What do you think when you hear the term mid-life crisis? A quick survey amongst a few of my friends and colleagues brought up, fast cars, affairs with 22 year olds, crisis and difficulties - quite a negative opinion.
According to a recent study conducted jointly by the University or Warwick and LSE (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/2014/twerp_1037_oswald.pdf - if you are interested) the mid-life crises is a statistical fact, not just a made-up-by-the-media phenomenon. But what if that time in a person's life were to be seen differently? Perhaps less as a crisis and more as an opportunity for growth.
Often with the people that I work, fast cars don't really feature and it's more subtle than the cliché above. People instead wake up to the realisation that they are perhaps depressed or often deeply unfulfilled or are questioning who they are and where they're at in their life. Some people report that they feel as if that they have been living a life that perhaps was imagined and created when they were younger, with different ideals and values and that are out of sync with the person they are today, or more often than not, a life that 'happened to them' rather than one they actively dreamt up. Sometimes a realisation of this is sparked by a big life event such as the loss of a parent or elderly relative, being made redundant or a relationship breakdown and often an internal 'crisis' begins.
I was recently talking to an acquaintance who was telling me about his mid life situation and how depressed he feels. He described being really down about his job, which he has been in for many years but which he has never felt happy or particularly fulfilled in. He feels lonely, unable to communicate with the people at work in the way he would like, and a bit ostracised. He is also worried that he is still not getting over the breakdown of his marriage. Life looks bad to him right now and until our conversation he hadn't dared to dream of the possibility that he could create his experience in a different way.
I have many coaching and therapy clients who are in a similar situation and I myself have experienced it too - of waking up to the fact that they are living half the life they imagined or finding themselves freshly having been made redundant or divorced and feeling like life is at a crisis point. These situations often give an individual a sense of being out of control and often highlight negative beliefs that might have been lurking under the surface and that can now seem debilitating. Depression is common in these times.
But what if we and were taught and accepted that at some point around our 40's we will probably want and even need a reassessment? If we bought a car and drove it for 20 years it would feel old and out of date. At some point we would be looking to update it and until that point we would be servicing it regularly. Why then don't we do that with our lives? How much more effort and research do you put into purchasing a new car than you do into creating the life you want, the relationship that you want or the career that fulfils you? To what extent are you responding to what life throws at you rather than putting out there what you want and taking control?
This brings me on to the concept of creation vs. reaction. It's a simple thought that often gets forgotten. Steve Chandler often talks about this in his books and puts it simply when he says "You can create your own plans in advance so that your life will respond to you. If you can hold the thought that at all times your life is either a creation or a reaction, you can continually remind yourself to be creating and planning."
Are you doing that - really? Are you living the best life you can, or is life biting you on the bottom as you react to what just seems to happen to you?
It's not the truth, but an interesting thought that if you had already been assessing and creating as you went along would that solve the mid-life crises phenomenon? If you deeply knew that things might be working right now, but at some point in the future you might begin to feel differently, and that's ok because if you are awake to this you can redress the balance, wouldn't you feel better? Wouldn't you have less of a crisis but more of a sense of opportunity and growth? Wouldn't you even look for the challenges within that in order to have that better life right now?
Often in order to reach all the wonderful possibilities of a new life there comes a point where you get an opportunity to let go of some of the old. Old thoughts, old feelings, old expectations - whatever it is that is no longer serving you in your life. Have you ever been to a butterfly house where you can see the caterpillar at various stages of metamorphosis? I doubt that a caterpillar knows that once it has spent up to a year inside the chrysalis and then chomping it's way out, it will emerge as a beautiful butterfly. It's a pretty amazing yet huge process and if it were just to wake up and see one day that it had spent 6 months inside that and then chewing through a brown leafy-like thing, not knowing why or how it got there, it might feel a little down. However, if someone said when it was young (and it had an amazingly large caterpillar understanding), "Right Mr Caterpillar, at some point in your life you are going to get a really great time to hang out for a while to give you an opportunity to just be, before an incredible, magical transformation will happen and you'll be free to enjoy a whole new lease of life". That would be a whole different experience, right? There would be no depression or fear there because he would be excited about what was coming. He might not be able to imagine that world, but he could look around at the others who had already become butterflies and admire their beauty and flight and look forward to the day that he would do the same. He might even use his time to do a little preparation and learn some stuff about how to be a butterfly.
So back to the creation of your life - if you were to stop and assess, and to begin to create life as you would like it to be what would you do? Who would you begin to be? What would you ask for? The first step is to dare to dream. The next step is to deal with any blocks to your being able to get the life you want. The rest comes from that.
Really it's all about fulfilment and being the best you can be, for you. So here's something to think about:
"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfilment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart." Martin Luther King Jr.
Just remember, life is exciting when you're really living it and we all need guidance along the way. We are all on a journey so why not make it the best journey it can be?
I'd love to hear what you think and how things are for you. You can either leave a comment below or send me a message via my website here.