Most of us will recognise the term “Midlife Crisis”. And most of us might imagine it as a guy dyeing his hair, to hide the grey, fantasising about running away with a younger woman, or man and buying a bright red sports car. All to “feel young again”.
What’s fascinating about this clichè is that it’s not far from the truth. Men and woman reach a point in their lives, no matter how successful they’ve been, when they realise that they are not “young” any more. They look in the mirror and think they’re on the downslope of life rather than the upslope. And it’s not just that, often they look at all the stuff they’ve been working for: Their home, career, friends, hobbies, their whole life and think …” meh”.
So if the things we’ve been working for, for so long, no longer satisfy or excite us and we know the number of days we have left on this planet are numbered, what are we supposed to do? Well, before we answer that question, let’s look at things from a slightly different angle.
Imagine you are in your thirties. Perhaps you have started a family and have children. Most likely, you are in a job with some degree of responsibility, and you’re on the rise. You have commitments
of some sort in your life, even if it’s only to yourself, your career, your future. Your childhood seemed a long time ago, and yet in some ways, it feels like it was only yesterday. The focus you have for the future drives you on, yet you know there’s still a long way to go. At your best, you feel driven, committed and full of viability. The world is still full of potential, yours to do something with – something that’s important and exciting. On a bad day, you may feel conflicted, frustrated and pulled in all sorts of directions with competing demands on your time and energy but this is a life of your choosing, and you know you’ll get through it, you’ll find a way.
It’s not hard to imagine life as a journey: From the cradle to the grave, after all, we have ample evidence to back it up. There is an almost unlimited number of stories told in person, in books and articles,
films and plays, song lyrics and art. Life is a journey with a beginning, middle and end, right? If we take this view, we may start to understand where the idea of the Midlife Crisis has its roots. If there is a beginning, middle and end, then our Midlife Crisis hits as we realise we are heading out of Midlife and towards the END of our journey. No, wonder we panic.
The end is nigh. HELLLLPPPP. Is it not a nice feeling waking up one day and asking “are the best years of my life really behind me”? By our fifties, the things that once gave us such pleasure have become stale. The challenges that once inspired us have worn us down and the toll on our mind, body and soul of striving for better, higher or faster have exacted a price that we feel is getting higher, maybe too high, to pay. Often we feel we have become tired, bored, worn out and done. Oh, to be young again.
The truth is, though, throughout our lives, beginning, middle and end, there have and will always be challenges. There is no golden age, no happy ever after, just our past, present and future. Where we are on our journey simply defines the particular set of challenges and opportunities that we are likely to be confronted with at this time.
Throughout our lives, whether we realise it or not, we work to develop an understanding of ourselves and the world around us, and throughout our journey, we will continue to seek the best accommodation with our world, our circumstances, that we can. We will seek help and advice from those around us; we will build up skills, knowledge and tangible assets to be used to make our life safe and secure yet interesting, stimulating and worthwhile. We will search to find a satisfactory blend of safe and exciting that best suits our temperament and needs. When we get bored, we will seek out situations to excite us, whether consciously or unconsciously and life will throw in unexpected roadblocks and chasms that we will have to cross. And like a game of Snakes and Ladders we will often slip back and be accelerated forward by forces we don’t see or fully understand.
We all of us seek to control the circumstances of our lives, and when we are young, we are more likely to believe we can. As we get older, we may lose our optimism, energy, resilience and drive. The number of funerals we attend, friends and loved ones lost will do that to you. No matter how good or bad a start we had in life we’ve had by the time we are on the other side of Midlife we will have experienced a lot of setbacks, accumulated disappointments and failures or we will have lived a uniquely privileged life indeed.
Yet the homeward leg to our Journey’s End need not be one of misery, joylessness nor disappointment. Indeed it can really be the best time of our lives: It’s all to do with perspective.
Okay so we may not have youthful energy on our side, but we do have experience. We have a bigger world view because we have seen; further, we’ve experienced deeper, more often and for longer. Life is still a great mystery, and there are still great truths to be discovered and great battles to be fought. And there is still plenty of energy out there that we can (wisely) tap into and take advantage of.
Dr Martin Luther King once said, “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” The journey out of our Midlife and on to our Third Life is really the best time to realise that we can only find the joyful, rewarding and fulfilled life we seek when we accept that time has always been on our side. When we are in our thirties the end of our life may have seemed a long way away, there was so much to do and we filled it with so much. When we are in our fifties, and beyond, we realise the value of the present – the present is our gift and it is ours to share how we choose. We know not to squander it, take it for granted or abuse it.
We choose to use our time, these precious moments, to love more deeply, share more fully, talk truth to power more often and more persuasively. We right wrongs that have stood for too long and work to leave things better than we found them. We make a new commitment to live our lives as fully as we are able and explore our lives and our world in ways that would have been impossible or at least unlikely when we were occupied with all the other stuff of our earlier lives.
We may or may not need a Midlife Crisis to awaken within us the reality that this is indeed the right time to seek out and realise the joyful, rewarding and fulfilling life that we always promised ourselves. It’s never too late; the time is right to Reimagine what our life can and should be about, every minute of every hour of every day, from this day until our last day.
So remember why you’re here, there is still so much to enjoy, so much to develop, so much to improve, create, express, discover, share, highlight, teach and learn. Isn’t that amazing? There is no time like this present.
You can find out more about Reimagining at Andy’s website below.
[Andy is currently writing a number of books on Reimagineering as well as collaborating on Reimagineering projects with partners around the world. For fun, he’s trying to find time to build Electronic Musical Instruments to use with his group The Infinity Collective, and he’s recently begun an adventure to travel 2020 miles on foot, in the saddle, by paddle and on skis in 2020.]