The snowdrops are showing, a few eager daffodils are dancing, and despite the morning chills, Spring is definitely in the air.
And so begin the social media posts, podcasts and programmes about the need to declutter, spruce up and Spring clean your cupboards and Inbox. Then in magazines – alongside horror headlines yelling for us to get Bikini Ready that make our winter bodies just want to retreat to permanent Jumper-wearing Land) – we get features on how to clean your closet, wave a magic wand on your wardrobe, and ditch the grey for the colour du jour, which this year appears to be a bright yellow that only suits a Californian tan.
“It’s time to revamp your skin, retire your old wardrobe and dust away the cobwebs because the current you is shabby, flabby and a little bit winter-wrecked, so you know, it’s time for a “***NEW YOU!!!!!***”
All of which is just another stick to beat ourselves with.
And yes, now that the mornings are brighter and the evenings are lighter, it’s a perfect time to throw open the long winter shutters and let in the sun.
But here’s a thought.
Imagine if we could Spring Clean our lives instead?
You see, there’s nothing wrong with you. You are great. YOU are lovely. It’s the expectations, overwhelm, guilt, social stress, perfectionist bullshit, time-poor, pressure-heavy life that needs a decluttering.
It’s the first glorious Spring of a new decade. Imagine if you could live it by design, not default?
Far too many of us live on autopilot, our lives running us rather than the other way round. The key is not to create a new you, but to evolve, rediscover, nurture, and encourage the potential that’s already in you, and making your life one that serves that purpose, not the other way round.
The only way to do that is to switch off autopilot, identify how much, and what parts of your life are being lived in stagnating default mode with no intentional thought, and to take charge so you are living in control and in motion, engaged today, and living a life by design.
It’s so easy to put our head down, and blindly barrel through life.
Imagine though, being able to put on a pair of (metaphorical) glasses so we can see where we are going, plan the route, and take over the controls so that we can stop living a default life, and start living a designed life. A life designed by us.
What is the default life? You know, it’s the one where you tell yourself stuff like “I can’t do that” or “I’m too busy to try that” or “This is what I’m expected to do.”
My favourite, that I see constantly with my coaching clients is: “I’m not […….] enough.” Fill in the space with whatever word here is the default one for you – good, thin, successful, young, smart, happy, rich.
In a default life like there are also lots of “I should’s” and “when I…” (again fill in the blank with your default – am thinner, fitter, happier, in a relationship, out of a relationship, richer, in a bigger house / have that promotion, a partner, more time, time to think.
The default life is the one where we followed roadsigns without thought, roadsigns that we never wrote (they were written by parents, teachers, cultural expectations, societal pressure).
It’s the life where we are ruled by Guilt and Good Girl Goals. Then we hit mid-age and wonder why we’re not excited by the view. We were too busy “getting there” to enjoy the ride, and the view wasn’t one we actually designed. It was a default one, prescribed to us as children and by Facebook.
I did it too. I went into survival mode for years, on autopilot just to get through the days juggling job, parenting, marriage.
The worst default mode setting I lived by though – and one which now, as The MidLife Coach, I see many women live by, is the belief that I didn’t have a choice.
Once I realised that I did, my life changed. It became my life, and not everyone else’s. I learned that the choice is always ours. For many women though, they feel they’ve never been given the permission slip to sign.
Life without a plan is a drift. Desire without a timeframe is a dream. I learned that I could either survive in a life where stuff happened to me as I rattled along on the rollercoaster not knowing what was around any corner, or I could thrive in a life where I took small actions every day, consciously, with intent, to thrive in a life of my choosing.
Every day, one of choice, one of design.
When we’re stuck, the only way to get unstuck is to take action. (The only exception to this is quicksand. Just saying.)
It was only when I realised that living on autopilot meant that it wasn’t that I had no choice, but that I wasn’t making any choices, that I realised how much of my life was on default mode.
When I got off autopilot and took the controls, then I started designing my life by making choices and taking action. It didn’t mean I suddenly had a problem free life, or I “arrived” and got to sip a Welcome Cocktail. It meant I got to chose the problems I wanted in my life, and know that I never, ever want to get that Welcome Cocktail. I never want to “arrive.” Because that will mean I’m no longer growing, evolving, learning, adapting, experiencing new things, building, getting more confident, knowing myself better, developing, enjoying the unpredictability of life because I am secure in the predictability of my plan.
We are the generation who are redefining and revolutionising mid-age. We’ve been given a gift that no other generation of women in history have been given. The first part of that gift is an extra 20 years of healthy life expectancy – not at the end of our lives, but at the middle.
