I’m on a mission to rebrand midlife. Nearly every encounter I have with anyone on the topic of midlife is with someone that has a pre-conceived idea that midlife is defined as age 40 to 65. I admit that until I gave this any thought, I had a similar thought. At a minimum, I thought midlife started in our forties.
When I began thinking about midlife as the topic I wanted to cover in a new podcast, I began by searching for midlife podcasts to discover what topics are currently covered on this topic. What I found surprised me. Most of the podcasts on midlife that I found – let’s say about 80% of them – were hosted by women. The next observation was that nearly all of the women-hosted midlife podcasts were focused on midlife topics for women. In other words, most of the podcasts I found were hosted by women for women.
Needless to say, there is nothing wrong with women-hosted midlife podcasts for women. Forgive me for being Captain Obvious, but men experience midlife too!
I also found some podcasts hosted by men for men in midlife. I can understand why some people may want to listen to a podcast on a topic such as midlife hosted by someone of their gender.
Common Midlife Podcast Themes
The common themes I observed among the midlife podcasts were dealing with struggles we face in midlife. They include menopause for women, divorce, weight loss, fitness struggles, financial struggles, career struggles, relationship struggles, dating struggles, parenting struggles, physical health struggles, and mental health struggles.
Do you know what I didn’t find when searching midlife podcasts?
You guessed it. Podcasts about finding fulfillment in midlife! Sure, I heard the word “fulfilled” mentioned. But, I didn’t find podcasts devoted to the concept of finding fulfillment in midlife.
So, I launched the Midlife Fulfilled podcast.
What most of the midlife podcasts I found have in common is providing useful insights into becoming happy by resolving one of the struggles mentioned above. But, I argue that happiness and fulfillment are not the same. I researched this and found plenty of evidence to support this which I shared on episode one of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast.
As a refresher, I define happiness as an emotion that can last a short time or a long time. There are many ways to experience happiness ranging from healthy relationships to outcomes of an event such as your favorite sports team winning a big game. Happiness is wonderful! I wish happiness for every human being on the planet!
Fulfillment is Harder to Achieve than Happiness
I also wish that everyone can experience fulfillment. What’s the difference you ask?
Fulfillment is a feeling of satisfaction. It’s deeper than happiness. It’s something you feel deep in your soul in an area of your life that craves this feeling. We all experience different types of fulfillment that are unique to our life circumstances. Here are a few examples.
The fulfillment of attaining a university degree or certificate of completion in an area of specialization.
The fulfillment of completing a challenge such as losing 50 pounds or completing your first marathon.
The fulfillment of transitioning from a corporate job to starting a new business.
The fulfillment of doing something you’ve always feared such as public speaking or writing a book.
The fulfillment of speaking up to express your point of view on a topic that means a lot to you where you previously held back your thoughts.
These examples all have one thing in common. When we accomplish something that gives us a sense of fulfillment, we experience a feeling of satisfaction. We may or may not experience happiness. There is no assurance that achieving fulfillment creates happiness. In episode one as mentioned earlier, I share an example of a (fictitious) college professor who is fulfilled in her career through her many professional accomplishments but unhappy because she has no meaningful relationships with people to love and to love her. This example is a sad one. But, it exemplifies that achieving fulfillment can give us a sense of accomplishment but it may not result in happiness.
The 80/20 Principle is in Play Throughout Our Life
In episode three of the podcast, I covered the 80/20 principle. The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle is a statistical rule that says that 80% of outcomes result from 20% of causes. If you’re wondering what this has to do with finding fulfillment in midlife, I’ll explain.
Before I launched the podcast in February 2022 I conducted a survey. I received 267 responses from people in my LinkedIn network. One of the three required multiple-choice questions is: Select which applies to you – are you: 1) very fulfilled in all areas of your life, 2) fulfilled in some, but not all areas of your life, 3) not very fulfilled, 4) totally unfulfilled? The anonymous response breakdown is illustrated in the following chart which is published in the State of Midlife Fulfilled Report.
Here’s another Captain Obvious moment. Nearly 80% of respondents said they are fulfilled in some, but not all areas of their life, and nearly 20% of respondents said they are very fulfilled. When I did my research on the 80/20 principle, I discovered that this statistical rule is in play everywhere including government, the economy, marketing, sales, societal, relational, and yes our midlife fulfillment! This is why at the end of each podcast episode my closing comment is “my midlife friend if you’re 80% fulfilled, you’re doing great!”
The reason I suggest that you’re doing great if you’re 80% fulfilled is that often, we beat ourselves up trying to reach 100% fulfillment. If you can get there, that’s amazing! Enjoy it! Apparently, however, 80% of us are not totally fulfilled, so why beat yourself up over it?
Midlife Fulfillment in Your Career
Most of the guests I’m featuring on the Midlife Fulfilled podcast share a BF to AF story about career fulfillment. Career is the area of life that we spend the most hours in during our lifetime. If you’re fortunate to work only 40 hours (many of us work more than 40 hours per week) in a 5 day work week and if you sleep 8 hours per night, you’re spending 50% of your time at work.
In addition to the amount of time we spend in our career activities, we invest a lot of energy into our careers. We invest in education, and specialized training as well as expending huge effort to earn recognition, achievements, awards, titles and of course commensurate pay. It’s no wonder that career fulfillment is such a high priority for us regardless of gender or location. So, how does one achieve fulfillment in their career?
This is a big question. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest a simple answer. I know that your circumstances are unique to you. But, to simplify the answer to finding career fulfillment is to understand your values in the current season of your life and devote your work life to being in alignment with your current values.
In episode 29, Shannon Russell explains how she transitioned from a well-paying and fulfilling career as a TV executive producer in Hollywood and New York to an entrepreneur in a business that involves STEM education for children. Her business venture allows her to bring her two children to work where they can learn while having fun. To her own surprise, the skills that she developed during her years as a television producer enabled her to get her business off the ground and grow it.
Career fulfillment is not the only type of fulfillment we seek. But, it is a big one. I’ll cover this aspect of midlife fulfillment further in future blog posts and podcast episodes. Meantime, get the report below to learn more about what your midlife peers are doing to find fulfillment.