What about this whole “Create your own reality” crap?!?
A lot of my career coaching clients are in their 50s and 60s. Perhaps more than any other age group, they may feel most acutely the pull to create a life for themselves that has meaning and provides deeper fulfillment. Certainly, they have had more years of experience in work environments that are not supportive or satisfying.
Now that their children are grown and moving out and starting their own adult lives, thoughts turn to, “Now it’s my turn. I’ve done this job to make a living to support my family. Is this what I want for the rest of my life? Can things be different? Is it possible to feel passion for my work and still make money?”
Many approach retirement age and need to evaluate if it will be possible to stop working completely, if they will have enough income coming in from social security, pensions and other sources that they can fully retire without reservation. When that is not possible or the future is unclear, they at least want to continue working in a job or company that enriches and sustains their spirit.
There’s plenty of research in the news recently that retiring completely, not working at all, isn’t the best choice for some people, either physically or psychologically.
During these conversations with clients, I often hear something to the effect of, “Well, I’m too old now. Companies don’t hire older workers. I’m stuck where I’m at. Even if I wanted another job, I wouldn’t be able to find one anyway.”
The irony is that I hear similar complaints from clients in their 30s and 40s too. They have the idea that the 20-somethings are the golden generation, that every company wants to hire that age group. “Well, companies don’t want to pay for experience or wisdom. If they can get a recent college graduate for $25,000, they’ll do it. They won’t hire me and pay me what I’m worth. I’m too experienced.”
And are you ready for this?? My clients in their 20s complain that they can’t get a job because, “I’m too green, too inexperienced. Companies want a ton of experience, and I don’t have it so I can’t find a job.”
So which is it? Are companies not hiring people in their 40s, 50s and 60s because they would rather hire someone in their 20s? Or do companies not want to hire people in their 20s, and give the jobs to people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s?
Well, both scenarios are true, and neither is true. You create what’s true for you by what you think about. If there is just one person out there who got a good job, and they are in their 50s or 60s, then it’s possible to get such a job yourself.
Oh, I can already hear the rumblings now! Part of my work as a life coach or a career coach (and the issues are always interrelated) is to be a mirror for my clients. If I hear them express a limiting belief, I hold up the mirror and point it out to them.
A limiting belief is simply a way of thinking that keeps you from being your complete, authentic self. In my Career Explosion Weekend Retreat, I spend about 40 minutes going through some popular limiting beliefs and help participants challenge them so they can live differently. For example, can men be nurses? Fill in the blank:
“Men can’t __________”.
“Men shouldn’t ___________”.
And what should women not do or can’t do? Math? Science? Work in construction? Be in combat? Don’t we have enough evidence to disprove so many of these stereotypes?
Here’s a question for you, and I want you to consider it very carefully. Think about your answers above, what men and women shouldn’t do.
- What if they could do it?
- What if they did do it?
What would THAT look like? How might your world be different as a result?
You may be thinking, “Well, that’s all fine and good. But when it comes to age discrimination, you can’t deny that it happens. There is plenty of evidence that shows it happens.” Do I believe it happens? Absolutely I do. I also know overweight people get passed over for jobs and promotions because of their physical appearance and other’s perceptions of what it means: “Lazy” “No discipline” and whatever else you can think of. I know African-Americans (or Latinos or Asians, etc.) don't get job offers because the hiring managers think (consciously or unconsciously, it doesn't really matter), "This person is not like me. They have different values. I don't think they'd fit into our culture."
Am I such a Pollyanna as to believe this doesn’t happen, that there is no one out there that this has happened to? No, I realize it happens. To some people.
But pay attention to this next part: THAT PERSON DOESN’T HAVE TO BE YOU.
THEIR TRUTH IS NOT YOUR TRUTH.
YOU CAN CREATE YOUR OWN TRUTH, YOUR OWN REALITY.
I am one of those people who cringe when I hear platitudes like this. I think, “What does that even mean, create my own reality?!” It borders on the airy-fairy, new-agey kind of thinking that too many people accept without going any deeper. Well, I am going to explain exactly what this means and how you can incorporate this platitude into your own life so you can start changing your life.
