Are you 40+ and feeling like you haven’t quite achieved everything you wanted to by now?
Feel like you missed out on opportunities that will never come again? Sure that you’re the only one of your contemporaries who feels this way? (Cheery, I know.)
It turns out that you’re in good — if perpetually disappointed — company. According to a fascinating article, “The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis,” (The Atlantic, December 2014) midlife crisis is a real thing. Happiness economists have shown that life satisfaction across the span of a life follow a u-shaped pattern with the lowest point occurring somewhere between the 40s and 50s. The pattern holds true across the globe, even when researchers adjusted variables such as income, marital status, and employment. It seems that we 40-something year olds are in a universal slump.
I can think of a lot of reasons this might be.
1) Teenagers. Many people have teenagers by the time they’re in their 40s and there’s no one like a teenager to either point out your flaws, make you feel old, or cause perpetual worry.
2) Careers. By their 40’s, many people have reached a point with their career when they feel they have hit a ceiling in terms of advancement, they are tired of their current career but now make too much money at what they do to leave it behind, or it feels certain that those “roads not taken” are truly not available any more.
3) So many Jones’s. The article says that, for some reason, we’re inclined in our 40s to compare ourselves to others and to find our own lives wanting. There are always people — and many of them younger — who have achieved more and faster, to boot.
The good news? A u-shape means that after the lowest point, things start to look up. And, indeed, that’s what happens for most of us. By our 50s, things don’t seem nearly so bad anymore. We stop comparing and start living a more considerate, authentic, socially-conscious life. But lest you, like me, think that a ten-year slump is about ten years too long, take some consolation in this: there are plenty of things you can do to turn around your slump sooner.
Here’s a short list:
- Eat well.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Save for your retirement so you have a chance at a second-act.
- Try cognitive therapy.
- Create a bucket list and start working your way through it.
- Keep actively learning so your brain stays agile.
Have you experienced the 40+ slump? What have you done to pick yourself up and dust yourself off? Please share!