A more productive sort of midlife crisis!
Wouldn’t it be terrible to spend our life climbing the ladder, only to realise at the end that we had placed it on the wrong wall?
It’s all so easy to get on autopilot and lose sight of what really matters.
I see it in myself. I see it in many of my friends. Around the age of 40 – might be earlier, might be later – questions of ‘where I am going’ arise.
Some may laugh it off as a midlife crisis. Even music-streaming service Spotify has the data to show midlife crisis will occur at precisely 42 years! Other research suggests it is normal to experience a dip in life satisfaction that rights itself after a few years.
But no, it’s not a midlife crisis. There’s no sports car or ‘younger model’ in sight!
So what is it?
In his book of the same title, Bob Buford calls this period ‘Half Time’ – a liminal period between a ‘first half’ of making your way in the world and a ‘second half’ of giving back and serving. Bob calls it moving from ‘success to significance’.
It’s a time of reflection and reorientation, marked by uncertainly but optimism. I like to call it ‘a more productive sort of midlife crisis‘. More strategic, more hopeful.
It may or may not involve a career change. But it does involve truly acknowledging and living out your convictions. Convictions that may have been put to one side during the first half as you worked to other people’s agendas to acquire skills and establish yourself as a productive member of society.
Putting it another way, Half Time is no so much about ‘following your passions’, although for some that may be a necessary reorientation. It’s more about finding your cause: the thing that you truly want to live for.
You do have have enough time – but you don’t have enough direction.
Not a midlife crisis, but the end of the first wave
It’s to be expected, really. So many of us are propelled down the runway of school, university and first job. If we meet some success we continue to ride that curve for a decade or two.
But then, in our 40s or thereabout, we realise we’ve done around 20 years of work, but have at least that much time ahead of us!
So the questions start to come:
- “I’m an expert now – but is this what I want to be an expert in?”
- “Am I stuck doing this for the next 20 years?”
- “Am I making a difference in the areas that really matter to me?”
- “Is this what I want my life to look like?”
- “Do I have the motivation to break through the next rank or two of promotions? Do I want to deal with the resulting stress?”
- “Are these golden handcuffs, given my family commitments?”
Big questions, and the sign of ‘Half Time’ kicking in.
Time to decide if the ladder is on the right wall.
What’s in the box?
Now, the Purposeful People blog isn’t fundamentally about midlife crises, but it is about committing to a cause and making a difference in that area. Here is one simple technique that can help you in this regard.
For Bob, a moment of clarity occurred when a coach asked him to draw a box and draw a symbol representing the ‘one thing’ that he wanted to orientate himself around. Bob realised that for him it was going to come down to a choice between a dollar sign (money) or a cross sign (Jesus Christ). For you, it might be a different choice. But making that choice and ‘filling in the box’ turned out to be a seminal moment.
So, what’s in YOUR box? Are you brave enough to leave a comment?