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How To Deal With A Mid-Life Crisis

Comfort ZoneA lot of people who come to me for Life Coaching suspect they are passing through what many want to refer to as a mid-life crisis.

They may not use that phrase per se and they may not be rushing out to get a tattoo and buy a sports car, but they’re frequently looking at their life and wondering, “Is this as good as it gets?”

Unfortunately, the phrase mid-life crisis has been ridiculed and stereotyped by the media to such an extent that few people want to admit that’s what may be happening to them.

And even those that don’t care what others think are often unsure of what the term mid-life crisis even means because it is so vague, broad and a even a tad scary for some people.

And now with the the younger generation rushing to get in on the action with the quarter-life crisis it seems that even more people are getting unnecessarily fraught about life and aging, but why should this be happening?

What Is A Mid-Life Crisis?*

Before I answer that, let’s take a look at what may constitute a mid or quarter life crisis and ask yourself if any of these apply to you.

*I am somewhat taking liberties with this and realize there can be other reasons, but these are the ones that I encounter the most, or at least the first five are.

  • Wondering what the hell life is all about
  • A sense of being stuck and that life is passing you by
  • A feeling of wasted or unfulfilled potential
  • An underlying feeling of anxiety about life in general and your own mortality
  • Disliking or even hating your career, but feeling chained to it because of financial or health care constraints
  • A desire to buy sports cars and cruise around the hood playing loud rap music with your homies even though you haven’t got any homies and like nothing better than to listen to Country music
  • A strong urge to join a gym followed by an even stronger one to watch ‘Murder She Wrote’

I would say one or more of the above apply to the vast majority of my clients. Undoubtedly that’s partly because they are the type of clients I enjoy working with and specialize in, but it’s also because more and more people are realizing that there is so much more to life.

50 years ago peoples outlook on work was a lot different than it is now. Many folk spent their entire adult life working for one organization, something that would be considered very unusual today outside of people who work for themselves.

There was also a different attitude toward work, that it was a necessary evil to be tolerated to pay the bills etc. Rather than something we should actually be enjoying.

Not that there weren’t people who loved their jobs, of course there were, but for many more it was a dull routine which they endured on the way to the weekend.

It’s All The Internets Fault

Then a funny thing happened, the Internet arrived and peoples perception changed.

Sure the phrase mid-life crisis was coined in the mid-1960′s, but new technology catapulted it into the public awareness to the point now where a simple Google search yields 41.9 million results

With the much greater ability to compare their lives to others who appeared to have what they wanted, many people started to get anxious that they weren’t living out their own true potential.

Suddenly a soulless and stressful job paying $100k a year with benefits didn’t seem so appealing.

In over 7 years of Life Coaching full time and working with hundreds of clients I can count the number of clients who genuinely loved their job on my fingers and maybe a toe or two.

And there’s good reason for that.

Work takes up half of most peoples waking life and if you have that aspect nailed there’s a good chance you will have other areas of your life equally nailed on too and thus won’t be trawling the Internet for a Life Coach.

Drop Your Old Dreams – It’s Ok

Many times I hear clients tell me that they just can’t get motivated about things that used to inspire them. They seem to think there’s something wrong with them and insist on telling me they need more motivation or more confidence.

For the most part that’s not true, they really need new dreams and goals.

What has really happened is they have evolved and what used to inspire them no longer does. But rather than accepting that and thus being open to new possibilities they continue to push and push and hope things will change.

They won’t.

I used to think that we all have things we are passionate about and that’s what we should be doing with the rest of our lives.

Whereas that can be true, for the most part I was wrong because our passions change as we age and mature.

I used to be incredibly passionate about sales, but the mere thought of going back into that industry is enough to make me nauseous now.

That was then, this is now, I’m a different person entirely, and so are you from 10 years ago

The real problem is though that most people are scared to let go of their older dreams because it creates doubt, uncertainty and a vacuum in their life.

But that’s ok because nature abhors a vacuum and will do its best to fill it.

Therefore, the act of letting go of any dreams or goals that once seemed critically important to you and now have you feeling ‘blah’ will allow you to make room for new opportunities.

Sure it will feel crap to begin with because it pushes you out of your comfort zone, but all your great work is done outside your comfort zone, so that’s ok.

I’m going to wrap up with some bullet points because everybody loves to scan a bullet point or two. If you can do all the things on this list below the chances are you’ll never be contacting me to be your Life Coach.

