The midlife transition begins once we’ve lived long enough to realize some of our childhood dreams only to find that what we thought we wanted is just not enough. To our surprise, we learn that we really don’t want the corner office or the PhD. The dream home, the devoted spouse, the children who are “high achievers” are still desirable, but they have somehow lost the power to motivate us.
Whether 35, 45, 65 or 75 most people get caught between the slippery slopes of change, without the necessary knowhow to navigate themselves to safety. As the global economy affects each and every one of us, more people are experiencing the anxieties of a midlife crisis far before they reach the actual midpoint of their lives. More people than ever before are encountering financial insecurity, including job loss and transition, and growing numbers are stepping out in new directions by choice or by necessity—going back to school, changing careers, starting businesses, or staying home with the kids.
These kinds of changes force us to think hard about our future, which leads many of us to be suddenly aware of our age, whether we’re focused on competing with younger people for the same job or realizing, as we notice those first gray hairs and wrinkles, that the legacy we assumed we were building may not withstand the tremors of global change.
As we consider the options our future holds, we can’t help but notice that we no longer possess the vast indiscriminate energy levels we once had. Yet I’ve observed that when we focus on soul-felt projects that ignite our passions, we have more than enough energy to write our books, deliver a series of international lectures, develop and build a new business, start a second career, go back to school and earn a master’s or doctorate—even enough to develop or rebuild family relationships that have foundered or frayed.
It’s not that we can’t pull an all-nighter like we did at 22—we can (although it takes us longer to recover!). We simply choose not to. As we become more conscious of our energy, we become more discerning in its allocation, focusing on what’s important to us and refusing to be all things to all people—a role that age and wisdom naturally disallow.
As you approach and move through midlife, envision the transition as your chrysalis, and the inner chaos you feel as the formless larva from which you can reimagine your future. You might be experiencing attacks on your dreams and visions, but if you persist, focus inward on who you are and what you want and join others who will support you and work with you to turn this transition into transformation, you will emerge in the end with newfound wings.