Deconstructing Midlife

Over the last decade, I am been bombarded with midlife in all its different aspects – most on a personal level and many through the work I do in which I get to meet a lot of people who are in different stages of midlife. When we are younger, we think that midlife is something that happened to our parents and to the ‘older’ generation. It is only in our 30s that it dawns on us that the spectre of midlife falls just not on others, but onto ourselves too.

Midlife – A Crisis to Survive?

What does midlife look like? I did a quick poll at my work place, where I am, unfortunately, one of the few people who skews the average towards the higher side. Midlife is associated with another scary word – crisis. So not only are we coming closer to the concept of mortality, but also a bloody crisis is looming. What were the other words that came up? Fast cars, younger friends, ticking clocks, past your prime. A few also said it’s the time to maximise earnings and get ready of old age and eventual death. How sad does that sound? A quick search on google further throws up so many articles on how should we ‘survive’ this phase, often couched in apologetic phrases like ’40 is the new 30’ or ‘50 is the new 40.

Good or Bad. Who Knows?

When I look around me, and talk to my friends from college, and the many people I interact with in the elder care company I co-founded, midlife is a time when things are changing. Kids going off to study, parents getting older or dying, a person realising that the job that drives him is just a job to pay the mortgage. Women have flashes of menopause, and the driven career focused men and women realise that they would never ever be part of those exclusive clubs for the young and the famous with magazine headlines introducing them as the 30-under-30 or 40-under-40. Some call it a midlife crisis and others call it midlife unravelling. But to me, using the old Taoist/Buddhist story of the farmer losing his horse – Good or Bad, who know?

Mistakes and Consequences

In addition, most of us have made mistakes. I was recently in an entrepreneurship conference where the theme was #mistakesaregood. I have a different take on that, especially as we try to separate the big mistakes from the smaller ones. Mistakes that have far-reaching consequences are different from those that have lesser consequences. But this is a topic for another day. Nevertheless, irrespective of the size of the mistake, we do have the wisdom of learning from our mistakes. And its these experiences and mistakes that make us wiser – remorseful definitely, yet wiser.

Can you propel yourself forward?

From the many people I interact with, I have seen a few who have used the flux of midlife to propel them ahead, and they are the ones who have the same, if not more, vigour and passion in their lives now as they had before. This change that they thought about, and then put to practice isn’t only in their work life, but could be in rebuilding their personal lives.

My attempt would be to distill out those traits, habits or mental frameworks that these people have, that have given them the ability to move ahead, despite possibly many impediments.

Cultivating the Growth Mindset

The key would be for each of us, either approaching midlife, or in midlife, to pull together the best practices and mindset that each of these ‘returning pioneers’ have, and then see how our own lives can be given a fillip. Just not in health and wealth, but also in giving our lives better meaning.