May 11, 2008

Midlife Crisis and Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise architecture is about managing change in the organization; however, there comes a time in our lives when there is an unprecedented opportunity for personal growth and change and that is when we reach midlife.

The reason that midlife is the prime time for self-realization is that we have enough life experience to know ourselves well, a little money to facilitate change, and enough time left to make a difference.

Harvard Business Review, February 2008, states that “midlife is your best and last chance to become the real you.”

Midlife crisis is a term coined by Elliott Jaques, a Canadian psychoanalyst and organizational consultant. It refers to a period when “we come face-to-face with our limitations, our restricted possibilities, and our mortality.”

Midlife crisis occurs approximately from age 43-62. It is a time when we are faced with dual “myths”. One is the fear that midlife is the “onset of decline” and the other is the fantasy that with “enough vision and willpower,” we can be “anything or anybody”. If we can overcome both fear and fantasy and anchor our choices in intelligent transitions, then we can make some phenomenal life changes and achieve amazing personal growth and satisfaction.

“Life expectancy today in the West is around 80 and continues to rise”, so there is no reason that health in midlife should be a show-stopper for most people’s aspirations. Further, with approximately 20 years or more of professional experience by this time in our lives, our plans for next-stage life growth, and what Carl Yung called individuation, should be more easily tempered by our understanding of what is and is not possible. “Magical transformations do not happen,” but meaningful growth and challenge can.

Isn’t it risky to make changes in midcareer/midlife?

Yes and no. Risk has to be managed. Staying the course has its advantages, but it also has its limitations, and when a person is bored, unchallenged, or just in a plain old midlife rut, worse mistakes can happen if negative feelings are just left to fester. That’s why it’s important to take control of one’s life, “by thinking not in terms of safety nets, but of active risk management,” that weight risk and rewards.

Should we reach for the stars?

Interestingly enough, we see the stars at night, which is also the time for dreaming. “The British psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott characterized dreaming as the use of the imagination to create possible scenarios in which our potential can come to fruition. But to be productive, dreams must be connected to our potential.” That’s the difference between a dream and a fantasy.

In terms of reaching for our dreams, we need to dream to envision what could be. With the vision in hand, I would say go for it if the vision leads to what I would call intelligent life transitions—where change is thoughtful, achievable, growth-oriented, and personally satisfying.

As adults, we need to separate the TV and Hollywood fantasies from realities and our true capabilities. If we focus on self-actualization (the highest human need according to Abraham Maslow)—the realization of our individual potentials, the discovery of who we are and can be—then we have an opportunity to live again and an even fuller life then the first half.

Just as enterprise architecture plans, manages, and measures change and transformation for the organization, so too every individual must become their own enterprise architect and plan and direct change in their lives. Most positive change doesn’t occur by chance, although Divine providence is the guiding hand in all. If we take the principles of enterprise architecture and apply them to our own lives, then we will seek to understand and come to terms with our current state, envision our target that will help us self-actualize, and plan a realistic life transition.


No comments: