What is midlife? Let’s start with what it is not. Midlife is not the midpoint of your life. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve said this!
Think about it, you don’t know when you’re going to die, so how can you say when you’ve reached a midpoint? Sure, you can speculate because you want to live to age 90 or 100, that you’re at the midpoint at age 45 or 50. But, that’s not realistic for many reasons.
Longevity is a real thing. On episode 78, Ines O’Donovan, a Maximum episode, informed us of the many advances in health technology that are not only extending our lives but are on a path to actually make us younger. For this and many reasons, predicting your death age is just not practical. Therefore, you can’t predict the midpoint of your life.
I explain this and the concepts below further on episode 100.
Midlife is NOT the Midpoint of Your Life
There is very little support in the scientific community for a universal definition of midlife. One such definition is this from American Psychological Association:
“Midlife–the years between 30 and 70, with 40 to 60 at its core–is the least charted territory in human development.”
This quote is attributed to Orville Gilbert Brim, Ph.D. Notice, the wide span of decades in this definition, between ages 30 and 70. I have my own definition. Here it is.
“We have three phases in life: youth, midlife, and end of life. Youth is from birth to about age 30. Midlife is all the decades after youth until we begin to have a decline in our health when we begin our end-of-life season. The midlife phase is the longest phase of our life and it is itself made up of three phases: early midlife, mid-midlife, and late midlife. Generally speaking, early midlife is the 30s and 40s, mid-midlife is 50s and 60s and late midlife is 70 and beyond.”
I’ve shared this with many people and the most common pushback I get is from people in their 30s who say “I’m not in midlife.” To them, I say consider this: “We drive on a parkway and we park in a driveway.” Don’t believe midlife to be literal! We have so many expressions in the English language that are not meant to be literal. When someone asks you how you’re doing and you answer “I’m good,” are you saying that you’re being good? If you answer “I’m great,” are you suggesting that you’re a great person? The answer to both these questions is no. You’re simply answering their question. You don’t literally mean that “you’re good,” or “you’re great!” See what I mean?
The point is that the quirks in the English language are the reason for confusion over the definition of midlife.
You’ve heard me say proudly, that I’m in my mid-60s. As long as I am generally healthy, I’m still in a midlife season. If I get a diagnosis of a debilitating illness, or if I have a serious accident, either of which seems to be the beginning of the end for me, this would mark the beginning of my end-of-life season.
I have experienced this firsthand with both of my parents. They were healthy through their 70s. In their early 80s, their health began to decline slowly. Both of them lived into their 90s. The last dozen or so years of their life were in a state of consistent decline in health. This was their end-of-life season.
These can be difficult topics to discuss, but we should want to understand these concepts. The better we understand them, the better we can get the most out of life!
Something else to consider is that we experience many challenges during the three stages of midlife. The more we understand them, the better we can cope with them, I would even say the better we can thrive in these midlife seasons.
If You’re 80% Fulfilled You’re Doing Great
At the end of each episode on the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, I close it out by saying “If you’re 80% fulfilled, you’re doing great!”
Here is why I believe this to be true.
I believe we have five major areas of life in our midlife seasons. They are health, fitness, career, relationships, and legacy.
I’ll explain each one and why any other area you might want to include is a subset of one of these major areas of your midlife.
This refers to our physical health and our mental health. Obviously, physical health has to do with our ability to function, with or without a disability. Because it’s physical health this involves our five senses; sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. When any of these are threatened in any way, whether it’s serious such as blindness, or a minor health issue such as a scrape that can heal in one week with a bandage, our attention goes to overcoming any threat or decline in our physical health. No matter our age, one thing we can all agree on is that everyone always wants to be in good health.
The same is true of our mental health. Once upon a time, this topic was taboo. Now, we have great awareness of the state of mental health and the importance of mental health in our life and in society in general. Many companies even give their employees mental health resources including in some cases, a mental health holiday, above and beyond PTO and sick leave.
Let’s face it, the older we get, the more health challenges we face. So, consider this…If I ask you if you’re 100% fulfilled in your health, both physical and mental health, how would you answer this question? Jot down what percent fulfillment you are in your health. 👀
Next, let’s look at fitness. I’m reading your mind. You’re wondering why fitness is not a part of health. I could be convinced that it is a part of health and only list four major areas of life. But, since so many people suffer from a lack of fitness, I suggest we make its own category. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 60% of US adults do NOT do the recommended amount of physical activity and 25% don’t do ANY exercise at all!
The minimum amount of physical activity according to the CDC is 30 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week. That’s a very low bar for exercise. And more than 60% of US adults don’t do it!
We all know that exercise can help reduce the chance of heart disease, among many other benefits. On episode 92, Jay Croft explained that we need to exercise in our middle and later years just to be functional, to go grocery shopping, travel, play with grandkids, and do yard work. The list of benefits of fitness in midlife is endless. So, consider this. If I ask you, are you 100% fulfilled in your current fitness state, how would you answer this question? Jot down what percent fulfillment you are in your fitness. 👀
Next, let’s look at relationships. This is – OBVIOUSLY – a huge area of our life. The span includes every type of relationship we can think of – our parents, our kids, our significant other, our siblings, other family members, our friends, our work colleagues, our neighbors, people we commune with at churches, synagogues, mosques, and other communities like professional associations.
