I’m a man in my 40s and I can’t help feeling that I should have done more with my life. All the dreams I had when I was younger have evaporated over the years, mainly down to what most people would call real life, but it’s left me feeling like a failure, like things are too late to change. I’m not happy in my job, I’m single after a recent divorce and I’ve got no direction at all. What should I do to get back on track?

This is a problem that’ll resonate with many people who have reached their middle years and have started to reflect, especially when life hasn’t quite turned out how they thought it would. The reality is that the feeling of failure you talk about is actually more a state of mind than a concrete judgement on your life.

I’ve met and worked with highly successful people who felt like failures, because even though they’d achieved much of what they set out to do, they still felt something was missing.

Often, when exploring this with them, it became clear that it was more their innate lack of contentment and feelings of unhappiness that had created the void in their lives.

Yes, you may be single and not that happy in your job, but if you’re going to make the most of the future, then it’s important to start to focus again on all of your strengths and those positive attributes that led you to have the dreams you talk about in the first place.

Life is far from over. In fact, instead of seeing this period as a reflection of your own failure, it’s absolutely vital you see it as an opportunity to evaluate what makes you truly happy and then reset your goals accordingly.

So take the time to look back and do a bit of shrewd life auditing. Try this. Write down a list of the people and the experiences that have so far given you the most happiness and feeling of well-being.

Then focus on the things that at the moment are making you feel unfulfilled or down. This will allow you to find some clarification about how you really feel and why.

It may be that since your divorce you are struggling to deal with being single and feel set adrift in a new life landscape that is unfamiliar and this has eroded your confidence and self-esteem.

When this situation occurs, it’s wise to reach out to those you love and trust the most – family and friends – and gain their practical and emotional support when it comes to rebuilding and developing relationships. Professional counselling can also help you to make sense of things.

Once you are feeling more optimistic, then begin to focus on your future. Give yourself the time and space to come up with one or two simple goals that can be easily achieved before you move on to life’s bigger issues, like a change of job or even career. This will bolster your confidence through those feelings of success and achievement.

Life never goes in a straight line. Sometimes you’re on an upward trajectory, but at other times it can feel like nothing 
is going right. Perspective and resilience are the two key qualities when it comes to bouncing back, so please don’t be too harsh on yourself.