I took one of my older clients through a visualization exercise based on her answers to the questions I posed to her, “What if age discrimination wasn’t true? What would my world be like if age discrimination didn’t exist?
This is how movements are born! One person imagines how THEIR world might be different and realizes that if their world is different, they can change the world for everyone else! They inspire others to think about a different kind of world. What exactly was Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech all about? He inspired generations to think differently about what reality could look like. It certainly did not match the reality of the 1960s in much of the United States. But enough people wanted things to be different.
So below is a loose transcript of this visualization exercise, with my questions to my client in bold, and her responses in quotes:
So how would you first know that the world had changed, that age discrimination wasn’t part of your reality or the reality of the world around you?
“I see myself sitting in a room getting ready for my job interview. The interviewer walks in and I introduce myself. I can tell she respects me immediately because of my age.”
How can you tell this? What do you see that proves this to you?
“I can see it on her face. In the past, I might have seen disappointment or disdain on an interviewer’s face when they first saw meand how old I was. It’s different now, they are smiling at me, making solid eye contact with me.”
And what is the interviewer thinking that tells you things are different?
“Oh, that’s the best part! She’s thinking, “Finally! An older person! I am so tired of interviewing young applicants with no real-world experience. This person knows the ways of the world, they know what an honest day’s labor is all about. They won’t be afraid to jump in and get their hands dirty!”
Hey, hey! That sounds really powerful! How does the rest of the interview go?
“Well, I have a great answer for every question they ask me. I have enough experience that I can think of an example for every scenario they throw at me. Before the interview, I spent enough time reviewing my accomplishments over the course of my career that I can produce them easily without sounding braggy.”
So, after you leave the interview, I’m wondering what the people at this company are saying to each other about you?
“The interviewer goes to her boss and says, ‘This last candidate was so refreshing! She really knows her stuff. If we hire her, she will be able to hit the ground running and we won’t lose productivity because she knows the business and what to do already. People in her generation value work and have paid their dues. I think she’s the perfect choice for the job.'”
And what about the salary?
“Hoo boy! She says, ‘I sure hope we can afford her. But she has the perfect qualifications for this job and a ton of experience. Can we get some more money if we need to, so we can pay her what she’s worth?’ And her boss says yes!”Boy oh boy! And how does that feel?
“I feel amazing! Completely respected and. . .even. . .what’s the word? Honored. I feel honored!"
We continued this visualization throughout the offer call and the salary negotiation and even into her first days and weeks on the job, how her coworkers accepted her and spoke to her.
This is what it means to “create your own reality”! You get to dream big, create outrageous success, and unbelievably positive situations. And as you continue to call up this visualization several times a day, you start to rewire your brain to believe this is possible. Plenty of research studies have shown that the brain doesn't think in past or future tense. It only thinks in the present. So if you tell your brain you have the job of your dreams and really feel it and incorporate this belief, your brain believes it to be your present reality.
And when your brain believes it is possible, you will start changing how you talk to people, how you talk to yourself, how you interact with people, how you view the world. How you carry yourself in public, your posture, the sound of your voice, your level of confidence. By these things being different than they used to be, then you will start to attract different people and circumstances into your life that will help you succeed. They were there all along. You didn't magically make them appear. But your awareness changed. You assumed it was possible, so the veil was lifted and you could see what was available to you all along.
And most important, when all these things start to happen, you change your thoughts.
Even if you don’t believe it when you start, with time and practice, your thoughts will change! You’ll start thinking to yourself, “They’d be lucky to have me!” but not in an arrogant way but a matter-of-fact, this-is-the-way-it-is kind of way. Negative thinking like, "No one will ever hire me," will start to feel foreign to you and inaccurate.
That running dialogue in your mind will change too. You’ll start talking to yourself differently. It will change to a consistently positive content and tone – no matter how negative it seems right now.
Why not start today, right now, in this moment?