A Search for Significance

by Evelyn Kalinosky on October 21, 2011

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Posting some vintage content from the vault this week. This post really sparked a lot of conversation the first time it ran in 2009, and I’d love for you to add your thoughts in the comment section.

While working on developing products and services for the coming year, it occurred to me that I needed to ask a number of questions of the women I serve or hope to serve before I can create a workshop, retreat, e-book, or any other product that is spot on. So I began to do just that, and have spent the past couple of months talking with women all across the corporate spectrum about their pain points, their challenges, their goals and passions.

I wanted to get a better handle on what ignites a fire in the belly of a high-achieving, soul-driven midlife woman, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Everyone I talked with was wonderfully open, unreservedly frank, and touchingly vulnerable.  While these women may have taken any number of divergent paths as a result of choice or circumstance, there are a number of places where these various paths intersect, and when standing on that sacred ground, their voices sound particularly unified.

Taking Inventory

As a general rule, successful career women engage in an ongoing inventory of their lives, their values, and their priorities in order to make sure these areas are integrated and aligned, and to make the necessary adjustments when they are not, but midlife is a time when that level of evaluation and reflection becomes increasingly essential.

Many of the women I spoke with commented on this kind of self-reflection and on their desire to combine both money and meaning to live a life rich in significance.  For some women, that means reflecting on whether or not their current career can meet them where they now live in terms of their evolving values and desire to create an optimum life.

Midlife Reflections - Women Speak

“Is this all there is? I ponder that question every day since I turned 52. One the one hand, I love what I do. On the other hand, I’ve had this nagging restlessness the past several years – this subtle itch that’s telling me there has to be something more.”

 “It’s not to say that what I’ve been doing these past 25 years didn’t have significance for me, but my needs have changed. The goals I had in my 20s and 30s are not the goals I have today. I’ve met those – achieved those – and what I value has evolved over the years. Now it’s time to align these values more closely with the kind of work I do. To do that means branching out in a totally new direction.”

 “I am a child of the 60s. We started out with a lot of idealism and a belief that we could make things better in the world. What I’m seeing now is a lot of younger people in their late twenties, early thirties, who are seeing that in themselves, too. There’s a spark there that I relate to and I feel it’s important to keep that spark ignited so I can continue to make a difference – something I’m not so sure I’m doing in my current career.”

 “If I am really honest with myself, I know I’m just not performing at my peak level any longer. To admit that is frightening to me, but at the same time it challenges me to step up my game or step off and into a new arena.”

 “I literally woke up one morning and realized I’d been doing this for 25 years. It’s not that I haven’t loved what I’ve done, but I just can’t imagine myself doing it for the next 25 years.”

Taking Stock

Over the course of his research, psychologist Erik Erikson emphasized the importance of having a sense of authenticity and integrity in later midlife. He found that the growth of the personality in the 40s and 50s is built on a heightened concern with the meaning of life and the process of taking stock, resilience in the face of setbacks, and greater self-acceptance.

There is a deeper sense of the core self, with fewer illusions and a beginning appraisal of where career and life has taken a woman. This re-examination is as natural as it is inevitable, and it often begins by asking questions and seeking answers from her internal world as well as her external world.

The questions a woman may ask herself are some of the same questions I asked during my recent conversations with various career women. As a favor to me, but more importantly, as a favor to yourself, take a break; make yourself a piping hot cup of herbal tea; sit down somewhere quiet, somewhere private, and allow your mind to consider the following: 

  • What are the top 3 goals you most want to achieve?
  • What are the top 3 things you love about what you currently do?
  • What are the top 3 things that aren’t working for you, or that you’re not actively addressing?
  • As a high-achieving, soul-driven woman, what is it that ignites that fire in your belly?
  • What is the 1 thing you feel is holding you back from living your most optimum life?

After you’ve spent some time thinking about these things, I’d love for you to share your answers here as part of this blog post. Let’s continue the conversation we’ve started and see where it leads us. We’re all on a journey of discovery, and all roads lead to a more sacred kind of success…


Evelyn is a catalyst and mentor for business women in midlife transition. She specializes in working with women age 40 forward who are ready to claim – or reclaim – their Sacred Capital. Her passion is to create a new paradigm in how we think about aging, specifically, how we think about women aging.

Her award-winning Inner Affluence Blog received top honors in 2011 and 2012 as “Best Coaching Blog” by the School of Coaching Mastery, and she was named “1 of 101 Women Bloggers to Watch in 2011″ by WE Magazine for Women. In addition to being a coach and mentor, Evelyn is a speaker and published poet.

You’re welcome to use this article on your website, blog or in your ezine if you include the entire post without modification and link it back to www.InnerAffluence.com. If you liked this article, you’ll want to visit www.InnerAffluence.com and sign up for Evelyn’s bi-weekly ezine to receive more comprehensive information, strategies, and resources for the midlife business woman.

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  • http://twitter.com/Prophet1958/status/127463353105920000/ Evelyn Kalinosky (@Prophet1958)

    A Search for Significance: Posting some vintage content from the vault this week. This post really sparked a lot… http://t.co/AszqeWzT

  • http://twitter.com/MCEOnSite/status/127635758763876352/ Linda and Lisa (@MCEOnSite)

    A Search for Significance: Posting some vintage content from the vault this week. This post really sparked a lot… http://t.co/gy9YnMpz

  • http://twitter.com/Prophet1958/status/127753732116062208/ Evelyn Kalinosky (@Prophet1958)

    My blog post: A Search for Significance http://t.co/CKGt1NDz What are you searching for as a midlife career woman? Pls RT and post

  • MSolo

    Norhing has changed since 2009, meaning this article is as relevant now as it was then. My grandmother told me that
    the most shocking part of aging was to look in the mirror one morning to see a mature
    older woman looking back. Internally we don’t see ourselves as having done anything
    for 25 years because our perception is that we haven’t aged. Yes we are wiser and our perspective has matured
    but our picture of self does not. When confronted with questions about career fulfillment at a time when we are
    struggling to accept the picture of our midlife selves, we tend to question whether or not we have wasted time.
    The real question is, will we take action based on our responses to these questions or will we decide it
    is too late to find success and fufillment in the 2nd chapter of our lives.

  • http://www.evelynkalinosky.com Evelyn Kalinosky

    So true in many ways. I recently interviewed Jennifer Louden about this very subject and she said although she just turned 50, inside she still feels 12, and that’s how she “sees” herself in her day-to-day life. I don’t think that’s a negative because the things we enjoyed as children are often the very things we need to come back around to as we age. Midlife seems to be a natural time for this kind of reflection, and women often realize that this creativity is what’s lacking in their life. In my eyes, it’s never too late to be who you might have been (stealing a quote here from George Eliot). Thanks so much for your insightful comments. Evelyn

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