Psychologist Elliott Jaques coined the term 'mid-life crisis' in a 1965 article, referring to a time when adults reckon with their mortality and their sense of a dwindling number of remaining years of productive life.

However, most people don’t, in fact, develop the classic ‘mid-life crises’. Some people develop depression and anxiety as they enter their middle years, and women going through menopause may be more vulnerable to distress.

However, rather than doom and gloom, we can all use this period of life to do some ‘stocktaking’.    

couple arguing
Psychologist Elliott Jaques coined the term 'mid-life crisis' in 1965

Transitional times
We all deal with transitions such as bereavements, unemployment, illness, etc. And many people feel discontented and restless as they struggle with ageing, mortality and holding onto a sense of purpose.

Of course, there are external challenges during this transition: relationship shifts, financial concerns, a clearer sense of mortality and growing unhappiness with the daily grind. For some, the temptation of ‘far away fields’ or ‘red sports-car’ are persuasive distractions.    

At this point in life, it’s easy to start tallying your failures and disappointments, with an over-negative focus: 

  • "I’m too old to try something new."
  • "I can’t quit my job and find another one I would enjoy more because I need to support my family."
  • "I don’t have the energy."
  • "My partner would freak out if I followed my passion and made a change."
  • "What would people think of me?"
woman swimming
Do you ever feel like you're 'too old' to try something new?

Shake it up and take a plunge
Think about this image: you are standing between two rivers. The one on the left is full of trouble and strife. The river on the right is full of promise and hope. Take the plunge and rediscover your life purpose. Reject negative thinking that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mid-life is more of an issue in societies like ours that valorise youth and encourage us to cling tightly to its appearance and behaviour. In societies that allow for other influences, the wisdom of age is still respected.  

Some powerful questions:

  • Are you where you want to be?
  • Have you accomplished all you thought you would by now?
  • Could your relationships be more rewarding and meaningful?
  • Are you having any ‘me time’?  
man listening to music on his laptop
Are you having enough 'me time'?

Tips to help you find your purpose:

1. Explore the things you love to do. 
We all have a meaningful purpose that we have to discover. Your purpose is not something you need to make up; it’s already there. You can find it by exploring what you love to do and what comes easily to you. Work is required, but suffering is not. If you are suffering, you are probably not living on purpose.

2. Decide where you want to go.
Clarify your vision, then lock in your destination through goal development, positive affirmations and visualisation. Then start taking the actions that will move you in this right direction.

3. Focus on your life purpose.
Think about the legacy you want to leave. How are your relationships going? How is your health? Once you are clear about what you want and keep your mind focused on it, how you get there will keep showing up, sometimes just when you need it and not a moment earlier.

4. The passion test.
This is a simple, yet elegant, process. You start by filling in the blank 15 times for the following statement: "When my life is ideal, I am ___."

The word(s) you choose to fill in the blank must contain verbs, for example:

When my life is ideal, I am energised;  When my life is ideal, I am in touch with nature; When my life is ideal my family life is in harmony. 

Once you’ve created 15 of these statements, identify the top five choices. To do this, compare statements No.1 and No.2 to identify which is most important. Take the winner of that comparison and decide whether it’s more or less important than statement No.3. And so on.

Next, create markers for each of your top five passions, so that you can look at your life and easily tell whether you are living that passion.

Tough work, but once you know what your passions are and how your life will look when you are living them, you can create plans to turn your dreams into reality.