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  • Writer's pictureNancy Bauer

Stuck? Try a Big, Bold Quest

I am obsessed with quests-–mine, yours, big, small, it doesn’t matter. I’m addicted to the dramatic arc of the stories: Will Simone Biles land the triple-twist, double-flip? Does Cheryl Strayed finish her 1,000 miles (intact)? Will Lynn Salvo earn her third Guinness World Record cycling across Europe?

I even love the sound of the word: quest. The quixotic Q, the lyrical wesss, the toughness of the T. Quest.

Each time Brain serves up a new ridiculous quest, Heart starts to race. I settle in with all my best quest-building tools (aka Google) and begin picturing my future success (“They want you for a TED Talk!” “You killed it on the Today Show!” “Oprah’s sending a car!”). I let a few friends in on the plan (not too many…just in case), then take a deep breath and, finally, swan dive off the cliff, arms spread wide, sailing off into God knows where.

Most of my quests never make it past the planning stage, never mind the finish line. No matter: just by stepping into a quest, I begin to change. In his 1951 work The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, mountaineer W. H. Murray wrote:

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

The more I talk to women in their 40's, 50’s and beyond who confess that, deep down, they really are anxious about retirement (What will I do with myself?), or feeling generally directionless-–a phase sometimes called “midlife malaise”--the more I believe that a heart-pumping, risk-taking, fear-inducing personal quest can be the spark that lights up their new path.

And quests aren’t just helpful for midlife women. According to this article about what actually makes us happy, voluntary activities account for a huge part of happiness. Being in motion on a path that we’ve chosen creates a sense of purpose, fuels personal growth and can even improve or expand our relationships-–all things that bring happiness.

Quests can be serious or silly, philanthropic or personal. My own experiences with quests--even small ones--have left me changed: more powerful, confident, and set onto a career path that brings me great joy. At midlife, a quest is something big and bold that can focus us and break us out of the caricature our lives sometimes turn into. We are so much more than our habits and our traditions.

Whew. Just writing that made me want to take on a new quest. And so, here it is: I’m now on a quest to write more here about quests, and especially quests by women in midlife.

I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Next up: So, what is a quest, exactly? (Go to the next post.)

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