It’s counter-intuitive, I know. A midlife crisis is supposed to be dreaded. The term’s supposed to summon up images of balding men rejecting their age with shiny-new, red Corvettes. Or women getting face-lifts and tummy tucks while mourning their empty nests. Why would anyone look forward to that?
At least that’s what I thought when I was younger, back when being forty seemed light years away. But I’m turning forty-five this year, and the big event has already come and gone for me. Things look very different on the other side of a midlife crisis.
Midlife Crisis Can Be a Rite of Passage
No one ever wants to have a crisis. Most of us do just about anything we can to avoid one. But if we’re going to have one, the best we can hope for is that it somehow leads to something good in the long run. And a midlife crisis can do just that, if we let it.
In fact, if we look at it the right way, this pivotal point in our life could be considered a rite of passage. It marks an important stage in our life, one that compels transformation and a new way of orienting ourselves to the world. For me, it’s led to a return to my passion for writing (long overdue). It’s given me a cohesive sense of who I am, followed by a confidence, authenticity and self-love that’s emboldened me in numerous ways. I’m incredibly thankful for my midlife crisis.
If you haven’t had yours yet, here are a few good reasons to welcome your midlife crisis when it arrives:
1. It Means You’re a Survivor
First things first, a midlife crisis means you’re near to, or have crossed, the 40-year threshold. But, before you moan at the thought of wrinkles, impending meno- or andropause, or the loss of youthful whimsy, consider this. You’ve made it to what may be the best years of your life.
I’m not saying it’s all going to be easy sailing from here until your next life phase. But, you’ve already made it through countless struggles. You’ve learned valuable lessons all along the way. You’re the wisest, most time-tested version of yourself you’ve ever been.
In today’s age of longevity, the forties have become the new thirties. This can be a time to put all the skill, knowledge, and competence you’ve gathered over your lifetime to its most fulfilling use. And while you still have plenty of energy to enjoy doing it. Getting older isn’t a bad thing. It literally means you’re a survivor.
2. One Word…Clarity
Okay, so it’s not going to feel like clarity in the beginning. In fact, it’s going to feel like much of what you thought you knew is suddenly up for question. That’s okay. It’s actually the whole point.
You can consider it a sort of spring cleaning for your life. Time to look at all the clutter you’ve accumulated over the past forty some-odd years and decide what’s still useful and what’s just weighing you down. Toxic relationships? Unhealthy habits? A job you hate? How about those old wounds you’ve picked at for years? Or the self-defeating insecurities you’ve given ear to for far too long? Maybe you have a bunch of real clutter suffocating your home space. It’s all up for reevaluation, and rightly so.
The magic of a midlife crisis is that it’s precisely because you’re in a state of crisis that you feel motivated to take the necessary steps to make real changes. This time of reevaluation forces us to give serious thought to what we really want for ourselves – what makes us feel healthy, happy, and whole – and what we need to do to create space for it in our lives.
Case in Point
I have a friend who, after this reevaluation process, discovered there were some key factors she needed in her surroundings to be at her best. Some of it was specific to her health needs (UV indexes and air quality). Some of it was leisure-related (ability to walk to nearby parks and community activities). Other factors included social needs (living around people with like-minded political and social views). And then there were the practical concerns (state and local tax rates, access to employment opportunities, etc.)
The point is, she was able to identify a specific city in a whole other state where all these ideals could be met and is working toward making that move possible in the next few years. That’s clarity.
3. Another Word…Urgency
The reason a midlife crisis happens somewhere around our forties is urgency. The awareness of our mortality begins to creep in. That’s not a fun topic to talk about, but it’s reality.
We get to thinking about what we’ve accomplished. What our lives have looked like. And whether that’s going to be what we want it to have looked like when all is said and done. Or, we start to wonder if we’re going to be stuck living the same pattern we’ve been living for the rest of our lives. If not, are we running out of time to make a real change? There’s this generalized sense that time is of the essence.
If there’s something we’ve always dreamed of accomplishing but haven’t, now’s the time to start working on it. If there’s something or someone in our life that’s making us miserable, now’s the time to change that. Urgency, in this sense, is a blessing. It can be a powerful motivator to shift the momentum and/or direction of our lives.
Of course, we want to make sure any steps we take at this critical point are carefully considered. We’ve all heard tales of people having affairs, making foolish career moves, or otherwise completely upending their lives in the midst of a midlife crisis. That’s not a blessing; that’s a disaster. But when harnessed wisely, the urgency of this transitional phase can supply the energy we need to open our lives into new and fulfilling possibilities.
4. You’ll Know Yourself Better by the End of Your Midlife Crisis.
Because a midlife crisis is existential in nature – meaning it makes you ask the big life questions – going through the process forces you to develop greater understanding of yourself. Undoubtedly, there’ll be some version of the quintessential question: Who am I, really?
There are the career questions. These can range from Is this really what I want to be doing? to Why do I stick with this company when they obviously don’t appreciate what I can do? The relationship questions can run the gamut from Why do I put up with being treated this way? to Why didn’t I have more children? Or, Who are my real friends, really?
A Re-Assessment of Values
Because a midlife crisis makes us more acutely aware of what makes us happy or not, it’s a time of questioning how we spend our time and who we spend it with. It’s when we take longer looks in the mirror, wondering if we really like what we’ve grown into. Not just physically, but in all areas of our life. At a basic level, we’re discovering and assessing our values. And even if we’ve paid attention to our values all our lives, there’s an added weight to it at this time.
Whatever we decide – whether we hold onto our long-held values and perspectives, modify them, or adopt new ones – we know ourselves at a deeper level than we did before. And knowing ourselves is a prerequisite for loving ourselves. Which brings me to my last reason you should want to have a midlife crisis…
5. A Midlife Crisis is an Act of Self-Love
To have a midlife crisis is to assert value to your life. It’s a statement that your life is worth all this attention and reflection. You are precious enough to spend time and energy determining what direction you want your life to take. Your happiness is important.
As a culture, we readily acknowledge the value of redirecting youngsters, giving them guidance and a nurturing environment to help them grow into healthy, happy adults. We invest time and resources, both as family units and as a larger community, into helping young adults plan out their life paths. But life planning doesn’t end once we’ve graduated college and started our careers and families. We tend to function as if it does. Like we’re on a moving sidewalk headed one direction, whisking us ever onward down a single path.
A midlife crisis makes us stop, take inventory, and put the focus on ourselves like we haven’t done since early adulthood. And doing this can be a beautifully healthy thing, even if at first it looks like an ugly, messy thing. It asks us to love ourselves enough to assess what is truly supportive and working in our lives and what is not. So we can seek out more of the former and release the latter.
For each of us, what brings about our midlife crisis, as well as what it looks and feels like, will be different. As different as we are as people, with all the varied baggage we’ve accumulated along the way. But one thing holds true for all of us.
A midlife crisis can be a rite of passage that opens the door to more meaningful and fulfilling possibilities than we experienced or imagined for ourselves in the first half of our lives.
There’s a quote I love by Paulo Coehlo. It says, Not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear your path. That’s how I like to think of a midlife crisis.
What about you? What are your thoughts about midlife crisis? Let me know in the comments section below!
And don’t forget to check out my Guided Meditation for Intentional Wellness before you leave. This is a powerful way to gain clarity around your physical, emotional, mental & spiritual health. It’s a free download that can help you align your daily actions with your best intentions for your happiness & well-being.