Embrace Your Midlife Crisis

Published on 26 September 2007 by

Category: New Blog Posts, Updates

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From Brad

The theory that most adults experience a midlife crisis has, for the most part, been debunked by researchers. Only 25% of Americans over the age of 35 believe that they have experienced one. However, for those who have one, a midlife crisis is a period of emotional turmoil brought on by anxiety associated with growing older. It is a time of self doubt and introspection when someone realizes that life is half over. For some it is caused by the aging process itself. For others, a midlife crisis is triggered by the loss of a parent, a child leaving home, or problems or regrets in areas such as parenting, career, or the status of one’s primary relationship. A person may question significant life choices and feel bad about not accomplishing all that he or she once wanted to achieve. Contrary to popular belief, women are just as likely as men to experience a midlife crisis. While it sounds like something to be avoided, you may be surprised to hear that a midlife crisis can actually be a good thing.

A good thing? At first glance, a midlife crisis doesn’t sound like fun at all. Maybe you feel like you have just awakened from a dream, finding yourself in a life you never wanted. Maybe you have a profound sense of dissatisfaction with your lack of accomplishment, career choice, career trajectory, partner, house or friends. Perhaps you’ve begun to question some of your core values or beliefs. You might be questioning the meaning of life itself, and wondering if you’ve frittered away your earlier years by being involved in some misguided pursuit.

Certainly, these thoughts and feelings can rattle us to the core. They can be uncomfortable or even downright painful. If you are experiencing a midlife crisis, it is normal to try to avoid experiencing feelings of sadness, regret or fear. However, I urge you to not rush through this period of introspection by making hasty decisions. Don’t distract yourself with a total lifestyle makeover too quickly. The discomfort and pain is your wake-up call to be a more conscious consumer of life. If done correctly, a midlife crisis provides an excellent opportunity to improve your life and find fulfillment. In fact, if you have never experienced one, I encourage you to consider doing so.

However, please do yourself a favor and forgo the new sports car, the new job, and the new spouse for a while. Please also allow me to save you some wasted time, money, and grief. Your existential angst is not the fault of your partner, your children, or your boss. It is not due to the fact that your car is too old or your hair is graying or falling out. Believe it or not, resolving your midlife crisis is an internal journey, and changing all these external aspects of your life in a desperate search for joy or meaning will likely only cause you more pain and suffering.

While this may sound strange, embrace your midlife crisis and search for internal meaning. Now is the time for you to reassess your values, your choices, and your goals. It is a time for you to rediscover what brings you meaning in life, and how you may be standing in your own way of feeling fulfilled. It fact, I argue that we would all benefit from experiencing a midlife crisis at least once a year- regardless of our age. There is something very beneficial to putting all pretenses aside, stepping out of our daily routine and asking ourselves the Big Questions: What is my life all about? Why am I here? What do I want to do with the time I have left on earth? What legacy do I want to leave for my family and for the world? What is most important to me? Is my life in concert with what I value most?

If you are blessed with a midlife crisis, welcome the opportunity to get clear about what you want in life. Take time to sit with the Big Questions without rushing to the hollow answers our consumer culture throws our way. Stay with your uncomfortable feelings. Don’t rush through them or try to speed away in your brand new sports car. When we stay present with the Big Questions long enough, the answers will come to us. When we do, our lives get infused with renewed passion, vigor, and direction. Don’t worry too much if it is temporarily the wrong direction. You can use next year’s midlife crisis to help you sort it out.

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