There’s a space before clarity called midlife chaos and the void. We perceive it as a negative place where we feel stuck and directionless and have an overwhelming sense of uncertainty about the future and who the hell we are.
Unlike the infamous midlife crisis, which might entail radical life changes, midlife chaos is more about an internal struggle—a yearning to reignite the inner spark that once burned brightly.
It’s a period where we may question our accomplishments, reassess goals, and ponder what’s truly important. This stage can be bewildering, leaving many to feel as though they are standing at a crossroads, uncertain of which direction to take. It certainly bears the hallmarks of a tough internal struggle, a phase of reassessment and existential contemplation.
Sounds like lots of fun, not.
Rather than viewing this as a negative phase, embracing the chaos and being in the void that comes with midlife is important, if somewhat daunting. This period offers a unique opportunity for reflection, growth, and renewal.
It’s a time to pause, take stock of one’s life, and realign with one’s heart’s desires and passions.
I see the steps as feeling like you are in chaos, entering the void and crossing the chasm to clarity.
Being in the Void
The “void” we encounter is a powerful symbol of this seemingly chaotic period - a space where the known and the predictable give way to uncertainty and emptiness. However, within this void lies the potential for self-discovery, reimagination, and rebirth.
The void can initially appear as a threatening abyss, embodying the disquiet and disconnection from one’s earlier sense of self and life’s purpose. The perceived emptiness can evoke loss, disillusionment, and a lack of fulfilment. Yet, this very void also holds a transformative potential. It offers a space free from the habitual and the routine, a quiet expanse where one can sit, be, and allow the imagination to roam freely.
By courageously facing the void, we can explore what is possible beyond the known boundaries of our lives, envision new purposes, and reignite that inner spark that may have dimmed over the years.
Understanding The Chasm
Standing at the edge of the chasm symbolises being on the brink of transformation and change. It represents the potential for growth, the anticipation of moving forward, and the readiness to embrace a new chapter in life. Crossing this chasm requires courage, determination, and a strong sense of self. It’s about taking purposeful steps towards a future that aligns with one’s renewed sense of purpose and inner peace.
But where does the term come from?
In the early 90s, while juggling an MBA and working full-time in IT, I stumbled upon a book titled "Crossing The Chasm" by Geoffrey A. Moore. This book came to mind this weekend, giving me an interesting metaphor for understanding and embracing midlife.
The term "chasm" in Moore's book represents what can seem like a formidable gap in the market adoption lifecycle, particularly challenging for tech products making the leap from early adopters to the mainstream market.
Early adopters are risk-takers enthusiastic about innovation. The mainstream market, however, needs proven benefits and established references. Bridging this gap, or "crossing the chasm," is critical for a product’s longevity and success in the market.
So why do I find this concept interesting in its application to the journey of embracing midlife? (I know I am strange...)
Because many of us find ourselves in what I call midlife chaos, feeling lost, passionless, and directionless. It's like standing on the precipice of change yet feeling tethered to old paradigms that no longer serve our evolving selves.
In this context, the chasm represents the transition from chaos to finding a renewed sense of purpose, direction, and inner peace.
And it can feel like a big and daunting step.
𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘪𝘴, 𝘪𝘯 𝘴𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘴, 𝘵𝘰 𝘯𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘨𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘨𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦. And this is where things can get sticky, can’t they?
You want to make some changes, but how?
As I said, the answer lies in recognising the desire (or need) for change.
And then embracing the chaos, understanding your needs, and adopting new perspectives and behaviours. It’s about strategically moving from feeling stuck to finding clarity, from directionlessness to purposeful living with a smidge of inner peace thrown in.
Just like in Geoffrey Moore’s marketing context, this transition requires strategic efforts, a deep understanding of one’s needs, and the adoption of new perspectives and behaviours.
Before we go further, let’s look at a major thing that could hold anyone back: fear.
