Stuck in the middle

Is midlife crisis really a crisis?The middle of anything always feels like a strange place to be. Starting out on a new venture generates a lot of feelings – whether the venture is exciting or daunting. Finishing can be a cause of celebration and pride. But the middle is just the middle – you’ve done a lot but probably feel there’s a lot still to do.

Can you even remember when you were last in the middle of something – writing a report, decorating the house, buying a new car, designing a website, or whatever your last project was? I am betting you remember the beginning or end, but not the middle. The middle was where you were just doing it, right?

The same can sometimes be true of life. Starting out can be fun, with lots of learning and playing, then making decisions about education or work, facing the prospect of children or changing jobs. But the middle can feel like we’re just doing it … just getting through the routines we’ve build up and living through a series of groundhog days.

Which is when some of us, of course, react to all that ‘sameness’ and start thinking about change. The expression “midlife crisis” springs to mind, when the classic attempts to regain a lost youth come to the fore – people rush off to buy a motorcycle or sports car, book a world cruise, or even contemplate divorce.

Can this “midlife crisis” be a good time for a change?

One meaning of the word “crisis” is a turning point, and the middle is a good time to think about turning. For a moving object to turn it must first come to a stop. We can use that pause to reflect on where we are, turn in a new direction (if necessary) and then set off with renewed energy.

Are we on course? Do we need to adjust the direction we’re heading in, or the destination we’re heading to? Are we following the right plan … if we have a plan at all? How far have we come, and are we ready for what’s to come? (My background is project management and, in terms of any project, that milestone in the middle phases is a really useful one for considering those questions.)

Of course, some of this reflection can be tricky. I’m not trying to play down the disruption that can be caused when we begin to think about where our life is headed. That’s when it can sometimes turn into a true midlife crisis. Future blogs will look at how we can prepare ourselves for the changes that might come.

I do believe, though, that you can make use of that turning point. Booking a world cruise might be a good idea … once you know what you want from it. Is it a celebration of your achievements and a time to plan the next phase? Or is it just running away from something?

Tips

Think back to your 20-year-old self and reflect on:

  • What were your hopes and dreams? Tune in to them.
  • Are those dreams still there, or can you tick them off?
  • Are they still valid in the light of who you are now?
  • Or are they still there, but hankering for attention?

Questions

  • In what way can you now honour those youthful dreams?
  • Now you’re in the middle, how can you celebrate how far you’ve come?
  • And what could you do next to step forward towards the dreams that are still there?

Let me know on Twitter @JPCoaching what ideas come to you.

(If you’re struggling with any of these questions, or think that you are in a midlife crisis, do get in touch or take a look at my MidLife Transition Workshops.)