Aaaah, the old midlife crisis.
We all know it far too well. The image of the woman (or man) who fears getting older so she starts dressing younger, buys a sports car, and trades her spouse in for a younger model.
Or the man or woman who gets obsessed with comparing themselves to others, get gripped by regret, or feels plagued by multitudinous health issues.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Midlife crises have gotten a bad wrap. And it’s all a bunch of marketing bullshit.
What if a midlife crisis were something completely different?
What if it was the time in your life when you stand up for a life without regrets? Where every day is filled with meaning and purpose. Where you feel filled with passion and let go of the patterns of the past that have kept you stuck in the quicksand of worry and fear?
I’ve had many clients ask me “is this just a midlife crisis” when they come to me seeking something more in their lives. They feel like they’re waking up to who they really are and what they really want. And part of them wonders if something is wrong with this.
I think it’s time we redefined the midlife crisis to what it truly is: a rebirth. The moment when you emerge into who you really are at your core – who you’ve always been all along.
So let’s get this straight. I don’t think a midlife crisis is anything to fear, anything to be ashamed of, any thing to feel guilty for experiencing.
II believe that having a midlife crisis is an essential and natural part of life.
Midlife is a time to embrace the person that we really are.
Maybe the kids are leaving the house. Maybe they’re just getting older. Maybe an old relationship is ending and you’re having to re-evaluate who you are. Perhaps you’ve been laid off or lost your job. Or maybe you just woke up one day and asked “is this all there is?”.
This is the moment when you have a chance to become what you’ve always wanted to be. It’s the choice point of your life. The point where you can become the woman who goes after the life she truly desires. The life she yearns for. Or, you can wallow in regret at having lost the opportunity to reach for your fullest potential.
Okay, lets get down to some psychological knowledge on this one.
As we get older we also begin to recognize the reality of mortality.
We see that death as inevitable.
And this actually brings with it a whole bunch of fear. And a really amazing opportunity.
I actually studied fear of death in my dissertation. Two theories about fear of death really struck me and stay with me to this day. And they are inextricably related to the idea that the midlife crisis is our opportunity to emerge into and become something more.
It’s an opportunity. The first moment of the rest of your life.
The first theory is self-discrepancy theory. This theory basically states that we fear death when the person that we are now is NOT the person that we wish to be. And that the closer and closer we get to becoming the person we desire to be the less fear we have about death or about having lived a good life.
This theory is part of my work.
That one of the most impactful ways to deal with fear and to guarantee that we are satisfied when we get to the end of our lives is to make decisions each and every day that take us closer to becoming the person we desire to be.
Rather than just flapping around feeling uncomfortable that we aren’t that person now.
This is when the garbage heap of self-blame, guilt, and shame come into play – when we feel badly for not being the person that we know we can be – we’ll get self-destructive and angry and won’t push ourselves to become the person we know we can be.
The other theory about fear of death that was really important to me is the one based on regret.
When we look at our lives in midlife and we see that we have a lot of regrets for not pursuing the things we truly desired, not living authentically to who we are – we’re essentially giving ourselves another chance at living a whole life.
A life that makes us feel whole because it isn’t full of regrets.
A life that’s fully alive.
A “hell yes” life.
Because when you reach midlife, you’re only half way through the journey.
And there’s still time to counteract each and every one of these regrets.
To go out and do the things that you know you can do and the things you’ve always desired. To become the person you know you’ve always had the potential to be. To be the person you truly are and embrace every last stitch of meaning and purpose in our lives.
It’s like waking up and realizing that we don’t HAVE to live a life of regret.
And that this is your chance.
That you have a choice here and now to not keep going down the path that you’ve been going down so far in your life.
- You don’t have to live your life for other people or give a rats ass about what they think.
- You can prioritize your happiness.
- You can open that business that you’ve always wanted to.
- You can have a fulfilling, satisfying, and growth oriented relationship that lights you up.
- You can stop settling for less than what you really want. In any way.
- You can stand fully in the power of who you are.
- You can create the life you truly desire.
- You can identify our dreams and actually go after them.
When we think about a midlife crisis from these perspectives it becomes obvious that a midlife crisis is NOT a bad thing. It’s an opportunity to wake up to ourselves and what we truly desire in our lives and who we really want to be.
A midlife crisis is nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s something to be grateful for.
So what about those people who seem to go off the deep end when they have the midlife crisis? The ones who are buying a sports car, partying like they’re 18, and throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
Well, that would be an example of someone who hasn’t done the hard internal work to really examine what they desire in life. They haven’t seen their own divinity. The fact that connection, meaning, and purpose are the keys to true abiding happiness and satisfaction.
They think that things, or approval from others, or being attractive is what they really want. They believe that that’s what is missing and what will make them happy. They haven’t done the hard work to look internally and say “who am I at my core? What is it that I truly desire to feel for the rest of my life?” Instead, they’re focused on hedonistic pleasure instead of lasting meaning and bliss.
So don’t fear the midlife crisis lovely. What’s far more terrifying to me is the thought of waking up when I’m on my deathbed and realizing that I haven’t lived the life I really desired. The life I really craved.
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