Why a “midlife crisis” is really a “midlife crossroad”
A 50-something man zooms down the street in a red convertible sports car.
A 40-something woman leaves her decades-long marriage.
“Ugh,” people say, their eyes rolling with judgment, “What a midlife crisis move.”
Is midlife a “crisis?”
Many people make drastic changes in their lives during midlife, which is often seen as a time crisis, but I see it as an awakening. It’s a crossroads where you can combine the knowledge and wisdom of decades past with the opportunity to visualize and create the life you want for (hopefully) decades ahead.
Recent studies show that “both middle-aged ~ 48 years) and older (~75 years) adults reported the ‘prime of life’ as between 31 and 52 years of age.”
Many people experience their biggest successes in their midlife years. Take Samuel L. Jackson, who became a household name with his role in “Pulp Fiction” at 45 years old—and Vera Wang, who designed her first wedding dress at age 40.
Midlife is when you likely have:
- 40-50 years of learning under your belt.
- A higher income and more career stability than in your 20s.
- More sleep since a newborn likely isn’t keeping you up at all hours, demanding your time 24/7.
- A relatively healthy body before common older-age afflictions kick in.
- An established community of friends and support people in your life.
In midlife, people tend to have a more solid foundation to launch from than they did in their 20s.
Midlife = New beginnings
“Life really does begin at forty. Up until then, you’re just doing research.” – Carl Jung
Whether you’re empty nesting, still raising kids, taking trips, considering starting a business, or returning to college, life is far from over or stagnant when you reach 50.
At midlife, you’re armed with experiences, learnings, triumphs, and heartaches. You know by now what you like and don’t like and what brings you stress versus joy.
The realization that life doesn’t last forever (at least on earth) can prompt some to act in unhealthy ways (having affairs or overspending on material items). But midlife can also be an opportunity to have a healthy evaluation of your life along the lines of, “What am I going to do with the rest of my limited time? What would bring me the most fulfillment?”
Pillars of calm in midlife
A great place to lay the foundation for your second half of life is to use the concepts of calm, which I discuss in my book, Chaos to Calm:
- Adjust your daily habits – you know which ones help your spirit and body, and which to ditch.
- Continue developing and refining your community – spend the most time with people who uplift you versus take your energy.
- Look at your routines and rituals and see if there are opportunities for efficiency to create more space and time for what you want to be doing.
- Put nurturing yourself first. Self-care (true self-care, not just massages and manicures) is more important in midlife than ever. And by this time in life, you know what makes you feel crappy versus great.
- Exercise your developed communication skills. You’ve probably been in enough relationships (whether at work, in the home, or with your extended family and friends) to have a solid understanding of how to express your needs, desires, and wants.
What will your “second act” look like?
Questions to ask in midlife are:
How do I want to spend my days?
Who do I want to evolve into?
What impact or legacy do I want to leave my children or the world?
What are my bucket list desires in life?
In my interactions with clients, especially mothers in their midlife seasons, I’ve noticed some patterns.
One woman realized the significant lack of physical intimacy and emotional connection with her partner. We talked about how she could begin to connect with her partner. She started with just ten minutes of uninterrupted time together a day, working slowly up to more, and now they’re closer than ever.
Another courageous mama, at 41, left her corporate job to start her own business. I coached her through a rebirth of her career as a business owner. She didn’t want to be tethered to what others wanted from her and didn’t like the amount of time she spent away from home. Midlife was a chance to find a new way to live her life and also do well at work.
Yet another woman, nearing 48, had a courageous conversation about the lack of romantic energy with her partner. Thankfully, she was heard and is now enjoying a more fulfilling partnership. But if she hadn’t been heard, she was fully prepared to make big changes to reach for more. Divorce rates, in fact, spike to over 40% in the 40+ age group. It seems people realize that life is too short to be in combative or unfulfilling relationships (and often have older kids who would be less affected).
All these midlife mamas took charge of their destinies, and they all made changes for their unique version of “better.”
Midlife acts as a catalyst, prompting people to evaluate what they truly want.
From my experience, evolving over the years in my relationship with Kyle, I’ve learned that authenticity in my approach to midlife is crucial. I’ve grown and changed since we first met, and being transparent about that journey has made all the difference.
Ditch the word “Should”
“Coulda, woulda, shoulda” are words that can imprison you in regret and resentment, making it challenging to move forward and grow.
I’ve seen many in midlife grapple with what they feel they “should” be or have accomplished by midlife. Who wrote the “Life’s Checklist” that people are all trying so desperately to tick off?
Thoughts like, “I should be more accomplished by now,” “I should never have said no to that job,” or “I should be married with kids by now” can lead to an endless cycle of feeling ‘not enough.’
Life is a continuously changing experience, with surprises (both good and bad) and external factors outside your control constantly at play.
I’ll bet you’ve been doing your best every day. So, give yourself grace to allow for shifting perspectives, goals, and circumstances. Take a few minutes every day to find the gifts you have in your present life and how you can make the changes you want for your future.
The comparison trap
We only see glimpses into other people’s lives. Specks of information within a huge world of what we can’t see or understand. We are not in their body or mind. So let’s all lay our judgy Jane hats on the table the next time you’re surprised by the actions of a midlife-aged person. Only they live in their shoes. And it’s only their life to live.
And if you find yourself jealous of others, remember there are most definitely people looking at you, wishing they had what you have.
As Loving What Is author Byron Katie suggests, fighting reality causes undue suffering. And acceptance is the key to freedom.
Embracing midlife with calm
If you’re in a situation – work, friends, romantic – that feels like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle, it’s not a life sentence. You have the power to change. Midlife is the nudge that there’s a ton of life left, but also, we do not have limitless life.
Have you outgrown the box you once had fit in? Your life doesn’t have to look the same as before just because that’s what you set up.
Not sure where to start? I suggest my CHEER method, which is scientifically proven to boost your lifespan and add more calm to your life as you enter each new day.
Listen to music that inspires you and reminds you of life’s beauty. For example, the song, It’s Never Too Late by El Cajon. “It’s never too late to start livin’.”
Midlife is a time to be authentically you. It’s a period of reflection, growth, and boundless opportunities. Don’t dread it; embrace it. Think of it not as a crisis but as a gentle reminder that you’re alive, with choices to make and dreams to chase. It’s never too late to enjoy life with more calm.
To read more on staying calm in a stressful world, pick up my book, Chaos to Calm: 5 Ways Busy Parents Can Break Free From Overwhelm, and sign up for my Own Your Calm newsletter!
Reach out, I’m here for you.