Midlife Chaos And Fear
Fear is an intrinsic human emotion that often signals a potential threat or a change. During the transition through midlife chaos, fear often surfaces as a natural response to the unknown or the uncertain. We don’t have a crystal ball, and how can we possibly know for sure what will happen when we make that first step?
However, fear doesn’t have to be an enemy; instead, it can be a powerful ally if acknowledged.
I like to think that fear, like conflict, is a catalyst for change. It is most definitely a signal for change. You are being called to wake up and pay attention. I know I get it. It doesn't feel very pleasant. But it's choosing to get into the discomfort zone or stagnating.
Fear can heighten our senses and awareness, preparing us for addressing challenges. It forces us to think, plan, and take action. And if you are anything like me, you become bloody-minded and think I will damn well get through this.
And that’s all very well, but once you have acknowledged it, what can you do to understand what triggers these fears and why? I write in my journal and have successfully used EMDR with a properly trained and utterly delightful psychotherapist. I have needed to deal with childhood trauma, and so might you.
Something you can do is to reflect on the fears and analyse them. Are they rational? What are they indicating? What can be learned from them? Please ask for help. Other people can provide new perspectives and strategies for managing fear.
Use fear as a motivation to take action. Set clear goals and take small, calculated risks to overcome fears and move out of stagnation. If you don’t, fear can blind you to opportunities, and it could compound over time, causing other problems.
So, with that said about fear, what else can we look at?
Navigating Between the Void and the Chasm
Navigating midlife chaos involves oscillating between being in the void and standing at the edge of the chasm. It’s a dance between embracing the emptiness, understanding one’s feelings and desires, and preparing for and initiating change. Here’s some food for thought.
Facing the Chaos
The first step towards navigating through midlife chaos is acknowledging it. Recognising the feelings of fear, discontent, confusion, or yearning for something different is part of your healing process.
Practice self-compassion during this challenging time, understanding that it's a natural phase of life that many experience. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Self-compassion means acknowledging your feelings without judgment and reminding yourself that feeling this way is okay. It also means treating yourself like a good friend going through this stuff.
Ensure you are taking time out for self-care. This could be as simple as reading a book, taking a long bath, or going for a walk. Also, engage in mindfulness practices like yoga or deep-breathing exercises to stay grounded and calm. Insight Timer is great for a 20-minute yoga nidra when you are feeling phased.
And it goes without saying you need to get enough rest, eat well, and engage in activities that bring you joy. I know too many women who skip meals and can’t be bothered to look after themselves. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s a good place to start.
Honestly, I make myself eat. I cook healthy options, and now it’s a habit – I just do it. But to start with, I found it incredibly hard. There was a time in my life when my diet was white wine, red sauce on white toast, and a full roast on Sundays.
Entering the Void
Let go of preconceived notions, past failures, or societal expectations. This can help in making space for new perspectives and possibilities. One way to let go is to start with physical stuff. Do something small like sort out your sock draw or clean your desk. Heads up, I cleaned out my socks this weekend, and it feels so good to let the clutter go.
When you start to let go of stuff, whether it is physical or mental, you can create space so that you can enter the void with an open mind. It’s a space of reflection, exploration, and sometimes necessary emptiness which precedes clarity.
Self-Reflection and Exploration
Get a journal and scribble. Yes, I know this is often hard to get into. I have a journal called A journaling journey to your heart’s desires. It could be a place to start. Or get yourself a beautiful journal, none of these scrappy horrible things and use it to explore new ideas and perspectives. Reflect on what brings joy and fulfilment and aligns with personal values. Identify what was lacking before and what desires have emerged now.
If we are thinking about crossing the chasm, you could think of this as being an early adopter in your life and actively going after new experiences. And just like identifying the market gap in technology adoption, identify what is missing in your life causing chaos. What are the passions, purposes, and drives are not being fulfilled?
Building a Support System
No woman is an island*, and seeking support is crucial during this tumultuous time. Connect with friends, family, or professional counsellors who can provide guidance, lend an empathetic ear, and offer valuable perspectives.
