Psychologist Elliot Jaques coined the term “midlife crisis” in a 1965 article, referring to a time when adults reckon with their mortality and their sense of a dwindling number of remaining years of productive life.
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However most people do not develop the classic ‘midlife crisis’. Some individuals do develop conditions such as depression and anxiety. Women experiencing menopause may be particularly vulnerable to distress.
However, I think it’s more adaptive to use midlife as a period of stocktaking, rather than give in to the doom and gloom, and set your focus on solutions rather than problems
A Time of Transition
Midlife is the central period of a person's life, spanning from approximately age 40 to age 60. It is a time of transition. We can all struggle with times of transitions, such as bereavements, unemployment, illness etc. Many people come to feel discontented and restless as they struggle with ageing, mortality, and holding onto a sense of purpose.
Indeed, other challenges occur during this transition period in life — empty affairs, financial concerns, a clearer sense of mortality, and a growing unhappiness with the daily grind. For some the temptation of ‘far away fields’ or the ‘red sport car’ distractions can look very persuasive.
At this point in life, you tally your failures and disappointments with an over-negative focus.
People can often struggle with their life purpose during midlife, citing multiple reasons.
They tell themselves:
• “I’m too old to try something new.”
• “I can’t quit my job and find another one I would enjoy more because I need to put a roof over my family’s head and food on the table.”
• “I don’t have the energy.”
• “My husband/wife would freak out if I actually followed my passion and made a change.”
• “What would people think of me?”
• “I don’t even have a clue how to change or what I would change into!”
Shake it up — Take a Plunge
Imagine a river on your left-hand side and one on the right. The one on the left is full of trouble ad strife. The river on the right is full of promise and hope.
Take the plunge and re-find your life purpose. Reject midlife negative thinking that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Remember that midlife is more of an issue in some cultures than in others, particularly in western societies where we hold on to youth more tightly. I like the practice in Eastern cultures where age and wisdom are respected and revered.
Some Powerful Questions to ask yourself
• Are you where you want to be?
• Have you accomplished all you thought you would by now?
• Could your relationships be deeper, more rewarding, and more meaningful?
• Are you having / enjoying your playtime?
top tips to help you find your life passion and true purpose
1. Explore the things you love to do
We are all born with a deep and meaningful purpose that we have to discover. Your purpose is not something you need to make up; it’s already there. You may ask yourself, “What is my purpose in life?”
You can begin to discover your passion or your purpose by exploring two things: What do you love to do? What comes easily to you?
Work is required, but suffering is not. If you are struggling and suffering, you are probably not living on purpose.
2. Decide where you want to go
Decide where you want to go by clarifying your vision, then lock in your destination through goal development, positive affirmations, and visualisation, and then start taking the actions that will move you in the right direction.
3. Focus on your life purpose
Think about your life and the legacy you want to leave behind. How are your relationships going? How is your health? And so on…
Once you are clear about what you want and if keep your mind constantly focused on it, the ‘how’ will keep showing up — sometimes just when you need it and not a moment earlier.
4. The Passion Test
Developed by Chris and Janet Attwood The Passion Test is a simple, yet elegant, process. You start by filling in the blanks 15 times for the following statement: “When my life is ideal, I am ___.” The word(s) you choose to fill in the blank must be a verb.
Statements may look like this:
• My life is ideal I am energised
• My life is ideal when I’m helping people with their vision.
• My life is ideal when I’m in touch with nature
• My life is ideal when my family life is in harmony
Once you’ve created 15 statements, you identify the top five choices. To do this, you compare statements #1 and #2 to identify which is most important. Take the winner of that comparison and decide whether it’s more or less important than statement #3.
Then take the winner of that comparison, and decide whether it’s more or less important than statement #4, and so on until you’ve identified the passion that is most meaningful to you.
Repeat the process with the remaining 14 statements to identify your second choice. Then repeat the process until you’ve pinpointed your top 5 passions in life. Next, create markers for each of your top five passions, so that you can look at your life and easily tell whether you are living that passion. It’s tough work, but once you know what your passions are and how your life will look when you are really living it, you can create action plans to turn your dreams into reality.
Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to www.facebook.com/ dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist