Mid Life Crisis - what does it actually mean?
Man Up / Man DownOctober 03, 2022x
42:0938.61 MB

Mid Life Crisis - what does it actually mean?

This episode is all about identifying what the term midlife crisis actually means. What’s the actual age of a midlife crisis? Are we all destined to have one, regardless of what we have achieved in life? Is it just a natural part of human development or “growing up”?

This is how Wikipedia, defines it:

A midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, typically 45 to 65 years old. The phenomenon is described as a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person's growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly lack of accomplishments in life. 

This may produce feelings of intense depression, remorse, and high levels of anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle or feel the wish to change past decisions and events. 

Studies on midlife crises show that they are less common than popularly believed, according to Vaillant (2012) in his 75-year longitudinal study on adult development, he found midlife crises were rare experiences for people involved in the study. The term was coined by Elliott Jaques in 1965.

Steven Barlett said that ‘if he carries on like this, he will certainly have a midlife crisis’, yet he is only 29. And, by most standards, incredibly successful. 

So, what does that mean? Is a mid-life crisis career related or age-related. And with life expectancy steadily increasing, does that mean middle-age is being pushed back?

Data shows that ⅓ of babies born will live to be 100. Check out your chances of making a century here. (Women are more likely to than men).

Volker has been following the Modern Elder Academy for a while. It is the world's first wisdom school dedicated to midlife transitions. The Academy’s aim is to change the way society views ageing through its programs at its Baja campus, online, and its new location in Santa Fe, New Mexico (opens 2023). Is age just a number? We believe Chip Conley has been involved in this, and definitely a person to look up if you want to form an opinion.

David suggested this HBR article. Is it about hindsight and lost opportunities? The sliding doors of making a decision that you might regret later. Is that when you start looking for a younger partner? Volker instead opted for the older model, getting himself a toy car, his pride, just before he turned 45. Others buy a boat, a motor bike, or non monetary start filling voids with new hobbies, the first marathon or a side hustle. Or in some cases have an affair…

(Volker and David would like to point out they haven’t gone down that last route! Although David is happy to accept offers - JOKE!).

Volker started his journey to get tattoos during lockdown. He isn’t the only one, there are articles about it, and people over 60 getting tattoos

Is it because children need us less when they grow up? Or because we are settled more in our job or relationship, needing to invest less time. Or is it as aforementioned that we are looking for a purpose? And during Covid we had more time, and we thought about life. We looked for new things to do. 

Covid can be seen as an accelerator to a midlife crisis or even a replacement. As David states, this description of a mid-life crisis could also relate to what many of us went through during lockdown:

For some, the crisis resulted in us paddling harder, finding new work, continuing with our routine, rather than giving in and slacking. Volker gives his view of lockdown, how he didn’t have time to watch Netflix because he couldn’t give up, he just put himself out there, working harder, keeping purpose and routines. 

He also learned how to up-cycle woodwork.

We see this with older people as well, the ones that have purpose, keep physically and mentally active, are the ones that seem to have a more fulfilled and usually longer life. 

David admits he took an escapist approach - taking out a Disney+ subscription and rediscovering his love of reading fiction. He also got a new appreciation for the simple things in life, such as cuddling with his cat!

Whilst we will talk more about alcohol in next week’s episode, we drank a lot more during lockdown. That also means that during a crisis, we go back and comfort ourselves with stimulus. It’s all about the excitement of building a new outdoor kitchen, learning how to BBQ meat properly, pizza ovens and all sorts of things. 

Any kind of void needs to be filled, and it’s the same with the midlife crisis.

We shouldn’t forget that midlife crises are also happening to women, but there is probably another podcast for that too :-)

We are running out of time when we turn 40+, don’t we? As we discussed, planning holidays with the kids, and things we want to achieve, before the clock stops. We don’t know how long we have. Do we see it as the glass half full or half empty? What about how the world is changing? Will we be able to see the Seychelles? Do we want to?

Another topic we touched on was suicide in men. Sadly suicide is highly common in men over 40. The office for National Statistics published data for England here:

  • The male suicide rate for was 15.3 per 100,000* compared to the female suicide rate of 4.9 per 100,000* 
  • Males aged 45-49 continue to have the highest suicide rate (23.8 per 100,000)
  • There is regional variation in the suicide rates. The North East of England had the highest suicide rate (13.3. per 100,000) in 2020, which has been the case in five out of the last 10 preceding years and saw an increase of 15.7% compared to 2019.

In this podcast by Steve Bartlett, the celebrity Roman Kemp talked about losing his best friend to suicide at the height of lockdown. He makes an interesting point that depression can spiral during times when men feel that they have little control over their lives. Sadly committing suicide is often perceived as an act of taking back that control.

Mid career crisis is another phrase that has been gaining ground in recent years. As the Modern Elder Academy suggests, we can easily start a new career in our 40s. We still have 20 years or more left. 

However, if we look at the ‘man as a breadwinner’, it’s often not that simple. Would you (and your family) be happy to change your career and take a pay cut, in anticipation of being happier? Or do you just carry on? Volker touches on his work he does in transition and career coaching, helping people in their mid-life to figure out where to put their focus. 

Age shouldn’t be anything that stops you. Whether it is taking on running and doing a marathon or just doing regular 10Ks. What we are trying to say, we shouldn't see age as a limitation. “Being at an age where I don’t care what people think of me anymore” - is that mid life confidence? And do we do certain things because of our parents, or because of what we feel our duty was at the time? Is mid life crisis something that helps you to break free?

What are your thoughts?Let us know in the comments or reach out to podcast@manupdown.com and suggest topics, people to interview and please let us know what you think.

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