How to pivot your life in middle age


Four steps to pursuing your dreams, whatever life stage you’re at

How to pivot your life in middle age

My favourite episode of Friends, the one that is guaranteed to make me laugh out loud, is the one with the ‘pivot’. The sight of that sofa stuck halfway up the stairs, and Ross blindly screaming at Rachel and Chandler to get it moving, despite the fact it looks to be going nowhere, is still funny. That Friends episode is on my mind right now for two reasons. Firstly, any excuse for a laugh after the past two years is welcome and, secondly, I’m currently at that corner, about to make the biggest pivot of my life so far.

I’ve been a medical doctor since the age of 22, and 20 years later, I’ve decided I’m going to do something else. Believe me, that is easier to type than it is to act on. As with making any big decision, the reasons for this are multiple, complicated, and have consumed many hours of conversation. My pros and cons lists have been written on Word documents, Post-its, and napkins. But here I am, decision made, making a midlife pivot.

And, I am not alone. Research from the London Business School suggests that 47% of UK adults want to change their careers. The drivers for wanting a midlife career change often focus on finding a sense of purpose, as well as igniting that creative spark that we may have left behind at school in the pursuit of exams, accolades, and steady employment.

I’m scared. I had a great purpose in what I did, and trying to make sense of not practising medicine has been personally challenging. I’ve realised that all these years of listening, caring, thinking, and worrying, have taken their toll on me and my own health.Thanks to lots of talking and inner work, I understand that it’s OK to say I want to do something else. As I make my way deep into the unknown, and if you are considering a visit here too, here are the things that I’ve found helpful so far.

How to pivot your life in middle age

1. Pros and cons

The act of writing it down helps free your mind, so make your list of staying versus going. Then make it again. Your views will change on any given day  – tiredness, hormones, or something you’ve read, might all sway your point of view, so revisit this list. Don’t be afraid to change your mind.

2. Take your time

My pivot has been on my mind for longer than I’d like to admit. Often, I’ve felt more conflicted and cross with myself for having these thoughts and then doing nothing about them. Complex decisions take time, and you don’t need to put further pressure on yourself by watching the calendar.

3. Consider who you talk to

My husband has listened to my career dilemmas for almost as long as I’ve had them. His career has been very different to mine, and I think this has given me a wider perspective. Talking to people who are in your profession or company, who are content and happy with their career path, may not give you the response you are looking for. Not because they don’t want to or they don’t care, but often they can’t because they aren’t in your headspace.

4. It may be about a ‘grand plan’, but it’s really about you

I have big dreams for my next chapter. I’ve started my supplement company, Noggin The Brain People, to help people understand how important lifestyle is; both for how we feel and for looking after our brain health at every stage of our lives. I am also finally pursuing my passion to write – I’ve been writing a memoir and signed with a literary agent in December. But there are no guarantees. You have to make peace with that first. As author Anne Lamott writes: “There is almost nothing outside of you that will help you feel happier in any lasting way, unless you are waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve, or date serenity and peace of mind.”

Even if I don’t get all the way to the top of the stairs, I know I will have listened to myself, and embraced my mid-life pivot.

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