You’ve spent the first half of your life learning, being, and immersing yourself in the rat race. Now, it could very well be that you’re left thinking, “What the heck is this all for?”
Hello, midlife crisis.
This phase in your life is full of high-stakes, emotional moments, impulse decisions, and perhaps a shiny new Harley. Think Stella in the classic How Stella Got Her Groove Back, who upends her successful stockbroker life for a whirlwind romance with a man half her age.
But here’s a plot twist: Your midlife crisis could be the best thing that ever happened to you. Amidst the confusion and the existential dread, there’s a ray of hope, a silver lining that can transform this seemingly dark phase into an opportunity for personal growth.
As Jon Butcher, the co-founder of Lifebook and trainer of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online Quest, says, “I believe that each of us has the right to live for our own sake and to enjoy our lives.” And he couldn’t be more right.
Because your midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis. It can be your comeback, a.k.a., your “Stella” moment.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
In its essence, a midlife crisis is when you reach middle age and experience a profound sense of feeling stuck in life. And questions like, “Is this all there is?” and “What am I doing with my life?” crop up, leaving you questioning your purpose and existence.
Psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques coined the term “midlife crisis” in 1965 after examining the careers of composers and artists. What he found was that around the age of 35, they often underwent significant changes in style or experienced a decline in productivity.
The thing is, this stage in life is always associated with the stereotypical image of a person in crisis buying a sports car or having elective surgery. They may also pull a “Stella” by getting together with someone significantly younger or engaging in other behaviors typically seen as unconventional for someone their age.
And while the midlife crisis age typically occurs between 40 and 60 years old, data shows that only 10–20% of people report experiencing it.
Is it a midlife crisis or depression?
Both midlife crises and depression look similar—you may find yourself in a state of confusion, questioning your life choices, and feeling down. However, they stem from different origins and require distinct approaches for resolution.
Let’s take a look at both side by side:
|Period of self-reflection and reevaluation||Mental health disorder|
|Occurs in middle age||Can affect you at any age|
|Reflecting on life’s purpose and considering meaningful changes||Having persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest|
|Opportunity for personal growth and transformation||Requires professional intervention and treatment|
|May be challenging but can lead to positive outcomes||Significantly impacts daily functioning and well-being|
So, if you find yourself in a funk and are unsure if it’s symptoms of a midlife crisis or depression, take a moment to reflect on your emotions and experiences. And it’s important to remember that seeking professional help can provide clarity and guidance in determining the underlying causes and appropriate support for your well-being.
What Causes a Midlife Crisis?
Various factors can trigger a midlife crisis, shaking our sense of identity and purpose. It could be…
- The stark realization of our own mortality,
- Unfulfilled dreams that haunt us,
- Feeling stuck in a rut in our personal or professional lives, or
- Even significant life changes like divorce or empty nest syndrome.
“There are an awful lot of people who just want to travel or take classes after retiring, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Anne Colby, a psychologist at Stanford University, “but if that’s all they’re doing, what does it add up to, in the end?”
Her study, which aimed at enhancing the lives of older Americans, found that older people who possess a strong sense of purpose tend to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Furthermore, she adds, they not only serve their own well-being but “can make powerful contributions toward addressing urgent problems in the world.”
So while the triggers of midlife crises may seem daunting, they can also serve as a wake-up call for you to reflect on your desires and reevaluate your priorities. What’s more, it’s a chance for you to embark on a journey toward finding your purpose.
Signs of a Midlife Crisis
Symptoms of a midlife crisis can manifest in various ways. Here are a few of them to be aware of:
- Overwhelming sense of restlessness and suffocating routine.
- Questioning accomplishments and pondering, “What should I do with my life?“
- Feelings of dissatisfaction and a sense that something crucial is missing.
- Drastic changes in habits and a craving for excitement and adventure.
- Inner daredevil awakening, seeking new experiences, and saying, “YOLO!”
- Feelings of nostalgia
- Comparing yourself to others
Remember, these symptoms may vary from person to person. But they serve as common indicators of a midlife crisis.
So how can you know if you’re knee-deep in one?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Are you constantly plagued by a sense of dissatisfaction?
