You should always be growing. By knowing about seven-year cycles you can reinvent yourself and keep life fresh and interesting. The story that goes with this picture really happened. It is the picture of my graduation from the fire training academy. In 2012 I hit a wall. My work felt stale. I didn’t feel valued or appreciated. I was suffering from burnout. The more I struggled to make a living, the worse it got. The phone wasn’t ringing and I found myself looking for part-time work just to get by. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong or how to change it. I felt like I needed to reset myself. Reinventing myself wasn’t exactly my goal but I couldn’t stand the stagnation any longer. My ego was bruised because the place I got so much of my self-esteem, my job, was collapsing around me.
On a beautiful spring day, I stopped into my local firehouse to learn about volunteering. I was fully aware of how ridiculous I must have appeared to the first man I spoke to. I probably would have dropped it right there if not for a connected friend who pushed the process along. Before I knew it, I was being sworn in and fitted for gear. I had no real appreciation for the commitment it would require but it was the total opposite of everything my life had become and that appealed to me. Joining a fire department was never on my bucket list. It was an impulse. My only goal was to use my spare time to be productive at something, get some exercise, and be around people.
Boredom is the enemy of growth
People don’t make the effort to try new things after the age of 30. The excitement and freshness of each new day turn into the monotonous cadence of adult life. We stop seeking new experiences and allow life to push us through the motions. I suppose that’s what triggers a midlife crisis. After all, I was 42 years old. I didn’t want to start from scratch in some new career but I needed a way out of the boredom and anger I felt about things falling apart.
Being at the bottom was humbling. I had to do the work and try to pull my own weight. Learning something entirely new was a challenge. The sheer physical activity and dedication challenged me. The things I learned about myself gave me clues about why things were falling apart. I had to face my own arrogance and the sense of entitlement I had developed. I’m lazier and more socially anxious than I’d ever realized. I rarely go “all in” and I’m not accustomed to being part of a team.
When one door closes, another one opens
For me, this sabbatical allowed me to give my attention to something other than my problem. By focusing on something totally unrelated, I let go of my anger, relaxed about my career, and was receptive to the answers I was seeking. New options opened up to me as if they were car keys just waiting to be noticed in a very logical place. Clients began to call for assessments and before long my practice was filling up. Within a few months, I was looking for a fresh start in a new office. After a year, I resigned, knowing I had tried my best but this was not the place for me.
I don’t know if I would have discovered energy psychology if I had not joined the fire department. Someone I met was going to have surgery and I got interested in the role of alternative medicine, namely acupuncture, in healing. That curiosity led me to discover acupressure tapping. A weekend course just happened to be available and I jumped at the chance to attend it. I didn’t realize this would eventually open up a whole new paradigm I was skeptical, even cynical about the process but something drew me in and sparked a desire to learn more.
The path was interesting to me and down the habit hole, I went. I was tethered to my old belief system but eager to learn more. The enthusiasm of my teachers was infectious and before long, I was teaching my clients and attracting new clients who were tired of the same old mediocre methods. I, like them, was tired of coping and looking for real solutions and real healing. It was a whole new reinvented career that has taken on a life of its own. It gives me energy. The passion I have for the work I do now is very different from the desire to make a decent living that I used to have. It reinforced by the progress I see in myself and my clients.
You can read more about my journey into energy psychology here.
A new life cycle
A few years later I learned about the theory of life cycles. Many people have written about this. You can read a brief overview here. This theory makes sense to me and I can see the progression of my life experience. According to several sources, people go through 7-year lifecycles in which they learn about a new aspect of themselves. This is what accounts for the so-called 7-year itch often experienced as boredom in relationships. As it turns out, even our bodies undergo a cell turnover at these benchmarks.
My timeline looks like this:
- At 42 I was reevaluating my career and my value to other people.
- In 2005 at the age of 35, I finished my formal post-graduate work and was immersed in the world of psychodynamic therapy. I felt confident and intellectually engaged in my work which gave me a sense of purpose and direction.
- At 28 I completed graduate school and moved to a new place to begin my adult life and career.
- I was 21 when I finally got serious about my future and moved to Florida to finish my long drawn out undergraduate degree.
The timeline of my life contained the answers to questions I didn’t even know I was asking. These milestone changes were simply a natural progression that makes sense in retrospect.
Feel the feelings and do it anyway
People often tell me they find change frightening. Things are always changing whether we like it or not. I think uncertainty can be exciting. New experiences allow our brains to form new connections. It keeps us young.
I didn’t set out with the intention to reinvent myself. I set out to unstick myself. The fire department appealed to me because it was a challenge, it was close to home, and it was physical rather than mental. Everyone will have a different process and a different set of criteria. It may not be drastic. Maybe it will be a new job or a new city. For other people, it will be travel or adding to their family. Whatever new challenge you take on, it’s likely that you’ll have some fear or hesitation before you start. Don’t let that stop you.
I’m standing on the precipice of 50 and I’ve felt the need for change for some time. This is the beginning of a new lifecycle. It has me questioning my future and looking for ways to further my evolution. I’m not sure what form this charge will take yet. I have a career that I love. It gives me a sense of meaning and purpose.
Advice to my younger self
You can reinvent yourself whenever you feel things getting stale. Make your attempts meaningful. A new hairstyle is nice but it won’t change your life. Do things that are difficult. Challenge yourself. Try new things that make you cry at night in frustration and determination. Attempt things you never expected you would do. Allow yourself to fail so that you can experience the exhilaration of accomplishing a goal. Don’t overstay your welcome and don’t feel guilty about leaving. Understand that the path might not be a straight line. Give your problems less attention, and allow yourself to naturally regain your flow. New possibilities will present themselves to you when you let go of your expectations.
A final thought
First responders are amazing people. They volunteer their time and spend long hard hours training. They go on calls in the middle of the night in all weather and stand by to protect and serve the public during emergencies and natural disasters. These heroes rarely get the recognition they deserve. I appreciate and respect the work they do.