The Beauty of Jumpstarting Your Midlife Crisis
August 19, 2014

The Beauty of Jumpstarting Your Midlife Crisis

by Brian de Haaff

The dreaded midlife crisis. You probably are picturing a relative or friend who is a Corvette-driving, silver-haired, 50-something man (or woman) speeding down the road with the top down and a younger partner in the passenger seat. In the most positive light, it’s positioned as a time of reflection. But for many it leads to curious decisions made at home and in the office.

I have a friend whose brother recently left a prestigious career in science to open a franchise sun shades and blinds business. And it sounds like it was a great decision for him, as he was looking to set his own hours and spend less time traveling. The change was the result of what my friend termed a “midlife crisis at work.” His brother took the time to think deeply about what he had been toiling for and decided it was time for a change.

This is the beauty of a good midlife crisis — it can help reorient you to what matters. But why wait until you are in your 40s or 50s to reevaluate and reset? I like to say, ‘As the CEO of Aha! I have a midlife crisis every day.’ It’s never too early to start. You should try one today.

The reality is that the midlife crisis gets a bad wrap. Studies show that it affects about 30 percent of men, but it is what they do about it that gets all the attention. In a bid to quickly regain meaning and find their youth, they buy expensive cars, start riding Harleys, chase young women, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

But it does not need to be that way. And no super-charged car is going to slow the feeling of time passing or unrealized dreams. Only purpose realized through achievement can bring satisfaction. So, jumpstart your midlife career crisis today. Why wait?

A good crisis is beautiful at any age. No matter how many decades you have lived, something is half over.

If you agree that a crisis of purpose and meaning is useful, here is how to get started. Follow these three steps to getting the most out of your own discomfort with “why are we here and what does this all mean.”

1. Reflect This is fairly simple. If you have not already figured out what you like to do and do well, now is the time to pause. This will help reveal what you really want to achieve longer-term if that is not immediately obvious today. And even if you are certain, take a few minutes to write it down on paper. Writing something down forces deep thought. For example, you might be great at managing complex projects or helping people cope with illness. Whatever it is, write it down. Your list may include multiple items. That’s great, write them down in order.

2. Assess This is harder to do. You need to honestly evaluate if what you are doing at work takes advantage of your strengths and as importantly is what you like to do. Grade the alignment on a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being a perfect fit. And then ask trusted friends and colleagues what they think you do really well and if that shines through in the office. Determine if your job gives you the space to be your best and if your boss supports your growth.

3. Re-focus Take the two steps above and then write three things that you could immediately do to get on track and headed towards your longer-term goals. These should be actionable and within your control. Like my friend’s brother, you might want more freedom and to be your own boss. If so, make a goal like checking out three franchise opportunities in your area — think about the types of business you would like to run and then do some research. You may also make a task of building a simple budget to understand how long you could go on limited income to make your dream come true.

Whatever you do, do not wait for the midlife crisis to call for you. Open the door and welcome it in. Embrace it now (if you work) or on the day you leave school (if you are student).

If you discover that a change in direction is required, it is difficult but possible. That’s why it is critical to start now as it may mean that you need additional training or time to volunteer to learn a new craft. A midlife career crisis may be exactly what you have been looking for.

Have you gone through a midlife career crisis at any age? Share a vote and comment on Hacker News.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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