• Why is it that when we see a man in his forties driving around in a red convertible sports car with a woman half his age that we assume he’s having (or has had) a midlife crisis?  Maybe the young woman is his daughter.  Or maybe she isn’t and it’s none of your business. Besides, who are we to judge?  Perhaps they’re just doing what makes them happy?  Historically, the term “midlife crisis” has had a negative association with men in their forties or fifties. Why?  Usually because the cliché has involved a middle-aged husband cheating on his wife, and possibly leaving her, for a much younger woman (or man for that matter). While we can all agree that cheating is bad, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. The reality is that having a ‘midlife crisis’ isn’t always negative and isn’t limited to men in their forties and fifties.  Women can go through the same phase, often at a younger age than men, and with a lot less fanfare.

    People often look at role models and wonder if they would have had the guts to take those same risks

    The onset of a midlife crisis, or internal reflection demanding a change, happens when people realize that almost half of their lives are over. They’re not necessarily afraid to die, but rather are evaluating where they’ve been, where they are, and where they want to be in life.  Every aspect gets scrutinized — relationships, friendships, religion, finances, employment, health, education, etc.  People often look at role models and wonder if they would have had the guts to take those same risks.  It is a time to evaluate accomplishments, one that comes with a sense of urgency to improve upon them. It feels like there is no time to waste in fulfilling those dreams and often people in this stage want to create more meaning in their lives (nourishment for their souls).  Yet many people who have these thoughts and feelings don’t have the courage to make a move and their internal conflict can churn without an outlet.

    For some people these realizations lead to dramatic changes– divorce, change in profession, big geographical moves, among other changes.  Others are not comfortable and/or are not sure of how to deal with these internal awakenings. They struggle to balance what is currently familiar to them and then try to find comfort in maintaining the status quo. Their rationalization is that it is best not to disrupt the lives of others (family, spouses, children, employers, etc) that might be dependent upon them. This often leads to an intense internal conflict and can result in them living double lives (which can include sneaking around), or can manifest in physical ailments (back pain, headaches, weight gain, depression, etc).  Sometimes work (including certain positions like those in public office), family, social expectations and community may pressure people into defined roles.  These self-imposed (because you choose to adhere to them) restrictions can prevent one’s personal pursuit of happiness.

    …you are not a robot, you are aware of what makes you happy and that you want to live life to the fullest

    The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with having this period of turmoil as a result of your life reassessment as long as you are true to yourself and to those around you.  In fact, it’s a positive sign – you are not a robot, you are aware of what makes you happy and that you want to live life to the fullest. Whenever I contemplate making any drastic changes I ask myself this- “In ten years from now, will I regret trying to implement changes and possibly fail at this opportunity, or will I regret letting this opportunity pass me by?” Most of our opportunities are time-sensitive and though some may come around more than once others are lost forever.

    Unfortunately, it’s easier for people to put off making changes and simply maintain the status quo. This way they don’t have to feel responsible for making a decision that may make others unhappy. Let’s face it; inaction is easier than making a change.  Often people use materialistic distractions, which are temporary fillers, to divert their attention hoping that elapsed time will make the decision for them.  Yet not taking any action is in essence still a choice. We can all get stuck in the ruts of life, but what can make us enlightened is our ability to reflect, evaluate, change and improve.  So- call it a midlife crisis, taking stock, enlightenment, awareness leading to freedom or whatever you will…but remember that self awareness and happiness are not things you will ever regret pursuing.  As long as your decisions are not impulsive, and are made after reflection and consideration for others, then chances are that it is less of a ‘crisis’ and more like a simple pursuit of happiness. No one can blame you for that.  You only live once (as far as I can tell) so the sooner you take an active role in your own destiny the sooner you will feel fulfillment and happiness.  So, what are you waiting for?  Carpe Diem– Seize the day!