The Top 5 Regrets of Midlife Professionals

I’ve spent 11 years now focused on career coaching, teaching and training, helping mid-career professionals “dig deep, discover their right work, and illuminate the world with it.” I’ve seen several core themes emerge around what makes mid-career professionals (and middle-aged people in general) feel the deepest regret.

Below are the top five regrets I’ve heard from mid-career professionals around the world:

1. I wish I hadn’t listened to other people about what I should study and pursue.

Many people believe that when you reach 40, you’ll certainly be living your own life, and making your own authentic choices.  Sadly, I’ve found that it isn’t necessarily true. So many thousands of people around the world feel deep regret and pain because they’re actually living someone else’s life – not their own. Most typically, they’re living a life their parents told them to live, and engaging in careers their authority figures demanded or strongly encouraged they pursue.

I’ve heard from so many people aged 40-55 who now realize they’re in the completely wrong career, pursuing the wrong goals, because they studied in college what their parents and authority figures told them was the right thing, for security, stability and status.  They also admit that there was a some unconscious or “hidden” cultural mandate they somehow felt, to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect, etc., for the recognition and status that their parents thought would be achieved in these fields.  The reality is that these professionals didn’t muster the courage to change directions, or say “No, I don’t want this!”  And now many years have passed and they’re still not living life as they want to.

To live a happy, rewarding life on your own terms, it’s critical to starting saying “yes” to your authentic beliefs and values, and stop living someone else’s life that feels so wrong., even if it’s the one your beloved parents wanted for you

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard and missed out on so much.

So many men and women in middle age share that they regret what they’ve missed out on in life, by working so hard. They missed being in the fabric of their children’s lives. Or they missed the chance to have children. They missed the opportunity to build true intimacy and closeness with their spouses, family and friends. They missed experiencing adventure, travel, enjoyment, vitality, learning, spiritual growth – not having the chance to stop and relish life, nature, good health, peace, or relaxation. They missed so much and sacrificed so much to pursue work goals that now feel meaningless and empty.

I’ve seen that too that when people get to the end of their lives – in their 80s and 90s — they’re not thinking at all about the work goals they strived so hard to achieve. They’re thinking about love and family, about the people that matter deeply to them, and how they made a difference to these people. And they deeply regret what they didn’t do with and for these loved ones.

3. I wish I hadn’t let my fears stop me from making change.

We have many different fears that stop us from taking action, but the biggest fears are around failure, loss, and pain.  Mid-career professionals share with me that they have so much fear and resistance around making change, particularly if it means they have to stretch out of their comfort zone, speak up and stand up for themselves. They fear failing, going broke, not being able to care for their families financially. They fear leaving their “comfort zone” yet they see that perpetuating the status quo is excruciating and damaging.

The fears mid-career professionals, particularly women, often emerge from a lack of healthy boundaries, from intense people-pleasing behavior and a drive toward “perfectionistic overfunctioning” – doing more than is necessary, healthy or appropriate. Until we can get in the cage with our fears and address them head on, fear will keep us stuck in quiet desperation.

4. I wish I had learned how to address toxic situations and people.

When I wrote the post “6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away,” I heard from thousands of people (and still do) who shared how toxic their lives and relationships have become. And they shared that they have no idea what to do about it.

Toxicity is rampant today, and so much of it comes from stress and from negative, damaging ways we were raised and parented, and what we were taught (or not taught) about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It also emerges from people whose self-esteem has been severely hurt– through childhood pain, trauma in later life, and crushing experiences at work that shatter them. Toxicity – at work, in relationships, and in our own thoughts — hurts us terribly, but often we don’t see it clearly enough until our bodies break down, or other crises hit that focus us to take brave new action to learn to love, protect, and heal ourselves.

5. I wish I hadn’t let myself become so trapped around money.

Finally, the money issue – this comes up in almost every conversation I have with mid-career professionals. Their fears around money, or their slavery to it, generate deep regret. People share that they know they’re not living the life they long to, and they’re sick and depressed about it, but they simply can’t see a way out because they’re trapped about money.

Either they feel they need to keep making exactly the same amount as they are today, so they won’t change directions or leave their toxic jobs or careers, or they’re desperate because they’re not making enough, so they want to pursue something “safe” that they know will make them miserable in the end.

I’ve learned that our relationship with money goes very deep, and stems directly from our wealth programming and what we learned from childhood about it.  The negative, fear-based stories we tell ourselves about money keep playing out in our lives, despite all our best efforts. If we don’t get to the bottom of our own money story, and heal it, we remain trapped in unhappy, desperate situations for the entirety of our lives.

