Does this sound like you? You’ve reached midlife, the stage of life where you should be enjoying the results of the sacrifices you’ve made earlier in life, but somehow you feel dissatisfied. Every day you wonder why you don’t feel as happy as you thought you would feel when you reached this phase of life. You’re starting to worry; are you going to feel like this for the rest of your life?
If so, my friends, congratulations! You might be having a midlife crisis! Your midlife crisis can provide a fantastic opportunity to set a path for a fulfilling and enjoyable second half of your life. It can, that is, if you take the time to listen to what your crisis is telling you.
As Brené Brown said in her essay, The Midlife Unraveling:
“Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
‘I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.'”
If you’re willing to listen to your crisis, it can tell you how you’ve been pretending and performing and thus hiding your true self. Once you finally uncover your true self, you can begin to lead a life of authenticity. The second half of your life can be happier than you ever thought possible.
What Happens if You Ignore Your Midlife Crisis
Suppose you’ve been in the same job for years, dutifully chasing promotions and working late hours as needed. Then one day, you realize that you make good money, but each day is the same as the last, and you don’t care anymore.
You could respond to this realization by ignoring your feeling. To cope, you could turn to any of these numbing behaviors: drinking, watching too much TV, overeating, etc. If you do, you may be able to stay in the job until you retire but at the cost of becoming a bitter disinterested person and possibly developing an addiction as well.
What Happens if You Respond to Your Crisis by Acting Out
Now imagine you’re in the same situation, but this time you respond by abruptly quitting your job. Hooray! You’re free! Now what?
If you’ve quit your job without taking the time to think about what you want to do next, will you be happy in your next position? You’re running the risk of drifting from one job to the next without ever feeling satisfied.
We all know that man or woman who abruptly left a long-term marriage only run through two or three new spouses in the next few years. Before you leave a situation where you’re dissatisfied, it’s essential to take the time to find out what you need to be satisfied.
How to Listen to Your Midlife Crisis
If you’re feeling like you’re going through a midlife crisis, take some time to listen to your feelings and determine what those feelings are telling you.
It can sometimes be tough to figure out what our feelings of dissatisfaction are telling us. But taking the time to get to the root of the problem can give you the tools you need to make the rest of your life so much more satisfying and happy.
Here’s how to listen to your midlife crisis.
Spy on Your Own Life
Did you read the book Harriet the Spy when you were a kid? She carried around a notebook wherever she went and wrote down her observations about life around her.
Start being a detective about your life. When are you happy? When are you annoyed? When are you in situations you don’t like but you feel powerless to change? Take time to evaluate every part of your life and ask yourself, “Does this really make me happy?”
Once you have a list of areas in your life where you are unhappy, start thinking about what would make you happy. If you’re unhappy in your job, don’t write “quitting my job.” Instead, write a detailed description of what kind of job would make you happy.
Get to Know Yourself
Did you get stuck in the “I just know what makes me unhappy” stage? That’s understandable. We spend so much of our adulthood pleasing our bosses and raising our children that it’s easy to forget who we even are.
Now is a great time to get to know yourself again. Spend some time getting to know your likes and dislikes and your strengths and weaknesses.
You can find out your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with an online quiz or revisit your likes and dislikes with a book of lists.
I have a free book of journaling activities you can use to get to know yourself again available on my site.
Explore Your Creativity
As you get to know yourself, take time to explore your creative side, which you’ve probably ignored as you tended to the demands of adult life. Release the adult’s need to be perfect at any activity you try and instead stay in the moment and experience the joy of creating.
Try a painting class or get your camera out again. A friend of mine took up tap dancing at fifty and loved it. I recently got out my cross-stitching supplies after 30 years and I’m earnestly putting little Xs in fabric every night after dinner. It’s great fun.
By reigniting your creative side, you open yourself up to experience the joy you used to experience in childhood when you painted a picture or built something with your hands. You may be better able to see what path you want to take during the second half of your life.
If you feel you’ve been sleepwalking the last few years and you’re just now waking up to see what your life is really like, the chances are that your life has been plateaued for quite a while. It may take a while to decide what changes you want to make in your life and set these changes in motion. Be patient and know every day you’re getting a bit closer to a life that makes you happy.
Be Gentle and Kind with Yourself
Listening to your midlife crisis is uncomfortable. It’s much easier to come home every night and numb your feelings with a glass of wine and reality television. If you feel impatient, frustrated, or defeated, take some time to rest and to realize that you’re on a journey. Take a moment to be proud of how far you’ve come.