A Midlife Crisis or a Chance to Reinvent Yourself?
A couple of years ago, I sat on the toilet at 2:00 am, Googling the hell out of a problem – I was depressed and I couldn't figure out why.
That evening marked the official beginning of my midlife crisis, and thereafter, the quest for reinvention – leading ultimately to the birth of Midlife Tribe.
A few weeks ago, I decided to reach out to a few Facebook groups I follow (Midlife Minimalists, Choose Yourself and Mustachians), and I posted this simple question:
“What concerns are top of mind for you as a midlifer?”
I began by sharing my own concerns because I wanted to remind them I was a real person will real issues, and not a market research firm. Mine were:
- Having enough invested so I can live comfortably when I hit 60 (on track).
- Clearing out my debts (done).
- Learning to be happy with less stuff (done).
- Finding more time to pursue passions, play with my son and just LIVE (WIP).
- Improving my health so I can keep up with my son when we start getting into outdoor adventures together (WIP).
As I read each response, I realised there were few differences between us. It seems we're all troubled by the same things. Matter of fact, I now have twenty pages of comments in a Word document to prove it.
Money is a Huge Issue
Because we've worked for two or three decades, the whole process of working for (and worrying about) money has begun to take its toll.
We walk the knife-edge between our work and sanity.
In the US, it's even worse. Plenty of you remain in jobs you hate – often for less than you might earn working for yourselves – because to leave would be to forgo health insurance. You don't have the Medicare safety net we enjoy here in Australia.
For example, one of the respondents, Katrina, is a US citizen living in the UK but tells me she's reluctant to move back to the US purely because of the health care situation over there.
Most of you said your biggest concern was the same as mine: having enough money to retire at a reasonable age. The silly thing is, the principles of intentional living, spending and investing are everywhere (and actively shared on the FB groups I polled), but it doesn't stop us worrying about it nonetheless.
I'm far less concerned about it these days. I'm 49 now, and after studying this issue in more detail, I'm confident we'll be fine. This belief came about after reading Tony Robbin's book, Unshakable, and more recently, Scott Pape's book, The Barefoot Investor.
Many of our fears and worries grow from ignorance.
When we're ignorant (or worse, armed with just a little knowledge), we try to fill in the blanks on our own. That's when the fear creeps in because we imagine the worst. There's no better antidote to fear than clear, concise knowledge. If you haven't read the two books I just mentioned and you're concerned about your retirement, you absolutely must.
And if real estate is part of your game (as it is, mine), then Michael Yardney's book, Rules of Property is without peer.
The Here and Now
Almost everyone who responded to my question cited ‘being present' as a big deal.
The busy executive or business owner is something of a cliche in our age group.
However, this is something many of us are becoming more attuned to as a serious issue.
Anna, from the Mustachians group, said she wants to “Be a present parent, spouse and friend, and cultivate contentment, gratitude, and simplicity.”
I know I fall short of being present more than I care to admit (although I just did)… but I know it's easy to confuse presence with indulgence, and they're not the same thing.
Presence involves singularity of focus – the thing that's in front of you in this moment – whether it's your teenage daughter telling you about her school exam, a sales proposal you're writing, or the sound of morning birdsong as you greet the new day.
Presence calms the mind and adds depth and texture to everything you do. It puts the living back into life and when all's said and done, it makes you a more effective worker, too.
Lotteries are a terrible way to make money (for ticket holders, at least).
The odds of getting 6 numbers out of 49 are 1 in 13,983,816. The odds of winning the popular Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 175,711,536. That's 20,000 times less likely than being struck by lightning.
So why do people do it? I do it myself maybe two or three times a year, so I'm not a good case study. But the most popular reason for getting a ticket is the temporary fantasy it offers. That's the only reason I do it. Stupid, I know. We think:
“How awesome would my life be if I could do exactly what I want?”
It comes as no surprise then that another common issue amongst we mid-lifers is the desire to change careers – to sample the grass on the other side. We want to do something more meaningful or more consistent with our values, interests and personal circumstances.
Cathy is a 38-year old with a daughter in kinder. She and her husband will have enough to retire at 60, and they have very little debt, but she says, “I am incredibly burned out in my career. A career change would decrease our savings rate but may help restore my sanity enough to make our current town more tolerable. Or it might not, in which case I should just suck it up and grind it out for the next 2-3 years with plans to create a new life when we move.”
I wrote an article back in January 2017 called Quitting Your Job is the Wrong Move because it's common to believe that the only way to get fulfilment in your work is to switch jobs.
For most people, though, this creates more problems than it solves.
Far better, I think, to develop a meaningful side-hustle. The Internet makes this easier than ever these days, and I've written about creating a side business and why being over 40 is the best time to do it.
The great thing about a side hustle is the sense of control it brings. As you build up your side project and start to make a little money, it delivers enormous satisfaction – plus the bonus of knowing it might one day surpass your career.
