Knowing a Mid Life Crisis for What It Is


Last week, it was reported in the media that Google’s 52-year-old Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette had announced that he will be giving up his multi-million dollar job in California to spend more time with his family and, maybe, to go backpacking around the world.

So, was this a mid-life crisis action taken on the spur of the moment or a carefully considered decision made after examining all the priorities, in conjunction with his immediate family and friends? Was it, possibly, a moment when he saw his world before his eyes and thought of his ‘bucket list’ with all those things not yet experienced or completed, and then thought that he might be going to run out of time with all those hopes and dreams unfulfilled?

When does it start?

Midlife crisis can come as a complete surprise as they had thought that life was just beginning. They can start to develop anxieties that appear to indicate that everything is going backwards — or at least not moving forward — both in their career and personal life, and can experience mood swings or, possibly, bouts of self-doubt and even depression.

This crisis usually occurs, if at all, between the ages of 35 and 50 years, and can sometimes last for maybe five or even 10 years. The term mid-life crisis was first coined in 1965, with early analysis suggesting it could happen anywhere between 40 and 60 years. But it is now shown to start much earlier.

Let us look at some of the signs that could indicate whether or not you could be heading for, or currently experiencing, your own mid-life crisis.

Do you, for instance:

  • Think that there will never be a time when you can afford to retire? When your career started, there was always plenty of time, but maybe now you feel that time is pushing you and you are not keeping up with it?
  • Regularly read obituaries in the morning newspapers with greater interest and always check the age of the deceased subject; the cause of death and their achievements in life?
  • Do you start taking vitamin pills as you are more interested in your diet and supplements to make sure you keep healthy?
  • Stop telling people your age but instead change the subject and now think that 50 is old?
  • Look up your medical symptoms on the internet and imagine that you have contracted one or more life-threatening diseases?
  • Decide you are suddenly bored and want to change your circle of friends, but don’t seem to meet anyone new with whom you have empathy?
  • Worry about a younger person taking your job, perhaps someone with better technology and communication skills?
  • Take up triathlons or another extreme sport and push yourself to the extreme? Age isn’t going to be a barrier for you, and so you get up early in the morning to prove to you and to the rest of the world that you are not over the hill.
  • Find that you seem to now be very easily distracted: there was a time when you could multi-task easily but increasingly you find you have to concentrate on one thing at a time — and need a degree of silence to do it?
  • Splash out on an expensive six-cylinder sports car to prove to yourself that you can keep up with the younger generation?
  • Start counting the lines on your face and watch your body start to change shape? You are aware that your metabolism is slowing down and you can’t eat everything you want without putting on weight.
  • Increasingly tend to think that policemen, politicians or business leaders on television are younger than you and are certainly too inexperienced for such an important job?

So after going through this checklist, where do you think you are on your life’s journey? Do you just think that your attitude to love and life is about the same as everyone else’s? Maybe it is... or maybe not!


Key points

* A mid-life crisis can happen to anyone but not everyone will go through it.

* Self-confidence is a delicate flower – it needs constant reassurance.

* When half-way up a mountain, do you decide to continue or go back down?


Carole Spiers

The writer is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and CEO of a business management consultancy based in London.   


Author of "Show Stress Who's Boss" Carole is a leading authority on workplace stress, sought after BBC guest-Broadcaster and motivational speaker. She shows managers and staff how to maintain their competitive advantage by achieving a healthy work life balance.

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