If you’ve followed me here on the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, maybe you’ve heard me say that midlife is NOT the midpoint of your life. In fact, I have said that for most of us midlife begins in our 30s. That means we spend most of our adult life going through midlife seasons. Along the way, whether consciously or subconsciously we seek self-discovery to find fulfillment and joy as much as possible.
Self-discovery is generally considered a process whereby we assess our values, consider how we’re living our life in alignment with those values and search to find “that thing,” that gives us fulfillment and joy. That thing could be a career, a relationship or a renewal of sort.
On episode 45, Matt Gilhooly shares his personal story of self-discovery. Matt inspired me to share my personal self-discovery journey and how it correlates to Matt’s story, AND the meaning that it can have for you.
My self-discovery story is rooted in my childhood, just the same as Matt’s, albeit for different reasons. I believe to some extent – big or small – all of us experience a self-discovery journey that is rooted in our childhood.
For me, it starts with the fact that I’m an only child. I never knew what it was like to have siblings. Frankly, I was jealous of all my childhood friends, seeing them with their siblings. I didn’t have one friend growing up that was an only child.
I know it wasn’t my parent’s fault – eventually in my adult years they told me that they kept trying for a second child but it just never happened. Ever before they told me this, I never held it against them that I was an only child.
But, that didn’t prevent me from feeling like I missed out. And, the truth is as an only child, I did miss out on having a close bond with a sibling. My wife and I have two kids. They’re five years apart and they have a very strong relationship.
I honestly believe that being an only child delayed my ability to understand who I am. I can’t really explain it. I just believe that to be true. It wasn’t until my late teens/early twenties where I began to know who I am and to have confidence in myself.
The first time I experienced self-discovery was around age 20. I began to realize that I was depriving myself of something significant. It’s almost as if a switch went off in my head, almost overnight where I realized it was time for me to do something meaningful and to believe that I could. When I graduated from college at the age of 24 I felt like I could do anything!
You see, I put myself through college while I worked full time and lived in my own apartment in New York City with no roommate. I went from feeling sorry for myself as an only child to becoming an independent young man in my early twenties. I had a full time job in sales, selling technical training services and I went to college at night at Pace University. When I graduated at age 24 after six years of non-stop school (fall, spring, summer session 1 and 2), I discovered that I was capable of accomplishing anything that I really wanted to accomplish.
That first self discovery – at age 24 – laid a foundation for me. I’ve built on that foundation over the years through all my midlife seasons. I discovered that I could put in the work and accomplish something very hard, even when people around me doubted that I would accomplish it!
So, as in Matt’s story of self-discovery and my own personal story, both are rooted in our childhood. So, I ask you what about your childhood has impacted your self-discovery? Even if you can’t think of anything at the moment, let that question linger. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to understand this. It just may help you understand something meaningful about your own self-discovery.
While you’re on this thought process, ask yourself – do I need to rediscover who I am in the current season of my life? Maybe, you’re still living an identity that is no longer who you are, or an identity that is no longer fulfilling to you. Give yourself permission to think about that.
In Matt’s case, he discovered that he needed a way to express his thoughts and emotions about anything, starting with years of grieving the death of his mother at age eight. Matt is over 40 now, and so this has been a long process for him. Matt’s self-discovery happened when he launched his Life Shift podcast where he speaks to people about an event or circumstance in their life that was a life shift for them. Matt is enjoying great fulfillment providing a place where his guests are free to speak about any life shift moment and how it has impacted their life.
Other Examples of Self-Discovery on the Midlife Fulfilled Podcast
On episode 44 of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast Lou Blaser’s self-discovery journey occurred when she realized that after taking a sabattical from her corporate job to deal with a health issue, and having full intention of returning, she realized that returning to a corporate job was not what she wanted after all. Previously, he corporate role was her identity. She relished it. However, her self-discovery was enabled by giving herself permission to take time to answer the question “what do I want more of in my life?” After taking time to answer this question, she was able to define who she wanted to be in this season of her midlife. Coincidentally, Lou is also finding fulfillment as a podcast host through her Second Breaks podcast.
Another guest on the Midlife Fulfilled podcast sharing her midlife self-discovery journey is Karin Freeland on episode 4. Karin was similarly in a corporate job. She and her husband were enjoying a healthy middle class lifestyle with a nice house, nice car, vacations and all the trimmings. Yet, she was not fulfilled. She admits to feeling guilty about her lack of fulfillment due to the comfortable lifestyle they lived. One day, a work colleague encouraged Karin to finish the book she had started. Karin’s self-discovery journey culminated when her husband gave her the same advice and she realized the unfinished book was meant to be finished, published and promoted. Now, she is self employed as a life coach and motivational speaker helping women on their own self-discovery journey, leveraging her book as a platform to validate her credentials as a woman capable of helping other women find meaning and fulfillment in their midlife seasons.
Most of us go through several self-discovery journeys in our lifetime. The older we get, the more potential for our values to evolve. In my 40s my kids were still going through their formal education and I was focused on guiding and supporting them through college. Today, both of my kids are independent adults with families of their own. This current season gives me reason for another self-discovery journey that is ongoing. It is greatly encouraged by producing and hosting the Midlife Fulfilled podcast and the people I’m meeting on this journey. I feel that I’m just getting started as of the date this blog post is published. There is so much more I want to do on this journey to help millions of people understand what midlife really is and how to embrace their own self-discovery journey to find more fulfillment in their current season of midlife.
What is your self-discovery journey rooted in?