The phrase "No man is an island" has become a proverbial expression to convey that human beings do badly when isolated from others and need to be part of a community to thrive. John Donne 1624.
Don’t be an island. Surround yourself with people who get you. By surround, I don’t mean loads of people but ones you trust and want to be with. Then add in the groups where people are going through similar stuff and can offer support, as can you.
And please ask for help.
Mindfulness and Patience
Hustle and bustle, our poor minds take a bit of a battering, don’t they. I know that sometimes I can mither about things – which is why I journal, but when it doesn’t stop, that can lead to impatience, frustration and anger.
I love to walk with my dogs. Long before I had dogs, I would walk for hours after work. Usually, to the coast for a swift Guinness before striding home. I’ve always needed nature to help me to decompress.
I also love Insight Timer and Brain dot FM, and my all-time favourite is my Sunday sound bath.
Be patient with yourself. Transitioning to a state of clarity is a process. It requires patience, understanding, and time.
Taking Action Towards Clarity
Just one step is action; if it is aligned with your heart's desires, values and vision, that is a good step in the right direction. I’m a big fan of chunks. I know it will never happen if I see a massive, hairy, audacious goal. I want clear goals, based on the newfound understanding, that I know I want to achieve.
So. Start with small, manageable steps towards your goals. Celebrate small victories along the way, and adjust your path as necessary.
What if you could envision a future where you have crossed the chasm, overcome the chaos, and reignited your inner spark? What does this life look like? What are you doing differently?
Just as technology companies take strategic steps to cross the market adoption chasm, take small, strategic steps toward your vision. Set achievable goals that align with your heart's desires and passions.
You can do it!
Continuous Learning and Adaptation
Do you love learning? I adore learning new stuff and mastering systems. It’s the Human Design Projector in me. Stay open to learning stuff even if you want to punch the knowledge in the face. Life continues to change, and maintaining a flexible mindset helps navigate these changes gracefully.
Resilience and Adaptability
You will certainly build your resilience and adaptability muscle as you move out of the void and cross the chasm. This is cultivated through embracing challenges, learning from failures, and understanding that change is a natural part of life’s journey. Resilience empowers us to push through uncertainty and forge ahead with confidence.
When I look back at my life, I’ve certainly weathered a few storms, and I am far more resilient now and with that comes adaptability. You have to be willing to adapt your strategies as you learn more about yourself and what you need to cross the chasm. Stay flexible and open to change. You can stand on the edge of the chasm and scream…
How Else Can You Cross the Chasm
Blimey, I have a list as long as my arm. They all seem to make sense, but when life has kicked you in the gut, it’s hard to want to pick yourself up out of your apathy. I’ve been there and got the T-shirt. So here goes, and add your ideas to the list in your new journal.
Stay physically active
Consciously choose inner peace
Reframe your perspective (I can't becomes I can)
Embrace the journey
Establish a routine
Embrace creativity (I made Runes recently)
Start a passion project
"Crossing the chasm" when faced with midlife chaos is not about radically changing your life but about finding ways to bridge the gap between feeling lost and living a life connected with your heart’s desires and a sense of purpose. It’s about embracing the journey, learning about yourself, and taking strategic steps to reignite your inner spark.
Just as in the marketing world, understanding the landscape, identifying the gap, and strategically navigating through it is key to successfully crossing the chasm and finding a renewed sense of purpose and inner peace.
Ready to cross the chasm?
Ways to work with me
Clarity session – one hour of brainstorming and chatting through what’s going on or any ideas that are bubbling up.
12 weeks Midlife Magic 121 mentoring – tailored to you and designed to deliver the outcomes you desire.
12 weeks – Learning To Fly. This 12-week masterclass is your invitation to come on a journey – an evolution. Evolution is the Creative Space where you can find yourself, your heart's desires, a sense of purpose and inner peace. Start in January.