In the midst of life, man looks back on his previous path and takes stock: the career ladder climbed, a house built, the children raised. What was good? What was bad? Have I achieved what I wanted? What have I missed? What do I expect from life? Unconsciously, the midlife crisis plunges many men and women between 40 and 50 years old into a time of introspection. Half their life is over and they wonder what will happen in the future. In the end, there are only two options: business as usual until retirement, or try and start something new?
About occupation and vocation
In the rush hour of life, occupation and vocation play a decisive role in fulfillment and happiness – after all, we spend the majority of our lives at work, much more than with family or our partners. But the reality is sobering: “Only 16 percent of employees find meaning in their work. The large majority, 68 percent of the workforce, is only service-driven and the other 16 percent are emotionally untied to their work and have already mentally checked-out.” These are the key results of the commitment index 2015, published by the consulting company Gallup in March 2016.
Realizations – and the courage to change
In the zenith of life this is particularly important. Some may not have gone as far as they would have liked. They are stuck in a dead end – and the courage to change could be the solution. Another company, another industry, another task. But even those who have climbed the career ladder, and seem successful to the outside, may find inwardly that it is not actually what they wanted to do. That their interests lie elsewhere and they don’t enjoy their current work. In fact, many specialists from various industries do not recognize the deeper meaning of the work they do. Also, some managers in corporations are annoyed by aimless meetings and office political games – from lack of appreciation to debilitating bureaucracy.
They miss the freedom and space to design, they want to implement their own ideas and be self-sufficient rather than micromanaged. If career, money and status have previously been the highest goal for them, the longing for a fulfilling and meaningful task now comes to the fore. Many a manager pulls the ripcord, becomes independent and establishes a company himself. Or enters a promising start-up into which he can contribute his experience and contacts.
Frustration can lead to burnout
Many resign themselves to their unloved jobs and live the enjoyable parts of their lives in their free time, after work and on the weekends. A weak consolation. At some point, permanent dissatisfaction and frustration at work can take its toll on one’s health. Those who don’t manage to leave the hamster wheel will soon feel exhausted, tired, and burnt out. Not for nothing is the number of depressions and burnout cases increasing. Mental diseases are among the most common causes of disability. Not only permanent stress, but overwork and overburden can also lead to a burnout and/or emotional exhaustion. That is precisely the result of frustration, disillusionment, going through the motions, and a discrepancy between expectation and reality. Here, only a change can help – the courage to embark on a new beginning. The strength to make a change is often found in the answer to this question: Is it worth starting over at the beginning?
Self-knowledge: What do I really want?
The first step is self-knowledge: you have to know what you really want. Those who have a goal in life, one they are behind 100%, can motivate themselves and release mental energies. They draw strength from their actions and increase their efficiency. Now they have the chance to pull the helm again, to realize their dreams, to give their life a new direction. For some, it may be sufficient to take it down a notch – reduce working hours and accept certain cuts in salary – in order to have more quality spare time: more time for family, hobbies, sports or volunteering.
For others, there may be ways to switch to more interesting areas within the company. If this is not possible, you should inquire at a new workplace that you might like better. Be open to offers from headhunters and start in another company. The decisive step is not to see yourself as a victim of destiny, but to take responsibility for yourself.
Steve Jobs: Courage to follow your heart
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it by leading someone else’s life,” Apple founder, high-tech genius and visionary Steve Jobs stated in 2005 in his legendary speech to the graduates of the elite university Stanford. “And above all, have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition. Everything else is secondary,” stated Jobs.
A midlife crisis offers the opportunity to rethink and reinvent your life. Whoever answers the question in the affirmative, “Is it worth it to start over?” will find the necessary strength – the power to leave the comfort zone, to enter into a venture and to open up new horizons. Ultimately, it is about recognizing what you really want, and going after it! In this way, there is real opportunity in a midlife crisis, it just depends on what you do with it.
About the author
Markus Hofelich is a business and finance journalist who lives with his family in the south of Munich. His journalistic experience includes working as editor-in-chief for the German business magazine Unternehmeredition, and for GoingPublic Media AG. He was also head of the editorial department at DIV Deutscher Industrieverlag and deputy editor-in-chief at Cash. Markus Hofelich has a master’s degree in International and Cultural Business and studied at the University of Passau and the Sorbonne in Paris. After further education in Online Marketing and Social Media Management at the ptm Akademie, he founded the website www.SinndesLebens24.de, an online magazine for philosophy, happiness and motivation and is currently on the lookout for new challenges.