- Do monotonous and uninspiring moments overshadow your relationship?
- Do you feel lost and unsure in various aspects of your life?
- Have your life plans repeatedly fallen apart?
- Do you often question the choices you’ve made, wondering if you’ve made the right decisions in life?
If you’ve answered positively to any of these questions (and you’re between the ages of 40 and 60), it’s possible that you’re experiencing a midlife crisis.
Stages of a Midlife Crisis
This transitional phase is much like a rollercoaster—your emotions, behaviors, and challenges are up, down, and all around. And to understand it better, here are the stages of a midlife crisis:
- Onset. You may start to feel a growing sense of restlessness and discontent. It’s as if a small voice inside you whispers, “Something needs to change.” You might find yourself questioning your life choices and searching for new meaning and purpose.
- Crisis. The intensity of these feelings escalates. You might experience bouts of sadness, anxiety, or even anger. The temptation to make impulsive decisions or engage in risky behaviors can be strong. So it’s important to approach this stage with caution and seek support from loved ones.
- Resolution. This is a period of self-discovery, growth, and acceptance. It’s an ideal time for a personal development plan, where you can redefine your priorities and make changes that align with your newfound clarity. And as a result, you emerge stronger and more fulfilled than ever before.
Remember, a midlife crisis is a transitional phase, not a life sentence. Research even suggests that happiness follows a U-shaped pattern—it declines in early adulthood, reaching its lowest point in the mid- to late 40s, before rising again. This pattern holds true across more than 132 countries and may provide reassurance that the distress experienced in midlife is not permanent.
So, if you find yourself in the midst of one, embrace the process, seek support, and open yourself to the possibilities that lie ahead.
Midlife Crisis in Men and Women
Men and women can encounter their own unique experiences and challenges on the journey through midlife. And that leads to different manifestations of a midlife crisis.
How can these crises unfold? Here’s a look at the distinct ways they may impact men and women.
Midlife crisis in men
This time in life can come with restlessness, a desire for adventure, and a longing to recapture their youth. So buying a Ferarri, seeking new romantic partners, or finally pursuing that lifelong passion can be signs of a midlife crisis in men.
They may grapple with questions of identity and purpose. And may feel the need to prove their worth and reassess their accomplishments.
What’s more, balancing responsibilities and seeking new experiences can be a common challenge. They may find it difficult to navigate societal expectations while also trying to seek new experiences to fulfill their personal desires.
Midlife crises in pop culture: Lester Burnham in American Beauty; Pete in This Is 40; and Bob Harris in Lost In Translation.
Midlife crisis in women
When it comes to the signs of a midlife crisis in a woman, it may look a lot like Stella from How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Not so much the part where she’s in relations with a much younger man, but more of questioning life choices and reevaluating priorities.
So in comes a new career or pursuing further education. It could also be hopping on a plane for new experiences or engaging in self-care practices like exercise or meditation. It could even be as small as changes to their hair and wardrobe or as big as changes to their body.
Women in this phase of their lives may shift their roles and identities so they can find a sense of self beyond what’s expected of them by society. And that can also encompass a strong desire for personal growth and fulfillment.
Midlife crises in pop culture: Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love; Francesca Johnson in The Bridges of Madison County; and Julie Powell in Julie & Julia.
How to Deal With a Midlife Crisis
Navigating a midlife crisis can, undoubtedly, feel overwhelming. But it can be a catalyst for positive change and personal evolution.
As Jon says in his Mindvalley Quest, “The life you get is going to be the result of the choices you make and the actions you take.”
So, short of writing down a list of “where do you see yourself in five years?”, here are some other ways that can help you manage and conquer this transformative phase:
1. Embrace self-reflection
Take time to explore your values, passions, and dreams. Midlife is the perfect opportunity to reassess where you’ve been and where you want to go.
Set aside some quiet moments to ponder life’s big questions.
- Who am I?
- What brings me joy?
- What legacy do I want to leave behind?
Pop your answers into a goal-setting template, or just simply write a list. Reflecting on these fundamental aspects of your being will provide clarity and guide your decisions moving forward.
