It is not uncommon for people in midlife to experience discontentment or boredom with their life or lifestyle (including people and things) even if it has provided fulfillment for years. “Midlife transition” is a natural stage that happens to many of us at some point (usually at about age 40, give or take 20 years).
Midlife transition can include:
- Feeling restless and wanting to do something completely different
- Questioning decisions made years earlier and the meaning of life
- Confusion about who you are or where your life is going
- Irritability, unexpected anger
- Persistent sadness
- Acting on alcohol, drug, food, or other compulsions
- Greatly decreased or increased sexual desire
- Sexual affairs, especially with someone much younger
- Greatly decreased or increased ambition.
I want to be clear that this article is NOT about experiencing a “midlife crisis.” Why? Because, research proves that people who experience a “midlife crisis” is rare. However, what is common during our mid years is called a midlife “ennui.” Simply put, a feeling of listlessness and general dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity or excitement. As a result, we often start to question and reevaluate our life.
As I was doing some research on this topic, I came across a great article written by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Forget The Red Sports Car. The Midlife Crisis Is A Myth. She writes about the five ways we misunderstand midlife. What I found to be valuable was her explanation of the difference between midlife crisis verses midlife ennui. So, I am going to share the first 2 out of 5 points Hagerty makes.
- It’s time for my midlife crisis. In fact, midlife crisis is rare. The term “midlife crisis” was coined by a Canadian psychoanalyst named Elliott Jaques, based on his analysis of artistic “geniuses” as well as patients in his practice who felt an existential dread that there was not enough time in their lives to achieve their dreams. Gail Sheehy’s book Passages turned the midlife crisis into a cultural phenomenon, symbolized by the red sports car, quitting your job or leaving your marriage. But over the past 20 years, researchers have tried to find evidence of a widespread midlife crisis — and failed. They believe only 10 percent of the population suffers such a crisis. What most people refer to as a “midlife crisis” is really a crisis or setback that occurs in midlife, such as losing a spouse, a parent, a job, or experiencing a health scare. Most people recover from these setbacks.
- My midlife doldrums will last forever. While midlife crisis is rare, midlife ennui is nearly universal. Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick and other researchers have detected a “U-shaped” happiness curve that seems to afflict people across the globe. (The low point in the U.S. is the mid-40s.) However, almost inevitably you become cheerier in your 50s and continue to grow happier through your 70s. Why? One theory is people reconcile themselves to the fact that they will not be CEO or a Supreme Court justice and begin to appreciate their lives — and the people in their lives. Also, brain studies show that your brain simply becomes happier after 50, as it ignores unhappy news and focuses on the positive.
You see, it is at this point in midlife that many people struggle with the “thought” of trying something different, transforming themselves, and pursuing their dreams. Those thoughts are often squelched, swept under the carpet, or simply ignored. Why? Because we become overwhelmed, disappointed with ourselves, and don’t even know where to get started. Believe me, I know just how hard it is to embrace change, resist complacency and get over the fear of “What if… I fail, my family won’t understand, people will laugh at me… (You fill in the blank)?”
There are many posts, articles, and psychological studies that talk about “reinventing” yourself. Let me tell you, I am not a fan of that word at all! In fact, when I read posts on social media that respond to the question “how can I reinvent myself?” I actually cringe and want to pull my hair out.
My interpretation is that what you are saying is,
Myth #1: “I suck! I am not good at anything.”
Myth #2: “I must fix my weaknesses!”
Myth #3: “I must strive to be well-rounded.”
All of which are myths we learn to live by and that I have fully explored in past posts. The truth is WE ARE WHO WE ARE, which has been defined from conception and refined over time. The act of reinventing ourselves, meaning to redo or remake completely, is impossible! Sure, you can reinvent yourself if you are a robot with mechanical parts that can be disassembled, replaced with new ones, and reassembled back together. But, the reality is, we are not robots. We are complex human beings.
But WAIT, there is HOPE!
It is called SELF-DISCOVERY and TRANSFORMATION!
If you are experiencing a midlife ennui, it is a time to think about your talents, turn them into strengths, and take ACTION to be the best use of whom you were naturally born to be – to discover your purpose and to create a meaningful life.
What is the difference between a talent and strength? As defined by Gallup,
“Strength is the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. Talents, knowledge, and skills — along with the time spent (i.e., investment) practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base — combine to create your strengths.”
The key to increased satisfaction and ending midlife ennui is having a purpose – feeling, knowing, and understanding that you ARE part of something bigger than yourself or shall I say, your perception of self. And that you have talents that when discovered, strengthened, and applied will change the way you look at yourself and the world around you!
“WE ALL serve a greater mission on EARTH.” -Beckie Jorgensen
However, self-discovery and transformative change does not happen overnight. It is a journey not a fixed destination. But, it is humanly possible! In fact, Gallup’s research proves that when people focus on using their strengths, they are three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.
The first step is to discover your innate talents. Take action! With that being said, I must encourage you not to take the walk alone. There are many more steps ahead to turn your talents into strengths, discover your purpose, implement change, and create a meaningful life. It takes resilience, time, and resourcefulness as well as a support system to take a deep dive inward (self-discovery), chart out a new path, branch out into unfamiliar territory, and stay the course – to rise to the challenge of true transformation.
As a Gallup Certified Strength Coach, I cannot think of a better first step than to discover your innate talents through StrengthsFinder. But it cannot just end there. In order for true transformation to occur, you need to invest in a Certified Strengths Coach to learn how to turn your talents into strengths and to have an accountability partner walking side-by-side guiding you to get from where you are now to where you want to be – to find purpose and create a meaningful life! Are you ready to invest in YOU?
Don’t Reinvent – Transform!