Failure to launch. In some ways, that’s exactly how I would describe my life. Stuck at the launching pad, but failing to create enough momentum to take off.

Launching a major career change, mid life, is no small decision. Some might call it foolhardy, others courageous. One thing is for sure, to make a go of it at any age requires vision and dogged determination.

Over the last several months I have been using the elements of personal leadership. Working to create a vision, confirm my values, creating goals and taking the steps to achieve them. This isn’t so noteworthy for many people, given that’s how they’ve successfully led their lives. However, there are those of us, possibly a third of the population, that are only now coming into their power.

One third, because that is roughly the number of children bullied each year. For those kids a loss of personal power, the sense of self determination, is lost. Also lost, any sense of one’s talents or skills and without that knowledge, it is hard to choose a direction.

Curiosity questions how to launch a life of meaning

As a reflective soul, my curiosity arose to question the differences of my life trajectory and those of my friends. Proud and somewhat in awe of their accomplishments, I wondered about their abilities to march forward and create work and personal lives of such meaning. I wasn’t jealous so much as curious. My life isn’t barren of meaning or success, but it has been intermittent, and touched by a series of adversities demanding attention and time.

Nevertheless, I wondered, what did they have that I didn’t? Why did I skip from job to job, never really finding the thing that fired enough of my brain to keep me there for long? Why couldn’t I launch into a life of more direction? One in which I was achieving more of what I think possible?

Failure to launch has its roots in childhood

In forging a new career, I have been considering where my expertise lies. What areas of knowledge do I have to contribute and where do my talents lay? Answering those questions brought me full circle to my childhood experiences and the effects of in family bullying upon my adult self. I have been crafting stories, and writing since I was a child.  Performed on stages beginning around the same time, and yet only now am I seeing those skills as having merit. The shadow of childhood bullying is long and dark.

Now I understand the appeal to me of books about goal setting, developing persistence and the characteristics requiring success. I have been longing to contribute more, to tap into my inherent skills and make the world, even just my corner of it, better. Lacking the normal parental input to guide me, coupled with sibling bullying, I was trying to find external guidance. This, without knowing the underlying challenge.

In a study published in the journal, Lancet Psychiatry,  June 2015, the adult consequences of childhood bullying are outlined. From mental health consequences to poorer employment and financial outcomes, no area is unaffected.

The swath is broad, the pain is deep

Following a recent speech I gave regarding the shadow of bullying, roughly one third of the audience members either spoke to me directly or gave me notes.  The notes, from men, perhaps reluctant to be seen having the conversation with me,  spanned the generations. One note, from a young and successful entrepreneur,  wrote “That speech hit home. In elementary and high school, I was bullied over my weight and disability. It’s taken a long time to move past, but I have made progress. This kind of speech is going to be critical to youth and millennials. Keep sharing your message. “ Another note came from a retired gentleman,  “Thank you for sharing my life story! An excellent speech.”

After reading those notes and having those conversations, I was touched by how deep the pain is and how long it lasts.

The work of Dr. Brene Brown has provided us with the language to understand shame and vulnerability, now it is up to us to begin to support each other, whatever our age and gender, in living the lives we deserve to live.

Your power to changing a failure to launch

If you see someone who is not living up to their potential, they may need help in uncovering their talents and skills. Of coming to understand how success really happens. It has only been in the last three years where I have begun to fully see this for myself and it came because of the support of others.

This is also true within the workplace. If you notice a colleague who consistently second guesses themselves or is reluctant to step into a leadership role, they could use the help of someone who has the empathy and ability to coach them. It might surprise you the amount of pressure they put themselves under to know it all, instead of learning how to trust in their ability to learn as they go.  Imagine the impact you can have by being the one to teach them how to lean into new challenges. It is possible that by your willingness to act with compassion, you can change the course of their life.

The personal growth gurus are correct in saying “if we believe it, we can achieve it”. However, sometimes we must go back and understand why we don’t believe, and learn the steps to launch our lives as we are meant to do.

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