I know I'm throwing a lot of links around in this story, but they're all relevant and useful to this discussion, so if you can spare the time, take a look at some of them.
As for books on this subject, it's very hard to go past these two. I've read them both, and they're excellent, practical tools for getting your idea off the ground.
Then there's online training, and no one does it better than Corbett, Chase and Steph over at Fizzle.
I've been with them for almost two years, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to them for my own midlife reinvention. If you use the link above, you'll get five weeks free access to their entire course library and business founder stories (interviews with other successful entrepreneurs).
You're Gonna Die
Life is short. I know you don't need reminding…
If you're like me, stiffness and visible ageing are frequent visitors these days; and forget about staying up till 3:00 am anymore!
Gary Vaynerchuck's mantra – ‘You're gonna die.' – is one I really get. We only get one shot at this 400-trillion-to-one opportunity called life.
We're the tiniest little spec inside a massive galaxy, floating amongst billions of other galaxies. And we worry about the stupidest things.
If we can grasp the enormity of our good fortune, just to play this game, we become less concerned with measuring ourselves against others. We start to appreciate this magical experience for what it really is.
But this then creates a new problem. Nothing lasts. We're all going to die. And soon.
Coming to terms with your mortality can be tough. You wake up one day and realise you're a cliche; you're middle-aged, married and mortgaged. That's how my own midlife crisis began.
I saw how fast the time was flying and how few of the things I loved doing I was actually doing. My dad's new-found freedom brought this into stark relief, too, as he'd made the transition from work to retirement, and was now travelling the country with a big silly grin on his face.
Many of those who responded to my question on Facebook said their biggest concern was staying (or becoming) fit enough to enjoy their children, their grandchildren, and their future years as a grey nomad.
Most of us struggle to do what we know we have to do, like exercising, drinking lots of water, and oh yeah, sleeping.
Work takes up so much of our lives that between doing the housework, paying bills, working on our side hustle and being an Uber for our kids, there's precious little time to look after ourselves. But at our age, it's really non-negotiable.
That's why I resolved a few months ago to stop ageing.
If you want a simple approach to getting this stuff sorted, listen to my interview with Dr Phil Carson on the Midlife Mastery Podcast. You could also do a lot worse than reading Chris Crowley's life-changing book, Younger Next Year. I was so impressed with his book I bought another ten copies and gave them away to friends and family.
No More Crap
All the things I've covered have the potential to trigger a midlife crisis. But likewise, each offers a gilded opportunity to reinvent yourself, too.
Because once you identify what's keeping you awake at night, you immediately have something to tackle.
You can educate yourself and start working methodically towards the solution. And since ignorance breeds fear, worry and anxiety, the solution is more often than not, education.
One of the best things I ever did was learn how to pay off my debts as quickly as possible. I even wrote a book about it.
Then, I set out to learn about living more with less, and my life has never been better. I no longer suffer new shiny syndrome, and I'm super patient and intentional when it comes to buying anything new. The impulsiveness has gone.
That's not to say I won't buy a Porsche one day, but I'm certainly in no rush. And I'll pay cash for it, too.
My interest in minimalism came about after watching Joshua and Ryan's brilliant documentary. I then went on to read their books, and each reinforced my belief that less truly is more, and that compulsive consumption is a huge source of suffering.
If I'd done these things before my midlife crisis, I may well have avoided it altogether.
It's Time to Reinvent Yourself
When we identify what ails us, they each lead to the same realisation.
The only person who gets to direct your life is you, and there's no better time to do this than during your second act. What's more, there's never been a better time in history to do it, either.
You either accept things the way they are or you seize control of the things that have so far controlled you. Whether it's your finances, your health, your relationships, your work or your purpose in this life, it's ultimately up to you.
Some of the decisions are hard. Simple, but hard nonetheless.
You might have to eliminate some practices, possessions, and even people from your life. Much of your happiness lies not in adding things but removing them.
At the end of the day, there's only one person you must answer to, and that's the man or woman in the mirror.
The world isn't what it used to be. The barriers that held our parents back are being shattered every day – much of it thanks to the thing you're using right now – the Internet.
You can learn anything you want using the device you're holding. Almost every problem has a solution that's just a few clicks or taps away. Just the links I've included in this story can be transformational if you only take the time to explore.
You may be in crisis right now, but recognise that there's a rich vein of opportunity here, too.
And if you're reading this on the toilet at 2:00 am, I suggest you head off to bed and get some rest.
Tomorrow, you midlife reinvention begins.You either accept things the way they are or you seize control of the things that have so far controlled you. Click To Tweet
Middle-Aged, Married and Mortgaged
Middle Age & The Power of Midlife Reinvention
The Things Men Worry About
The Midlife Mastery Podcast
What it Means to Live Authentically
The Best Investment for People over 40
Three Steps to a Meaningful Life – Today
5 Reasons it isn't too late to Change Your Life
New to Midlife Tribe? Start Here.
Also published on Medium.