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What Does Midlife Mean to You?

Midlife Jaclyn Smith at 62

The largest generation in the history of the world was born between 1946 and 1964. How large is this group? In the United States alone, we are talking about 78 million people. Among them is Jaclyn Smith pictured above at age 62.

We affectionately call them Baby Boomers, and they have had a major impact on society during their passage through every stage of life so far. Currently, this group is passing through the stage known as midlife. Let’s take a closer look at “midlife” and consider some of the challenges and opportunities associated with it.

What is midlife?

“Midlife is the old age of youth and the youth of old age.” -Proverb

Any attempt to define midlife solely by chronological parameters would be extremely shortsighted. For one thing, increased longevity pushes midlife into an older age bracket. But midlife involves much more than physical age.

There is a vast array of physical and emotional changes that occur during this stage of life. There are also many circumstantial and perceptual changes that tend to happen during this same period of time. Like every other stage of life, the midlife years are about adjusting to change.

It can go either way!

Like so many other challenges, it’s often the negative aspects of some people’s midlife experience that gets all the attention. We have all heard the term “midlife crisis” used to describe the experiences of those who have gone nuts during this stage of life, often with disastrous results. While this can and does happen, things certainly don’t need to go in that direction.

When we are faced with changing circumstances it always represents a challenge on some level. There are those who choose to embrace the change and view it as an adventure, and there are those who are overwhelmed by it. We have the ability and opportunity to choose which category we want to be in.

A walk on the brighter side

Midlife has the potential to be one of the richest and most meaningful stages of life. It’s a time when knowledge, experience, and ability can reach their fullest expression. This is exactly the kind of adventure you should aim for.

Yes, there will be challenges, and lots of them. But by the time you arrive at midlife, you have already had decades of experience in facing and overcoming challenges. This is the time when all that experience pays off. This is the time when you reap the rewards of everything that came before.

What does it take to thrive in midlife?

Your focus will determine the quality of your journey through this time of life. Some people will focus on the past with a sense of loss. This kind of mindset will pave the way for disappointment. It’s like driving down the road with your eyes glued to the rear view mirror. Nothing good can come from it.

To enjoy the journey, you need to live in the moment while maintaining a sense of eager anticipation for whatever comes next. Focus on what you have, and on continuing to grow and improve as a person. If anything, personal development accelerates during midlife.

Put your knowledge to good use

Handled correctly, this can be the time of life when everything comes together. We should know our own minds fairly well by then. We will also have a pretty good understanding of who we are, and what really matters to us. That’s a huge advantage!

Midlife is also an excellent time to work on the inner person. If we haven’t learned who we truly are on a core level, this is the right time for that endeavor. Have we been too busy in the past to master the advanced life skills that make life a richly rewarding experience? It’s not too late for that either.

The best is still ahead!

With the right focus, we can approach midlife with the conviction that the best years of life are right now, and in the immediate future. Think of how much you have learned along the way. Think of all the wonderful experiences that are just ahead.

If you greet each day with a sense of deep gratitude and great expectation, then each day will be better than the one that came before. Personally, I plan on being a midlifer at least until age 70, and hopefully well beyond. As far as I am concerned, these truly are the good old days.

What’s your take on midlife?
How much depends on attitude?
The lines are open

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35 Comments

  1. Rocket Bunny August 4, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    I have a few years before I hit mid-life. I hope I look as beautiful as my mom who is already there of course. Mid- life should be a more relaxing time. The kids all grown up and time to rekindle you romance with your spouse.

    • Hi Bunny, I think you’ve got the right idea about midlife relationships. Sadly, many long time relationships fall apart during this stage of life when, as you brought out, it’s a great opportunity reaffirm them.

  2. Excellent Jonathan! I think this is so true:

    “Handled correctly, midlife is the time when everything comes together.”

    Yes you are wiser, richer, calmer, you still have health, etc. It can be a great time if you are taking care of the future, especially in regards to health.

    • Hey Stephen, you hit on an key point. There comes a time when our real age depends more on our level of health than our years. However, even if we haven’t taken very good care of ourselves in the past, it’s never too late to start. Doing so can greatly improve the quality of our life at any age.

  3. Kikolani August 4, 2009 Reply

    I think it definitely depends on attitude. There was a point where I started getting really sad about turning 30 because of all the things I hadn’t done in my twenties since I got married at 23 and then divorced at 28. I felt I had missed out on my best “partying years” you could say.

    But then when I met my husband, I saw all the wonderful possibilities that the future had in store. So when I turned 30 in June, I didn’t feel like leaving my twenties was such a bad thing anymore. I rather felt like I was looking forward to a new decade of opportunities. And I guess you just have to look at it that way at every new stage of your life. Instead of dwelling over regrets of the past, focus on living so that you will never have regrets again.

