Discovering the Potential of Midlife Transitions

Discovering the Potential of Midlife Transitions

Cover of Goodbye, Perfect by Homaira Kabir

Goodbye, Perfect – The Book

A science-backed and soulful journey to embrace your authentic expression and build the confidence to live an empowered and purpose-driven life.

Discover the transformative journey of midlife transitions, navigating change and embracing self-discovery. Explore insights and guidance here.

Some 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the only constant in life is change.

Fast forward to today’s chaotic and uncertain world and change is on steroids. Millions of us are constantly going through a transition in some aspect of our lives.

For most of us, midlife transitions encompass a period when many changes occur simultaneously. Kids leave home, parents need caregiving, retirement begins, or careers start feeling purposeless. There’s an unraveling of our previous lives, and the opportunity to redefine ourselves in whole new ways.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t found this process of redefining as exciting as it was during that other major transition of life: coming of age. There was an energy, a natural optimism that we’ve inherited from our hunter gatherer ancestors.

I see this in my young adults when they talk about their future plans. Sure they wonder about what the world will be like in 20 years or the grim prospects for millennials. But still, they can leave those fears on the backburner and feel excited about the possibilities that life presents.

In midlife, the backburner becomes life because life no longer extends indefinitely before us. Death—that thing that happened to other people—feels real and looms somewhere in the future. Our plans no longer have the open-ended nature they once did.

It takes effort to not live in the rear-view mirror. And with that comes a certain longing, a nostalgia for what once was. However good our current lives may be, we still remember the past as the “good old times” and feel the sadness of not experiencing them again. Many goodbyes are no longer au revoirs. They’re adieus.

The past isn’t just bitter-sweet though.

For most us, it also contains regrets of what could’ve been. Even our wisest choices were at the expense of other paths, and we feel the sadness of our unlived lives. If those choices were made from a place of lack or inadequacy, there’s also shame around what’s still unresolved in our life.

It all comes to the fore during midlife transition because life doesn’t reward us the way it used to. We live in a culture of ageism. The messages we receive about growing older tend to morph into a harsh inner critic; we’re hardest on ourselves when perhaps we need ourselves the most.

I recognize my resistance to admitting my slowly diminishing abilities and capacities. First, I don’t hear as well as I used to but avoid asking people to repeat themselves. Second, I feel clumsy when I need to toggle between eyeglasses and pretend I can see what someone shows me from afar even though I have my reading glasses on.

I feel this the most when I’m around my children. Sometimes I look at us in the mirror and wonder when I started looking like my mother. I laugh along at their jokes even though I’m outdated with some of their humor. And sometimes, I notice pushing my way into their conversations, trying to advice or add something of value.

It’s a crisis of insignificance and finding a foothold in a world that tells me you’re no longer relevant.

As I go through this tunnel, I’ve begun to see the light at the end. It’s reminding me that I’ve entered the stage that we all long for as we go through life. The earlier stage was about redefining myself according to the world’s wishes, what Jungian analyst James Hollis described as the ego/world axis of identity.

This stage is about entering a new relationship with myself, to move toward the ego/Self axis of identity. The questions and self-doubt is the humbling of an ego that placed itself at the center of the world. The pain is the angst of living in the gap between who I am and who I’ve become.

Such constitutes the midlife crisis—a call to embrace the true self underneath the acquired personality and thus become who we were always meant to be amidst the turbulence of midlife transitions.

If you relate, you may find this 4-part process helpful.

4-part Process for Navigating Midlife Transitions

1. Allow

Welcome every emotion that comes up without judgment. Give them a seat in your inner home, as the Persian poet Rumi writes in The Guest House. Treat them with compassion so they don’t need to shout to make themselves heard.

2. Attune

Inquire what the emotions are asking of you? What are they reminding you of? What values, dreams, aspirations, or passions did you set aside to come back to later, suppress because you were told they were wrong, or because they weren’t rewarded by the world?

3. Align

Who are you being called to become to honor these longings? What do you need to change to honor your longings in a way that’s right for your life at this time? And what are the skills or capacities you’ll need to build?

4. Action

What’s the ONE action that will have the greatest impact in your life and help you live in integrity with yourself. Remember, change is a gradual process—trying to change everything at once never works in the long run. Small and steady does indeed win at life’s race.

For me, this has meant connecting to need to untether myself from motherly responsibilities and learning to trust my parenting over the past couple of decades. It has meant uncovering the truth of the serenity prayer and experiencing the joy that comes from letting go of what I cannot change.

It has meant the freedom to tend to the life that’s ready to live through me.

A version of this article originally appeared on Psychology Today.

Sign up to get emails, blogs and subcriber only free content.
Share this post:
Homaira Kabir

Homaira Kabir

Written by mentor, author and founder of the Goodbye Perfect Project, Homaira Kabir. Homaira Kabir holds Master’s degrees in Coaching Psychology and in Positive Psychology – the science of human flourishing and wellbeing – from the University of East London. She has just published her latest book ‘Goodbye Perfect: How To Stop Pleasing, Proving and Pushing For Others… and Live For Yourself

Share the Post:

Is your confidence Grounded or Fragile? This science-backed quiz will measure your confidence in 3 areas: Work, Relationships, Appearance.

You May Also Like
You may also like