What is a midlife crisis anyway? Wikipedia defines it this way:
Midlife crisis is a term coined in 1965 by Elliott Jaques stating a time where adults come to realize their own mortality and how much time is left in their life. A midlife crisis is experienced by many people during the midlife transition when they realize that life may be more than halfway over. Sometimes, a crisis can be triggered by transitions experienced in these years, such as andropause or menopause, the death of parents or other causes of grief, unemployment or underemployment, realizing that a job or career is hated but not knowing how else to earn an equivalent living, or children leaving home. People may reassess their achievements in terms of their dreams. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of day-to-day life or situation, such as in career, work-life balance, marriage, romantic relationships, large expenditures, or physical appearance.
The last couple of sentences are really the key to unlocking the real problem. “People may reassess their achievements in terms of their dreams.” is a very telling statement and most likely the core of the problem.
Our society trains us starting at a school age to “go with the flow”, yet the human cause is counter to the flow. We have an inherent need to change the world around us, and when we go with the flow nothing is changed. What I like to call the “busyness” of life takes our attention away from what we really want. It is the point when the busyness takes a break that the midlife crisis kicks in.
I prefer to think about a midlife crisis more as a mature realization that we followed someone else’s dreams. Many of the transitions mentioned in the Wikipedia definition all hover around the same thing, a major change in your life.
Personally my life shifted in a major way the day my dad died, within hours I was sitting in a mental state many would call a midlife crisis that lasted for nearly 5 years. During that time I made a lot of poor choices in business and financial management. The trigger event in your life can be just about anything. The faster you see through your own midlife crisis or mature realization, the quicker you get to move on with life.
We really have mini realizations all through our lives. Every time you decide a job stinks and you find a new one, you have matured a little and decided to move on. When you get a new car, it might be a mini version of a mature realization that the sports car wasn’t really you and you wanted a pick up truck. It might be that you realized that you made a bad choice taking the job, or that someone else misled you about the job. Either way, you woke up and made a change, you had a mature realization, big or small it doesn’t matter as long as you made a change.
The big mature realization we call a midlife crisis happens when there is a much bigger change in your life. Something that can disrupt the busyness of everyday life, something that forces a change.
The stereo type of the male midlife crisis, buying a Porsche, getting a divorce, finding younger new wife and getting a new job, clearly reflects the symptoms but doesn’t address the issues. All of us have different issues, and the good news is working through them is basically the same.
When I wrote So, Now What?, I was focused on military troops leaving the service and helping them find a better job and create a better life in the civilian world. I didn’t want the troops that worked with me to come home and just get a safe government job. i wanted them to use this opportunity to grasp the realization, and move forward with their dreams.
I never realized that the book did two more things, first it talked me through my own realization, saving my family life and moving me to a place where I wanted to live. It also helped people I knew reflect on their lives and make a major change. Some acknowledged the book was the catalyst right away. Others made major changes without really saying why. Either way it has been a fun ride.
Today I am sharing all of this with you because I was out surfing the other day, which was part of my “dream life” that wasn’t happening at my McMansion in Texas by the way, and met Robbie. We talked for a while and my answers were starting to sound rehearsed, I realized that So, Now What? not only changed my direction, it changed how I approached people.
Instead of giving advice to Robbie, I just asked questions and let him come to his own conclusions. Last week I received an email from a reader saying he liked my book because of the worksheets. I wasn’t telling him what to do, I was helping him find out what is right for him.
All of us have our own dreams and demons. Getting advice from friends and family just keeps you going with the flow. People don’t like change unless they are comfortable with their life to the point of boredom. The only person who will know what the right exit strategy is for your midlife crisis or mature realization is you. Asking how other people see you will help, asking them what you should do probably won’t.
The hardest part of reading So, Now What?, is doing the worksheets after every chapter. So many people just want the quick and easy answer. All that will lead to is another mature realization at another point in your life. That is why I don’t like the term midlife crisis. You don’t have to be midlife, and you don’t have to let it become a crisis.
It will take some time to invest in yourself and find your dream life. If you don’t take the time, you might end up right back in another crisis. Are you worth the time? I think so.
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