    ~ Kristi

    • Hi Kristi, you just gave us a perfect example of how much attitude can determine our perception of life. In reality, with the right attitude every decade is a “new decade of opportunities.”

  4. Alex Fayle August 4, 2009 Reply

    Having just turned 40 last week, I’m entering midlife and I agree that it’s the time when everything comes together. I’m not at all worried about getting older – in fact I love it! Each year of my life gets better so I embrace aging wholeheartedly.

    Unlike many Baby Boomers (*cough* Madonna *cough*) who seem to think beauty=youth and do really messed up things to try to stay looking young. (Speaking of which, how much surgery and Photoshop to make Jacqueline Smith look like that in the photo? I wonder what she sees when she looks in the mirror…)

    • Hi Alex, thanks for stopping by and joining in. I agree, there are so many wonderful changes that come from getting older if we keep applying what we learn along the way.

      While going to radical extremes may be unbalanced, doing our best to stay healthy and fit has definite advantages as the years go by. I admit to wondering about Jacqueline Smiths “beauty secrets” also, for now I’ve chosen to attribute it to good genetics until I hear differently.

  5. Vin August 5, 2009 Reply

    I think this says it all:

    “We will also have a pretty good understanding of who we are, and what really matters to us.”

    I think the people who get most depressed about getting older are the ones who are most lacking in direction. It’s a lot easier to accept the aging process and the fact that time is limited if you have a sense of purpose and fulfillment in your life. Too many people simply go through the motions of life and let their surroundings direct them. As such, I think your recommendation to discover yourself if you haven’t already is an excellent one.

    • Well said Vin! The realization that we only have so much time can be a hard pill to swallow. Looking back and feeling that we haven’t really accomplished much so far can also be disturbing. The key is having “a sense of purpose and fulfillment” as you stated. Time passes, we can’t change that. How much better to focus on the things we have some control over.

    • Jacques Rigaut December 4, 2012 Reply

      It’s hard to “discover yourself” when you have a wife, mortgage, two cars payments, an aging mother, etc. I’ve come to the conclusion that only the wealthy have enough latitude to “discover themselves” and the rest of us must either settle or pull the plug.

      • Hi Jacques, since self discovery is an inside job it really doesn’t depend on having special circumstances. There is plenty of free information that can help anyone who really wants to change their life, The important factor here is motivation, not wealth.

  6. Frank J August 5, 2009 Reply

    At 47 I feel like I am 34. I can’t believe how old I am when I still have those creative juices in me. I sometimes wish I was 28 and living in this technology era at a young age.

    The key to surviving midlife is staying active, focused and accepting change.

    • Thanks Frank, I totally agree. I think being creative on a daily basis is a wonderful way to stay young in mind and heart. Thanks

  7. Dragos Roua August 5, 2009 Reply

    I will turn 40 next year, but I don’t have any connection whatsoever with something called midlife or old age. I feel and act as I am still somewhere between 17 and 25. Of course, I have much more experience but I do have the same curiosity and joy of life. Sometimes, my closest ones are reminding me about my age in numbers which confuses me :-)

    Being old is a state of mind :-)

    • Hey Dragos, that sense of curiosity and joy of life will serve you well as the years go by. I know because at 58 I still enjoy those same feelings. As we age it’s about attitude and health more than years. There will come a time when you feel the years, but a life of creativity and purpose can help us feel young at any age.

  8. Daphne @ Joyful Days August 5, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Loved the photo – I want to look like that when I’m 62. Actually, I want to look like that now!

    Ok seriously, I feel like I’m going through midlife every year. That’s largely because I feel so much older that I was one year ago, yet I feel young because there’s so much I don’t know. It’s quite a nice place to live – this fine line.

    Good reminder that no matter where we are at in life, there are opportunities to be grasped, and a lot of life left to live!

    • Hi Daphne, I’m so glad you joined the conversation. Sounds like you are coming from a really good place. I’ve learned that the more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know. If that makes you feel young, then you’re bound to feel young for a very long time.

      I stopped by Joyful Days and enjoyed your work there. Thanks for connecting.

  9. Robin Easton August 6, 2009 Reply

    Wow! this is such a powerful post I don’t know where to start. Jonathan, I can honestly say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE being my age. Midlife is a dynamic kick ass powerful time!! LOL! :) Let me stand on my desk and do a little jig.

    I think for me it’s not about midlife so much as just LOVING life itself. Like Dragos, I completely forget my age, sooooo easily. Many women (and some men) my age (and even some 15 – 20 years younger) act like they are already on deaths door and life is over, or they are completely obsessed with every new wrinkle around their eyes.

