As an executive coach, I know that many men, especially those in middle age, feel that their jobs and lives have lost meaning. “Why am I doing this?” they ask. “Why am I here? How did I even get here?” Having worked incredibly hard to accomplish everything they planned—get a job, a house, a car, have kids, and so on—they feel like nothing is left. They lack clarity around what they value. They wonder, “What matters?”

The story of Midas’ touch comes to mind. Midas was a king working diligently to build wealth in his kingdom when an alchemist gave him the gift of the golden touch. Everything he touched turned into gold! He touched rocks. GOLD! He touched giant pillars. GOLD! He touched a bowl of fruit GOLD! Then his daughter ran up and gave him a hug. GOLD!

His pursuit of what he thought was important cost him the things that were actually most important.

What is most important? What makes a life worth living? I’ve asked these same questions as an Olympic rower and in my post-athletic career as a consultant, coach and trainer. 

I embraced my challenges with gusto, leaned into setbacks, and was lucky enough to find some early successes. Yet, this was followed by the realization that even bigger successes would take waaaaaaay more work and commitment. 

Anticipating the mountains of effort it would take to serve an unknown purpose, my drive disappeared. I learned this lesson the hard way—and I hope you can learn it easier than I did by reading this article.

How did I get my mojo back? I did it by using these 7 steps, which anyone facing the mid-life crunch can use to find meaning and fulfillment. We can find our purpose and re-ignite our drive when doing the work to uncover our values. 

Check out these tips to help you lead the life you want to live.

Listen to the energy inside you 

Just like a goose or grizzly bear, humans have instincts that give us hints on how to live better lives with more peace of mind. My energy feels at its best when I take a slight pause to notice the energy inside and act in alignment with my instincts. I feel motivated, energized, and fulfilled.

Yet, we don’t often listen to ourselves. And when we ignore our instincts, trouble shows up. Our energy gets low, and we feel unmotivated, unaligned and bummed out.

Have you ever found yourself distracted, unable to focus or even endlessly scrolling through social media? I have.

This is an example of ignoring our instincts. Would a bear be catching salmon if he scrolled TikTok for two hours every day? Would the goose make it south for the winter if it numbed itself at night with pot or booze? Pay attention when activities, behaviours or relationships take your energy away—and the activities you use to cope. 

We can also act and interact in ways that create more energy. Pay attention to that, too. Be the bear that hunts the salmon or the goose that can fly south for the winter. 

Stop for a moment right now and feel the energy inside you. Where does your energy live? What is the source of this energy? What do you care most about? What do you want more of in your life? What do you want less of in your life? If you’re up for a small challenge, write your thoughts in a notebook, computer or phone for a few minutes.

Core values will point you toward what is most important in your life. According to Atomic Habits author James Clear, “If you never sit down to think about your values, then you’ll be more likely to make decisions based on whatever information is in front of you at the time. That can be a recipe for regret down the road.” 

Start to think about who you value most

Last year, terror struck when I went with my wife and 3 kids to a family camp on Quadra Island in British Columbia. Three days into our trip, we hiked to a lookout point called “the bluff.” Reaching the top, we noticed that our cell phones could receive data. After my wife answered some emails, it was my turn. The kids were getting tired and hungry, so my wife took a head start to take the kids back down to camp.

I had just started down the trail when I heard a sound I never want to hear again: the sound of a landslide and screaming. My wife was carrying our 4-year-old, hit some loose gravel, took an off-step, broke her foot, fell off a cliff down 25 feet and hit some rocks. Our 4-year-old then tumbled another 50 feet, but thankfully, he landed on soft moss. 

My wife called 9-1-1 while I hurried down to our youngest son. Our oldest son was already there and wrapped our youngest son’s leg with a t-shirt. His leg had a massive gash, and he was beaten up from head to toe with teeth coming out. It was an incredibly intense experience.

Thankfully, everyone is okay now, but I came pretty damn close to losing my wife and son that day. The accident helped me realize how meaningful the loving connection to my family is to me. That connection is one of the key motivators for how I live my life. It is one of my core values.

It can be common for some of us to confuse people for values. Values are states of being, feelings of energy or elements of character that you can embody regardless of what is happening in the outside world. Your values represent the positive states that are easiest for you to engage.

Most people I know value their family. So, what character traits does your family inspire within you? Loyalty? Trust? Connection? Love? Commitment? Freedom?

To get an idea of what YOU value the most from your family relationships, have a look at this core values list. Understanding your core values can help you focus on what is most important to you. 

Harness the power of adversity

Adversity can show us what matters. When you go through a low time and things aren’t quite working out, facing a challenge forces you to reassess what truly matters.

Challenges are gifts because they can show us what matters most in our lives. Change is not a crisis unless a value has been violated. And by staying connected to what matters most, we find incredible strength and energy to live the life we want.

A Churchill quote says, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it’s the courage to continue that counts.”  Where does courage come from? Courage comes from listening to that energy inside you and moving toward people, places and things you value, especially in times of adversity. When we do hard things that we value, we find courage.

Think back to a time when you faced adversity. What gave you the courage to continue? What were your top priorities in that situation? Answering these can help you understand what’s important to you. That way, you can focus more on what matters to you and focus less time and energy on the things that aren’t important.

Can your things define your values?

If you’re unsure how to determine your values, let the stuff you like the most guide your way. Start by thinking about what is or has been most valuable in your life: cars, jewelry, property, collectables, etc. Then think about WHY these things are valuable to you. 

One of my wife’s Most Valuable things is a ring given to her by her grandmother. It reminds her of the way her grandmother showed up for her!  My neighbour loves working on his old classic cars. He values his ability to create and maintain something beautiful.

What possessions are meaningful to you? What do they tell you about your values?

Think about the places you feel most connected

Think about a time in your life when you felt most connected to what you were doing, then think about the values that were important to you at that time. If you felt most connected in the hockey rink playing pick-up with the guys, for instance, then teamwork could be a key value for you.

If you were in the zone while gardening, it could be that being in nature connects you with a top value. Once you’ve determined places that give you energy and make you feel aligned, think about how to regain that connection. 

Create an ideal future scenario for yourself

What is your vision? What is the future you want to create? You can create a purpose with a solid sense of your values. Understanding your purpose is much easier when you align with your values.

Depending on your life or job, you could be working to see your kids off to college, hand out sandwiches to homeless people downtown, or become the guy who calls the shots at work. If you get stuck in a rut, motivate yourself by sharing your goals with loved ones and friends. It also helps to keep track of your progress in a notebook, journal or app on your phone. 

Celebrate the small stuff

Your values can tie into simple, everyday tasks. Maybe one of your values is an accomplishment, and when it’s time to mow the lawn, you do a kick-ass job: mulching, aerating and edgework. Your reward is to sit back and admire how YOU have made your home a better place.

Or if you value community? Think about how your family and neighbourhood will appreciate your commitment to a nicely tuned yard. Or if you value quality? Do the best damn job you can. Make sure every blade of grass is in place.

Driving a truck for work? If you often focus on driving more safely and efficiently, then it’s possible being reliable is one of your values. If you’re gunning for the trucker safety award?  Perhaps you value competition and recognition. Or if you feel connected to radio chat, youtube trucking channels and the broader trucking community? You may have a value of cooperation or community.

Check in with your instincts every once in a while to see if what you’re doing feels in alignment with your core values. We often get busy and forget to breathe and listen to the energy inside. Speaking from experience, paying attention to our inner voice only takes a minute, and the practice gives you strength for the tough times. Living your values also helps you to lead the life you want to live.

What do YOU care about most? Share what gives you energy in the comments below!

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