7 Ways To Deal With A Mid-Life Crisis

  1. Do work that is meaningful to you
  2. Never do work that you think is meaningful to others but drives you nuts
  3. Wherever possible focus on the work and not the money. Yes you need money, but probably not as much as you think
  4. Cease and desist comparing yourself and your position with others, it’s a recipe for misery
  5. Be prepared to wave goodbye to old goals that no longer feel right
  6. Understand your own core values and then get in alignment with them
  7. Adopt a regular meditation process to allow you to relax more (and you can start that by grabbing my free ebook on the topic from here)

I’m really interested in hearing from you in the comments if you have held onto certain goals for too long, or if you realize you have outgrown the work you are doing now.

31 comments to How To Deal With A Mid-Life Crisis

  • Pretty sure my life has been a crisis the whole time. :)

  • Just had my mid-life crisis last week. A bit early I think as I don’t hit 50 till next spring!

    Mid-life or whatever, I actually appreciate the wake up calls when they come. They keep me on my toes!

  • Scott Byrd

    Great post, Tim! You nailed this.

  • So you wrote the post:-) I was looking for it when you did the Tweet. I had a mid-life crisis at 29. It was the same thing. When faced with the prospect of doing what I was doing for 25 more years, it hit me like a tone of bricks that that was NOT the life that I wanted.

    I did the extreme thing and threw everything out and rebuilt my life deliberately. It’s taken quite some time. I figured out how to build fulfillment into my day rather than looking for it in my work (necessarily). I figured out what I value. I aligned myself with it. There was tons of trial and error.

    The good news? All of that I put into my new endeavors. I’m glad I have that perspective now. It really helps to know what you truly truly value (as you constantly point out) in order to be happy. That is one of the keys:-)

    Another one is to take action aligned with those values. Then, you’re really rocking!

  • Hello.

    My main observation of people suffering a mid-life crisis is that they have come to recognise that they need some largely hands-off way of making money so that will free them from conventional work and give them the time to do what they truly wish to pursue.

    Many believe that an internet business will provide the income that will allow them to do what they truly want to do.

    The other major group believes that if they can find that “magic system” to trade the stock market consistently successfully then that will provide the required income stream to give them the time they need to pursue their dream projects.

    How many of those people who have recognised that they need to put an alternative income stream in place actually get past that first major hurdle, I have no idea.

    But from comment posts elsewhere there are many, many people who either desperately hope that they can emulate Timothy Ferriss’s success at online marketing as detailed in his book “the 4 hour work week”, or believe that by paying someone $2000 (or $5000, or $25,000) they’ll learn the secret of consistently successful stock market trading.

    Both groups believe their happiness will only be achieved if money worries are dispelled by venturing down one of these avenues.

    “And then I can pursue my true goals and dreams”.

    Cracking this problem of an alternative income does seem to be the primary thing for so many people that has to be addressed and sorted before they can get on with their idea of their true life.

    Only then will they be able to actively pursue the reason that they have determined is the reason that they were put on this Earth.

    So I was intrigued by your radical comment that money is important, but probably not as much as you imagine.

    I can’t conceive how you could convince these people that finding and operating an alternative income source is not the single key that will unlock their lives, and allow them to move to their preferred life’s course.

    If it is possible to become the person you want to be, and pursue the things that deeply interest you, without first freeing yourself from the necessary yoke of traditional employment simply to pay the bills, then I’d love to hear this alternative approach, this approach which can give you the time you need for your own goals without all your time being consumed by work and preparing for work.

    A most thought-provoking post – thanks.

    • Of course you’re right about a lot of that, good comment.

      However, I earn a fraction now of what I used to earn in sales and I am way happier.

      I’d like more money for sure, but not at the expense of my happiness.

    • Bored

      Absolutely true!! The threat of not being able to keep pace with the inflationary economy what with a high maintenance wife and a family on the way.. An alternate income stream generating a good $20,000 per month so I can be free to do all I want is the holy grail.. The only stable solution I can come up with is rental income from property.. For all practicality, happiness and money are directly correlated.

  • Rob

    Hey Tim. I love this, cheers. It’s so easy to get caught up in feeling that we’ve messed up our lives and must make radical changes to correct things.

