MAMILs*, middle-aged spread and the mid-life crisis; surely there’s more to middle age than that? Thank goodness, then, for the words of analytical psychologist Carl Jung, who believed that ‘the greatest potential for growth and self realisation exists in the second half of life.’ The secret is in knowing your purpose.
*Middle aged men in lycra
Finding Your Purpose In Mid-Life
Crisis or no crisis, mid-life is widely recognised as a time of powerful change and self-reflection. It is also, however, an especially stretching stage of life, with many important plates to spin – raising small children, negotiating with adolescents, managing established and busy jobs or careers, keeping the home fires burning, caring for ageing parents, and much more besides. On top of all that, in mid-life you’re having to adapt to significant current or imminent change, be it role reversal with parents, reluctant loosening of apron strings with offspring, your own advancement in age, and of course the ebb and flow of relationships. You are, of course, the same person you were in your 20’s, and yet you are so different. What was important to you then may be entirely different to what you value now, and the script you wrote for your life in early adulthood may have played out in a very different way since then. Middle age is a half-way point, a transitionary phase, and a natural time to reflect back on your past, but also an opportunity to look forward and plan for a future that is fulfilling, meaningful and purpose driven in ways that are relevant to you and allows you to flourish.
What The Psychologists Say
Popular culture has put its own spin on mid-life. Nowadays, the term ‘mid-life crisis’ is bandied about flippantly, often synonymous with certain symbolic behaviour patterns. Any form of extravagance, significant change or new hobby in one’s mid forties or fifties is often laughed off as a sign of a mid life crisis. According to Merrian-Webster, mid-life crisis is defined as “a period of emotional turmoil in middle age caused by the realization that one is no longer young and characterized especially by a strong desire for change.” The term itself was coined by Elliot Jacques (a controversial management theorist) in a paper published in 1965 on the working patterns of creative geniuses. But, the recognition of middle age as a significant transitionary phase in life dates back to the work of several eminent psychologists.
Carl Jung (1875 – 1961)
It was Jung’s belief that, at the mid-way point between adulthood and the end of life, our focus switches from establishing our place in the adult world (through building our careers, raising families, or attaining other tangible, practical and, largely, conventional goals) to establishing a more intrinsic, spiritual sense of purpose and meaning. This process of ‘individuation’ was regarded by Jung as entirely natural and necessary; likened to emerging from the shadows and discovering one’s whole self. Jung’s theory placed a more optimistic spin on what has become labelled the ‘mid-life crisis’, casting it as an opportunity to take stock, re-evaluate our definition of success and fulfilment, and find new (perhaps deeper and more sustainable) meaning, fulfilment and purpose in our later adult lives.
Erik Erikson (1902 – 1994)
Erikson – famous for his theory of the eight stages of development in life – termed the period of transition in mid-life ‘middle adulthood’. According to Erikson, middle adulthood is characterised as a time of struggle, during which we call into question our true purpose, in search of a satisfying and meaningful ‘late adulthood’.
Daniel Levinson (1920 – 1994)
Levinson was most well-known for his theory of stage-crisis in adult development, which he named ‘the seasons of a man’s life’ (his research and resulting theory was based solely on data gathered from male subjects). Levinson’s model contains five main stages, and he stated that “the shift from one era to the next [requires a] transitional period of several years.” During the transition into the third ‘mid-life’ stage (roughly age 40 – 45, according to Levinson), adults typically experience a time of great self-reflection, questioning their accomplishments to date, and re-evaluating their future. This is, according to Levinson, a necessary rite of passage in order to find greater fulfilment and stronger direction, whether by affirming and recommitting to pre-existing life choices, or re-evaluating and adjusting to new goals and plans.
FindMyWhy: The Personal Purpose Project
Personal purpose and fulfilment is a matter of emotional wellbeing. Whether or not you were brimming with ambition and direction in your 20’s, with all time in the world to indulge in self-reflection and goal setting, it carries no less importance in your 40’s and 50’s. And yet, stepping off the hamster wheel of mid-life, and finding the time and headspace to re-connect with yourself is the first (and sometimes hardest) step to take.
At FindMyWhy we recognise all of this, and that’s why, in the midst of the push and pull of your daily life, we’re here to support you in every way on your journey to identifying, articulating and securing the opportunities that uphold your values, and make your life and career goals a reality. We want to encourage you to think big, to be honest and realistic with yourself and to re-establish your purpose at this key phase in your adult life. We want you to confidently believe in the unique value you bring to the world. We want to empower you to create a life you love, by helping you to understand what excites, drives and resonates with you, and by helping you to pinpoint the best direction for your future.
Developed by our expert team of psychologists, our free online service will guide you through the process of revealing your unique inner values – resulting in a complementary personal toolkit that is informed, tailor made and relevant to where you are in your life right now. You’ll gain piercing insight into what makes you tick, and why some things resonate more with you than others, giving you the clarity to identify the opportunities and choices that allow you to be the very best version of you, the tools and tips to seek them out, and the ability to express them with the people who can help turn your personal purpose into your day to day reality.
At FindMyWhy, we don’t just understand individuality; we believe that with the right guidance, and channeled in the right way, your individuality is your biggest strength. With FindMyWhy, your personal purpose project starts with a free online questionnaire, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The resulting insight comes in the form of a thorough, detailed and complementary report that is relevant to you and you alone. Beyond that, you’ll have immediate and on-going access to professional advisory services, free toolkits and resource packs created to empower and support you – in the context of your unique profile – in identifying your purpose and making your life or career goals a reality, both today and into the future. We are with you every step of the way, providing affordable, credible and expert support and guidance wherever and whenever you need it.