If you’re like me, when you hit 50, it was a huge awakening. I felt as if I were suddenly in a new “club” and that club allowed me to be stronger, braver, and bolder, and stop wasting time.  Suddenly, seeing that the number of years you have ahead of you in life is smaller than what’s behind you, is a very motivating experience. For many, it elicits an urgency to address what’s wrong in our lives – what makes us sick, sad, depressed and angry. It catalyzes us to muster the courage, fortitude and commitment to finally do what’s required to start living the lives we long to. And for that, we need to begin finding brave. To find brave and build a happier life, visit my Amazing Career Project, and watch my Facebook video and TEDx talk “Time to Brave Up.”

Read more at: http://kathycaprino.com/2016/10/top-5-regrets-mid-career-professionals/


6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away

In my line of work, I hear from hundreds of people a month, and connect with professionals in a more public, open way than ever before. Through this experience, I’ve seen scores of toxic behaviors that push people away (including me). And I’ve witnessed the damage these behaviors cause – to relationships, professional success, and to the well-being of both the individual behaving negatively, and to everyone around him or her.

Let’s be real – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another (none of us are immune to it), but many people are more evolved, balanced, and aware, and it happens only rarely in their lives.

Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or once in a blue moon, it’s critical for your happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving badly, and shift it when it emerges.

The 6 most toxic behaviors I see every day are:

Taking everything personally

In the powerful little book The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz talks about the importance of taking nothing personally. I teach this in my coaching programs and my book Breakdown, Breakthrough as well, and there is so much pushback. “Really, Kathy – don’t take anything personally?”

People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything that happens in life is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them. The reality is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you. People’s reactions to you are about their filters, and their perspectives, wounds and experiences. Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, it’s more about them. I’m not saying we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback. I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally when it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of others’ good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own heart, intuition and wisdom as your guide. So yes – don’t take anything personally.

Obsessing about negative thoughts

It’s very hard to be around people who can’t or won’t let go of negativity – when they dwell on and speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the slights they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life. These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s transpiring. Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in negative thoughts is another. Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a skewed way of thinking and living, and you can change that.

Treating yourself like a victim

Another toxic behavior is non-stop complaining that fuels your sense of victimization. Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no influence on the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck and small. Working as a therapist with people who’ve suffered terrible trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know that we have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe. When you stop whining, and refuse to see yourself as a hapless victim of fate, chance or discrimination, then you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept that reality.

Cruelty – lacking in empathy or putting yourself in others shoes

One of the most toxic and damaging behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others. We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly cruel and destructive to others just because they can. They tear people down online but in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a weapon. Cruelty, backstabbing, and ripping someone to shreds is toxic, and it hurts you as well as your target. I had a powerful learning experience about this a few years ago. I came into the house one day in a nasty mood, and shared a mean, sniping comment to my husband about the way a neighbor was parenting her child through one of his problem phases. In less than 24 hours, that very same issue the parent was dealing with came home to roost in my house, with my child. It was as if the Universe sent me the message that, “Ah, if you want to be cruel and demeaning about someone, we’ll give you the same experience you’ve judged so negatively, so you can learn some compassion.” And I did.

If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks. Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all the same.

Excessive reactivity

An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you. We all know these people – men and women who explode over the smallest hiccup or problem. Yelling at the bank teller for the long line, screaming at your assistant for the power point error he made, or losing it with your child for spilling milk on the floor. If you find that you’re overly reactive, losing it at every turn, you need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your emotionality. There’s more to it that appears on the surface. An outside perspective – and a new kind of support – is critical.

Needing constant validation

Finally, people who constantly strive for validation and self-esteem by obsessing about achieving outward measures of success, are exhausting to be around. Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over, and constantly want to “win” over their colleagues or peers, are toxic and draining.

Overly-attaching to how things have to look and be, and to achieving certain milestones and accomplishments rather than going with life in a more flexible, easy manner, can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down . There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve or fail at today. It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning and applying, how you’re helping others, and the growing process you allow yourself to engage in.

Stop stressing over the particular outcomes like, “I need that promotion now!” or “My house has to be bigger and more beautiful than my neighbor’s.” Your desperate need to prove your success and build your self-esteem through outer measures of success is (sadly) apparent to everyone but you, and it’s pushing away the very happiness outcomes you’re longing for.

To build a happier, more rewarding career, work with me, join my The Amazing Career Project video training, and watch my TEDx Talk “Time to Brave Up.”