I am middle aged. By every definition I fall squarely in that season of life. I am in my mid-forties, think about my mortgage more than I should, and have three kids (a teen, a tween, and a toddler).
The other night my wife and I were joking with friends about how we are due for a mid-life crisis. She was quick to remind me that neither a sports car nor a mistress was in the budget. Laughing, she told me I would have to come up with something else.
The conversation got me thinking.
At its core, a mid-life crisis is a grand moment of clarity. In the crisis we come to grips with our own mortality and realize that the life we are living is inconsistent with what we really want. It is an analysis that compares our actions with our core priorities and expectations.
The expectations some of us hold are laced with selfishness and narcissism. This can lead us to abandon jobs, families, and other responsibilities and try to live as if we are someone we are not. Insert the common tropes of overcompensating middle managers, convertibles, and affairs. This type of mid-life crisis inevitably disappoints.
There is a more noble option.
Our expectations and what we most want can lead to good decisions if they are centered on generous and loving priorities. In this context, we may reorient our lives away from jobs we merely endure to vocations about which we are passionate.
We focus on the core relationships in our lives and reconnect with our spouse, children, parents, and faith. We realize that we have allowed the momentum of circumstances to unwittingly carry us away from what matters most. We take the good things we have been putting off until someday – and make them action items for today.
That is a crisis worth having regularly.
The problem with a mid-life crisis is not the crisis itself. If there is a problem, it stems from trading things of real value for hollow promises. Destructive and irresponsible behavior is not the inevitable result of a mid-life crisis. The mid-life crisis itself can be quite helpful because it forces us to ask ourselves several questions:
- Is my life out of alignment with my core priorities?
- Is there a dream I once harbored that needs to be released from the dock and allowed to sail?
- Is there a relationship that has been left untended for far too long?
- Is the path I am on taking me to a destination I actually desire?
At some point, everyone will be confronted with the foundational questions of a mid-life crisis. Regardless of whether they result in circumstances obvious to others, they will reveal the quality of our priorities – and our choice of priorities determines whether the answers generate destruction or growth.
This sort of assessment is valuable.
Especially if it’s done as a way of making sure our lives and relationships are healthy. There is no reason to wait for mid-life to create a possible crisis by asking these questions. Likewise, it is never too late for a mid-life crisis.
Perhaps if we asked these questions of ourselves (and asked them of our friends) on a regular basis, the answers would not yield a crisis at all. Instead only minor course corrections may be needed.
So the question remains, “Are you overdue for a good mid-life crisis?”