Many people experience a midlife crisis in their 40s, and it hits them like a major earthquake. We’ve all been warned this crisis could come, and maybe have seen others go through it before us. Even so, when we ourselves hit our 40s, we tend to re-evaluate our lives, and the results often leave us less than happy. For example:
- We see that time is passing and the results of our work haven’t come as quickly and abundantly as we expected.
- We thought that by the time we turned 40, we’d have achieved stability in our lives, but for whatever reason, we still live in uncertainty and have important obstacles to overcome.
- People we relied on have failed us.
- Worst of all, we realize that we need at least 10 more years to achieve what we thought we could realistically have done by now.
Around the time we turn 40, we tend to realize that the passing of time is an unavoidable and inherent part of the human condition, and that there’s nothing we can do to escape it. There’s no alternative: We need to get used to the idea that we’re growing older every day, and that the life we have left before us is now less than the what we’ve already lived.
Indeed, according to statistics and the possibilities of current technology, by the age of 40 we’ve already lived about half of our life. We’re not young anymore, and our health isn’t likely as good as it used to be. We need to take the necessary steps to keep ourselves healthy.
But, why a crisis? Why do we end up with a sensation of failure or of being unable to achieve our dreams?
Each person is different, and will have different reasons for feeling the way they do, but there are some common elements to most midlife crises. The most important is that, for many people, it’s the first time they really become aware of their mortality, of the finite and precarious nature of human beings.
When we’re young, we tend to think we’re like Superman, but by the time we’ve lived four decades, life has taught us otherwise. Maybe we’ve lost a job, or despite having always been healthy, we’ve been laid low by an accident or disease. Perhaps we thought our marriage was healthy until one fine day our spouse left us without even giving a good explanation.
Sometimes, we don’t need something that dramatic to happen; we simply come to see that our life isn’t living up to the idealistic and unrealistic expectations of our youth.
What can we do, then?
- First of all, we need to be humble. Humility is the truth, according to Saint Teresa of Jesus. We need to look at the reality of life, without fooling ourselves or trying to sweeten the pill. It can be helpful to pray, or even to go on a spiritual retreat, asking God to help us see ourselves as He sees us.
- We need to revise our expectations for ourselves in the various areas of our life: professional, social, family… We need to identify the real situation, and what we can realistically expect to achieve.
- What is our purpose in life? Who or what do we live for? What’s really our driving motivation? We should analyze whether or not that purpose is a good one: it might be too egoistic, pragmatic, or idealistic — or all three.
- With the above information as our starting point, ask for help. Ask God in prayer, ask a therapist, or a friend or family member… Ask someone with real-life experience in the area where we need to improve.
- Come up with a “revised edition” of your goals in life. Like a digital map with GPS, we need to recalculate our route with the updated coordinates of where we are and where we want to be. The important thing, in the end, is to keep moving towards our goal. We’re not in a race with anyone.
- Celebrate the beginning of your second 40 years of life! Be positive, and think about the experience you’re accumulating, all the good things you’ve lived and received until now, and everything you hope to achieve in the future. It’s worth a toast in gratitude, even if we only raise a toast in our heart.
- From now on, try to maintain this attitude of gratefulness. We all need to thank God, and, when possible – even if only in our heart – the people who have helped us throughout our life: family and friends, teachers, random people who have showed us kindness even in brief interactions, etc. If we live each day with awareness of who we are and where we’re going, appreciating all the good in our past and present, we won’t wake up one day realizing we’re 80 years old and feeling as if we haven’t lived our life to the full.
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