The second part of that gift is that things have never been better for women. I’m by no means saying things are perfect and we’ve a long way to go for equality, but mid-aged women today are in a position no other generation of women before us were. Divorce is not a stigma. Not being married at all, or not having kids is a choice not a crime. It’s still really hard but we can choose to have families AND careers. Some men have discovered the washing machine.
We have unprecedented independence, opportunities and time that means we now get to redefine the stale stereotype of de-sexualised, de-valued, voiceless women who faded into the background to knit once their breeding years were over.
But, it’s also a time of change and challenges (just the fact we are ageing in an arena of anti-ageing propaganda is enough to send us all screaming for the Gin). It can be a time of extreme overwhelm as we juggle relationships, families, parents and jobs. We were told we could ‘have it all’, but it feels an awful lot like we’re just doing it all.
So we have this wonderful gift, but the problem is, many of us aren’t sure how to open it. The traditional signposts (education, career, partner, mortgage, kids) have now stopped because no-one had this time and potential before that we now do. We look ahead at all this time when 40, 50, 60 and 70 have been completely rebooted and redefined, and we’re not quite sure how to proceed.
We’ve been so conditioned to be nurturers and givers and smile nicely that we often haven’t a clue how to access the permission slip that allows us to think about writing new signposts for ourselves.
So that is what we should be doing instead of beating ourselves with taunts to Spring clean our wardrobes and faces. Spring Clean our lives instead, and give ourselves the gift of time to really figure out what makes us tick, and how to make life work for us, not the other way round.
It’s the first Spring of a new decade, a new paradigm of how to live this life at mid-age and a new chance to live your life – by design, not default. It’s not about where you want to end up, but how you want to live today.
Even blankets come with a little tag that tells you how to take care of them. Unfortunately, we don’t. Which is why I can hear the replies now.
“I don’t deserve that time.”
Guilt, lack of confidence, self-doubt.
Well, the first thing I’m going to tell you is to get over yourself.
No-one else is ever going to give you permission.
No-one else is going to take away the overwhelm.
No-one else can design a life for you.
You are the difference between the life you have (by default, often) and the life you want (by design.)
But that makes you even more stressed! You’ve enough on your plate organising the Community Green Committee and twenty other things today, without factoring in a Life Plan schedule!
Worried that you will let people down?
Worried about what people will think?
Worried that you are safer just keeping your head (and heart) down. It’s easier isn’t it?
Everyone is affected by self-doubt and worry… it’s natural. But it doesn’t have to own you. You can own it.
If you want to learn how to grab your life by the horns, you can sign up for my Life by Design, not Default Course starting 21st April, 2020. Details below:
Life by Design, Not Default course.
- Feeling knackered, overwhelmed and undervalued?
- Wondering why life feels flat despite the effort you put in?
- Not sure who is staring back in the mirror at you?
Learn how to design your life, create a plan for living with intent, and feel unstuck, unleashed and unstoppable.
There are 3 parts to the Life by Design, Not Default Course.
- Group coaching session in Terenure, 10.30am-12.30pm, Tuesday 21st April
- Group coaching session online webinar, 10.30am-12.30pm, Tuesday 28th April
- Individual coaching session TBC week of 4th May
Here’s what you get for the course fee of €325
#1 – 3 BRAIN-BURSTING sessions
- one as a group (discovery)
- one online as a webinar (design)
- and one individual in person with me (delivery… how you start living your life today, develop / eradicate the habits that will help / hinder you etc)
- plus homework (that doesn’t involve a hoover).
#2 – An overview of your life – where’s at all, all the good, the bad, and the stressful so you know what your starting block is. This is mind-blowing. I’ll take you through some simple steps and you’ll suddenly get a helicopter view of your life, and from there know where you want to make changes, enhance, improve, reduce etc. It will seem so obvious when it’s done, yet so many of us never take the time to invest in doing it.
#3 – Discover the weapons in your armoury (or to be less violent, the tools in your toolbox, or the equipment in your backpack that will help you on your path) – your strengths, your values, your resources, your triggers, the boulders you carry around, like self-doubt, that we need to take out of the backpack.
#4 – Knowing what to say yes to and what to say no to. With relish and no guilt.
#5 – A compass or a pair of glasses (metaphorically) so you can see clearly
#6 – A Plan. Written for you, by you.
#7 – your own Journal and folder (for that non-hoovering homework).
Whether it’s lifestyle, relationships, diet, weight, fitness, career, parenting, ageing, mid-life malaise, this investment of time and intent will give you the gears you need to feel like you’re finally in the driving seat of your life.