Non-Events: When Life Doesn’t Turn Out As You Planned

In conversations about reinvention and starting businesses at midlife, my clients often describe difficult experiences in earlier years which continue to bother them, in some cases still trouble them greatly.

These trying experiences usually involved significant life events like pregnancies & children, education & college, jobs and promotions, geographical moves or other life opportunities.

The problem is, these ‘events’ never took place.

They were life experiences people wanted. But they didn’t actually happen.

A pregnancy that didn’t begin because she wasn’t able to conceive a child.

A highly desired college experience that didn’t happen because he didn’t actually get the scholarship he needed from his preferred alma mater.

A greatly anticipated job promotion that never occurred…so the pay raise that should have allowed her dream house to be purchased, and the social status and perks that would have come with the job, didn’t happen either.

These circumstances or major disappointments are called Non-Events.

And ‘non-events’ can be – and often are – as significant as the life events we actually do experience.

They shape us, mold us. Cause us to question ourselves, to wonder what we did ‘wrong’ to not get what we expected. To ask “why” or “why not?”. Or “why me?” or perhaps, “why not me?”

Non-events often have a significant impact on our lives because they can turn us in a new direction, forcing us to select a different path than we expected to walk: propelling us down unexpected roads that may influence the rest of our journey, the rest of our lives.

Of course, non-events can prompt us to make new and different choices that we may later feel were even better for us than what we had originally hoped for.

But they can also detour us for years from our original path, or even make an irrevocable mark on us that some of us refer to as ‘scarring us for life.’

explore your life non-events in a written journalYou may want to get a pen and paper at this point, and capture some of your thoughts and responses to the questions asked below.

1. What ‘non events’ have you experienced during your life so far? When?

How have these events that have not happened affected you and the choices you made, once it became clear to you the ‘non-event’ you hoped for or expected was no longer available as an option?

• Did you get depressed? Get stuck and take no action?

• Did you get angry and find yourself marching off quickly in a different direction, just to get yourself going – or to keep going?

• Did you accept your second choice or alternate option, and pursue it with the same enthusiasm, ambition or drive that you would have had if your preferred goal or direction had been available to you? [Read more…]