What have I left out? I know…The other “R” word. Religion! If you are a person of faith – as for me, I’m a non-denominational Christian – relationship pertains to the relationship you have with your creator. I suggest that even if you’re an atheist, you have a relationship with a theology that doesn’t believe in a deity.
The relationship area of our life is HUMUNGOUS! So, consider this. If I ask you if you are 100% fulfilled with all your relationships, how would you answer this question? Jot down what percent fulfillment you are in your relationships. 👀
Next, let’s look at careers. What can I say other than, right or wrong, career gets more of our energy and time than any other area of our life. We spend decades in our careers.
For some of us, a career has multiple chapters. Some people go through career reinvention more than once. And, since we spend more time in our careers than anywhere else, it’s no wonder that we experience so much up and down in our career chapters.
So, consider this. If I ask you are you 100% fulfilled in your career, how would you answer this? Jot down what percent fulfillment you are in your career. 👀
Last, let’s look at legacy. First, let’s put a definition to it. The literal definition of legacy according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “A legacy is a gift of money or other personal property that’s granted by the terms of a will—often a substantial gift that needs to be properly managed.”
It also means: “relating to, associated with, or carried over from an earlier time, technology, business, etc.” For example, a company’s legacy computer system has been replaced by thousands of PCs, connected together in a network. In this case, the original computer system is associated with the older system in comparison to the new computer system, therefore it is the legacy computer system.
In this context as one of the five areas of life I cover on the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, legacy pertains to how we want to impact the lives of others, including but not limited to our family, friends, co-workers, our community, even the world at large. The older we get, the more important legacy becomes to us. In other words, the older we get, the more meaningful legacy is in our life.
What About Money?
If you’re wondering where does money fit among these five areas of our life? Well, money can be a part of health – using money to invest in a healthy lifestyle, health technology, etc. Money can be a part of relationships, by leveraging money to invest in your relationships, such as traveling to visit loved ones.
Certainly, money is a part of our career, in terms of how much money we make during our career, and how much money we save throughout our career. And, the way that money correlates to fitness is how we invest in our fitness, things like a gym membership, the gear we use for activities such as hiking, rock climbing, tennis, pickle ball, bicycles, ski equipment, etc. In general, money relates to fitness through a willingness to spend money to get and maintain fitness.
But, maybe the biggest area that money fits in is legacy. This pertains to how we plan for our money and all of our assets (real estate, stocks, bonds, and other investments) to be left and distributed to others when we die.
So, consider this. If I ask you if you are 100% fulfilled in the legacy you have set up in your life, how would you answer this question? Jot down what percent fulfillment you are in your legacy. 👀
So, to recap. The five major areas of our life are:
Health | Fitness | Career | Relationships | Legacy
If you honestly answered my question – how fulfilled you are in each area, add them up and divide by 5 to get the average across all of them. If the average of your fulfillment across all five major areas of your life combined is 80%, you are doing great my midlife friend! Be kind to yourself because no one is 100% fulfilled in all areas of their life.
If you say that you are 100% fulfilled across all five areas, first congratulations, you are in the 1% of the 1% of the 1% of all people in midlife. Secondly, I hope that you are paying it forward to others in your life because it is exceedingly rare for any of us to be 100% fulfilled across all five areas of our life. This reality is found in the workplace and corporate leaders are starting to pay attention. This is why I close each episode with “If you’re 80% fulfilled, you’re doing great!”
Career Dominates Our Fulfillment Meter
Career is the one major area of life that is represented the most among the first 99 episodes of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast. And, it’s no wonder. Most of us go through at least one career reboot in our lifetime.
It seems that the recent pandemic forced all of us to hit the pause button on our life and revisit our values. In many cases, the pandemic forced us to take a pause on our careers. Many people lost their job during the pandemic. Many people were adversely affected by businesses shutting down or downsizing due to the pandemic.
From where I sit as the host of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, I still see many people struggling to make a change to a new chapter in their careers. To do a reboot in their career.
This is what motivated me to write the Midlife Career Reboot Workbook. On episode 101, I explain my methodology in this workbook.
The Midlife Career Reboot Workbook is a free resource. It’s a DIY resource. It’s a workbook with exercises so you can put into action my 5-step reboot methodology.
The Midlife Career Reboot Workbook is for people who know what job or career chapter they want to go after. It’s not for those who want to figure out what a whole new career should be. That scenario is not a reboot. That scenario is a career transformation. If that’s what you need, I encourage you to look at an encore education program such as the Inspired Leadership Initiative at the University of Notre Dame.
As I mentioned above, you can learn all about this on episode 64 where I feature Tom Schreier, the founding director of ILI.
This blog post is a summary of my audio narrative on these topics on episode 100 of the Midlife Fulfilled Podcast.
If you’re a regular listener of the Midlife Fulfilled podcast, thank you! I appreciate you more than you know!