There are many different maladies that expose themselves as we head into middle age. We start to find ourselves struggling with new joint aches, spare tires and generally not being as fit and healthy as we once were. However in some ways the physical ailments are second to the psychological ones that so often accompany them, and if you’re experiencing a midlife crisis then you will know that this can be one of the most difficult and misunderstood experiences you ever have to endure.
Here we will look at what a midlife crisis really is, as well as how you can go about overcoming it.
What Is a Midlife Crisis
First of all it’s important to know precisely what a midlife crisis is. Of course midlife crises vary from person to person and situation. It is an umbrella term that is used to describe a range of different psychological issues that obviously occur around the middle of a person’s life, and that are triggered by or linked to the social and physical changes that a person is going through at that time. While the specifics of what a midlife crisis entails can vary then, it often has many things in common and there are some common features.
Often the midlife crisis is essentially caused by the feeling that ‘time is running out’. This can mean that a person doesn’t feel like they’ve achieved what they wanted to in life, or that they never fulfilled their dreams, but that the time they feel they have left to do so has decreased.
For instance if someone always dreamed of being a rock star, then once they reach their thirties it can start to seem as though they are never going to achieve that aim. At the same time if someone once considered themselves a good looking Lothario, then they may often find themselves feeling less attractive. Suddenly you find that more doors are closing to you than new opportunities opening up and it can feel like you ‘missed out’ on your chance to be great or to live the life you always wanted.
Turning it All Around
However while this is a very real issue, it is still ultimately just a matter of perception, and it’s important if you want to be happy that you learn to change the way you perceive your situation. This is what is known as ‘cognitive restructuring’ which is the process of altering the way you think about something in order to be more productive, happier or otherwise more effective.
Wanting to Change
The first step to cognitive restructuring is to want to change, and this is something that is always the case when overcoming a psychological issue. You need to first recognize it’s a problem, and then set your mind to changing the way you perceive your situation. What you need to recognize is while things may seem hopeless, wallowing in your own disappointment is not at all productive and will only set you on a downward spiral that becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand if you change the way you look at your situation then you will be able to climb back on the horse and make some real changes.
It’s Not Over
Once you’ve decided to change your thinking, you need to realize that being mid-way through your life does not mark the end (in fact it’s fair to say it marks the middle). A famous quote says that ‘it’s never too late to be what you might have been’ and that’s very true. There are countless people who have achieved great things even after they were over thirty, over forty or even over fifty. Look to role models who inspire you that are more your age and note how they are continuing to do well.
If you want to be an actor for instance then now is the time to be one. It’s never too late for something like this, and in fact if you try to be a middle aged actor you’ll find there’s less competition but that there are just as many roles out there for you (lots of films, plays and TV shows have middle aged characters in them and someone needs to play those characters!). Furthermore if you want to be a rock star then look to people on Pop Idol or Xfactor who have become stars at all kinds of ages – perhaps you could do that? And if not you could at least form a band and start trying. Lost for inspiration? Well then you could build a website, write a book, get into politics, start a new hobby, take up a sport… There are certain doors that are closed to you now yes, but at the same time there are many others that are still opening and if you look at what it was about your old goals and dreams that attracted you to them in the first place then you can often find something new that is just as attractive to you. Did you want to be a rock star just so you could be famous? Well there are plenty of ways to become famous at an older age.
The Advantages of Older Age
In many ways you are now at an advantage. For one you know what you know out of life, and you now know how precious time is. At the same time you probably have more time, more resources and generally more knowledge and skill than you had when you were younger. Furthermore there are more ways to promote yourself and to succeed than ever before. Want to get a book published? Well you can use POD (print on demand) publishing to publish online completely free and start selling books. Want to be a musician? Well then YouTube or MySpace is the perfect platform to be heard from.
Furthermore try to be thankful for the things you have now that you didn’t before. Most likely that means a loving family, a great partner and a home. Imagine losing those things – the cost that you often have to pay to be truly free – and then you might start to see just how important those things are to you.
Seize the Challenge
If you feel that you’ve missed your chance to do the things you want to do or be the things you want to be then that means you’ve probably rolled over and given up. You need to look at older age simply as a challenge to make your success even greater – so you’re aching more than usual, that just means it’s all the more inspiring when you have a great gym session. So it’s harder to have the career you want at your age – don’t let that stop you but instead be the exception to the rule and be the person who manages regardless. If you work hard enough, and if you’re smart enough, then you can.
Forget Other People’s Expectations
Sometimes the media, our parents and our friends can put pressures on us that aren’t helpful. Though they might mean well, their interpretation of what success means might mean that we don’t feel as though we’ve achieved what we should have. Don’t worry then about what it is that traditionally is considered to be successful – instead think about what makes you happy and about what you equate to success. It really doesn’t matter what other people think, or what ‘society’ thinks, as long as you are content.
Find Simple Pleasures
Sometimes the joys of being older are the simple things that you probably take for granted. The ability to read a good book curled up by the fire, or to enjoy a good meal. Take note of these little joys that make you happy and use these as a source of fulfillment. Sometimes it’s surprising what it is that makes you truly happy.
In short then a midlife crisis really just comes about because you feel like your dreams are slipping away. In reality however it’s easy to readjust your dreams and in most cases they’re probably still very much attainable. And for every skill you’ve lost or quality that is deteriorating you have new knowledge, experience and authority. For every opportunity is closed you have more stability and support and there are many ways you can still be perfectly content.
At the end of the day the buck stops with you, and it’s all about what you choose to make of life. Make sure then that you start improving your situation today and if that means going to the gym or starting a new hobby then it’s time to get to it.