What is a midlife crisis, what are its symptoms, and how to avoid one?

If there is one constant in life then it must be change. Nothing stays the same, we cannot avoid change or walk away from it; there is no escape. We can either accept it or resist it.

During our time on earth we go through many phases of life. We come into this world as a baby, grow into a toddler, then a child and teenager: ready to become an adult. Once we pass early adulthood, the next phase is midlife and after that we enter our last phase; that of a senior.

Each phase comes with new changes, opportunities and challenges. All have an effect on our identity. Just when we think we are accustomed to something, we have to let go and adjust to something new. This process never stops. We have to adjust to life, constantly, whether these changes are occurring in our body, our mind, or coming from our environment. It doesn’t matter. Change is normal. We cannot avoid it.

It’s no wonder that changes and circumstances in our life force us to question our identity: Who am I? What is the purpose of my existence? What do I really want? What is my passion? How to find my passion? It is usually a struggle between the one who we really are; our authentic self or true self. And the one who we think we are; the made up self. If they do not match an identity crisis may be unavoidable. For a further explanation on my definition of the authentic self you can read my How to find your true self, be your authentic self article.

Some identity crises are mild, we may hardly notice them; some are more severe. Toddler (the terrible twos) and teenage years are good examples of adjusting to physical and mental changes taking place in our body. We have to adjust and find our new identity. We have to reorder chaos into something that is making sense again and have to deal with new our senses and abilities.

During midlife, roughly the period between 30-60 years of age, we enter into another phase. This is a major milestone, and sometimes a turning point, in our life. During this period we begin to realize we are halfway through life, revise our ambitions, maybe think about our own death, and may question if we are truly happy and if we are pursuing our dreams. We begin to concentrate on what is important to us and what we really want.

For some people this realization is a real shock: They suddenly realize they are not happy and have not pursued the dreams they had when they were kids. They cannot deal with it and experience a real crisis: The midlife crisis. The midlife crisis with all its symptoms does not only happen to men but to women as well.

In a midlife crisis people can make sudden changes in their lives without realizing the consequences. Common midlife crisis symptoms are:

  • Thinking: It is now or never! This is the last change I have. Tomorrow might be too late!
  • Rearranging everything in your life without without consciously thinking it through or having a backup plan.
  • Taking financial risk you would not take if they were conscious enough to make the right choice.
  • Getting a divorce or dumping your wife (or husband) for someone who is 20 years younger.
  • Getting into dangerous sports and activities.
  • Suddenly buying a motor cycle or a new sports car.
  • Joining a spiritual community or sect.
  • Quitting your job, selling your house and travel around the world.

A midlife crisis is never a good basis for lasting change. Decisions made during a midlife crisis are made by a stressed-out mind, not by the heart. The first step to a real solution is to realize this. Make a conscious choice to listen to your feelings. Make sure you are conscious enough to make life changing decisions. Make sure you know how to find your passion, what your true passions in life are and make a plan to follow them. You will find that most of the times, you can make those real lasting changes in your life without sacrificing everyone and everything.

Do you want to avoid a midlife crisis? Make sure you always follow your passions in life. Concentrate on your happiness. Do not wait with this till it is almost too late.

Are you currently having a midlife crisis? Good; never waste a good midlife crisis! You may have ignored this for a very long time. See it as a wake-up call and begin to find out what are the things that are really important to you. Make good use of this knowledge and begin to find out what you really want, what makes you happy.

Change is normal. Do not resist it, embrace change. Remember to follow you passion but do not rush into things if they don’t feel right; your body will not lie to you. You will feel what the right thing to do is. Your intuition will guide you if you let it. If you need help, a life coach can help you to discover what makes you truly happy.

3 comments… add one
  • Benjamin Oct 25, 2009 @ 15:24

    Another great article, Patrick!

    I don’t think I’ve really had a midlife crisis, yet… (I’m 34)… but now that I’ve read your list… I’m kind of looking forward to it (at least the motorcycle, the spirituality, traveling the world, etc.)


    The point on passion is very important!

    Although I’m still working at spending the majority of my time engaging in my passions… I have always made time for my passions… no matter what else was going on.

    It’s not always easy… but it is always valuable to learn to love change!

    keep smiling,


  • Barry Mcgee Oct 25, 2009 @ 20:43

    A great positive spin(truth) on something that has been considered a negative for too many years. Thanks for the wisdom!

  • nothingprofound Oct 28, 2009 @ 14:04

    Some great points, and some wonderful advice. Many people as they get older are haunted by the thought that they might have wasted their lives. It’s a very painful feeling and can often lead to panic and desperate actions.

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