The awareness we’re in midlife hits us in different ways. We can be broadsided by a significant life event; the end of a relationship, empty nesting, a health scare, death of a loved one, losing a job or a change in work circumstances. Sometimes, it just creeps up on us. We wake up one morning and realise we’re developing grey hairs and wrinkles and we don’t have a passion for what we do anymore. Whatever kicked it off, it starts a chain reaction that can get quite self absorbing and cause considerable distress if not dealt with appropriately.
Have you recently been experiencing any of the following ?
- Wondering if you have made the most of your life so far
- Questioning what your life purpose is
- Wondering why your career doesn’t satisfy you anymore
- Thinking you don’t anything of value left to contribute
- Concerns about your health and an awareness of your mortality
The first thing to do is understand what you’re going through is normal. Becoming middle aged is unavoidable, to date, there is no way of reversing the ageing process, the biological clock is ticking. But aside from the physical changes, we also begin to question a lot of things. There can be some regret at unfulfilled ambitions, an awareness of our impending mortality , worries about the future. It’s a significant transition we go through in life, physically, emotionally and mentally. Some people do it well, others find it challenging.
However, the good news is that it can actually be the best time of your life. You still have your wits about you (Even though you sometimes walk into a room and forget why! ) combined with a decent amount of stamina and physical strength. However, you also have years of experience, maturity and wisdom. That’s a pretty good combination.
So let’s look at the steps for creating a midlife that is positive and will give you meaning and purpose.
Perception is everything, the way you see things, that is, how you see yourself and the world around you, determines what will become of you. That is a concept pretty much agreed upon by every philosopher that’s ever walked the Earth. What you think you become. This is a concept clearly played out with people in midlife.
If you look at your life , and consider the best years are behind you and from here on in, it’s all downhill, that’s what it will be. However if you believe the best is yet to come, you will act on that belief and make the second half better than the first. Your attitude is everything with this one, you have to play to win. You can be one of the middle aged “walking dead” or you can choose to start your “middlescence”
What’s it going to be for you?
Step 2 – R.I.P Yesterday
Some people could earn a Master’s degree in “Analysing Your Past”. They love to break it down, pull it apart, turn each piece upside down, examine it closely all so they can….what? Imagine being off road somewhere and getting bogged. Instead of taking action to pull your car out, you think about how it happened, what you did wrong, how you could have avoided it. Pretty ridiculous thing to do right? But so many people do it with their past life experiences. I know, I was one of them. The only benefit from reviewing the past is to learn from mistakes made so you don’t repeat them. Notice I said review, not relive. Don’t keep your past experiences on a visual loop in your head. It’s perfectly fine to grieve the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job, and especially the death of a loved one. You are grieving something that you’ve lost and it’s healthy to do so. In fact if you don’t do so, it will come back to bite you later. But at some point you have to move on.
You have to let go of any regret, remorse and bitterness and start moving forward. No matter what your first half was like, if you feel you stuffed it up, missed opportunities etc, it doesn’t have to have an impact on your second half. If you’re going to move into a positive future, you have to let go of the past. Imagine trying to climb out of a slippery well while a crocodile is pulling on your trouser pants. That’s kind of what it’s like when you’re obsessed with your past, you’re stuck! All that you’re thinking about is what you could have done, what you shouldn’t have done and what you could have done better.
Erase, extinguish, delete , it’s history! You’ve watched the prequel a hundred times, time for the sequel. And guess what? You get to write it!
Step 3 -Make your travel plans
Now that you’re ready to move on, it’s time to look into the future. The key in moving onto the next chapter of your life is to view it with optimism. Look at it as your destination on the distant horizon. You’re about to go on a journey to a place you’ve never been to before. New sights, sounds, experiences. When you think of travelling to another country, how do you feel? You don’t get anxious, frightened or despondent do you? You get excited about the possibilities, even though you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. That’s the way you should view your new life. That is what you need first and foremost, hope.
The next step is to create a broad overall picture of what your want your future life to be like. What do you want that to look like? Remember, the past has nothing to do with your future. Feel free to take some good bits out of it, but you may want it to be completely different. This is called creating a vision. You’ve got a blank canvas in front of you, what are you going to paint? Let your imagiatione run wild, what are those ideas you’ve been suppressing all these years? This is not about you throwing all caution to the wind or ignoring the needs of those around you, but it’s important to start thinking about yourself more. This is something a lot of people in mid-life have been neglecting until now. It probably explains why Midlifers are some of the saddest people on the planet. That’s not my personal opinion by the way, it’s in the research studies.
You most likely are a parent, possibly a caregiver, a partner. Therefore, you’re a provider, there are others depending on you. You have carried this responsibility well, maybe even too well. It’s not uncommon in midlife for someone to get a bit resentful if they feel they’ve been giving a lot but haven’t had the time to do some of the things they desire. This is the time to consider some of those things, create a picture of what you want your second half to look like, what are some of those ingredients that will make it meaningful and above all , fun! I’ll say that again, “MEANINGFUL AND FUN !!!”
