Midlife Crisis? Identity crisis is probably a more accurate description. We’ve seen identity crises before, but this time we are not talking about teenagers. Wisdom and life experience should lend themselves to a higher sense of self, but it is not always true as we hit our forties.
Midlife Crises pic via Shutterstock.
The midlife crisis is marked by the time in life where we discover loss of youthfulness, disengagement with life’s progress and lack of personal and professional satisfaction. And while grey-haired men driving flashy sports cars with women half their age paint the stereotypical picture, research shows that the midlife crisis targets both genders, a wide range of socio-economic parameters and spans all parts of the globe.
Misalignment is at the crux of the midlife identity crisis. Often times, we find ourselves on some sort of pre-determined life or career plan that a parent, college advisor or successful family friend mapped out for us. Maybe we glamourised a life and profession at an early age and chose that path. Many times, that fabulous plan has no real connection to our current values and strengths. But no one can deny “it looked good at the time,” before the weight-bearing commitments and challenges of marriage, careers, home ownership, ageing parents, debt, children etc.
Averting or climbing out of this midlife “identity crisis” starts with congruency between your own personal values and your decision-making. Having a clearer sense of who you are means that you can reduce the threat of the identity crisis.
Before making taking any potentially regrettable actions, do these 5 things:
Values + Goals
Do a deep dive into your values. Rank them. Set a couple realistic goals that are aligned to your top 3 values and that you can achieve in your daily/weekly life. Our brains are wired to achieve something, beginning with our most basic survival needs like finding food and water. Setting and achieving goals that align with your values strengthens your sense of identity. It may even result in an awakening that your life is not as bad as you think it is.
Who, not what
Can you answer the question, “who do you have to be” in order to achieve one of your goals? The most powerful and most overlooked part of achieving goals is who you become as a result. Focus on affirming your identity, rather that what you get as a result of achieving your goal. Remember, the midlife crisis is all about redefining or discovering identity. Journal your discoveries.
If career is at the centre of your crisis, evaluate your career in terms of how it aligns with your values. It might be that the essence of what you do is at odds with who you are (think BIG career change). Or it might just be the culture and values of your employer don’t align with you any longer. Either way, be realistic in understanding that every job and company has its skeletons. Can you tolerate them?
Set aside 30 days and make daily decisions that support your values. If adventure is one of your top values and you cannot afford a trek to Kathmandu, find a local activity that will give you sense of adventure. If connection with others/love is a top value, reach out or schedule an activity with a loved one.
The point of the 30-day experiment is to change it up, get out of the rut, push out of your comfort zone. Discover ways that daily life can align with your values and therefore help you engage with your identity. Journal what you learn.
The old adage – a problem shared is a problem halved. Talk to a friend, coach, counselor, mentor or even a therapist.
Molly Green is an executive and career coach and creator of the program Everyone Wants to Hire You.
Find your values, your strengths and your best career at Everyone Wants To Hire You.