There was a romantic comedy on Hallmark the other day about a young woman who had been set by her father on a track to become a high-powered lawyer. But instead she met a prince and fell in love.
The interesting part of the movie was not the Cinderella story of the “typical” American Harvard lawyer falling in love and becoming a princess. It was the two sets of conflicts going on throughout the film.
The first was the predicable conflict between what she expected her life to be–what she saw herself as (a career lawyer), and what she wants her life to be. In the standard Hollywood viewpoint, she did not want to be “cooped up in an office 24/7” for years, “while doing meaningless work that does helps no one but some corporation’s bottom line,” or to be a “cog in a machine” with no time for kids.
The second conflict, which was even more interesting, was between the fantastic opportunities that open up for her and the artificial limit in her mind of what she could be or have. She had a chance to take on personal and professional roles that were far more fulfilling than she had ever dreamed, but her responses were, “I don’t belong here.” “This isn’t my real life. It’s a fantasy.” “This is all happening too fast.”
These two conflicts sound familiar. A classic midlife crisis is the conflict between what I dream my life could be and the track that I find myself on. Then as I take action and new opportunities open up, there’s a part of me that wants to pull me back into the “safe” zone of the familiar, even if I am miserable there. In the movie, her wise friend counseled her regarding her first conflict: “You’re life is anything you want it to be.” Because of the second conflict her response was: “There are more important things in life than just being happy.”
To be truly successful in life usually requires us to overcome both sets of conflicts. We have to overcome what we think we’re supposed to do to figure out what we want. But if we figure that out and go for it and begin to succeed, we have to also overcome the feeling of “I don’t belong here. I don’t deserve this.” When I expand in my own mind my concept of what I allow myself to enjoy, I am finally free to experience a higher level of success.
Steve Johnsen is a marketing strategist, a business coach, and the Founder of Cloud Mountain Marketing. He is also the author of the Amazon #1 best-seller, 5 Easy Steps to Make Your Website Your #1 Employee.