The busyness of 21st Century life masks a lot of things. We are doing so many things that we get used to skating over the surface of life. The danger is that we become shallow. We are not used to going deeper. In fact, we become a little suspicious of anyone who does.
However, for every high achiever there comes a time, when just working harder, or even smarter, does not cut it anymore. It is a bit of a shock because you are used to being able to bluff your way through when things get tough. It has always worked before because you considered you were smarter than most. You probably are because you have achieved more than most.
But, now that time has finally come. Nothing seems to make the same sense anymore. There is a flatness and an emptiness that is new and uncomfortable. You have longings on the inside that are getting harder to suppress. Something inside of you says there has got to be more. You want more. Money and success have been great. However, they do not satisfy in the same way anymore. You find new emotions are starting get in your way. Your hunger to achieve is being affected. You wonder if you are losing it. Even your sexual drive is slowing down. You want change but something tells you that just changing jobs, or starting another business is not the answer. You really do wonder if you are having some kind of mid-life crisis.
Here you are, 40ish, more successful than most, with a partner and 2 children. You have lots of nice things and a lifestyle that is the envy of many. It is not as if you are not grateful, but you are not sure if you are really happy. There is that annoying sense that there must be more.
Can I tell you, if any of this is speaking to anything in you, you are not alone. This is very common with high achievers. There does come a day when just working hard on the next project and going to another level of success is not enough.
Can I tell you something else? This is actually a great day in your life! It is a sign that you are a healthy human being. Humans were not designed to be satisfied by busyness and things alone. We don’t do well just skating across the surface of life all the time.
We need success, great relationships and family connection.
We also need to be growing as a person. This is the part that often gets neglected. We get through 13 years of school and 4 years of University and often vow that we will never go back and study again. Modern education has a lot to answer for. It teaches us to pass exams and get qualifications, but it does not teach us how to learn. It does not give many of us a love of learning. It causes many to shun learning and personal growth.
So after working for 15 – 20 years and really learning to do business and life well, it surprises many that the day comes when just getting another promotion, or doing another deal, or purchasing another investment property, does not feel that great any more. The buzz starts to fade. We start to feel ordinary, flat, unsure of ourselves, a bit jaded and often frustrated.
Do you want to know what is really going on? Is this a mid-life crisis?
This is certainly something that you cannot fix with another week away in a beautiful location.
This is about YOU! These kinds of dynamics are happening because something inside of you wants to grow and change. Needs to grow and change. For some reason many find this a scary time. It is the time of the mid-life crisis. It is when people do strange things to try to get that buzz back. Some get the sports car. Some have affairs. Some get a makeover. Some just determine to get busier and bury these damned ‘weak’ emotions.
Let me reassure you there is no need to be afraid! And no need to worry! Unless you are one of those who is determined to ignore these feelings. Then you might have a mid-life crisis.
How do I know? Well I was one who for about 10 years did not listen to my heart. I allowed myself to get bored in my very demanding job even as the success and accolades flowed in increasing measure. I did have an affair. I did lose my marriage and family, my career and the respect of many. I totally lost my way. I had to spend 5 very long years finding my out of the mess I created. Only then did my life become stable and a new kind of ‘success’ began flowing for me.
I am operating now with a whole different level of self-awareness. I am making choices every day to look after myself and make sure I am on a perpetual personal growth journey. My heart is healthier than it is has ever been, and everything else is working better as a result.
Can I let you in on a secret? The way forward for you is probably the same as it has been for me. You need to get to know yourself better. You need to stop being crazy busy, and invest some time to get to know your 40 year old self. Make some room in your life for ‘heart’ surgery. Don’t be afraid to look inward, and to become very clear on who you are as a person (not just defined by your job, career or roles). You need to know what personality strengths and weaknesses you have. Discover yourself. Get to know yourself really well. Make sure you accept and really learn to love yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes you have made. Take the pressure off yourself to be anything you are not.
By the time you are 40 you have enough personal history for this process to be very rewarding. I have been helping lots of 40 – 50 year olds on this journey. It is so liberating. Some discover they are still dealing with performance and other issues from their childhood, from their parents, from trauma, or other internal issues.
If you want to enjoy the second half of your life, you need to become a healthy and secure individual who is at peace with yourself. You need to let go of some things. You need to embrace some challenges you have been avoiding. You need to deal with some of your habits and character issues that continually get in your way. Some people need to reinvent themselves completely. Most just need to stop skating across the surface of life, go a little deeper and start growing again.
Hi John, what a beautifully inspiring and transparent post. Thank you for your wisdom and for sharing so honestly about your journey. It resonates deeply. Having just come out of the supermassive black hole of my own mid-life experience, the world looks brighter, more optimistic, more connected. If only more men and women would openly share about their experiences like this. Here’s something I recently wrote about my own journey. http://www.stephenscottjohnson.com/2014/12/27/peeling-back-the-onion/
I’m glad this post resonated with you Stephen. Likewise what you have written is powerful from your own journey. It is good to know we are not alone and that maybe our stories have purpose….which was certainly not my thoughts in the midst of the dark times a few years ago.
Very nice.It resonates deeply. Having just come out of the super massive black hole of my own mid-life experience, the world looks brighter, more optimistic, more connected. If only more men and women would openly share about their experiences like this.
Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad my post was helpful. And very happy that you have come through to a better place in your life.