Why suffer a midlife crisis when you can be a midlife thriver instead?
Read on for some honest tips on negotiating your way smoothly through one of life’s major crossroads.
We provide a roadmap to avoiding the many possible wrong turns that can occur in the middle of life’s journey.
We all know the classic symptoms of the midlife crisis and have probably chuckled – or raised our eyebrows in disbelief – when witnessing others in the grips of a full-on midlife reinvention.
You know the signs: high performance sports car, younger and more exotic partner, inappropriate fashion or facial makeover, and so on.
It’s no surprise that Hollywood has used such stereotypical characters to great comedic effect!
Though in reality, perhaps we should be saddened rather than amused by witnessing their radical reinvention when we consider the inner turmoil that drives it.
Before we get started on our suggestions for a smoother and more beneficial midlife transition, let’s take a look at the midlife phenomenon and investigate why it presents such a time of change in a person.
The phrase ‘midlife crisis’ was only coined in 1965 by psychologist Elliott Jacques. Wikipedia defines it as:
A transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, typically 45–64 years old. The phenomenon is described as a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person’s growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly shortcomings of accomplishments in life. This may produce feelings of depression, remorse, and anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle.
What is typically the middle period of a person’s life often coincides with the time when they experience significant and potentially traumatic life events such as the death of a loved one, marital breakdown, or a setback in their career.
It should be said, though, that these crises can occur at any point in adult life and aren’t restricted to the middle-aged.
It’s only when they occur at that time that they attract the stereotypical label and we watch and wait for the apparently predictable and inevitable response.
The Good News
A generation or so ago, the middle-aged mindset may have been more negative as people contemplated their inevitable decline into old age.
However, with increasing life expectancy and a greater focus on staying healthy, today’s midlifers don’t accept that decline is inevitable.
Instead, they are embracing the myriad of opportunities around them to maximise their quality of life.
It’s time to reject the culturally pervasive notion of the midlife crisis and realize that this can in fact be one of the most enjoyable times of our lives.
We are still full of energy and ideas, yet no longer burdened with the worst of youthful angst.
Our middle years don’t automatically represent a time of loss, invisibility or turmoil.
Instead look at them as a time for growth, enrichment, and change.
When we understand that the negatives of midlife are the product of cultural socialization rather than a reality, we can embrace the possibilities that open up with maturity and neatly sidestep the midlife crisis.
Adopting the following strategies will help to set you on a smooth midlife transition rather than a midlife crisis.
1. Identify where you want life to take you.
Do some intense navel-gazing and work out what you really want to do with the remainder of your life.
Just bobbing along saying “where did the time go?” is easy enough to do, but the time will just keep slipping relentlessly by, and at ever increasing speed.
Now is the time to take control rather than keeling over and admitting that your life is half done.
Be positive! You need to think about how you want to live, how you want to spend your time (and who with), and what you want to achieve.
Then you need to take active steps toward those goals.
This is your opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
Imagining yourself looking back in old age at the life you have led is a good place to start.
If it doesn’t sound too macabre, write your own eulogy summarizing your life as it’s likely to unfold if you make no changes and carry on along the same trajectory you’re on right now.
This is a great way to identify what adjustments you need to make at this midlife stage to change the narrative to a more fulfilling and enriched one.
And don’t underestimate the value of the good old bucket list. Make one and don’t be afraid to keep adding to it as you go.
Having goals and dreams, even impossible ones, is definitely not the preserve of the young!
2. Learn to love your body.
Love the body you actually have, rather than striving for the body you’ve always aspired to – and thereby disliking and finding fault with reality.
You may well have spent the first half of your life comparing your body unfavorably with others.
You may also have taken your health for granted (as most of us do).
Take care of your body and it will be a supportive friend who’ll get you through the new challenges you’re going to set for yourself during your midlife transition and beyond.
By taking active steps to improve your health, you’ll be sending a positive message to your body.
That will impact exponentially on your sense of well-being in this key transitional period of your life and going forward.
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3. Actively work on relationships.
We all know that building strong friendships and close family ties doesn’t happen automatically; it requires a significant investment of time, effort, and thought.
