May 30th, 2024

Transitions mark the rhythm of our lives…sometimes arriving unexpectedly, always challenging us to adapt and grow. Recently, a thought-provoking conversation arose from a book my son, Kai, recommended to me. The book, The Defining Decade, written by a psychologist who spent three decades studying 20-somethings, explores the idea that our 20s are the defining decade of our lives. However, as I delved into the book, I couldn’t help but contemplate the notion of a second defining decade.

In our youth, society grants us permission—encourages us even—to explore. There’s a collective understanding that the early years of adulthood are meant for discovery. This period of life is seen as a time to figure out who we are and what we want to become. However, as we age, the expectation shifts and society begins to presume that we should have clear answers about our trajectory. We are supposed to know what we want to do next, leading us to feel stifled and stuck because we feel we ought to have it all figured out.

As I reflected on these societal norms, I realized that our later years offer a different kind of opportunity—one filled with possibility, if we allow ourselves to access it. Instead of seeing our 20s as the only defining decade, we must embrace the idea that transitions and redefining moments can occur at any stage of life. This mindset can free us from the pressure of having a fixed trajectory and open us up to the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

I’ve recently been having lots of conversations with women in transition. Transitions that are imposed upon us—job loss, for instance—can leave us feeling unmoored. Whether the job elimination feels like an external force beyond our control or a personal failure, it is a universal experience that many encounter at some point in their careers. In my own life, I have faced moments where circumstances changed against my will, leaving me to navigate uncharted territory. These moments, while difficult, have often led to positive outcomes in the long run.

Facing unexpected transitions can be an opportunity for deep reflection. As hard as it is in the moment, periods of forced change often prompt us to reassess our paths and goals. Many times, people even look back and realize they were in a situation longer than they should have been or weren’t as happy as they could have been. These realizations can catalyze the search for something better, more impactful, and more aligned with who you are and what you truly want.

I hope that if you find yourself in a time of transition (forced or chosen) that instead of fearing the unknown, you approach it with curiosity, a desire to explore, and a sense of trust that it really is going to be okay. It’s fine not to have all the answers. Life is a continuous journey of exploration, regardless of age. Every decade, every transition, offers a chance to redefine ourselves and our paths, leading to greater growth and fulfillment.

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