There comes a time in our life when a strong feeling of incompleteness gnaws at us. We feel stagnated or unfulfilled at work, sorely miss the romance in our marriage, are frustrated at the rejection from our children, and feel helpless at our receding hairline or expanding waistline. Termed as mid-life crisis and generally occurring sometime in our 40s or 50s, it’s a time of emotional turmoil and unanswered existential questions.
Losing a parent brings us face to face with our own mortality and the thought that we may have fewer years left than we have already lived makes us anxious. Injuries take longer to heal and every heartburn seems like an alarm for something more serious. The realization that there are some life goals we will never hit, contrary to the exuberance of our youthful days, adds to the fear of time running out. We wonder if this is all life has to offer.
The popular response: we add more color to our wardrobe, buy an expensive car or designer merchandise, and start preparing a ‘bucket list’. We seek out new ways to fill our emotional void – some change jobs, others fall out of relationships, we look to start a new hobby, and regroup with our college mates.
Although it’s a passing phase and research suggests that most of us adapt to the new reality and are happier in our 60s, particularly as empty nesters largely relieved of our parental responsibilities, this time of psychological turmoil can be a profound opportunity. If harnessed well, it can be a time of awakening from our blind chase of narrowly defined goals.
Most of us spend the first half of our life pursuing what appear to be the most sought after options – the courses we take, the careers we pursue, or the places to work or live we gravitate towards. Mid-life crisis has the potency to force us to stop, reflect and focus on shaping the second half of our life on our own terms – a better expression of who we are and our individuality.
What if your best is yet to come? What if, in coming years, you could feel more complete than ever before? What if a paradigm shift was possible that allowed you to create a powerful new life for yourself? What if you could discover greater success and fulfillment in your work, deeper love in your relationships, and inherent happiness and meaning in your life?
Four steps for harnessing the opportunity
1. Reconnecting with our inner self
‘You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.’ ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Rather than getting weighed down by the disturbing emotions of this time, and wish them away, we need to acknowledge their existence, make peace with them and tune into what they are trying to tell us. This requires creating regular time for reflection where we can detach ourselves from our subconscious stream of thoughts and feelings and observe them objectively.
Examining our thoughts and feelings from a place of inner stillness not only dilutes their negative hold on us, but also paves the way for us to learn more about ourselves. We can then perceive the genesis of our fears, self-doubts, anxiety, envy and frustration. Any form of meditation practice can be greatly helpful in this regard. Reading relevant books and articles is also supportive of this process.
Quietening the mind allows us to reframe the situation in newer ways. It’s the difference between looking at the same scenery from the fourth floor of the building and the twenty-fourth floor. The scenery remains the same, but we have a new perspective. Such soul-searching helps us identify what we need to learn in our personal situation to grow from it – is it learning unconditional love, self-acceptance, letting go, responsibility, courage, or compassion?
The author Rajiv Vij is a life and executive coach and author of Discovering your sweet spot: a soul-searching guide for creating the life you really want
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