You may or may not recognize the 'drop,' depending on your age and what are of the country or the world you may be inhabiting. The 'drop' is that cataclysmic moment when the executioner pulls the lever, the trap door flops down, and the condemned plummets earthward . . . to an extent. Many people, particularly during the midlife transition, walk around as though they had a noose around their neck — their career, their relationships, their family, their health — and they're just waiting for the 'drop.' I can tell you this about the midlife transition: it isn't over until you've taken full and complete mastery over yourself and you've aligned yourself with whatever purpose or destiny is yours.

What does that mean in practical terms? It means that the challenge never ends. It means that responding to that challenge implies that the goal is much less important than the journey. In fact, one of the major midlife paradigm shifts between adulthood and maturity involves recognizing that the outcome of any of our decisions is not (and never was) in our hands. Success and failure ('winning' or 'losing') in anyone else's eyes really doesn't matter, and 'salvation' lies in recognizing that it really is all about 'how you play the game' (just like the old saying taught). Here's the way to avoid the 'drop' one day at a time: you can practice the three cardinal virtues: acceptance, trust, and engagement.

Acceptance is the key: it's the sine qua non of any mature life. As the Desiderata says, "The Universe is unfolding as it should." Can you get your mind around that? You weren't born into the 'wrong family', no matter what happened during your childhood, you were never a 'victim', and the decisions that you made, at the time that you made them, were the right ones for you. Acceptance means getting yourself out of the punishment mindset. Neither God nor the Universe punishes; not even karma brings retribution. All we experience from day to day amounts to the natural results of our choices and, whenever there's pain involved, it's only a life lesson trying to get our attention. Even God experiences our human limitations.

The late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the 'original' televangelist (he and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale were the media groundbreakers) told the following compelling story:

In one of the Nazi concentration camps, a young boy was caught stealing bread. The camp was assembled and, as an object lesson, the boy was strung up with piano wire to die a horrible death in front of everyone. "Where's your God now?" growled one of the prisoners witnessing the horror. A fellow prisoner, standing nearby, pointed to the lifeless youngster and said, "There he is!"

It's not enough just to accept that everything is (and always has been) exactly as it should be. One of the lessons we have to learn throughout life (and re-learn nearly every day) is to trust that whatever will turn out for the best. If 'acceptance' is difficult, 'trust' can be nearly impossible. How can we say that everything will turn out for the best when there are so many bad decisions being made, not only all around us, but even by us? Here's the perspective: The universe has an origin and a direction, and everything in this universe is evolving along with it. When things align with this grand movement — this grand design — the whole moves forward. When things fail to align, they falter, they fail, they become extinct and no longer contribute to the whole. We always have the choice: to align ourselves with an evolutionary process much greater than ourselves, or to fall by the wayside as a useless evolutionary detour. To join with the forward movement, we have only to 'trust the process' and 'go with the flow' (as we discern it with all our hearts and minds and souls). Trust is, indeed, a day-by-day, even minute-by-minute choice.

Finally, the third essential approach to life is 'engagement'. Acceptance and trust are anything but passive. In fact, Edmund Burke said it best when he wrote, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Acceptance is a struggle rooted in the past: freeing ourselves from the mentality that somehow we should have — could have — had more or been more. It's the fight to stifle the cry from within us, "Why me?" Trust is a struggle that wrestles with our own doubts about the future and our fears that, after all, the buck stops with us. It's the gross dichotomy between our resistance to any other authority than our own and our terror of being solely responsible for our own fate. Engagement means taking responsibility for the people we have become as well as the people we want to become. It means getting our hands dirty with the messy work of suiting up and showing up for life right now. It means doing the next right thing with no guarantees that anything will turn out the way we want it to, but with the assurance that it will turn out well.

These three — acceptance, trust, and engagement — are the attitudes that separate the mature man or woman from the adult. Disillusioned? Yes, but would you want to live in an illusion and longer than necessary? "Why," you may ask, "did I have to wait so long to learn these lessons?" "Because," I say, "nothing happens by accident: you can't know what you don't know until you know it; you can't accept, trust, or engage yourself in anything before you're ready for it." Once you stand on the other side of the midlife transition you get to see things so much more clearly. In fact, from this perspective, one day at a time, there is no 'drop' at all!

Author's Bio: 

H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC grew up in an entrepreneurial family and has been an entrepreneur for most of his life. He is the author of The Frazzled Entrepreneur's Guide to Having It All. Les is a certified Franklin Covey coach and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Effectiveness coach. He has Masters Degrees in philosophy and theology from the University of Ottawa. His experience includes ten years in the ministry and over fifteen years in corporate management. His expertise as an innovator and change strategist has enabled him to develop a program that allows his clients to effect deep and lasting change in their personal and professional lives.