No doubt you are familiar with the stereotypical mid-life crisis that usually strikes people in their mid-40s and seems to cause otherwise prudent people to buy sports cars or cheat on their spouses. But did you also know there is a very real thing called a Mid-Career Crisis?
According to the Harvard Business Review article, Why So Many of Us Experience a Midlife Crisis, “On average, life satisfaction is high when people are young, then starts to decline in the early 30s, bottoming out between the mid-40s and mid-50s before increasing again to levels as high as during young adulthood. And this U-curve occurs across the entire socio-economic spectrum, hitting senior-level executives as well as blue-collar workers and stay-at-home parents. In short, a mid-career crisis does not discriminate.”
Initially, a mid-career crisis can show up as mild dissatisfaction with work. However, it often blossoms into full-blown questioning of one’s entire career path and choices. We long for something different and more fulfilling but might not know what that is. Feeling like time is running out, we find ourselves questioning how we’d like to spend the remainder of our career.
If you’ve been struck by the mid-career blahs these five strategies can help you gain clarity and keep your sanity.
Visioning - While it might sound a bit hokey, spending time envisioning your ideal future might just help you create it. According to Phycology Today, “Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory.” Many of us spend our 20s and 30s going with the flow of life, not really taking the time to consciously think about what we want but rather just being open to where life takes us. Mid-career is an ideal time to reflect, recalibrate and intentionally decide how we want to spend the remainder of our working days. Envisioning this life and all aspects of it, even writing it down, can help shape the future. Think about -where do you want to be living, what work do you want to do, who will you be spending your time with, and what legacy do you want to leave?
Tapping into your intuition to recognize opportunities - Opportunities are constantly presenting themselves to us. We often ignore them out of fear or self-doubt. However, one of the greatest gifts of mid-life is having more confidence in our talents and abilities. Rely on that confidence step out of your comfort zone. In the book The Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes writes about spending an entire year saying yes to everything that scared her. Doing so allowed her to not only experience new things but also build more confidence. While you don’t need to say yes to every opportunity, being more open and in tune with opportunities when they arrive can lead to greater life fulfillment and perhaps even a new direction.
Recognizing flow - One of the difficulties of a mid-career crisis can be that although we know we want to change we don’t always know to what. It can be hard to imagine what you want to do next and what would bring the fulfillment you are seeking. One way to tap into this is by recognizing flow. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the co-founder of positive phycology and the first to identify and research flow, flow is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”. This feeling of being in the zone is a great indicator of your passion and what you love doing. Look for those times where you are in flow and how this might translate into your next chapter.
Take a risk (yes, this is the right time) - How many times have you heard someone talk about their someday? A dream they have that they will one day realize, but of course, the timing is not good right now. If there is one message to take away from a mid-career crisis it’s now is the right time! If not now, when?
Find support - Making a mid-career change can be scary. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. For many, it requires careful, thoughtful planning. Finding a mentor or coach who serves as a neutral sounding board is essential to identifying and removing barriers to your transition, while also holding you accountable to your goals.
If you find yourself suffering from an acute case of the mid-career blahs, the good news is that mid-career can be an ideal time to reflect on what works and what doesn’t. Then, intentionally, make a change. The time is now!