Sunél's Blog | Planning for meaningful transitions

Sunél Veldtman, | 03 May 2024

It is not unusual for people in midlife to rethink their lives. In my experience, it has become the norm rather than the exception. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. Few people last in corporate beyond fifty due to the high (and often unreasonable) demands. While some can afford to retire, others need to reinvent themselves and do something else for another decade or two.

Beyond midlife, there seems to be a universal desire to seek meaning from work, sometimes more than money. There seems to be plenty of evidence, including my own experience with clients, that those who find meaning in their work, work for longer. In doing so, they often build more retirement capital than those who just ‘grin and bear it’ until early retirement.

Yet, I have seen many battle to contemplate this search for meaning, never mind leaping into a transition. Many people struggle to find what will give them more meaning. They’re too busy. There is no space to search for or create a new reality.

In a few conversations over the past week, it occurred to me how important space is – the space to create. We may know we need it, a space where we can stop our minds and bodies from routine; and what we need to do to make that happen, such as carving out specific ‘space’ time in our diary, being in a different physical location, or picking up a creative activity.  But too often, we struggle to do it and unfortunately, there are consequences.

Without space, and the contemplation it affords, we may very well jump into the next phase without comprehending what we really need. We might make a leap of faith in the wrong direction or from a position of fear.

Often, we want everything mapped out before we start our next phase so that our change requires as little courage as possible. It’s like a small child learning to walk by holding onto different objects.

Clearly, if we have no resources to create that space, this approach may be necessary. However, contemplating a different life should ideally start with planning for space.

Creating anything means filling a space, taking some materials and time to fill the space. Creating our next phase in life should be no different.

In that space, the answers, connections, and creativity will come to you. Even the resources you need may show up in the form of partnerships or funding. At the very least, the space will allow you to start the next phase well-rested and energised.

In my own midlife journey, I took time off in between corporate and starting Foundation Family Wealth, and again after seven years of being in business when I walked the Camino de Santiago. Both those times, which I treasure as precious, are some of the best moments of my life. Those spacious weeks and months gave me the freedom of thought to inspire the next season. I forged bonds with my most loyal allies and worked through emotional trauma, which set me free to pursue new paths.

I suspect that fear is the biggest stumbling block to creating space. It is frightening to wake up with nothing to do, dwindling financial resources, or the absence of contact after leaving a business for a few weeks. It is frightening to anticipate the thoughts that may fill the space if it is no longer filled with work or normal day-to-day stuff. Yet, it is exactly what is needed.

I’m not encouraging reckless abandonment of duty or reason. I’m advocating thoughtful planning for space. Whatever it is that you need for space, push for it. Whether it includes a daily or weekly time to quiet your mind, or a yearlong sabbatical, plan it.

You’ll never regret it.

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Kind regards,