How Lifebook Online can help: From health and fitness to love and relationships, Jon and Missy guide you through a series of thought-provoking exercises and prompts. It helps you dive deep into your core values, defining your ideal vision for each category.
2. Prioritize self-care
Although research specifically on midlife crises and self-care is limited, studies on self-care, in general, suggest its positive impact. It enhances well-being, reduces burnout and stress, and improves mental health outcomes such as anxiety and depression.
With this in mind, prioritizing self-care during a midlife crisis can provide you with the necessary tools. It helps you navigate challenges and promotes your overall mental and emotional well-being.
How Lifebook Online can help: By making your purpose clear in all areas of your life, it also becomes clear how you can best serve yourself.
“Working through the process has meant small life changes every day,” says Rachel O, a general practitioner in the United Kingdom and a Mindvalley Member, “and I’m seeing it in all areas of life.”
3. Seek new experiences
Stepping out of your comfort zone is crucial during a midlife crisis. It injects freshness and excitement into one’s life, creating a powerful shift in perspective.
Engaging in new hobbies, traveling to unexplored destinations, or acquiring new skills can provide a renewed perspective and rekindle a sense of purpose. It helps break the monotony and infuses life with a sense of vitality.
If you’re unsure of what you desire, a focus wheel may be helpful. By creating one, you can redirect your energy towards new possibilities and open yourself up to transformative experiences.
How Lifebook Online can help: Imagine having a roadmap that leads you to uncover your passions, set inspiring goals, and explore the vast terrain of life. Lifebook Online provides this invaluable framework, gently nudging you out of your comfort zone and into the realm of new experiences and possibilities.
4. Foster meaningful connections
Fostering meaningful connections is one of the most basic human needs. And during an emotionally tumultuous time like a midlife crisis, it becomes even more important.
When you surround yourself with a supportive network of like-minded individuals, it can provide you with emotional nourishment. Additionally, it can give you the encouragement you need during this transformative period.
How Lifebook Online can help: Mindvalley recognizes the power of community and provides a platform for you to connect with fellow Lifebook participants who are on a similar journey of self-discovery. Through Connections on the Mindvalley app, group discussions, and networking opportunities, the Lifebook Online Quest helps you build meaningful connections with individuals who share your aspirations and values.
5. Embrace change and adaptability
Change is the only constant, as the saying goes. And knowing how to cultivate adaptability will help you navigate the shifting dynamics of your life with greater ease and resilience.
You can let go of resistance. You can shift your mindset. And you can open yourself up to new possibilities and personal growth.
What’s more, embracing change empowers you to take control of your life. And that can shape your future in a way that aligns with your evolving needs and aspirations.
How Lifebook Online can help: Jon and Missy understand that embracing change can be challenging. That’s why their Quest provides a supportive and personalized framework for exploring and embracing change in a way that resonates with each individual’s unique journey.
Much like Jay Roode, an aerial photographer in South Africa and a Mindvalley Member, and her husband. She says, “Lifebook came across our path, and it feels like the universe threw us a lifeline. It feels like we have just pushed a massive reset button, cleared the fog, and clarity, consciousness, and connection have re-entered our lives.”
Rewrite Your Life’s Playbook
A crisis is just this: a golden opportunity for personal growth and positive transformation. And one that happens when you reach middle age is no different.
Like Stella getting her groove back, it’s a chance for you to break free from the shackles of routine. It’s an opportunity to rediscover your passions. And it’s a doorway to creating a life that truly reflects who you are.
When it comes to navigating this transformative journey, you don’t have to go it alone. With Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online, you have access to the expert guidance of Jon and Missy Butcher, two seasoned mentors who have helped countless individuals find their way through the maze of midlife challenges.
As Missy puts it, “Lifebook is about getting to know yourself. And if you’re going to bullshit yourself, then you’re not going to believe yourself.” And that’s a reminder to embrace authenticity and face your truth head-on.
So, what’s the next step? It’s time to take action and join the Lifebook Online Masterclass. You’ll get to know firsthand how this comprehensive system can empower you to unlock your full potential and live a life that excites and inspires you.
The truth is, your best life (as well as your groove) awaits. And it starts with your life book.