There’s no doubt that having a close network of family and friends in old age is one of the keys to happiness and fulfilment.
You need to make sure you’re investing in these essential relationships now so that you have a strong support system in place.
That’s not only for the present, but also when you need it in later years.
Think of your friendships as gardens. They need tending, watering, and feeding.
They also need pruning and weeding, too.
We all change as we mature. Sometimes we just outgrow each other but hang on to these failing friendships out of habit or out of loyalty based on an outdated reality.
So don’t be afraid to leave people behind or reduce the amount of time you spend with them if their influence on your life is not beneficial. Weed and prune!
We’re all familiar with the marriages that fail during midlife, often apparently without warning – where would Hollywood be without such rich pickings!
It’s all too easy to struggle along with a partner, heading in the same direction but actually on two different yet parallel tracks, eventually hitting the buffers.
Like friendships, marriages evolve over the decades. If you genuinely see your future together, you need to make a conscious effort as part of your midlife readjustment to merge those two tracks back into one.
If necessary, seek help from a counselor to facilitate this as it’s not always easy to do by yourselves.
Get it right and you’ll have a stalwart friend, supporter and ally in your partner through this midlife transition and beyond.
Never forget, though, that your relationship with yourself is the most important one of all, and that it needs nurturing like no other.
Midlife brings with it the courage to examine and explore your inner self… to truly find yourself.
The goal to aim for is self-acceptance without judging yourself harshly.
Try to be your own best friend.
4. Don’t dwell on regrets.
We all have regrets. The reality of the human condition is that we all get it wrong from time to time.
It’s nigh on impossible to get through life without wishing you had or had not done certain things.
Some of these regrets can be quite burdensome and really can hold you back.
Now is the time to make every effort you can to get over them.
Whether that means apologizing, reconnecting or making amends – and I’m not saying that will be an easy task – gather your strength and get it done.
Then you can move on with a lighter heart, no longer laden with regret, looking to the future rather than the past.
5. Don’t wait – do it now!
Now is the time to do something. No more procrastinating or worrying about the whys and wherefores.
You don’t need to be extravagant or foolhardy – or death-defying!
You just need to identify what you want to do, plan carefully, and just do it.
If you sit back and wait for the “right” time or for the stars to align correctly, you’ll forever feel unfulfilled and frustrated.
A cautionary word, however… it’s important to do the things you want to do and get what you want out of life, but it needs to be done responsibly.
Make sure you seek advice as necessary to ensure your choices are the right ones.
6. Don’t sweat the things you can’t control
As a responsible midlifer, determined to keep in touch with what’s going on, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by external things that you have no control over.
The news is full of horror and misery, seemingly on an unprecedented scale.
Endless footage showing human tragedy intrudes into the heart of our homes every day.
Midlife is a time when all this negativity can seem overwhelming, especially when you have no control over the outcomes.
To protect yourself, learn to filter; to be aware that as a viewer you’re seeing what the producer chooses to show you.
You can vote with your remote and take back some control. Keeping up to date via your smartphone or tablet means you’re in charge of what you see and when you see it.
There is plenty of good news out there – you just have to seek it out.
Midlife is a time for recognizing that you can’t control these external events and refocusing your energies instead on the things around you that you can directly influence.
7. Get help if you need it.
For all the positive opportunities which midlife can present, let’s not make light of the pressures that can mount up at what is one of life’s major crossroads.
There’s no doubt that midlife can be a complex and challenging time for some.
The suggestions above are a great starting point. You may benefit, however, from seeking the advice of a trusted friend or the help of a life coach or a therapist who can help you assess your current priorities and goals.
A little outside help may be what is needed to shift your mindset away from an impending midlife crisis to a midlife adventure, full of opportunities.
8. Carpe diem – seize the day!
Make no mistake – your best age is now!
Midlife is the perfect time to reboot your life.
Don’t waste your energies looking back at what you were or think you might have been had fate dealt you a different hand.
Nor should you waste valuable time pondering what potential difficulties the future might bring.
Now is the time to thrive, not just survive!
Be a midlife thriver – it’s your time for growth, enrichment and change. Enjoy every minute!