CHERYL RICHARDSON, A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR AND PUBLIC SPEAKER, IS CONSIDERED
ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE LIFE-COACHING INDUSTRY. SHE’S KNOWN AS AN ADVOCATE
FOR WHAT SHE CALLS “EXTREME SELF-CARE,” NURTURING OURSELVES IN AN EMPOWERING
WAY THAT NATURALLY ENABLES US TO BETTER NURTURE OTHERS. HER LATEST BOOK,
WAKING UP IN WINTER (HARPERONE, 2017), CHRONICLES THE START OF THE INWARD
JOURNEY SHE TOOK AT MIDLIFE TO DISCOVER WHAT REALLY MATTERS MOST TO HER. HERE,
SHE TALKS WITH UNITY MAGAZINE EDITOR KATY KOONTZ ABOUT HOW TAKING SUCH A
HERO’S JOURNEY CHANGES YOUR LIFE AND WHY THE EFFORT IS WORTH IT.
KATY KOONTZ: Does midlife require
more courage than any other phase
CHERYL RICHARDSON: It certainly
requires a different kind of courage. I
think of it as the hero’s journey, which
has three stages: the descent, being in
the mystery, and then the ascent. You
emerge into a new life based on who
you’ve become after facing the descent
and the mystery.
The more I have the courage to
sit with not knowing and not to try
to make things happen, the richer,
deeper, and more satisfying my life
becomes. To take this hero’s journey,
we need to be willing to reassess
our lives and ask ourselves, What’s
working and what isn’t? Have I stayed
in a job I can’t stand for longer than
I want to? Have I stayed too long
in a relationship I know I need to
leave? Have I taken care of myself
financially, or do I feel at the mercy of
outside forces? If we’re brave enough
to begin that reevaluation process
and then sit with the not knowing,
then the life that emerges is always
far greater than the life we could’ve
created for ourselves.
KK: It sounds like trust is a big part
CR: Yes, and this is where the spiritual
part comes in. For me during this
reevaluation, everything was up for
grabs. It’s a life-altering, foundation-shaking experience to be reevaluating
your connection to everything,
including the Divine. So yes, it requires
a lot of trust, but there will be a period
where you don’t trust anything. You
don’t know what to trust, and that’s
KK: We often ask for the courage to take
action, but you’re talking about the
courage to surrender and allow. It’s the
opposite side of that coin.
CR: That’s a beautiful way of saying
it. You’re right. It’s not the courage to
push through. It truly is the courage
of surrendering to and building a
relationship with the unknown.
My process wasn’t a self-help
adventure where I sat down with
a list of questions. It was more like
being thrown down a rabbit hole,
not knowing where I was going to
land and bumping into things along
the way—including dissatisfaction,
confusion, and also joyful experiences.
For example, I realized how much
more I love being outside in nature
than I was aware of before. The journey
is about looking at what do I love and
what don’t I love, what works and what
doesn’t work, what is feeding me and
what is starving me?
KK: Was there anything you could hold
on to during this?
CR: Once I realized I wasn’t supposed
to know what’s next, I saw it as an
exciting spiritual adventure. I kept
journaling, dug deep, and got to know
myself better—and I paid attention to
what gave me energy and what didn’t.
That really became the way I measured
things. Did an activity or a relationship
energize me or leave me feeling
drained? Did I look forward to doing
certain things, or was I dreading them?
These are the kinds of daily mini-evaluations I began to make as part of
my purposeful meandering period.
KK: And then you just followed that,
using it as a litmus test?
CR: Exactly. So for example, I explored
my interest in angel investing—helping
to fund companies that are doing great
things in the world. I was invited to
attend a meeting of a group of angel
investors and I left feeling incredibly
excited and energized. I thought, Okay,
I have no idea where this is going, and
I’m not going to make it mean anything.
PHOTO CREDIT (LEFT): CHARLES BUSH