Starting Over (Again) After Seventy (A Reprise)

Note: this originally appeared in the Huffington Post)

Surprise!

There’s a saying in coaching that you end up coaching the clients who need what you yourself need to work on. So, it’s no small irony that, as someone who coaches women over forty who are planning the next phase of their life, I am currently planning my own next phase. And that I know at least one other coach who works with similar clients who is also starting over.

What It Looks Like In My World

In my twenties, I taught in early childhood programs. In my thirties, I wanted to work with adults, so transitioned through teaching in a career-related program at a local college to about twenty years in staff and organizational development. There, I discovered my love of coaching. I quit at fifty, with nothing in the works, to become a coach. After several years of bits and pieces, I created the first internal coaching program within New York City Government and coordinated and coached within that program for six years, until this Fall, when the agency abruptly decided to end the program. Like magic (not the good kind), I went from a steady base of fifteen to twenty clients to one. Whoops! Well, been here, done this – time to do it again.

Now What?

So here’s where I begin relying on everything I believe in and everything that is part of my work with clients. I know this works, because this is my third major reboot experience, so I need to take my own advice. As you may know, that’s never as easy as it sounds. The rebuilding process looks something like this:

1. Resilience, Persistence and Optimism

Resilience is what keeps you from spending your life on the couch watching really bad television.

I’ve bounced back before. I can do it again. What I’m learning, though, is that it can take longer when you’re older. I enjoy working and have no desire to stop, yet some days, I look at my fully retired friends and find it hard to get energized. The I think about women like Jeannette, who started what has become a thriving business when she was older than I am now. Or Alice, who continues to build her business past eighty. Or even Grandma Moses who didn’t pick up a paint brush until late in life.

Do something every day that moves you toward your next great thing. I’ll admit that I’m not as quick to run out to yet another event when the weather is bad. Still, there’s always something to do. Set up virtual coffee dates to network or for informational interviewing. Read and comment on blogs. Write something. Learn how to use the newer forms of social media, like Periscope or Blab. Check out LinkedIn groups or Google Hangouts.

Ask everyone, everyone, everyone for job or client leads. The more people who know what you’re looking for, the greater the likelihood someone can help. I think of that old sales axiom that it takes a hundred no’s to get one yes. I think of Sharon, who, with no business background and didn’t even know what an invoice looked like, kept knocking on doors until she got her first contract and who now has a highly successful contracting business.

Remain optimistic. If you need the occasional pity party, set the timer for maybe fifteen minutes, then pick yourself up, smile, do a little dance and remind yourself that things are going to turn around. Believe that. Envision the outcome. See yourself in that office or on that stage and see buckets full of cash. If you can’t imagine what you want, you’ll never be able to make it happen. Part of optimism is seeing your future as real – it creates a roadmap.

2. Self-Care

Now is the time to take really, really good care of yourself. Check in with your doctor to be sure everything is in order. Get yourself out of the house. Spend time with friends. Spend time doing inexpensive things that you love. Exercise. It relieves stress and reenergizes you. Balance that exercise with time for inner peace. Meditate, journal, read inspirational books, listen to music, sit very still. Whatever it takes to maintain an inner balance. Watch what you’re eating. It’s all too easy to reach for the junk food. My particular downfall is sugar. What I know, though, is that ice cream isn’t going to bring me comfort. It’s going to make me lethargic and unable to work. One cookie too many and I fall asleep. I keep fruit that I love in the house – it’s one extravagance in my revised budget. Melon may not be in season, but the cost of a package of honeydew chunks is, in the long run, far less than that box of cookies.

3. Be ready

So far, I’ve had the opportunity to teach in a coaching program that I love. I’ve been invited to speak to a few groups – and have gotten a few clients through those events. I’ve had a good response to the launch of my book as an ebook. I’ve been invited to record a few podcasts and a radio show. Little steps, little steps – yet forward motion.

Those clients are out there. They need me and my experience with redesigning my own life to get them where they want to be. The clients will come – that might even mean someone you know or it might mean you.


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