If you're in business or running a business, you're probably familiar with the classical SWOT analysis: a survey of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that should be used in the evaluation of any proposal for a new process or approach. If you're at all successful, you'll realize that these four elements of your process are anything but static: they change from day to day, and often from hour to hour. As you pursue any goal in either your life or your business, each step forward changes the landscape: often dramatically. So long as you're the decision-maker, you've also got the additional burden of realizing that everything that affects you similarly affects your decision-making process, and, by extension, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that confront you.
Way too often, people just want (in the words of Larry, the cable guy) to ‘Git ‘er done!’ But, business projects - to say nothing of all the plans and goals of you life - never come at us in a once-and-for-all package. On the contrary, every decision that we make - in business or in life - has ongoing consequences. Plus, there's one other factor that you probably discount way too often from your considerations: you. Do you realize fully enough that, whenever you make a decision (whether or not you're going to be the one who'll carry it out), you are an inescapable part of the equation? It's like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle all over again: the observer (you) change the observation simply by your presence.
What happens when you approach the ‘event horizon’ of your midlife transition? On one hand, there are all the defense mechanisms that culture and upbringing have made your most convenient ways of dealing with these issues: denial (pretending that none of this is really happening, or, at least, that it's unimportant) and projection (trying to put the blame on people, places, and things other than yourself). How, I wonder, could you effectively process a SWOT analysis while, at the same time, pretending that some of the data don't exist, and pretending that some of your own weaknesses really belong to your competition. For example, you could blame both the low morale in your organization and its poor bottom-line performance on the dip in the economy. “If we hadn't had this recession, " you tell yourself and your staff, “we'd be doing just fine. " Really? Then, why are there organizations just like yours that are at least holding their own, if not prospering, in the same economic environment? Here's a note to consider: fortunes were made during the Great Depression.
The midlife transition that you're going through (or, sooner or later, will be) can very easily turn you from an asset into a real liability for every group or organization that you're a part of: from your family to your career, to your circle of friends and acquaintances. From their perspective, it's painful to watch someone self-destruct, especially someone with as much potential as you obviously have. Look over the events of the past few decades. History is littered with the shattered remnants of careers that smashed on the rocks, wreckage brought on by what seems like unbelievably bad decisions. No matter how famous or powerful you may be, no one has immunity from the midlife transition and all that goes along with it. Yet, your only real danger comes from self-delusion: pretending that it's not affecting you, and pretending that it's all somebody else's fault (or concern).
If you're having trouble with your relationship with your family, that's going to have a negative impact on your performance in your career. If you've become bored with your career or your current job, that's going to show up in your performance (and the quality of your decision-making). If you're feeling tired, dispirited, fat, ugly, or old, that's going to determine the attitude that you're going to bring into all your affairs. When you begin to see signs that your hopes and dreams are starting to spiral out of control, rather than looking around for the causes all around you. Start by finding the common element in all these areas of your life:
yourself. Begin asking yourself whether any of your beliefs or attitudes are contributing to what you're experiencing. After all, if you want the truth: you can't change any of then; the only one that you've got the full power and authority to change is yourself. What, then, are you prepared to change about yourself, and how do you plan to go about it?
H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC
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