The term ‘midlife crisis’ has a bad reputation. It conjures up images of flash sports cars and leaving your marriage for someone half your age.
There is, however, a very common stage around mid/late 40s to mid/late 50s(ish) – a time of questioning. Questioning your life. Your work. What you really want to do. What would really make you happy etc.
Successful people are most affected
The strange irony is that the very people who look like they should be the happiest and most content at this stage of their lives – those who have achieved a lot – are often the ones who are most affected by this.
If you are still trying to progress in your career, build a successful business, achieve financial security, have your first exit, meet the right person, raise kids etc – you are probably focused on achieving these things (and may also assume you will be happier when you’ve done so). But when you’ve achieved the things you wanted – there’s no escaping any nagging feeling that you could be happier, more at ease, that something is missing or that you could be enjoying life more.
A huge opportunity – but an unsettling one
This time of questioning is a huge opportunity. One which comes bearing many incredibly valuable gifts. But it can also be quite challenging.
The lack of clarity. The uncertainty about what you want next. The headspace it takes up. The doubt about what will truly make you happy now you realise money, status or achieving certain goals isn’t enough.
All this can cause you to think and question – often for the first time – what do I truly want?
Creating the life you really want
But this really is a wonderful chance to step back and actively design and create the life you want (rather than simply pursuing the next ‘thing’). To do so, it’s best to start at the end rather than immediately look for the solution (which is where most solution-oriented, high-achievers immediately go).
So it’s not about figuring out what role or company or business or NED is right for you. It’s thinking about how you want to live your life. How you want to feel every day. What you want time for. Perhaps you want to know your work is making a difference to the lives of others. Or you want to enjoy your life more and have time for what’s important while still feeling stimulated and engaged by the work you do.
THIS is mid life questioning.
It’s real. It can be unsettling. Finding the answers can be hard. But I would urge you to listen to that quiet voice inside whispering to you (or in some cases shouting!) – that you CAN be happier, that there is a different way, or a better way. A life of more meaning or joy or peace or ease.
Avoiding the issue
Many people don’t know how to answer these questions that spin around in their head and so distract themselves or push it down by taking on something else – a new initiative, a new role, a new industry, acquiring or creating a new business etc.
But like the famous singer in the movie The Greatest Showman who performs all round the world to adulation and standing ovations, who sings “Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world but it’ll never be enough.” The nagging sense of wanting to be more fulfilled will never be fully satisfied with more or bigger or another. That’s not where the answers lie.
The rewards are great
So I would encourage you to really listen to that voice calling to you (in my next blog I will explain some ways to do this). Be patient with it. Listen to what it has to say and try not to jump too quickly to easy or immediate solutions that are often simply a band-aid. They are rarely the answer.
Listen instead to the voice that’s telling you that you only have one life. That you should do what you really want to do. That will truly fulfil you or give your life meaning.
While it can sometimes be unsettling to hear what your gut, your intuition is trying to tell you – it’s also exciting and the rewards are great. To live your life true to your purpose or with a sense of meaning or joy is a source of ongoing fulfillment, rather than the very short-lived pleasure we typically get from achieving the next goal.
Knowing doesn’t necessarily meaning acting
And rest assured, just because you hear something important does not mean you need to upend your life. If you realise, for example, that you really want to help others more, this does not mean you have to pack in your job or sell your business and go volunteering on the other aide of the world! There are many many creative ways to fulfil this need in you from initiating a fitness challenge at work for a charity you care about or giving more time to mentoring some young talent within your organisation.
Midlife questioning is a really good thing. It’s there to guide us out of our busyness, our distractions, our proctastination to our true path. To a life well lived. To make sure we live this next phase of our lives wisely and happily. And for that, we thank it.