Sigmund Fried had it wrong, Mid-life is not the end! According to him and other prominent psychologists of his time, by the age of 50, the “the elasticity of the mental process is as a rule lacking…people are no longer educable” in other words, no longer able to adapt to or learn new things”. Boy were they off the mark! I’ve just been reading “Boundless Potential” by Mark Walton, which challenges the notion of mid-life being the period of life when people start to wane and their potential starts to deplete. His book contains dozens of case studies of men and women who have gone on to achieve great things in their “retirement” years.
Walton wasn’t the first person to pick this up. Research has shown that humans in mid-life have tremendous potential for further accomplishment. The fact of the matter is that as a society, we have been brainwashed into thinking that from the mid-forties on, we need to start winding down and making way for the next generation. This has been the institutionalized thinking since the industrial revolution. Try telling that to Nola Ochs who in 2007, at the age of 96, entered the Guinness book of records for being the world’s oldest college graduate. What about Nelson Mandella who became president of South Africa at 76? “Youngster” Susan Boyle’s career rocketed when she won “Britain’s Got Talent” at the age of 48. And have you ever heard of Bill Wilson? Maybe not, but you’ve most likely heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, the worldwide organization that Bill started at aged 40 that has helped millions of people around the world.
The list could go on and on, but I think you get my point. The fact is that our careers don’t necessarily define all that we are. When you find yourself in the middle of a mid-life transition, it may be a good time to delve inside and find out what your real passions are, what drives you and what you truly believe in. Then do a little character redefinition to align yourself with those values.
We all change in mid-life, there’s no doubt about that. But the mistake is in looking at what is finished instead of what is just beginning!