Like the sun sweeping through the sky, midlife (ages 35-50) is like noon-time, dividing the first and second halves of life. At the stroke of noon, the descent begins. Note that what we consider midlife, was for most of history in fact the end of life for most people. As recently as 1900, the life span of the average adult in the Western world was only 47. We have been blessed to have extra decades added to the average life span in our time.
Midlife is a season that can be like moving through muddy waters. Some people experience what is referred to as a “midlife crisis” during this time (first written about in 1965). Midlife signals that youth and childhood are gone, that maturity is now the chief developmental task in life, and that death is something that looms up ahead as an inevitable prospect. Many undergo a crisis of meaning.
The physical changes of aging begin to occur here – the need for reading glasses, sore joints, changes to hair, changes in energy levels, injuries, weight changes, and menopause for women.
Children start to leave home; aging parents require closer attention as their health begins to decline. Some experience depression and trouble eating, sleeping, and functioning at work. Others have regrets over choices made 10-20 years earlier. We may feel the pain and distance of the lost years of youth. Regret can kick in, due to unmet dreams.
Some midlifers have climbed the ladder of achievement in the workplace toward higher and higher levels. Some find success isn’t all it was cut out to be (or ask, “What now?”) while others discover they have been climbing the wrong ladder.
Time feels like it is moving really fast and there is a good mathematical reason for this. One year in the life of a 2 year old is 50% of her total existence. While one year for a 50 year old, is only 2% of her life span.
Peter Drucker, the father of modern management and renowned author once said, “People now have two lives - Life 1 and Life 2 - and they are over prepared for life 1 and under prepared for life 2. And there is no university for the second half of life”. Are you ready for the second half of your life?
The apostle John tells us the the things the world values will pass away - possessions, pleasure, and prestige - while the person who does the will of God will last forever. What lasts forever? Loving God, loving people, and investing your time, talents and resources in God's work on earth. What really matters to you? How should you live your life in light of eternity?
1. Begin to cultivate what was neglected in the first half of life.
2. Take time to contemplate – engage in deeper reflection and evaluation (life deserves a good mulling over). Reflect on where your life is going and what ultimate meaning is for you.
3. Balance outer achievements with less material pursuits such as family and spirituality.
4. Take a break from the hustle and bustle. Find a quiet space to reflect on the deeper meaning of your life. Get off the treadmill of daily routine temporarily in order to assess the big picture of your life.
5. Modify your goals. Make a new list.
6. Start to give care and nurture to others (“generativity”).
Next: Mature Adulthood