand, felt like I was breathing, and alive. In drama I felt things were happening TO me. In adventure, I was in charge of my destiny (regardless of what was happening).
Now as a coach, when I work with women in the mayhem of midlife, helping them see that distinction makes all the difference to them feeling empowered in their own lives. It helps them step out of a mental space where things are happening TO them (drama), and into a space where they get to choose how to respond rather than react (adventure).
One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is take radical responsibility for our lives, and that means everything in our lives, including the stuff we didn’t ask for and don’t want. That doesn’t mean to take the blame. It means accepting whatever is the reality and then taking responsibility for how you respond.
You always have a choice between drama or adventure.
In the 1970’s, psychologist Stephen Karpman named the cycle we can slip into that stops us from living like that as the Drama Triangle. It is the exact opposite of Radical Responsibility.
The Drama Triangle has three reactions or roles, and we can play all of them at different times.
There is the Victim, the Villain and the Rescuer.
The victim, caught in the constant drama of “poor me” is trapped in the powerless prison of everything is happening TO me.
The villain (or the persecutor) lives in the constant drama of blame. It’s either everyone and everything else’s fault, or it’s self-judgement and shame: “I should have done better, I should have tried harder.”
The Rescuer is consumed in the drama of seeking constant relief - be that through distraction like alcohol or consumption, or rescuing and helping others.
As a single mum to teens, I can certainly be swept along in drama, believe me. I sometimes feel I live in Drama Central… and that’s just my behaviour! But staying present enough to live in a state of adventure as much as I can changes everything.
Adventure is meeting people where they are,
not where you want or need them to be.
That has even my single greatest parenting lesson. (And ex-wife lesson. And coaching lesson. And friend lesson. And every-interaction-in-my-life lesson!)
If you strive to only meet people where you need them to be (and hint: that’s just your expectation and may have no reality to where they actually are!), you will always be sitting in the drama of lack. Of frustration. Of disappointment. Of need.
If you strive to be open, adventurous and curious enough to meet people where they are, then you’re in a space of possibility and growth.
But mot importantly, meet yourself where you are, not where you think or think you are expected to be. Be adventurous, curious, kind, supportive of you, and then those traits will shine outwards on others.
Your midlife adventure awaits.