Hold the hot stone, pass the introspection.
Why the irony?
The term “midlife crisis” was coined by a 48-year-old man. A midlife crisis refers to middle-aged people’s tendency to undergo an emotional exploration of their own identity. Whether this actually occurs or if it was just an idea perpetuated by TV shows is irrelevant.
One of the most frustrating consequences of this concept is that if you dare to adopt a new habit at 40, people will assume that you have an identity crisis. But at 20, even if you took on a new habit every month, people would think, “Ah, that’s normal.”
There is some merit in this midlife crisis rampage. Almost all people indeed begin to reflect on their achievements. They start to think about where they have been, and now they worry a little more about where they are going.
For those who have been building their careers for the past 20 to 30 years, they may suddenly realize that retirement is coming and that if they are ever going to pursue their true passion, they better get to work now.
Your mental age
There is a tendency in society to make fun of older people for “not acting their age.” But several studies have shown that people have a mental age that can be unlinked from their physical age.
In a famous Harvard experiment, people over the age of 70 were asked to live in a “time capsule” house that contained memories of the previous 20 years. These individuals became mentally sharper and exhibited greater joint flexibility. Control group individuals showed no changes.
The point is this: you are the age you think you are. The more you “act your age,” the older you will become mentally.
That said, many are tempted to seek external confirmation of their vitality. But these external trophies are likely to be frustrating because, like everything else, they are temporary.
Leave the past, there…in the past.
It is normal to fantasize about what you could have accomplished if you knew then what you know now. And that’s when you hear that phrase of “who would turn 20 with the mind that I have now.” Hindsight lets you see how easy everything could have been if you had avoided this or that. But if you stay in that perspective, living in the past, chances are you will miss out on the blessings that surround you now. Very soon, you will be thinking again about this moment, probably saying something like, “if I had noticed…”
Also, do you really envy young people? Youth lives in the school of hard hits. Young people are not as carefree as is often thought. Nor do they have access to unlimited opportunities or freedoms.
It’s easy to idealize youth, but people at all stages of life have challenges. Now, you already have the benefit of the experience; I find it better to focus on taking advantage of it.
Be easy on yourself
From the moment you were born, society has presented you with expectations. In particular, you are supposed to have achieved success at a certain age. But success is relative.
If you were born poor, you would surely be considered successful if you retired as a millionaire. On the other hand, if you were born rich, the same could be considered a mediocre result.
If you let society’s expectations control your life, you may feel compelled to believe certain things about yourself. But you can’t afford to give up your power. Only you can decide if what you have achieved is enough.
If, after critically analyzing your own achievements, you decide you want more, go for it! Prevent anyone else from making that decision for you.
Everything is relative
When I was doing my medical internship, I spent some time working in a nursing home; I had the great fortune of hearing someone in their 90s say something like, “I would give anything to be 70 again!”
There is a singular trend among those who live longer. After their 60s or older, after retiring, they are rediscovering the passions of their life. Some of those people are even enjoying successful new careers.
Do you dream about pursuing your passion? Get it!
One final thought
Elliott Jaques, a Canadian psychoanalyst, social scientist, and management consultant, was the man who coined the “midlife crisis” term. Like I told you before, he was 48 at the time, 1965. Between the ages of 48 and 86, he published 12 books. People often do their most original work after their 40s.
Embrace the midlife crisis and believe in the life you want. You have the key, Today and Now.