As we get older, it’s common to feel our options diminishing. But a change in mentality and focused long-term planning can open doors to success and happiness.
“It’s easy in our roles and responsibilities to become so overwhelmed that we don’t know where to begin, we can’t see a way through, and we then eliminate options. We find every explanation as to why it’s impossible to lift ourselves out of the mess in which we find ourselves.”
The situation described by Professor Ihron Rensburg, Former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg at a recent Lifecheq event, is a common one – it may even sound familiar. As we move through our 30s and 40s, family responsibilities, tight finances, lack of time, or fear of failure leave many of us stuck in a job we don’t like. Or in a job we do like, but which doesn’t pay well.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology shows a dip in workplace happiness for people in their the 30s. This is a time of reflection: the career we started may now leave us unsatisfied, or the lifestyle we expected slips further from reach. At this point, we have two choices: we can settle, or take action and change the trajectory of our lives.
Take Charle* – a teacher and family man in his mid-30s. He entered teaching in his early 20s, idealistic and excited by a career shaping young minds. But as he got older and started a family, financial worries began to take root. He was no longer supporting a bachelor’s lifestyle; he had a young family and wanted to give them the best in life. Stability and financial security were now the things Charle valued most. And it was at this point that he started to feel stuck.
Charle considered his options. He believed a career change was his only way out, even if it meant abandoning his passion for teaching. He knew that meant he would need to reskill or study again – but as he didn’t have the money (or time) to do that that seemed like an unlikely solution. One by one, he eliminated each course of action. His financial situation had narrowed his choices – it was, as Professor Rensburg describes it, a mess.
But Charle was not in fact stuck it just felt like he was. At this point he reached out to Lifecheq for help and with careful planning, calculated risk taking, commitment to his goals, and a willingness to sacrifice some free time, we worked with him to design a life strategy that brought together his passion, purpose and ensured he got paid a bit more too.
Seeing new possibilities
Because financial security came first for Charle, he needed to look at what he could do to make money while he stayed in his teaching job. He realised that his best option was to start a business on the side – and start small. So he set up a home office and offered after hours tuition. He then invested this extra income in his professional development, studying part-time to qualify as an English teacher for foreign language students. Now he uses his home office to teach English online, boosting his earnings even more.
This extra income has opened doors for Charle and his young family; he can invest in his retirement and a more secure future for them all. And he can keep climbing – investing further in his career and bringing greater meaning to his work as a teacher.
What’s more, teaching online has sparked a new passion for education and technology. He has an idea for an educational app aimed at low income and non-English speakers. He’ll need R100,000 to prototype it; money he hopes to raise through his side hustle in English teaching and some shrewd investments. If successful, this new line of work could become a full-time business for him.
None of this seemed possible when Charle felt stuck and without options. Indeed, none of it would have been possible without deliberate planning and hard work over many years. This isn’t a short-term game plan; it’s a new life strategy.
Believe in yourself
Those, like Charle, who’ve taken this path often speak of the importance of self-belief. In the words of another of our LifeCheq clients: “If I look back at the past six years, my biggest hindrance has been myself. Just not being confident and having an imposter syndrome and comparing myself to other people. Sometimes just not recognising that this is my journey. And it’s a unique journey.”
Do you believe in yourself enough to change your life story? The rewards could be a fulfilling and more purposeful career, financial security, and a comfortable retirement in your later years.
*Not his real name.