Changing your life: 10 steps to turn a midlife crisis into positive change
When a midlife crisis strikes, changing your life in a good way can seem like an impossible dream. You feel like you’ve painted yourself into a corner, and you can’t see any solution for you that doesn’t involve suffering for someone else.
That may not be the case. Before you put on your shades, don your leather jacket and take off to freedom on your Harley Davidson, check out these 10 steps for making a better life.
1. Let the paint dry
Calm down and consider your life realistically. It’s probably not a now-or-never situation, so take the time to choose the right course of action. Like the guy who painted himself into a corner, you may find that if you leave it a while, you can get out of the situation without causing too much damage.
It’s no good reinventing yourself if you don’t like what you’ve become.
2. Think about what’s right, as well as what’s wrong
What do you count yourself lucky you’ve got? Which parts of your current situation are worth keeping? Are there aspects of your life you want to preserve, times when things really aren’t that bad, or other reasons to maintain the status quo if you can? Are there people whose lives you want to avoid affecting, if possible?
3. Consider ALL the options
If you’re tempted to walk out and leave it all behind, would that actually be the best solution to your problems? If you could fix some of the key issues first, would it be easier to leave – or easier to stay?
Would you be leaving your mess for other people to deal with, do they deserve it and can you live with that? Would you just take half your problems with you because they’re part of your personality?
If you rule out leaving as an option, what others are left? Break your problems into manageable-sized chunks, if possible – for example, consider money, home, relationships, health and career separately, then mesh your thoughts together to find possible solutions.
What if you don’t really want to leave, but part of you still yearns for the Harley and the open road? If you and your partner still love each other, you can build excitement and adventure into your future without losing everything. You don’t need to get a divorce to try white-water rafting, drive an army tank or go up in a hot-air balloon. Start creating your Bucket List today. Don’t be afraid to dream, and then make your dreams become reality – together.
Don’t present your partner with a final decision – talk it through while there’s still time for you to change your mind. You won’t just be changing your life, but theirs, too – since the practical effects of your midlife crisis may affect them for years to come, it’s only fair to give them a say.
After 15 years of marriage, even a bad marriage, they deserve more warning than finding a note on the mantelpiece or finding out about your work problems only after you’ve quit your job.
5. Know what you want, not what you don’t want
Make sure that whatever you decide to do to change your life involves a positive move towards something you want, rather than away from something you don’t want.
If you’re having an affair because your partner is rubbish in bed, don’t assume your sexy lover holds the keys to your future happiness, and don’t assume your partner does, either – they could both be wrong for you, long-term.
If you’re oh-so-tempted to tell your boss to shove the job somewhere painful, wait – decide what you’re going to do first. Get another job? Start your own business? Go freelance?
Things may be wrong, but that doesn’t mean everything else is right.
6. Put people ahead of money
Be prepared to be more than reasonable about money if it will solve some of your issues. Things may be difficult financially for a while, but if you’ve made the right choice about your relationships, it’ll work out OK.
You can always earn some more money, but you can never get your family back.
7. Give yourself a break
If possible, take a break from the whole situation. Have a weekend away without your partner (and without your lover, either!), book some time off work or stay with undemanding friends for a few days.
If this isn’t possible, take a long quiet walk alone or shut yourself in your room to think undisturbed.
8. Think about the future
You may be middle-aged, but that still leaves half your life to go. Are you prepared to continue like this forever? Can you foresee a natural end to the situation or a time when it’s likely to improve?
Are you really fixing the problem, or is the same situation likely to recreate itself? If you do (or don’t) take action now, how will things be in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
9. Make a decision and stick to it
If you have an ‘either-or’ decision to make, such as whether to leave or not, toss a coin and pretend you must follow the side which turns up. How do you feel about how it turned out – disappointed or relieved?
Follow your brain, not your mood or your sex drive. Make a conscious, rational decision about your life and how you’re going to change it.
10. Start changing your life one step at a time
Don’t rush into a massive campaign of self-improvement, as you’re unlikely to keep it up. Thinking long-term and taking small steps in the right direction will get you there faster.
Plan how you’ll make changes, and how long it’ll take to reach your goal or bring your immediate problems under control.
Changing your life is a long job, so think about how you’ll motivate yourself and arrange for some small rewards for each stage of achievement.
A midlife crisis doesn’t have to ruin everything you’ve achieved over the years – why not make it a positive, life-changing experience instead?