You feel it coming, maybe you saw it happen with your dad, you read about it in the media, see it in movies, and you think you might be next. You are scared! The phenomena called the mid-life crisis seemingly rears its ugly head about your age range age (40-50). The good news is the crisis is predominately mispresented with incorrect perceptions and outcomes. Currently, the prevailing narrative will have you believe you will ruin your family’s life, get fired, and divorced. This notion does not seem to fit your current reality, and maybe we should first look at what’s going on here for you before you slide into this? Then we can review if there’s another way to handle this experience you have right now. We begin with something called the U-curve.
In recent research, Cheng, Powdthavee, and Oswald (2017) highlight evidence for the U-curve midlife crisis principle. They note happiness and psychological well-being may very well be altered over one’s lifespan and around middle age (40-50) it decreases while increasing in later years. During this period, you may feel discontent, disappointment, and pessimism. Sometimes these emotions can result in behaviors lacking social reasoning and long-term decision making. Interestingly, men are not alone, as the research shows the U-curve’s negative implications discriminates as it relates to age but not gender. As a result, both men and women are not immune to a drop-off in happiness and psychological well-being during this time.
For this part, I will focus on an example for men while highlighting some ideas. After reading about the U-Curve, you realize you are not alone, and there is something to this perceived “craziness” inside of you. Normalization helps but has not exactly changed anything for you. Further, assuming you are a male and between the ages of 40-50, it may be too late to be proactive and prepare for this as you are in the thick of the “crisis.” While on YouTube checking your fifteen-year-old daughter’s subscription playlist as part of the monthly routine, you catch this guy Drake’s song “God’s Plan” on YouTube. You begin to tear up as you see Drake paying the full four-year tuition for several underprivileged black teenagers to go to the University of Miami. However, you tell yourself you cannot relate due to the music and the University of Miami. After all, you still love 80s music and went to Notre Dame, Miami’s biggest football rival during your time there. Deep down you know you have been given much and have not been nearly as generous as Drake. You even begin thinking, “Isn’t he a millennial? Maybe the media is not accurate about that generation either?” While still on YouTube you run across a Denzel Washington speech and you hear, “Do what you feel passionate about and take chances professionally” and “have dreams and fail big, or you’re not trying.” These words stick with you and your favorite song Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” can no longer be your life mantra. You ask yourself, “what am I passionate about?” It is a great place to start. So, what’s best next?
What’s Best Next?
Perhaps it is time to explore what you are passionate about using your unique life experiences. However, you have no clue where to start. Some recent research by Ahn, Dik, and Hornback (2017) suggests facilitating action to review your past and present experiences. This technique may enhance your hope and ability to discern what passion is in your heart. As an example, maybe you volunteer at several different non-profits and find something that stirs your soul. You align with a mission and decide you must help others this way too! Now is crucial to pause and get some help along the journey as “fools rush in.” Seek social support as it will be needed to search, maintain, and pursue this passion. If married, this support includes conversations about your thoughts, emotions, relational impact, and ALL next steps with your biggest fan – your wife. Further, leverage your networks of support or build additional support to prepare to remove barriers and challenges along the way. That emptiness you initially feel inside is beginning to lift, unlike two-thirds of the employees in America (Cornfield, 2018). However, yours does as your passion discernment project has started. Your “Mid-life Crisis,” complete with a U-Curve, is going to become a blessing to thousands. You listen to Drake’s song again, and now you can relate! Maybe “the U” is not so bad after all? You hear ESPN’s Lee Corso in your head, saying “Not so fast my friend!”
Ahn, J., Dik, B. J., & Hornback, R. (2017). The experience of career change driven by a sense of
calling: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis approach. Journal of Vocational
Behavior, 102, 48-62.
Cheng, T. C., Powdthavee, N., & Oswald, A. J. (2017). Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife
Nadir in Human Well‐being: Results from Four Data Sets. The Economic Journal,
Cornfield, J. (2018) Two-thirds of employees dream about this one thing every second of every
day. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/08/two-thirds-of-employeesdreamabout-this-every-second-of-every-day.html?__source=instagram%7Cmain