Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coaching Lessons: Your Next Life

If cats can have nine lives why do we have to settle for one?

Perhaps because we are not as good at escaping danger or landing on our feet.

Putting aside the question of whether or not we are all going to enjoy an afterlife, it is reasonable to think of human beings as having more than one life.

Compared with our ancestors we live longer and healthier. We have far greater mobility and far more opportunities. We do not always make the best of those opportunities, but they are still there.

We all know people who have second or third spouses and/or families. I do not think I am stretching things when I suggest that a person who ends one marriage and starts a new one, one which involves a second family, feels like he or she is starting a new life.

Or else, you may think of those people who shift careers in midlife. When you move from the executive suite to the artist's studio you have effectively entered a new world and begun a new life.

Peter Drucker identified this new version of the human life cycle and saw it in terms of the first and second halves of a life. I prefer to define it in terms of multiple lives, but I will not nitpick terminology. Drucker's views are in the last section of this paper on self-management. Link here.

In Drucker's words: "When work for most people meant manual labor, there was no need to worry about the second half of your life."

He is saying that when people worked in factories and mills and on the railroad, forty years of hard labor did not send them looking for new career opportunities. They simply wanted to finish working and to retire.

Today, however, Drucker believed that most work was becoming knowledge work. And knowledge work does not produce exhaustion; it produces wisdom. You do not merely apply your knowledge, you also gain wisdom through your work. And you will eventually seek out new and different ways to deploy it.

When people complain that their work is not rewarding, they are saying that they have reached the limit of what they can learn from it.

In Drucker's words: "We hear a great deal of talk abut the midlife crisis of the executive. It is mostly boredom.... After 20 years of doing pretty much the same kind of work, they are very good at their jobs.

"But they are not learning or contributing or deriving challenge and satisfaction from the job. And yet, they are still likely to face another 20 if not 25 years of work. that is why managing oneself increasingly leads one to begin a second career."

If life coaching is self-management, as I have presented it in these coaching lessons, then we are not just coaching people about how to live the life they are living in the present but we are helping them prepare for the other life they might have in the future.

Some people will change occupations or careers. Some will seek out further education to facilitate entry into a new life. Others will move to a new city or a new country to find a new life.

In all cases Drucker recommends that people plan ahead. Self-management means planning for a future that might not be a simple continuation of the present.

Those who do it best prepare themselves for their new lives. They begin parallel lives, perhaps by volunteering for a non-profit organization, perhaps by taking up an avocation that might become a vocation.

In Drucker's words: "People who manage the second halves of their lives may always be a minority. The majority may 'retire on the job' and count the years until their actual retirement. But it is this minority, the men and women who see a long working-life expectancy as an opportunity both for themselves and society, who will become leaders and role models."

No comments: