Turning 40 is often accompanied by some level apprehension and anxiety, as individuals focus on their life’s purpose and value.
Some men and women experience a debilitating sense of behavioral paralysis or purposelessness in their work/personal lives as they approach 40. The dread that accompanies this midlife juncture is often filled with statements such as, “My work is not fulfilling” or “I don’t feel like I am helping anyone” or “This relationship is going,” and sometimes, “I’m not interested in working as hard as I used to.”
There is also sometimes a battle with the fact that expected career or personal goals have not been met by the age of 40. When expectations are not validated by their reality, these individuals believe that they have let themselves or their families down by not reaching their goals as planned.
Many men, for example, validate their success based on how much money or status their job provides for themselves and their family. When they fall short of their idealistic goals for these elements by a specific age, many often go into crisis mode, feeling like a failure. Women have a tendency to be most affected by both their career choices (whether to work or not), and whether or not they have decided to have children. When their idealized perception of life by a specific age is not met, they can feel like they have “missed the boat” in life.
A midlife crisis may also occur in marriage, as men and women start to question their choice of mate and/or yearn for the days before children and responsibilities. As partners grow old together, the frequency of validation and intimacy tends to decline. For many, this can lead to insecurity or a feeling of having been devalued; and these in turn feed relationship crises.
My message to all of these men and women on the brink of turning 40 is to align expectations with reality. Get out there and live! Be emotionally present at work and with your significant others. If you remain connected to the things that are important to you, you will remain motivated to keep up your performance in all areas of life. Don’t live your life by setting timelines for yourself. Work to live; do not live to work! Don’t give into temptation if you are experiencing any of the aforementioned crisis symptoms, as you will end up with a great deal of regret.
A 40’s life crisis is a normal part of our developmental cycle, and when resolved successfully, it will allow you to really enjoy your golden years. It is important to remember that all people change rather drastically during their 30s and 40s. The things that motivated you early on after college may no longer fuel your fire by the time that you are bouncing your firstborn child on your knee.
In many cases, people either grow out of their jobs or marriages to some degree, or the job or marriage changes so much that it matures away from us. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is time to take inventory of your life:
F: Figure out what is important to you;
O: Own your experiences and learn from your past mistakes;
R: Recognize what your past has taught you and realize that you have a lot more memories to make;
T: Take time to enjoy your family, friends and yourself;
Y: You are still fabulous!
Be brutally honest with yourself and others about what you need and want for your future, because holding in your feelings leads to impairment in your social and occupational functioning. Take this opportunity to look within–at your core values, beliefs and aspirations. Be realistic and engage others whom you trust to help you live out your dreams.
Expect to work hard to get what you want in life and remind yourself every day that you can script your own future.
To learn more, visit www.draldencass.com or call Dr. Cass directly at 646-202-9611.