The Mystique of the New

The year has changed . . . how about you? What changes are facing you in 2009? If you’re a man in midlife, change has probably caught you like the incoming tide and is carrying you along with its often-understated power. Now, the question remains: what are you going to do about it? Your midlife experience may be causing you to experience your relationships, your career, and your own personality with restlessness, irritability, and discontent. Not surprisingly, you may be reaching the limits of your tolerance for those aspects of your life that are out of focus or discordant. Perhaps you’re feeling cheated, as though you’ve been promised a bill of goods that were download (2)never really delivered. You look back at your decisions, and can’t figure out where you went wrong . . . exactly where your path turned and headed you off into a direction where you never really wanted to go. Maybe you’re thinking (especially now that everyone’s talking about a tough new year ahead of us) that it’s time to make a change.

Guys: here’s were you’ll need to be very, very careful. My generation (the ‘boomers) are rapidly moving in to take the place of the depression generation as retirees and ‘golden agers.’ Most of you who will be reading this will be a generation or two behind me. That makes you many decades behind the folks who experienced years of joblessness, scarcity of food, and having to make do with (and for) the necessities of life. Theirs was the generation who learned (from bitter experience) about conserving and reusing whatever little was available to keep them and their families going. They experienced what ‘luxury’ really means (according to the vast majority of the world’s population). They look aghast at our ‘disposable planet’ mentality. In our ‘mentality of abundance’ world, the ‘poverty mentality’ can find few adherents. When in doubt, we proclaim, throw it out and get a new one!

We’re also suckers for advertising, and have been for decades: new, improved, better, revolutionary, an amazing breakthrough. Do you enjoy your plasma TV? Are you unhappy because your car is more than four years old? Are you pining to turn in (or give away or throw out) your old stuff and replace it with something more satisfying? A new relationship, perhaps? A new career? A new you? That’s really the point, isn’t it? Consumed with dissatisfaction, you really want to make a drastic change: turn in the old life for a brand new one. After all, you’ve now lived half your life, and you’ve learned a thing or two over these four or five decades, haven’t you? You’ve made some mistakes and now, you think, it’s time to put all that practical knowledge to work: out with the old, and in with the new!

Of course, that could work out for you. It’s always possible . . . but, seriously, what do honestly think your chances are? You really have three major strikes against you, that I think you ought to consider seriously before making any final decisions. Here they are for your consideration.

First, as the generations ahead of us knew so well, ‘new’ isn’t necessarily ‘better’: it’s just different. The mystique of the new (that tells you it’ll solve your problems) doesn’t take into consideration that anything new that solves one set of problems always brings along with it a new set of problems to replace the old ones. Often, the new problems turn out to be worse than the old. Nuclear energy is one of those new approaches that promised more than it could deliver. It promised cheap energy (almost free electricity, they told us). Instead it brought risks and not only worse, but potentially permanent problems: even after fifty years, nobody knows what to do with nuclear waste. When you’re considering replacing the ‘poison that you know’ with the ‘poison that you don’t know’, it’s wise to take a good long look at the risks you would be buying into.

Second, I think that you ought to consider the consequences that come from making reactive decisions. ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire’ happens when you’re more concerned with the situation that you want to escape than the risks involved in what lies ahead of you. Granted, if you’re in a burning building and the flames are coming at you, climbing out of an upstairs window may be your best bet. However, seldom is a midlife choice a matter of life or death (even when it might feel that way). The proactive (and much better) choice comes from taking a careful inventory of what it is that you really want, and then making a careful plan that will get you from where you are to where you want to go. There’s an old saying that’s particularly apropos of midlife: ‘Sin in haste, repent at leisure.’ The better approach suggests that you apply your energies to bettering your situation within your current environment, then making considered decisions with adequate investigation and consultation that will move you forward. Quantum change is an excellent and necessary technique, but only when used wisely (and never in isolation).

Third, and finally, your future success requires that you keep in mind one silly – but essential – truism: ‘Wherever you go, there you are!‘ I’mdownload (7) assuming that you, like all of us, have occasionally found that, at times, the situation that you created became the situation that you left. That happens to people too frequently because they assume that the problem lies outside of themselves. Denial can completely blind you to your own contribution to difficult or objectionable situations. You can make changes in your environment to correct what appears to be an obstacle, only to discover that it keeps reappearing in each new context that you move to. It can take you years (if ever) to face the fact that the obstacles are, in fact, of your own creation, and that you re-create your dysfunction in every new environment. When you find that you’re experiencing similar difficulties in different situations, you truly need to ask yourself, what’s the common factor in all these similar equations? Before you change persons, places, or things, I recommend that work on changing yourself first.

Like the change from one year to the next, change, and the embrace of the ‘new’, on its own can do little to improve your situation. As in every decision, you need self-awareness, skill, knowledge, vision and, most importantly, a plan. I never tire of repeating the Cheshire Cat’s admonition to Alice: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there.” Reaction boils down to ignorant and cowardly instinct. Proaction derives from the essence of your humanity: your conscious awareness, informed judgment, and courageous action. The year is new; the choice is yours; the time is now.

H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC
ProActivation® Coaching
Website: http://www.MidlifeMaster.com

E-Mail: info@ProActivation.com

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Copyright © 2008 H. Les Brown

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