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Midlife change need not be scary

Redefining yourself isn't a crisis - it's an opportunity at any age. Make the most of it.

Published February 4, 2007


Isn't it time we stopped calling it a midlife crisis and started calling it something a little more positive? Susan Crandell suggests the word "reinvention."

At age 52, Crandell left her job as the top editor of More magazine to become a freelance writer. Some might say it was a step backward, but not for Crandell: It gave her more time to spend with her husband and let her get back to what she really enjoyed about her job - putting words on the page. She has since appeared on various television and radio shows to talk about her career shift and her new book, Thinking About Tomorrow: Reinventing Yourself at Midlife (Warner Wellness).

"Women seem to be more comfortable with the reinvention principle," Crandell said. "We reinvent our work lives when we have kids, either by taking time off or cutting back." But it's a process that works best when you have a support system in place, and a clear, realistic idea of the changes in store for you.

Here are a few suggestions:

- Take small steps. If you're thinking about making a huge change, especially one that's particularly risky, like going back to school, you may want to start off slowly. Enrolling in a degree program might not seem too hazardous, but if you think about the toll it takes on your wallet, it's definitely not a decision you want to take lightly.

"Do little things that scare you, accomplish them, and then develop a belief in yourself that you can do bigger things," Crandell said.

- Do your research. You'll inevitably have to fill in some of the blanks later, but you can at least start by talking to colleagues and friends about your plans and cruising classified ads. Online discussion boards can be a great resource, as are enthusiast sites that cater to your career change.

Then check out organizations that represent the field you're joining and even universities that have relevant degree programs - even if you're not interested in taking classes, the program's Web site and collateral material can be a gold mine of information.

- Form a support group. In her book, Crandell suggests a "reinvention weekend." Gather friends who are also thinking of making changes, career-related or otherwise, and spend the weekend in a relaxing setting.

Take time to read books (perhaps biographies of others who have made life-altering moves) and brainstorm about the best ways to launch your reinvention. The ideas of others, especially those who understand and support your situation, will go a long way in boosting your confidence.

- Embrace your fear. Making any transformation, big or small, is going to stir up some apprehension. At the same time, though, we need to make them in order to have a full, interesting life. "As long as you're intending to move forward," Crandell said, "there are probably no wrong moves."

- Find your confidence. Think about why you started making changes - you wouldn't have made that push without the confidence that you could follow through. "It's important to trust yourself, and that ties into what I call the power of letting go. Let go of the old life to reach for the new life, and trust yourself that it will be there," Crandell said.

[Last modified February 3, 2007, 19:37:45]

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