3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Midlife Crisis

Go for it!Are you approaching midlife? Perhaps wondering if you’re already there? We all arrive at it in our own way – some with a whimper and some with a bang. Midlife’s a natural time (although it can feel quite unnatural) to pause and take inventory. It’s what you do with the results that makes all the difference.

Gone are the days of the garden variety midlife crisis. You know the ones – men frequenting the gym, getting highlights and fake tans, and buying overpriced cars in fire engine red. When I was growing up, it seemed the midlife crisis was the singular domain of the middle-aged man.

But times have changed. Equality between men and women may not be all the feminists had hoped, but one thing is clear – when it comes to a midlife crisis, we’re all entitled to one. Use these three tips to plan for its success.

1. Don’t Sink the Ship to Improve the View

When you start to hear the rumblings of your crisis approach, don’t let the discontent or questioning have you jettisoning all that’s good in your life. Midlife isn’t a ‘do over’. You don’t get to act like the last 40-ish years of choices didn’t happen. Not without consequences anyway, and the last thing you want is to become one more cautionary tale. That pile is deep and wide.

We often find in midlife that the things we charged so hard at in our 20s and 30s haven’t brought as much fulfillment as promised.  Or maybe they did for a while, but now that’s started to wane. Midlife is a chance to set new intentions, to match long-held desires with decades of experience. Changing course should be a gentle shift. Be kind to yourself, your past, and those around you.

A midlife crisis is like going on walkabout, a sort of vision quest, a rite of passage that leads back home. Make sure the door’s still open when you get there.

2. Channel Your Inner Child

So how do you know what might satisfy your itch? One way is a bit of advice I heard from one of my favorite podcasts hosted by Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft. In the eighth episode of their podcast “Happier”, Rubin and Craft suggest that asking yourself what you did for fun when you were 10 years old is a great way to find what might make you happy now. They don’t discuss it in the context of a midlife crisis, but why not? Your crisis is about change, changes to make you happier, more fulfilled, content.

Perhaps you loved to dance when you were 10, but didn’t keep up with it as the years passed. Or maybe you loved climbing trees, playing tennis, or listening to music. These are things that can be re-imagined as adult activities – especially climbing trees. Take it easy out there. No crisis is worth a broken hip.

Picking up a new hobby is a great way to channel youthful thoughts. When was the last time you took a lesson, tried a new sport, or went back to doing something you loved as a child? At some point, you probably moved from student to teacher, whether in your home, your profession, or both. It’s time to take a step back and play student again. Learning something new in middle age can be energizing and invigorating – challenging too, perhaps, but knowing you aren’t an old dog quite yet will do wonders for your view of the future.

3. Broadcast Your Intentions

Demonstrate respect for yourself and those around you by talking to them about what’s going on with you. I’m not advocating posting it as a Facebook status, by the way. Close friends, significant others, and family, though, definitely need a heads up. Talk to them about the angst you’re feeling and some of the changes you want to make. Engage them as a support system, give them a chance to ask questions, and maybe they’ll even have some ideas for you. Remember when you used to like to…? Or, You always said you wanted to… 

Be brave. Introduce changes slowly. Remember what it’s like to dream again. Did I mention be brave?

Can Happiness Be Found Between the Sheets?

A little over three years ago, I started this blog as a way to familiarize myself with WordPress on behalf of a client. After three posts in the course of a quarter, it was clear that my commitment was low. I learned what I needed to for the client, completed the project on time, and moved on to the next thing. I kept writing. I just didn’t do it in a public forum.

So, we’ll consider this my blog reboot, a reinvention, a 2.0 of sorts.

I’m not the kind of person who can do the same thing day in and day out, so I’ll set the expectation now that, while I certainly intend to post more than three blogs a quarter, a daily reflection just isn’t going to happen. I quite envy people who are consistent, can commit to a routine. I have about a three-day maximum and then I start looking for a variation on the theme.  This can make it difficult to cultivate new habits or eliminate bad ones. I tried a little experiment recently to test my resolve in such matters.

I was listening to Happier, a relatively new podcast with Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft. They were talking about habits that can improve happiness and mentioned that making the bed daily is one of the simplest and best ways. I can’t say I was immediately convinced, but it sure did seem simple enough. Silly not to try.

And why wasn’t I already making my bed everyday? Well, you have to understand that I was raised in a home where beds were made or heads rolled. Meals were withheld, hugs were rationed, privileges were lost. That might be an exaggeration, but between my mother and my two grandmothers, there was no doubt that good kids made beds, bad kids didn’t. I complied as a child since there was little choice. Even through college and my early twenties, I stayed true to the requirement. And then one day, I seemed to fully-embrace the idea of adulthood. Adulthood doesn’t offer as many gifts and choices as children think, but one thing was abundantly clear: I didn’t have to make my damn bed if I didn’t want to.

In one of my few rebellious acts, I stopped making my bed everyday. Occasionally I would pull up the covers to create the impression of straightness. Other times I would make it, but not arrange the pillows. I often made it right before I got in to bed. Don’t ask. That’s crazy, right? I was fighting against my natural preference for a made bed and my equally natural desire to want to do things my way. Mine, mine, mine. What a completely inconsequential way to assert my independence, not to mention the fact that the rebellion, far too late and far too private, did little to make its mark. It represented a freedom that I didn’t even want.

So, I had absolutely nothing to lose by going back to being a bed maker. I’ve been faithful to the task now for five weeks or so. I wanted to do it for two reasons. The first was that I wanted to show myself I was still capable of change, even in its most mundane form. Making the bed each day served a larger purpose of convincing myself that I could put my mind to doing something consistently and not abandon it the minute it became inconvenient or uninteresting. The second reason actually had to do with the bed. Seeing the bed made each morning was like setting an intention in yoga class. It was my sign that I was ready for the day, that I was diving in to the day with purpose and focus. It acted as a form of renewable energy. No matter what else happens during the day, I know I have that one moment, and I can have that moment the next day too. Is it happiness? I’m not so sure about that, but whatever label it goes by, I like it.

Now that I’ve mastered the bed, who knows what could happen next!