    But once you start getting into the mindset of “life is a continual process, not an endpoint”, everything just seems mellow out nicely. The big issues suddenly seem to get smaller, and we can learn to trust that provided we keep taking some kind of action in the direction of our goals (rather than sweeping things under carpet), life has a funny way of working out for the best. :)

  • Well said Tim,
    Life is too short to be miserable…find what you enjoy and do it
    be good to yourself
    David

  • Tim – I completely get this line – The real problem is though that most people are scared to let go of their older dreams because it creates doubt, uncertainty and a vacuum in their life. Yeah, that realization is super scary which puts people in crisis mode.

    Thanks for the seven tips – you’ve saved us from buying ferraris and/or quitting jobs, selling our their prized possessions and moving into a hillside ashram. :)

    • Of course you’re right and that is almost in a nutshell what coaching is all about, helping people deal with uncertainty.

      Now send me $100,000 so you can enter my exclusive ashram.

  • I’m 49 and have been very ratty lately for simple things I normally take in my stride, also I met and fell in love with a 26 year old who I dated 3 times, I put in down to mid-life crisis but don’t have any of the symptoms you mentioned here.

    • I’m being very general Marlene and speaking from experience with the type of client I usually see.

      Of course you’re right that not every mid-life crisis is like the one I described.

  • I get a new crisis about every 10 years or so. Hitting 30 was actually worse than I thought it would be. Something about doing the same thing the same way for more than 10 years makes me angsty. Glad to know that this kind of angtyness is normal though!

  • “Drop Your Old Dreams – It’s Ok”

    And *Boom* goes the truth!

    (And hey … how many are living someone else’s dream to start with?)

    I honestly think it takes time in this complex world to find work and things to DO that help us feel purposeful and like we’re living ON purpose. But it’s the TRYING on different things that make life meaningful. (i.e. the journey MATTERS.) There is no “ZOMG” moment around the corner where everything is rainbows and kittens. There are just inconsistent, unpredictable series “woohoo!” moments and personal realizations and if we’re lucky, also some feelings of being SO in the right place at the right time because you put yourself there.

    Thanks for all you do, Tim =)
    Karri

    • In answer to your question – millions!

      Don’t tell people there are no rainbows and kittens just when I am thinking of introducing a rainbow and kitten package woman!

  • John Jennings

    Tim, I enjoyed this post. I’m certainly not in a mid-life crisis, just needing a redirection. This is just one more confirmation for me that I am moving in the right direction.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom and knowledge.
    Peace,
    John

  • :-) I used to be very passionate about sales, too – and now, not so much. Funny thing is, I am glad I didn’t even have a chance to stop and wonder about mid-life crisis – even with so many shakeups in our lives and being too busy tackling them.

    Luckily, at some point when I had to take a two-year sabbatical off work (yes, they actually gave me that! I got married, had a kid and moved two cities, all in two years) – I realized my dreams were no longer what they were earlier. I simply sat down and took stock, decided what I’d like to do and went and did it. Still doing it :-)

    The interesting thing is – when we hang on to something for too long – it becomes old, although we don’t feel old. Suddenly some of the things that were shiny are no longer practical. Quite like a huge copper urn we had in our house – rather useless – and when we moved, we lugged it along and had a tough time finding a place for it in our smaller home. And? Cleaning it. Urrgh. Dreams and goals can be like that.

    You’re right about those bullet points. I love them. Gosh, I am almost there, at least mentally. Let me polish my actions! Reminders are a great way to stay on focus. I am forwarding this post to a friend of mine who’s in deep you-know-what, yet won’t let go to his “aspirations”.

    :D Love, Vidya

  • Rebecca

    Is 60 too late for a mid-life crisis? Never had a problem with those zero birthdays before, but this one hit me really hard. I read your post and realized I was enduring a postponed mid-life crisis (a late-life crisis?). A friend sent me a perfectly-timed post about giving yourself permission to follow your passions, whatever they may be. This complemented your article so well and made me realize that it was time to open up to new dreams, without my brain telling me they were silly. It’s still a struggle, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Thanks for writing the perfect article at the perfect time.

  • Laurie

    This topic fascinates me. I went through a ton of changes the last few years. Started my own business, took up watercolor (people commission my portraits and pets now!!) and I’m about to go on my first cruise! I’m saying yes to the activities that before I would have said no to. In doing what floats my boat, sometimes I leave the hub home cause its not his thing, but unlike the past, I don’t let that stop from enjoying life! Life’s just too short not to do what brings you joy!!

  • Wendy

    Hi Tim,
    I love your blog entries, this one in particular, but I am impressed at how much your readers contribute as well.
    I loved Vidya’s copper pot analogy.
    Thanks for your great work.
    Wendy