Midlife change is a genuine process. While everyone focuses on the midlife crisis, midlife is much more than only a crisis event.
While everyone goes through midlife, not everyone experiences it in the same manner. Surprisingly little midlife research has been done to understand the midlife change in adults. Having worked with thousands of people over 15 years, I can share our insights and help people work through midlife change with grace. Interestingly, Taoist practice focuses on midlife change for adults. In Taoism, you will find many practices about diet, meditation, spiritual practices, social practices, working with one’s story, and other teachings that are all targeted to help a person move gracefully through midlife.
The Midlife Experience
The term midlife crisis brings up many images. In America, it brings up deriding images of a person buying a red sports car, daydreams of flings, broken marriages, and people acting like a child again.
Only roughly 10 to 15% of people will experience the full classical midlife crisis we see portrayed in the media! Most people will have a much milder midlife experience. Ironically, after midlife, many people become more conservative and mirror the behavior of their cultural or parental values rather than go wild as the midlife crisis image portrays. For many people, midlife is only a brief experience of being a bit more active in their life for a few years.
A midlife transition can be a positive experience. In reality, midlife change represents a stronger possibility for a person to become their dream. However, those dreams are harder to realize within a nonsupportive society without a clear personal understanding of the experience. People often end up hurting themselves in their process of transition. A person’s life carries a lot of momentum from the past that tumbles them about heedlessly upon trying to transition into something new.
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But What is Midlife?
Midlife is more than just the halfway point of a person’s life!
You can think of midlife as adolescence for adults. It’s a natural process where the body and mind are shifting to become an elder. We will see changes in our body, such as our hair changing and many other physical changes. You will discover that even your tastes of what food you like will change. When the midlife change first begins to happen, a person will have extra energy and desire to exercise and get in shape. Exercise and taking time to create a refined image are essential in midlife.
Our body, mind, and spirit are getting rewired during midlife to be ready for the second half of our life. Our body will change its nutritional needs, and you will crave new food. Your sleep habits will change as your mind shifts into an older mindset. Your hormonal balances will shift, and in actuality, countless changes are happening over a 10 to 15 year period during midlife. The final stage of midlife is menopause.
Midlife starts as young as 37 and runs up to the mid-fifties.
As a person pushes for change, it’s common for partners to resist that change. This resistance 75% of the time pushes a partner to leave or pushes you away from them in life. A person in midlife is ready to change, and if you don’t work with them, they will push you away to keep growing.
Now working with a person in midlife is a tricky process. You want to support their change but not put too much weight into the process either. It’s a delicate dance because they’re looking for space to change in their life. If you are too present, you will get ejected from their process. Worse, you serve as the mirror to their older life, and a midlife person will try to avoid looking at their past. It is a question of getting the ratio of being present and apart correct. When working with couples, I often have to step in to adjust the number of relationship interactions to better balance out the process for two people. The rule of thumb is less is more. If your partner is complaining or overreacting in a judgmental manner, then create more space. If you need help, Julie and Casey offer midlife marriage support.
A midlife crisis is an unfortunate label applied to those working through a deeper midlife transition. Crisis creates fear, and that fear causes people to avoid change. Ironically, a crisis is always the end product of resisting important life changes. As teachers, Julie and I will help you move along with the midlife changes that are a natural part of human life.
A midlife crisis represents a turning point when a larger change must happen to prevent a personal break down.
If you or a person you love is going through a full-blown midlife crisis, you should start with our Midlife Crisis Introduction article.
Turn crisis around to be an opportunity for improvement and transformation.
Flip everything around: Midlife is the opportunity for a Full Life Transformation. It’s the time when nature gives us some extra energy to shape our lives into something new. The sad truth is most people miss the change or use the extra burst of energy to work harder rather than work upon themselves.
The Standard Midlife Change Patterns
Here is an interesting truth 67% of people don’t change at all through midlife. The average person goes through midlife unknowingly, gets a small burst of extra energy, and then settles back to their old life.
Midlife patterns vary from culture to culture. I regularly work in 15 different countries, and I have found how a person expresses midlife changes from culture to culture. More restrictive cultures do mute down the midlife experience. This does mean I change my midlife teachings to match a person’s culture. This also means when partners come from different cultures, midlife does cause more problems between partners.
Strangely, even the more drastic midlife situations often circle back around to a person becoming a reflection of their old life. A midlifer may change partners, but their new life will often be similar to their old life. This truth means it is possible to save many midlife relationships provided you get help early enough in the process.
Normal midlife transition is not a time of trouble: unless a person does nothing. Worst when a person actively resists their transition, the crisis that follows becomes the change a person is forced to make. Imagine an adolescent refusing to grow and the problems that would cause a teenager later in life. Midlife change is another growth point, much like adolescence in our life.
A Midlife Summary
I work with people on a case-by-case basis since each person is a unique tapestry of needs, past events needing resolution, different future goals, different mixes of partners, supporting past obligations: all mixed in the chaos of change. As a result, the process of aid is a delicate balance of patience and understanding.
The most important aspect of a person within midlife is to accept the larger scale of change they are experiencing. It’s important not to hold this as a crisis but as a time for transformation and opportunity. It’s not something that can be rushed or forced into something that makes other people happy. Rather this is a personal time of following your needs of mind, body, and spirit equally.
If you are a person’s partner within a midlife transition, Julie and I will help you find balance and create space so that the midlife crisis doesn’t tear apart your friendship.
It’s also important to understand, in change resides the loss of old comforts and support. Often, painful moments have to be embraced, experienced, and accepted before the final transformation can occur.
Another important tool is to witness your own life. Document and explore your life with a journal, art, music, playing an instrument, dance, poetry, and being open to witnessing how others see you. A problem with a life transformation is our blind spot to seeing our complete nature. As a result, our shifting outer form is never quite what the mind perceives. Our minds cannot see our true selves purely. Journals, art, music, playing musical instruments, poetry, the observation of others all give critical feedback to help view one’s nature and guide the full life transformation rather than shift blindly to illusions of what we think we are.
If you decide to explore art, please remember: art isn’t about creating a masterpiece; it’s simply about witnessing yourself. Art is an amazing tool to explore life and find a place in the world. These are two qualities of life that people seek within their life transformation. Some people hesitate to use art or music at this point since it often seems daunting, or it brings up bad experiences from younger years of failed artistic explorations. However, many years have passed, and new skills have been added to one’s life. Take advantage of your transformation to begin exploring life again with art, music, and other passions you may have forgotten. Studies have shown with 5 to 10 years of focused practice, anyone can get quite good at any skill. Taking a few years to work on your midlife transformation supports the drive and time required to develop our inner potential since it provides both new energy and time for the channeling of such skills.
Finally and Most Importantly:
We all see the world as a reflection of ourselves.
Just because you are changing doesn’t mean the world is ready to change. Initially, focus your energy on yourself and not the world.
The Earth has been around for 4 billion years and isn’t going anywhere quickly (Except around the sun at 67,000 mph). Trying to change the world pretty much ensures you will have no energy left to transform and heal yourself. Trying to change another person means to take upon their nature into you, which effectively derails many midlife transformations. Instead, embrace and discover your new nature. The world is truly a reflection of each of us, so the first step of changing the world means putting energy and time into embracing and transforming yourself completely and fully.
Let the world be a reflection of yourself in acceptance.
Ask Midife Questions
Please feel welcomed and open to ask questions here if you have some. You can visit our FAQ for midlife crisis also!