    I guess I am truly blessed that I just don’t think about those things. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because, as you say, it’s about focus, and my focus is on totally different things. I mean I jump on trampolines and roller skate and jog and hike barefoot on mt trails and garden and create music and write and slide down snow covered hills on huge inner tubes in winter (with tons of little kids)….I’m laughing my face off right now :)))) Speaking of laughing: I laugh and joke all the time ( I mean I squirt my husband with the garden hose and as you know do my goofy dance in the driveway). Oh dear! I just don’t care anymore. Life is for living! I have nothing to lose. I play with kids and climb on my roof with all the neighborhood kids to watch 4th of July fireworks. I do the limbo on the rollerskating rink with 5 – 12 year old kids and they LOVE the fact that an adult will do that with them.

    Life is SO short, Jonathan. And I can either worry about the endless and unstoppable mapping of my life upon my face (which I rather enjoy seeing) or I can be so grateful that I have eyes that can see and that I am not blind. Or like one friend who worries about the skin tone on her legs, I can either worry about that or be deeply grateful that I am not missing a leg or paralyzed like so many are from car accidents or war. These people would give anything just to have two legs that work. I have a fully functioning body and mind. Like I told one friend “get over it and be grateful that you are in one piece and have both legs and aren’t paralyzed. If you choose you can live a full life. You aren’t crippled in body, but you are crippled in your mind unless you shift your focus.” You just SO right about it being what we focus on.

    It’s weird, I almost don’t even care what I look like. I care MUCH MORE about what I FEEL like. So I try to do all the things that make me FEEL good, FEEL alive, FEEL healthy, FEEL romantic, sensual, vibrant, compassionate, loving, caring and so forth. I forget myself in reaching out and loving others. And as a result life rises up and meets me at my doorstep.

    Thank you my exceedingly wise friend.
    Robin

    • What a great comment Robin! Your expressions really epitomize the exact attitude that keeps someone feeling young at heart through every stage of life. Clearly, your focus is on the things that have real value instead of the superficial nonsense that robs people of their joy and love of life. I think we all feel younger after reading your enthusiastic words. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Celes Chua August 6, 2009 Reply

    Hey Jon, I’m not in mid-life yet (I’m 25) but I have peers who behave like they’re in mid-life. They fear growing old and they dread their life. Ultimately I don’t think it’s really about the age but about living every day with gratitude and living to its maximum, as you have said.

    • Hi Celes, it’s amazing how some people are old at 30 while others are young at 80. I have a friend who is 88 and his love of life and people is enough to inspire anyone. Hopefully your attitude will inspire your friends so they start enjoying life instead of wasting their time waiting to die

  11. Tonya L January 20, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jon, It’s amazing to know that you are so inspired to share all that you know about a transitional period that we will all experience in life. In the year 2013, my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We will be 43 years old at that time and our 4 children will be adults. I have read several online articles about the midlife crisis and have had several discussions with my husband to inform him that there are things we need to do right now to prepare ourselves for that time such as paying off debt, saving more money, retirement planning, proper diet & exercise to stay in good health, planning trips together, becoming grandparents, and generally being at a happy point in our lives having freedom from stress & financial burden. My husband likes to spend money and has a materialistic attitude and seems non-enthusiastic preparing for the best time of our lives. I was so happy to find your article and I look forward to sharing it with him because you have so many great points that I believe would help him see the big picture. What you do now in your life will affect your future. If you fail to plan you are planning to fail. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Tonya, this is a subject that is close to my heart and there is a lot of wisdom in your foresight and determination to prepare for future. I thought you would enjoy this article and the accompanying video. It dispels many of the common misconceptions about aging and shows that you can have more control than most people realize. Aging, Can You Control It?

  12. Carolyn October 25, 2011 Reply

    To me, midlife represents the BEST TIME EVER! LOL

    I am feeling better, looking better and experiencing more joy and contentment since turning 50 than ever before, & credit that to a focus on enjoying life, looking for the gift in all situations, and liking and accepting myself more now than ever in the past.

    Life really can improve with age! :)

    • Great attitude Carolyn, if we view life as a learning process (which you have obviously done) then eventually that education helps us to recognize and appreciate the things that matter most.

  13. I’m still getting used to my ‘mid life’. Some things like health haven’t been so good, but I won’t let it beat me. I’ve come this far, and I intend to go the rest of the way – kicking and fighting if I have to.

    Thankfully, I’ve maintained a youthful appearance without surgery/botox etc. I’ve recently embraced getting older and I want to learn (mainly) how to relax and spend some time taking care of me – for a change.

    Drop by my site when you have the time. I’d love to see you there!

    • Hi Anne, there is no denying that certain changes accompany each stage of life. However, if we consistent about taking care of ourselves and learning the awesome lessons life teaches, it pays big dividends down the road. At some point life is more about health and attitude than it is about chronological age.

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