02/05/2013 08:10 am ET Updated Apr 07, 2013


I'm coming off of a Mexican spa vacation and celebrating my 50th birthday by performing my one-woman show in New York City. This year also includes my husband's 50th birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary. The teenager will get his permit this summer, the tweens are in their last moments of kid-hood, one of my parents passed the 80th birthday mark and my mother beat a major medical challenge last year. So much to take in, so many tectonic plates shifting.

What does all that personal stuff have to do with you, the soul explorer? Lots, I think. No matter what age you are at, I'm sure you have expectations about certain milestones in your life. You might have solid ideas about what should be happening in your life based on a certain age or career marker. My suspicion is those hopes could become sources of mild suffering. OK, maybe more-than-mild stress.

One of the toughest times in my life (whole story in The Little Book On Meaning) was due to what I thought should happen by the time I was 30; and I speak to people every week, young and old, who lament that their haven't met certain milestones.

Who made these milestones up, anyway?! Likely, they are based on old models of life expectancy. Clearly there are some biological markers that we can't avoid, but science is doing a pretty good job of extending those. Nonetheless, milestones are just another human device designed to make us screwy.

The passage of time is inevitable. What you do with that time is what matters, and to feel fully alive, you have to use all you have at any given time.

Bodies age, minds go soft, knowledge becomes obsolete and technology will blur it all. That means that to stay on top of your game in the career world and in life, you have to become more and more adept at letting go of what is no longer serving you. That doesn't mean that new is always better, but it does mean that as the rate of change accelerates, you need to stay closer to the core of who you really are. The faster things move, the harder it is to keep up if you are trying to stay on the path that someone else cut out for you but has nothing to do with who you really are.

Yes, you have to pay the rent or mortgage, but you also need to know that what makes people sick is working at something the majority of their waking hours that is essentially killing their spirit -- if not their body, too.

What to Do:

Take a break.
Take a vaca or stay-cation. Get a break from what might be taxing you.

Evaluate what to keep.
Use part of the time to do some introspection about what is worth keeping from your current work scenario. (Whether you can realistically put what stays and goes into concrete reality, is not the point here.)

Decide what you miss.
Is there something you love to do or used to do that you wish you could put back in your life now?

Plan a crossover.
As simplistic as it may sound, start writing a plan (yes, fictitious) of how you could keep what you want and bring in more of the missing pieces into your job or life. It could mean switching careers, but at this point, being realistic and worried is not pertinent.

Do one thing a day toward it.
Even if you are convinced that you are beholden to your current scenario and can't make a change, act as if you could. Take small actions daily that research possibilities, make connections and tease the fates.

You will be released.
This is one of those things that you are just going to have to take my word for. If you do a small thing a day toward making a change, even if you are not fully convinced you can or will ultimately make that change, something will give. You will find yourself with new opportunities and new relationships that may just surprise you.

Ignore convention.
There is no written code of what can happen by when. Yes, you want your retirement secured and you have other goals, but be honest with yourself. You have one life, as far as we know, so live it now. You may not be around to do so later!

Happy Milestone Birthday to me and let's get living people!

Originally posted 1/30/13

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Jobs After Retirement: What's Your Dream Career?