Chances are that you have already encountered some major life milestones. How did you navigate them? How did you feel when you reached them? Was the milestone something you chose or something that was a normal part of life?
There are many milestones that we as adults get to experience in our lives. In this blog I’m focusing on women and some of the milestones we encounter. I’ve listed some of these below, but this is not extensive and there may be some that you have experienced that are not on this list.
1. Children leaving the nest
2. Significant milestone birthdays
3. Promotion to leadership positions at work
4. Starting a business
5. Leaving full time employment
6. Returning to higher education
7. Changing career path
8. Following passions and dreams
9. Relationship breakdowns
10. Buying property 11. Getting married 12. Death of a loved one 13. Having your first child 14. Significant health changes/challenges, such as menopause
15. Moving country
How we navigate milestones is dependent on our personality, our relationships and the milestone itself. For example, one woman turning 40 may find it exciting, whereas another woman may feel anxious. With each different type of milestone comes different opportunities and challenges. We can of course seek out those who have gone through something similar to gain insight and advice, but each of us will feel differently about what we are going through.
Fear is one of the biggest culprits to rear its head when milestones are on the horizon. Five of the most common fears are listed below:
1. Fear of the Unknown
Big milestones often involve major changes and new experiences that can be unfamiliar and cause uncertainy. This can lead to anxiety and fear of the unknown, as people may not know what to expect. I find that clients who like to be in control of their own destiny usually feel this way. Learning to surrender and allow changes to happen naturally is sometimes easier said than done.
2. Fear of Failure
Achieving big milestones can come with high expectations and pressure to succeed. Fear of failure can prevent people from taking risks and pursuing their goals, as they may worry about the consequences of not succeeding.
This is especially true if our milestone involves doing something we have not done before such as starting a business, changing career path or becoming a parent for the first time.
3. Fear of Change
Big milestones often require significant changes in lifestyle, relationships, and priorities. Fear of change can make people feel uneasy about leaving their comfort zone and stepping into the unknown. The fear of change goes hand in hand with the fear of loss.
4. Fear of Loss
Big milestones can also involve loss, whether it's leaving behind old relationships or letting go of familiar routines. This can trigger feelings of grief and sadness, making it difficult to move forward. Milestones may also bring about identity changes. These too can cause us grief or sadness as we let go of who we thought we were in order to move into a new version of ourselves. I talk more about identity later in this blog.
5. Fear of Success
While it may seem counterintuitive, fear of success can hold people back from achieving big milestones. Success can bring its own set of challenges, including increased responsibilities and expectations, which can be intimidating and overwhelming. This is before we even begin to think about how our success will be met by others. The thought of having to deal with the envy and jealousy of others can be enough to stop some of us from going for what we want and keeping ourselves small.
Along with fear, and mentioned in point 4 above, a change in identity is something we must learn to accept as we reach and journey through milestones.
Let’s take the story of a young woman I once worked with who was promoted to lead a team. Previously she worked within the team and had a good camaraderie with her colleagues. They socialised together and there was a great sense of teamwork. Whenever there were tight deadlines, they would all work together to ensure work was fairly distributed and completed on time.
When she promoted to team leader, she soon found herself being excluded from social activities. Her colleagues no longer included her in the general chit chat on the team and awkward silences started to become the norm. This was hard for her because the team had always been close. After speaking with her own manager, she was told that this sometimes happened when team members started to lead the teams they had previously worked on. She was now being seen as a member of the management team rather than ‘one of the team’ as she had been previously.
This was a bitter pill for her to swallow as she comfortable with how things had always been. She felt a sense of loss for the person she no longer was. She also knew that in order for her career to progress that there were parts of her old identity that she had to let go of as well as new parts she would need to cultivate.
Many of us feel this shift in identity as we go through different milestones in our life. It doesn’t only happen when changing career. One of the biggest identity shifts I hear of is when women have their first child. All of a sudden, they are a mother. It is an entirely different identity to the one they had prior to their child being born. Again, it is something that some women find hard to accept and navigate. The thought they are now seen purely as a mother rather than the individual they were before can be sad and sometimes frustrating.
I am going through a shift in my own identity at the moment. I have worked in the corporate world for over 20 years. Last year I completed my last assignment for one of the largest financial institutions in the U.S. Since then I have been transitioning into working full time in my coaching business and writing. Yet there are still parts of the corporate ‘me’ that remain. There are also parts of the corporate ‘me’ I have been more than happy to shed! Some days I miss the old parts of me and some days I’m excited that I have a different life ahead of me.
So how can we navigate the milestones in our life? There are a number of ways in which you can do this:
1. Reflect and Set Goals
Take time to reflect on you as a person before the milestone. What have you experienced? What have you learned? What were your strengths and values?
Then do some forward reflection to determine who you want to be when you reach this milestone. What do you want to achieve? How do you want to feel? Make sure to set any clear and realistic goals for yourself.
2. Seek Support/Find a Like-minded Community
Surround yourself with a strong support system of friends, family, and mentors who can offer guidance and encouragement along the way. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This is especially needed when you feel you are the only one currently experiencing this milestone. For example, you may be the first in your group of friends to experience your grown children leaving the nest. Your friends may not fully understand how you feel and finding others who can share their own experiences with you can help you to navigate any challenges.
3. Embrace Change
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and navigating big milestones often requires adapting to new situations and embracing change. Stay open-minded and be willing to explore new opportunities.
We can often be pessimistic about change, thinking of all the ways something may go wrong. Thinking instead about all the ways something could go right may bring about different opportunities and experiences along the way!
4. Learn from Failure
If your milestone is starting a business, changing career or maybe pursuing a childhood passion, the fear of failure can put you off from trying in the first place. Failure is a natural part of the learning process, and it's important to embrace it as a learning opportunity rather than a setback. Use failures as a chance to reflect on what went wrong, learn from your mistakes, and adjust your approach moving forward.
5. Prioritise Self-Care
Navigating milestones can bring their own stresses and worries. Prioritising self-care, such as exercise, healthy eating, and relaxation, can help to maintain physical and emotional well-being so that you feel confident in the times of transition.
6. Learn New Skills
Learning new skills and knowledge can provide a sense of accomplishment and provide a positive experience for any milestones. This is especially true if you are thinking of starting your own business, making a career change or returning to long-term education.
7. Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude, such as expressing appreciation for the people and experiences you have already had in your life, can help you maintain a positive outlook and build confidence for the next part of your journey.
Navigating life’s milestones can be both exciting and challenging. By taking a proactive and positive approach you can live your best life and achieve your dreams. You are not alone in what you are going through. There is sure to be someone who has gone through exactly what you are facing now.
If you are approaching or are currently experiencing a milestone in your life and would like support, please book a FREE consultation call with me.