They call us Thatcher’s children – Leaning into a different legacy

They call us Thatcher’s children – Leaning into a different legacy.

“….My generation broke down barriers. We confronted sexism, racism and workplace prejudice, and ploughed our own furrows…. we succeeded on our own terms. Now we refuse to fade politely into the background.”

Eleanor Mills, Founder and CEO, Noon (former Editorial Director of Sunday Times and Editor of Sunday Times Magazine)

I was very struck by this extract from an article Eleanor Mills wrote in the Guardian and Telegraph recently about the experience of Generation X (“GenX”) and what mid-life and beyond currently looks like for them. The picture she paints isn’t that great. To be honest, men are not faring well and women even less so.

GenX is an unusual generation in that it is small in numbers, born directly after the Baby Boom – in the mid 60s into the early 80s – at a time when the birth rate was falling rapidly in the UK. This generation is less numerous than Baby Boomers and GenY/Millennials (the generations either side). They are often referred to as “Thatcher’s Children” – a label which conjures up mainly negative connotations including greed is good, boom/bust, the rise of individualism… It’s not a legacy that history is currently looking on kindly and yet we are associated with it – I am a GenXer.

As a generation, we benefitted from many of the battles our parents and grandparents fought to establish a fairer society in the UK. As all generations do though, we have our frustrations, bugbears etc. due to the actions of previous generations. Our children, nieces, nephews etc will feel similarly about us we can be certain!

We find ourselves now, as a generation, in mid to later-life struggling with a range of issues it would truly have been hard to foresee. We are largely not sufficiently digitally proficient, having been born and grown up as non-digital natives, to really harness the digital economy. We were not educated in a way that recognised or even encouraged non-traditional work opportunities – self-employment or entrepreneurship as it is now known was not an aspiration! Instead, we were encouraged to believe that working in organisations for 40+ years and then retiring was the right and best thing to do.

As a generation, we are carrying high levels of debt and struggling with the legacy of an inadequate pension system (GenX is on track to have the greatest pension deficit of all generations currently living in the UK). Many of us did benefit from lower property prices when buying homes but many still have substantial mortgages. And a large number of us have relatively young children in mid-life whilst facing the challenge of ageing parents at the same times – so caring responsibilities loom large. It feels like we are the cheese in the sandwich – much of the time an overlooked, almost invisible generation trying to find a way forward.

Based on my work through Wise Sherpa, coaching professionals in mid to later life on transitioning into fulfilling encores*, this context is critical. There are some key facts GenXers would do well to face and some key skills they ideally need to learn if they are to navigate successfully mid-life and beyond:

Fact 1 – we are likely to live well into our 80s.

Fact 2 – we won’t be retiring at least in the traditional sense of the word.

Fact 3 – we need to re-skill and critically refuel along this journey.

So, what to do? Based on my experience, the following are some key steps to consider taking:

Step 1 – tune into what an intentional life means to you – consider how much of an intentional life you lead versus a default/reactive life (think not just CV but also legacy).

Step 2 –  pace yourself – take regular breaks for a minimum of three weeks (ideally longer) whenever and wherever possible to check in, re-focus and re-energise and importantly detach from technology.

Step 3 – stay curious** – cultivate a growth mindset and carry-on learning, re-skilling and evolving.

Step 4 – have a healthy relationship with your finances. Consider how your lifestyle wants may be dictating against your actual needs.

Step 5 – get connected – build and invest in relationships, community and belonging (across generations) – having these is key. 

Step 6 – keep moving! Too many of us spend our life sitting on our bottoms in front of screens hooked into technology. It’s critical we take charge of our own health and wellbeing. Getting out into nature every day as part of this is a great first step.

Step 7 – align ourselves to a more sustainable way of being. Thinking evolution not revolution here can be key to making the changes needed.

Step 8 – become proficient in understanding and navigating life transitions or life-quakes***  (whether they are personal, professional, physical or psychological).

If we as “Thatcher’s Children” choose to, we can change the legacy of our generation and forge the way; role modelling what a sustainable, healthy, fulfilling encore looks like so that future generations can benefit!

If you are interested in knowing more about my coaching and Wise Sherpa, please do get in contact at rebecca@wisesherpa.co.uk. And if you enjoyed reading this post, there are many more on the Wise Sherpa website so feel free to take a look.

*encore = as we move into mid to later life what we seek out from our work shifts and changes – we call this the encore stage of our career and life where the lines blur more than ever

** if you’re interested in curiosity and healthy longevity, check out Daniel Letivin

*** Bruce FeilerLife is in the Transitions – Mastering Change At Any Age 



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