Over the last year or so I've noticed a definite change in my friends' social media posts. It feels as though every time I fire up Facebook or Instagram someone else has taken up running, moved house/country, completed some crazy challenge or marathon for charity, or spent the weekend 'hanging' at a cool festival (for the first time in years). Apart from wondering just what the hell I've been spending my time on whilst they're all off reinventing themselves, I've also been wondering why it is that I keep seeing the same thing popping up in the comments underneath.
Because inevitably either they, or someone else, makes a lighthearted reference to their 'midlife crisis' and trying to prove they've still got 'it' - I'm still at a loss as to what 'it' is, it sounds like something you might need antibiotics for! And whilst I'm sure that most of my friends are not desperately trying to turn back the clock, after reading so many of these comments I couldn't help but wonder: are we all destined to succumb to a Midlife Crisis or can we turn it into a Mindful Makeover instead?
According to that fountain of knowledge 'Wikipedia' the term 'midlife crisis' was coined by Canadian Psychoanalyst Elliott Jacques, who determined that somewhere during the ages of 40-60 (erm...way to narrow it down Mr Jacques) humans undergo a period of natural transition. Of course we are all familiar with the midlife crisis movie-stereotype - man buys a sports car and runs off with much younger secretary OR woman gets plastic surgery and flirts with younger men.
It seems only natural that as we move through our 40's we begin to reassess our lives and that we will, inevitably, want to make changes as we find some areas lacking or in need of some improvement. Our hormones go into hyperdrive trying to convince us this is our last chance to have children/the career we want/a meaningful love affair/run away to Paris etc, and bombard us with myriad reminders that we are no longer 'young'. Magazines start to tell us how to look younger, dress younger, lose the midlife weight etc. and, when we combine all of this with seeing our kids getting older and so being reminded of our own days at school and life as a teenager/young adult, it's easy to see how we can begin to feel the panic rising. And, with the rose-tinted glasses that always seem to accompany our memories, it's not suprising that we can end up desperately wanting to bring those days back somehow and revisit our 'lost' youth.
And this is when the 'crisis' part kicks in and you find yourself with a hangover from hell, knee deep in mud at Glastonbury listening to bands you've never heard of... except for those that are having their own midlife crisis of course!
When our desire for change stems from fear and focusing on the past instead of looking to the future it is all destined to go horribly wrong. Because when we compare our now to back then it is inevitable we will find something that is lacking, even if just our ability to stay up all night and still look fresh-faced the next morning. The reality is though, that if we try to relive our past it in some way we are heading for regret, and in the end even more dissatisfaction because we can never have what has already been.
So, how can we satisfy our natural desire for change without succumbing to the cliches? How can we turn a potential Midlife Crisis into a Mindful Makeover?
I think it lies in first leaving the past where it is. Accepting that those days are gone, dropping the fear of time running out, and taking steps to create the present and future we really want.
What do you still want to accomplish?
What do you want the rest of your life to look and feel like (rehashing the past just shows a lack of imagination)?
How do YOU want to look and feel?
What do you still want to experience?
Every time you have an urge to try something different or make a change ask yourself whether you have one eye on the future or on the past. Far better to decide you want to get fit so you can be healthy and active for the rest of your life rather than focusing on looking like you did at 20 again. Who knows, maybe you'll even end up lookng better than you did at 20, and you'll have had a much more enjoyable journey getting there because your intention isn't fear-based. Shifting your focus in this way turns any changes into a Mindful decision rather than a panicked reaction to getting older, because it's not the changes themselves that are the issue it's the motivation behind them.
Transition and change are a natural, necessary and wonderful part of life, after all how boring it would be to stay the same for the next 40 years! But, it is improtant to remember that we have the power to choose whether it becomes a crisis or an opportunity for growth.