I started with the question of “What is the midlife crisis?” “Where does it come from?” “Is it a thing? It must be a thing since we felt the need to put a name on it. And if it is a thing, how do we prevent it? Or fix it?”
The dreaded mid-life crisis is often characterized by a person (usually male) in their forties making radical and seemingly irrational changes in their lives. The over-dramatization of which includes such life-altering changes as quitting a job, leaving a long-term relationship, or buying a sports car when you've never been inclined to do so in the past. Of course it is often more subtle than this, but you get the idea.
It is usually sparked by a reflection of one's life and accomplishments; the effects of which lead to considerations of personal mortality and legacy. You may begin to question your accomplishments at a certain age and have such thoughts as "Is this all there is?" Sometimes it's just a desire to accomplish more than you already have; to use your blessings to help other people.
So if we have a general idea of who it affects and how it happens, could it be possible to prevent it?
Well, yes and no. It is my opinion that circumstances that create the "mid-life crisis" begin 5, 10, or even 15 years before it's symptoms are outwardly recognized. The good news is that if we can identify it in advance, we can make decisions early that allow us to foresee problems and spend more time creating a life that gives us fulfillment [Future link to post about finding fulfillment] and a legacy we can be proud of.
Throughout our twenties, life is full of changes and new experiences. Consider everything we go through between the ages of 20 and 30. Maybe college (or military experience), dating, first real job, marriage, a couple of kids, maybe a second job once he has an opportunity for advancement. I think my wife and I moved six times during this decade of our lives. It's the time where you are just starting to figure things out as an adult. Lots of changes, but also lots of trial and error.
Your twenties can feel like a very tumultuous time; so much so that as the decade begins to close, we often begin to crave some stability, feeling that we have "hit our stride" when we have a steady job, bought our first new home and are nurturing a young, growing family. We feel like we are finally starting to make some progress as an adult and can start to enjoy some consistency as we "settle down."
So if our 20's are characterized by all of the "firsts" and changes that we experience, what are our 30's and 40's about? Our kids get a little older. Our jobs get a little more stressful. Our houses (and thus mortgages) get a little bigger. When we get into our 30's and beyond, we tend to find the "stability" that we have been craving all this time, and it slowly starts to kill us. We think it's the routine that we crave but often we're just in a rut. But how do you know the difference?
We couldn't possibly understand it at the time, but very often that stability includes the seeds of that uneasy feeling in our gut and unfulfilling work that will eventually manifest themselves as the mid-life crisis. But how can we prevent something that starts ten years before showing its effects? First, this is why we have to rely on the experience of others, that have been there before, to help prevent us from making the same mistakes they have made [Future link to post on mentorship]. But that assumes that those that have come before us even have the ability to articulate what they are feeling and why it is happening at all.
Other than that, we need to find a way to plan ahead; recognizing why it happens and knowing beforehand how to keep it from happening to us. The best way to do that is to set your priorities as early in life as possible and work toward those goals relentlessly, for as long as it takes. It can be asking a lot of someone in their early twenties to make decisions based on what they want out of life in the next twenty years. But I think it is imperative that, as soon as possible, we make a point to recognize our priorities [future link to post about determining your priorities] and set our entire future decision making based on the planned outcomes that we desire.
And, since most of the guys reading this will be beyond their early twenties, it is important to decide now what you want your future to be like and start making changes to have a more fulfilling life. That's the part that most people don't acknowledge about the mid-life crisis. It's often the career the begins the downward spiral. Having worked their way through corporate bureaucracies for many years, many guys find that their work is meaningless and unfulfilling. It's at that point they begin to question their career choices and what they could do different. But all too often they find that changing careers with 10-15 years’ experience is not possible due to the salary they need to support their lifestyle.
The best solution is to begin your career with pursuits that you find to be fulfilling and in alignment with your priorities. To do this you have two choices: find work that adds meaning to your life or find work that allows you the flexibility you need to create fulfillment during your personal time. Some people choose career fields that help people and some people make choices because of the flexibility of the job. Either is ok. And either way, someone has made a choice based on finding their own personal method of fulfillment.
Whether you find your life's fulfillment from your career or from opportunities outside of work makes little difference. Some people are trained in a skill that allows them to provide for their family but they don't feel particularly passionate about. The important part is that you find what makes you feel like your life has more meaning and purpose.
This, I believe, is the ultimate way to prevent the mid-life crisis. Figure out what would give you more fulfillment in life, and do something that moves you closer to that goal. My conclusion is that the mid-life crisis is caused by a feeling of lack of purpose in which we feel that we are just going through the motions of our lives without any sense of greater purpose. The problem is that this isn't a switch that can be flipped over night. It is a process that you have to begin as soon as possible. It will involve you taking time to figure out what your priorities are in life and making changes that move you in the right direction.
That's the goal here at TFF; to make you think about where you are in life and where you want to go. Then helping you make the necessary changes to get there. This is a resource for you. There are thousands of guys just like you in the world. We are on this journey together, so we might as well do our best to help each other out as best we can along the way.
You can find more conversations like this in our Facebook Group The Frat House.
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