A recent headline caught my eye. “Turning vegan, signing up for a ‘Tough Mudder’ or training to run a marathon? You’re experiencing a midlife crisis, reveals new survey” blared the headline in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper. What nonsense! Making big life changes in midlife does not necessarily mean you’re in a midlife crisis.
I’m not sure what a ‘tough mudder’ is – one of those odd British terms I guess. But the other two behaviours are just signs of someone making some serious changes in their lifestyle – presumably to improve their health and outlook. Both are positive things. They don’t necessarily mean that the person is in crisis.
Could be, may not be. Certainly not a sure sign of anything but someone taking positive steps for their own well-being.
But I suppose headline writers still feel the need to grab your attention by writing the most sensational slant on an article. Who cares if it’s right?, seems to be their approach.
Anyway, while newspapers (and Google) love to associate “midlife” only with “crisis”, the reality is much different. I wrote before about Barbara Hagerty’s excellent book about the midlife experience titled “Life Reimagined. The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlife”, in which she claims that the midlife crisis is largely a myth.
I love this quote from her book:
“Midlife is about renewal, not crisis… a time when you shift gears… and move forward to a new place in life.”
I think that’s exactly what most middle-aged people are doing. Reviewing their life’s progress and considering a change in its direction. Yes, there are some people in crisis, but as Hagerty points out they’re relatively few. Many more are going through a natural low-point in ‘life happiness’, perhaps due to the cumulative effect of the knocks life throws at you. But that isn’t necessarily a crisis.
And it is really not a crisis if upon reflection and re-evaluation of your life, you take positive steps to improve it.
A lot of things have happened to a person by the time they’re in their 40’s and 50’s. The wide-eyed optimism of youth has been largely burnished off by life experience. Seems to me it’s only natural to think about making a few changes.
One positive change might be to ignore headlines trying to make you feel worse about yourself.