Like many women in midlife, I have an inner circle of wonderful, loving girlfriends. We check in regularly, celebrate and mourn together, and share the general crazies of everyday life. We have a lot in common but we’re also quite diverse in our interests, vocations and lifestyles. And that’s okay. It keeps our friendships interesting.
But if you’re anything like me, you may be shifting gears as part of your midlife assessment. Are you changing careers? Getting divorced? Moving? And though those tried-and-true friendships are invaluable in so many capacities, you may be feeling an itch to engage with like-minded folks who are also embracing big change.
And that’s why you also need an outer circle (OC). Lucky for me, I’ve found one: an amazing group of women who, under other circumstances, probably would’ve joined my inner circle. And why not? We’re similar in age and our kids are in the same cohort. But instead, we’ve joined together for a singular purpose: to encourage, support, and help propel one another toward our goals.
Here’s why you need an OC:
1) They get it.
Your objectives may differ, but your OC knows how it feels to stretch beyond the comfort zone you’ve lolled around in for decades. They also see midlife as a time to dig deeper, so there’s no need to justify why you’re grinding away at something new or different. In my OC, Lisa dedicated her early career to co-founding a technology company. She’s now helping women live healthier and make better lifestyle choices. Women like her who’ve made big shifts will understand why you want to as well.
2) They cheer you on.
As witnesses to your process, they’re more excited than the average bear when you’ve met a goal you’ve set for yourself. They understand the work it took to get there and they will be your loudest cheerleaders. Because they’ve helped you formulate your building blocks, they understand that even the smallest goal met is critical to the overall endgame.
3) They hold you accountable.
When you state your goals to your OC, they’re really listening. And they want to hear more. When you’re not stepping up and doing what needs to be done, they want to know why. And they’ll push you on it until you’re forced to face whatever is holding you back. There will be more times than you can count that you will need this.
4) They don’t let you wallow.
Midlife signals change. And, for some, more than others. But if your kids have left the nest or you or your spouse has flown the coop, you may find yourself getting stuck. And that’s where your inner circle will do their thing. It’s not that your OC doesn’t care about the changes in your life, it’s just not the purpose of your connection. They will do their darndest to keep you on track. And sometimes that’s just what you need.
5) They inspire you.
The women in my OC are brave and vulnerable. They’re putting themselves out there in new, sometimes scary, ways. Their goals are meaningful. In my group, Pam creates programs to support and mentor teenage girls. And her dedication to her work wows me. Get in a room with folks like her and I dare you not to be inspired and challenged to be your next best self.
6) They believe in you.
And who doesn’t need that? Hopefully you’ll join an OC because you like and respect the work of the others in it. (If you don’t, you haven’t found the right group.) When you’re putting something new out into the world, they’re your grassroots fan base. Not because they feel obligated, but because they’re proud of you and the work you’re doing.
7) It’s not complicated.
Your spouses aren’t friends, your kids aren’t BFFs, and, perhaps, you don’t even live nearby to each other. You’re not members of the same church or country club. You’re not competing for the same job. Ideally, there’s nothing that might tinge the relationships you’ve developed. They’re not intimidated by your successes nor do your missteps run the risk of embarrassing them. It’s clean and honest in the best possible ways.
8) They know you’re not done.
Women in midlife are a treasure trove of knowledge and life experience. No matter what your background, midlife can be a time of reinvention and reevaluation. Barbara, also in my OC, coaches women in midlife toward their next steps. She’s an ace at it and invaluable in a group like ours. Starting something new — and dedicating yourself to it — takes a village. That’s why finding your OC is priority-one.