At the age of 40, North Otago farmers Jenny Malcolm, with her husband Bill, achieved a lifelong goal of dry stock farm ownership.

After building a new family home four years later, theoretically she had everything she wanted and life should have been "amazing".

But after moving into the new house, she woke the next morning feeling deflated, while her husband felt great in his achievement.

She was taken by surprise by those feelings and had no idea what was wrong with her.

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"Something was desperately wrong; I just felt lost," she recalled.

So Mrs Malcolm started looking at what she thought would make her happy, searching for an answer to her unhappiness. She researched buying a business or going into business; anything that would keep her busy and give her a focus.

When Mr and Mrs Malcolm married in 1992, land ownership was a common goal. Both came from sheep and beef farming backgrounds and spent 15 years dairy farming in the North Island, during which time they purchased their own dairy farm with the goal of selling it to buy a drystock farm.

They then shifted to North Otago — where Mr Malcolm's family farmed — with their four daughters and returned to sheep and beef farming."I suppose I got a bit bored with farming and needed a new outlet for 'me' but nothing seemed to hit the mark," she said.

During that frustrating "midlife crisis" period, she read every self-help book she could find. Something called "values" kept cropping up. She ignored that — "I thought it was fluffy and emotional and definitely not for me" — until she got so desperate she decided to explore "values" in more depth.

That was to change her life. She began a process of determining what was important to her in life; effectively that was finding out what her values (emotional drivers) were.

She looked back at the times in her life when she was the happiest, most excited and motivated, what was going on at that time that was important to her and how she had consistently behaved.

A few key themes emerged; she had always had a focus on exercise and healthy eating; she had always been an achiever — "wanting to get stuff done for me to show that I'm good enough" — and taken every opportunity to learn.

Behaviours based on the feeling of freedom of choice and freedom to be herself were also a common theme in those happiest times.

Looking at those common themes and the feeling she was chasing from them gave Mrs Malcolm her values.

And when she had that list of values and the emotions she had been chasing, she could see one thing very clearly: "I had lost any sense of purpose."

Having had a lifetime focus of farm ownership and a new home, she had not really considered what would happen after that. She realised she had to find a meaningful purpose.

One of her strengths was asking questions so, when looking at prospective careers, coaching was "just a natural fit".

Prior to the arrival of children, Mrs Malcolm had been a farm consultant for Maf before going out on her own.

She was probably not a traditional farm consultant, she said. Rather than directly giving advice, she tended to ask questions to allow farmers to come to their own conclusions.

She completed a two-year diploma in professional coaching from the Southern Institute of Technology and her purpose now was to "make a difference" as she embarked on a career as a professional coach.

"I'm just so excited. The people I work with go away and make massive personal changes that they want and therefore own as their own. Their success 'juices me' such that I know I am again making a difference.

"When I discovered my emotional drivers, it became clear what I had to address to get myself out of the hole I was in and, when I'm feeling unmotivated or unfulfilled, I go back to my values list and ask 'what am I not getting enough of in my life that's important to me?' It has been life-changing for me," she said.

Finding motivation and making important decisions were so much easier for her now. Wellness was her top value, followed by purpose, achievement acknowledgement and freedom.

Rather than lying on a beach relaxing, she recently took a cycling holiday in Europe with her husband.

That reinforced that values were different for different people and there was no right or wrong.

For her, the main value of the trip was wellness and, for him, it was achievement, challenge and learning.

"Values come from inside, not in the head. When you discover what your values are, then they become conscious to you so then you're able to manage them to give greater choice and flexibility. We all have values, we just don't know what they are until you do deeper work to find them."

Often it was people in mid-life who were at a cross-roads — perhaps "a bit stuck or lost".

Discovering their values provided clarity of what was important to them personally, so that motivation and decision-making were obvious. It put them back on the right track again, she said.