The meaningful part of it is essential. Up until midlife, a lot of our focus is on success. We strive to be successful in our careers, in raising our children and in our marriages. While those things remain important, there’s a profound fulfilment that comes from knowing we a making a positive contribution to the world. This is something that seems to arise more in midlife as we become aware of our mortality and that eventually we will leave this planet and start to think about the legacy we will leave. What do you want people to say about you after you die? What would people say now if you were to pass away, what would they put on your tombstone? Someone told me recently the comedian Spike Milligan had written on his ” told you I was ill “! Jokes aside though, how would your epitaph read?
Step 4 – Suit up for the journey
Now let’s talk more about something that goes hand in hand with your new future. A new life means a new you. What’s required to become the new you? You’ve heard the saying, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well, first thing then is to check your pulse. If there’s something there, it’s safe to say option one doesn’t apply. You have survived life so far, congratulations! It means ultimately, you’re going to continue getting stronger.
Becoming stronger is all about moving into the future with confidence , purpose and ready to take on the challenge of a new life. That vision you create for yourself involves imagining the kind of person you want to be and how you want to experience life. Essentially, to have a different life means becoming a different person. Some people don’t do that, they stay in their self pity , blame and misery. They “soldier on”, staying the same and march headlong into the next scenario which turns out how? Well let’s ask our friend Albert Einstein shall we? He said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Or it could have been Mark Twain, Ben Franklin or some wise Chinese philosopher. What cares? It’s true! If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will get the same results and have a life on repeat. That often means having the same unsuccessful relationships and the same unfulfilling career. Uh oh!
The answer? You need to change. And that’s the best approach to take when looking at a brighter second half of life. Look at what you need to change about yourself to stop the same thing happening again. Become a new you. It’s about evaluating the things you did before, identifying the behaviours that didn’t work and throwing them out. It’s time to learn new tools and techniques to tackle life. It’s about looking at what your new values are, and what you need to change in your life to accommodate them. This new phase of your life holds so much potential, but you have to see it and want it.
Step 5 – Regular servicing essential
Like any journey, you need to make sure you’re driving a reliable vehicle. Take care of it, because without it, you’re not going anywhere. In this case, the vehicle is you, your body to be more precise. Unless you take care of the vehicle, your body, you’re not going to get very far, not matter how positive you are.
You are number one. There’s a reason airlines tell you to put on your oxygen mask first, dead people aren’t real good at saving lives! You may have a business to run or a job to go to, kids to take care of, but none of those can be done remotely while lying on your bed completely spent. Yes we’re talking self-care, which is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress” Now just to be clear, effective methods of doing this do not include drinking copious amounts of red wine, chain smoking, binging on Netflix or trawling through social media thinking what perfect lives everybody else is living. I’m talking about maintaining wholesome habits that will keep you healthy mentally, emotionally and physically. ;
Things haven’t changed and it’s not rocket science.
- Healthy diet – Look into calorie requirements for over 40’s -you’re not 20 anymore and won’t get away with eating all saturated fats you used to!
- Find out the recommended vitamin supplements needed – the safe kinds of pills to pop, not the ones you maybe used to.
- Low impact exercise – find a fitness activity that you that you enjoy and do it regularly. Getting up to change TV channels doesn’t count!
- Regular health checkups – don’t be one of those people afraid to visit their doctor in case they find out something’s wrong with them! (That’s actually a thing)
- Quit smoking, or , quite obviously, don’t start. Your body has enough to cope with as it is
- Limit your Alcohol intake – wine may get better with age , but you won’t if you drink too much of it
- Get enough sleep – don’t be ashamed to put your pyjamas on at the same time you used to go out! 😀
So that’s your bod sorted, now let’s talk about your noodle. Years ago , a computer geek came up with the phrase GIGO, Garbage in, Garbage out. He was referring to the way computers operate, but it’s pretty safe to say our brains are the same. Last I heard Elon Musk doesn’t binge on “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. Get my point?
Keep your mind well fed. Doesn’t mean you can’t entertain yourself and watch something meaningless occasionally, but if you’re serious about keeping a healthy mindset, be careful what you watch, read and listen to. Give your brain some positive stimuli, take on learning something new. If you must read the news, minimise it to what is useful to know or better yet, read good news stories. Just as the GIGO acronym is true so is the PIPO acronym ( which I just invented ) Positive in, Positive out.
In conclusion, you can ease into midlife, and make it your most rewarding period of life so far. The alternative is to descend into a midlife crisis and spend the years in ways you will regret later. The choice is up to you. You have another stage of life after this one, and how you live life now will determine what becomes of you in that one. You have the right to live life on your own terms, so reclaim ownership of your voice and identity.
Enjoy your midlife journey!