Hello midlifers. Welcome to the journey. You’re here probably for one of two reasons. Either you’ve listened to the podcast and you are here to check out the blog. Welcome! Or, you stumbled across this in a search or maybe someone referred you here. Welcome!
Before I get into the main point of this post – defining midlife and defining fulfillment – I’ll give you a bit of my backstory for context. I’m in my early-mid 60s, and yes I consider myself in midlife. As you’ll discover later in this post, midlife is NOT the midpoint of your life. More on that later.
I have a full life. I’m happily married to my wife of 35 years. We have two highly functional adult children – that means they are gainfully employed and they have their heads screwed on straight in terms of mental health. We live in Florida, where we enjoy great weather (except July and August), kayaking on the waters of Tampa Bay and cheering loudly for the three-time Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning. I’ve had a respectable career in B2B marketing. I’m gainfully employed. I’m mostly healthy. Overall, I’m pretty blessed. 🙏🏽
Yet, I was missing something. I felt unfulfilled in a corner of my soul and I couldn’t figure out why it was nagging me so much.
As I pondered this feeling (yes, it was a feeling), I realized something had changed in my life. After podcasting for 9 years, I no longer had my own podcast. I currently host a podcast for my employer, but I didn’t have my own podcast as I once had before I retired the Modern Marketing Engine podcast at episode 300.
So, I decided to launch another podcast focused on midlife. I sent a survey to hundreds of people in my LinkedIn network. After 267 responses, I discovered that nearly 80% of them (78% to be exact) admitted they were not totally fulfilled and nearly 20% (19% to be exact) claimed to be totally fulfilled. So, I did more research and I discovered the true meaning of midlife.
My midlife research led me to the Happiness U Curve.
The Happiness U Curve was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It basically says that starting at age 18, your happiness level begins to decline. Think of age 18 as the top left of the U curve. The bottom of the U or the bottom of unhappiness in the U curve happens in our mid-forties. According to the study, our happiness begins to increase sometime after this age and we become happier in our 50s and beyond. The data show this phenomenon is consistent across many countries as shown in the image below.
These findings led me to my own conclusion on the definition of midlife, as I’ll explain here. You decide how this suits your own understanding of midlife.
I believe we have three stages in life:
- Youth – generally defined as birth to about age 30.
- Midlife – generally the decades that follow youth, starting in our 30s going to whatever age we enter the third phase.
- End of Life – the phase where our health begins to decline indefinitely and eventually leads to our passing away.
On episode one of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, I discuss examples of people in their early 30s experiencing their first midlife season. I myself experienced my first midlife season in my early 30s. I admit that I didn’t call it a midlife season at the time. In fact, the word midlife wasn’t even in my vocabulary at the time. But, I was going through significant circumstances that characterize my first midlife season. And, therein lies the main criteria for a first midlife season – circumstances. 🔥
Specifically, I’m referring to circumstances that are characterized as significant changes that cause stress or disruption to what used to be the norm, and probably the comfortable norm. Another way to look at this is when we first experience serious adult challenges. For me, it was transitioning from being a carefree single guy with no one else to worry about, to getting married and starting a family. In fact, for another illustration, I know a married couple in their mid-twenties with a mortgage, a 2-year-old, and another baby on the way and I suggest that they are in their first midlife season, even if they would not use the word midlife.
My point is that midlife is a stage in life that is comprised of many “seasons.” At this point in my life (60-something) I’ve been through many midlife seasons throughout my 30s, 40s, 50s and now my 60s. Since I’m still healthy and very active, I hope to not enter my end-of-life season for decades. In fact, I have a friend who just turned 90. He is healthy and while he is “retired” (as of three years ago) he stays very busy and considers himself a midlifer, and I agree with him.
Remember, the main point I’m suggesting is that midlife is NOT THE MIDPOINT of your life. Midlife is the phase of life in which we spend most of our years.
What about fulfillment?
Happiness and fulfillment are similar, but they are also distinct. I can be happy with choices I’ve made such as where I choose to live or work, yet not completely satisfied with aspects of either of these two, therefore lacking fulfillment in some areas of my life. There are books written on this subject. In the spirit of simplicity, I boil it down to this.
Happiness is an emotion. I’m happy when my sports team wins, or when I celebrate a loved one’s birthday.
Fulfillment is a feeling. I feel fulfilled when I’ve achieved a goal I set out to accomplish. I have significant satisfaction with this accomplishment. My Midlife Fulfilled podcast fulfills my desire to deliver a message to the world on the topic of finding fulfillment in our midlife seasons.
The Midlife Fulfilled Journey
Join me on this journey where I explore the ways that we can achieve fulfillment throughout our midlife seasons. Most episodes on the Midlife Fulfilled podcast feature someone who shares a BF (before fulfillment) to AF (after fulfillment) story. Each story offers intimate insights into the person’s experience(s). Listeners tell me that in most cases, they glean some insight from each episode that correlates to their own life, sometimes even inspiring them to take some action toward greater fulfillment.
I’ll be writing on other related topics as I progress through this midlife journey. I hope you’ll join me. If you want to send me a message, just visit the get in touch page.
I encourage you to get the State of Midlife Fulfilled report to learn what others are saying and doing about their midlife fulfillment journey.