As we all continue our journey in search of a fulfilling midlife, I want to address one of the most common questions that I receive: How do I know if I’m in midlife, and why does it matter?
In this blog post, I delve into the meaning and significance of this transformative stage of life known as midlife.
As the host of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, I have explained numerous times that midlife is NOT the midpoint of our life. None of us know when we will die, so we cannot possibly pinpoint the exact midpoint of our life. Even if you’re 45 and you expect to live to age 90, that’s just a guess. None of us knows our endpoint.
This is why I say that midlife is best described as “adulting,” the phase of life after our youth where we face various challenges and opportunities on multiple fronts. I explain this on episode 100.
The Five Pillars of Midlife
These are the five pillars that shape our adulting experience: health, fitness, career, relationships, and legacy. These pillars provide a framework for assessing where we stand in our midlife stage, and maybe more importantly, the importance of each of these pillars to us.
Take a moment to reflect on each pillar and consider the importance of each one to you.
- How much attention do you devote to your health? I’m referring to your physical health and your mental health.
- How often do you exercise? Do you exercise regularly? Is exercise a priority in your life?
- Are you cultivating meaningful relationships? Do you have some relationships that are fractured? If you do, you’re not alone. Do you prioritize meaningful relationships in your life?
- Are you growing in your career? Are you motivated in your career? Are you stagnated in your career?
- How much thought have you given to your legacy? What is the impact you want to have in the world? It doesn’t have to be a worldly impact.
The point is how much thought and planning have you given to your legacy?
These questions help us determine whether we are truly adulting in midlife. If you can look at these five pillars: health, fitness, relationships, career and legacy and acknowledge that each one is important, and you are actively engaged in each of them, even if not all at the same level, then you are in midlife my friend!
The Importance of Recognizing Midlife
We begin our life in youth. To keep things simple, I like to characterize our youth as up to about age 30. It’s different for everyone. However, in general terms, most of us experience this youth phase in our first 30 years. Often, life gets serious somewhere in our 30s.
This is where we begin to examine the circumstances in our lives along with the results we’re experiencing through a more critical lens. We begin to look inward and do more self-reflection than in our youth.
There are three attitudes to consider during this time.
Personal Growth & Self-awareness: The midlife stage is often a time of reflection. Recognizing that you’re in this phase can prompt introspection, causing you to want to understand your goals, desires, and what you want the next chapters of your life to look like. Often, we redefine our goals based on how our values change. When you were in your 20s your values may have been more self-centered, focused on having fun, and living your life relatively carefree. When you crossed over into your 30s, you might wake up one day with a mortgage and other people dependent on you to provide for them. Your values in this stage are different than when you were 25 and carefree. Your self-reflection on your goals is more important to you. Whether or not you are fulfilled is not the point. The point is that you are reflecting on your personal growth. You are self-aware about who you are more than you were during your youth life stage.
A Catalyst for Change: Maybe you are motivated to drive change in your life for reasons connected to your current values. Maybe you’re more serious about your career, your health, or your relationships. The circumstances are unique for all of us. The point to consider is if you are thinking about changing something for the sole purpose of aligning with your values, you are doing the right thing. There is only one you.
Whatever your values are, let those be the compass that drives your desire to change something.
- If the change you seek is to lose 50 pounds to improve your health so you can be around to enjoy grandchildren, let it be.
- If the change you seek is to advance in your career to your full potential to improve your financial stability for you and your family, let it be.
- If the change you seek is to relocate a long distance to live near family to enable your kids to spend time with cousins and grandparents, let it be.
Whatever change you seek, align them with your values and you’ll always be on the right track.
Preparation for Future: Midlife is a phase where we give more thought to preparing for the latter stages of life. We devote time to financial planning, health investments, nurturing relationships, and leaving a legacy.
We start saying things like, “life is short,” because we realize how true this is. We become very intentional about the future. Unlike when we were in our youth phase of life, we actually think about what we need to live and thrive in our later stages. This is where topics like retirement planning, estate planning and long-term care planning enter into the picture with a willingness to devote time and attention for planning.
Why It Matters
The reason that midlife matters is that it is the longest phase of our life. The only thing after midlife is our end-of-life season. This is when we enter a phase of sustained health decline. Like everything else discussed here, this is unique to each of us. We can enter the end-of-life season at almost any age. Sadly, I’ve witnessed people decline and die in their fifties. Personally, both my parents lived into their 90s. The end-of-life phase is the period of months or years preceding death and is commonly a season where we know the inevitable outcome. We just don’t know the date.
We all know that the death rate is 100%, which is why I talk about it. We can’t deny it. Why avoid acknowledging it in the context of maximizing our midlife phase?
So, the long phase between our youth phase and end-of-life phase is our midlife phase. It is a time of change, self-reflection, growth, challenges, opportunities, and potential for great joy.
My suggestion is very simple. Embrace midlife. Enjoy the journey. Learn from your mistakes and challenges. Look to the future with enthusiasm. Drive your decisions based on your values and you’ll always be on the right track.