Why do people in industrialized countries experience midlife crises? Is it a myth? Or, is it a stereotype that is used to support bias towards aging and distract us from being awesome?
Midlife – Stereotypes and Labels
Midlife has been sadly ignored by researchers who prefer to focus on childhood and adolescence. The lack of focus on gerontology (multidisciplined study of aging) might be what contributes to stereotypes and uncomfortable labels such as “midlife crisis”. Faulty knowledge and unvalidated theories perpetuate misinformation that gives us the wrong idea about what really happens in midlife. Actually, the “crisis” label takes the joy out of midlife. It’s like our midlife is emotionally sabotaged and then we go straight to geriatrics (the medical care and treatment of older persons).
Midlife crisis is often associated with reaching a certain age. Depending on who you talk to and how you feel about your own life cycle, midlife can be marked by the years between 30 and 70 with 40 to 60 being at its core. Wikipedia tags “middle-aged individuals” at 45 to 65 years old. Regardless of where you mark midlife for yourself and for others, that’s several decades to waste suffering through crisis.
The onset of crisis is often triggered by an event rather than another candle on the birthday cake. An event such as an illness or other setback does not discriminate based on age. Such an event can come at a time when a person is at peak performance both personally and professionally. I know from personal experience – it happens! What happens next is critical to well-being.
What’s Next? Who Am I Now?
When we hit a crisis, it’s natural and emotionally healthy to ask, “What’s next?”. One of life’s most worrisome questions. Along with “Who am I now?”, we can reflect and prepare ourselves for disruption followed by positive action. These two questions, alone or in unison, are good reasons for setting a solid personal foundation for evaluating or perhaps re-evaluating our most cherished convictions, morals and guiding principles.
It’s natural to experience disappointment as a result of age, illness, or other setbacks. But it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. It does, however, signal that something might be missing, or best-case-scenario, that an opportunity for something better is awaiting attention.
Midlife Mental Shift
There is definitely a mental shift at midlife. The mind shifts from “time since birth” to “time left until death.” We begin to realize (increasingly) that the weeks fly by and the past weekend was a blur. We might begin to feel time is running out. We assess and sometimes obsess about the shortening horizon or as I often say, “the runway is getting shorter”. More crucially, we begin to question whether what drove us in the first half of life is worthy of pursuing for a fulfilling second half. There can be great clarity at this time.
Gems of Wisdom and Purpose-Driven Disruption
The good news is that midlife, illness, and setbacks hold gems for us. Those gems are wisdom and purpose-driven disruption. Our wisdom can guide us through the purpose-drive disruption (the messy time of taking action) and prevent us from committing irreparable errors and harm.
For example, if you know you are vulnerable to doubts, anxieties, and mood swings, you can stop yourself from storming out of a conversation, sabotaging a relationship, or acting out of desperation. Being conscious of how emotional self-awareness is linked to emotional self-expression can help you to choose the best and most appropriate emotion in solving a problem. This is what we call “emotional fluency” – the ability to choose the right emotion at the right time.
On the other hand, when we feel trapped by our emotions, we are unable to access our wisdom, engage in purpose-driven disruption, and engage in healthy transition. That’s when midlife or recovery from illness or setback can become a difficult and somewhat dangerous passage in life.
We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning—for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in morning was true will at evening have become a lie.
- Carl Jung
Finding a Champion
My friends and I often share what we tell ourselves about what we live for (our purpose). Often, the stories we told ourselves as younger adults are no longer working for us. We often ask or hear “Is there still a fit?”
Without knowing what we live for, and without being able to clearly articulate it, each one of us will have difficulty finding the deeper meaning and fulfillment we need. We will have difficulty knowing “What’s next.” and being in touch with “Who I am now.”
What about you? Do you need a champion? Could you be a champion? Please do share your story here at Amintro. Your story will add to the growing optimistic approach to disruption, transition, and being awesome at any age.
Written by Patricia A. Muir, Maestro Quality Inc., THRIVE
Patricia’s signature program “THRIVE After 60” validates women’s choices and amplifies their voices as they remain professionally active after 60 and beyond. Visit her website at https://www.patriciamuir.com/
The THRIVE Video SeriesTM is a collection of interviews with women in their 60s and beyond who have achieved a level of self-actualization with self-responsibility. Check out their stories shared on the YouTube channel
“Written by Patricia A. Muir, PCC. In my role as principal consultant and coach at Maestro Quality Inc. and founder of THRIVE Coaching Programs, I have worked with women entrepreneurs, executives, and highly skilled professionals who continue to enjoy their work after 60.”