Sinking or Soaring at Midlife?

Midlife! That wonderful period of confusion, reassessment, stuckness and change …. Welcome!

Midlife is a normal developmental life stage. It can be a positive and mindful process of the whole person you will be for your second adulthood. It cannot be avoided. Live long enough it’s as inevitable as was adolescence. You may experience loss, change, and letting go of much of what you bring into midlife. Prepare and pay attention and you can complete this journey with a minimal amount of struggle.

Dan Johnston,, reminds us that at midlife, we focus on becoming who we were meant to be rather than who we think others want us to be. We examine and evaluate every aspect of our lives and search for deeper meaning.

Suzanne Braun Levine,, author of Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood, identifies two important steps to take to soar at midlife:

1. Recognize that change takes time and give yourself permission to move at your own speed.
2. Surround yourself with a circle of friends who will listen, support, suggest and commiserate.
To these, I would add:
3. Actively explore and resolve the seven key decisions of midlife.

What are these seven decisions?

1. What will my legacy be?
2. What meaningful work do I now want to do?
3. How can I fulfill my need to nurture?
4. How can I sustain meaningful relationships in my life?
5. How can I express myself creatively?
6. How can I meet my spiritual needs?
7. What surroundings do I want?

Because midlife usually involves redefining purpose, the first key decision is legacy. What do you hope to leave the world? How do you want to be remembered? Within that context, the second key decision has to do with meaningful work. As more people enter the workforce late or retire early, it is important to examine the role work will play in second adulthood and also to examine what work is. Many may find that part-time employment, volunteering or some form of entrepreneurship are intriguing options.

As we age, our family and social structures change. The next two decisions address this shift. As parents and children age, responsibilities change. For some, this means coping with being the filling in the family sandwich. For others, this means dealing with separation and loss. For those who have not had children, as well as for those with grown children, new ways to nurture – from being the “fun” aunt to fostering pets – emerge. As friendship patterns shift, we are faced with finding new relationships or finding alternate ways to maintain the old ones.

The next two questions address nurturing the self. Part of remaining vibrant is finding outlets for creative expression – from writing to visual arts, from crafts to culinary excellence. As you encourage your mind to grow, so too should you find ways to nurture your spirit. This decision may involve becoming more involved in the religion of your childhood or exploring other forms of spirituality. It may mean going to a house of worship or communing with nature – or both.

Finally, surroundings become increasingly important as we age. Finding the right surroundings may be crucial to your ability to implement the other six decisions and may also encompass considerations not on the list. Who do you want to be near? How will you access the things you need, perhaps including health care or support services.

Camus said, “In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Learn about your life. Find the path to your invincible summer.

Author's Bio: 

Susan R. Meyer, Ed. D., CC, is a Life Coach and consultant specializing in clearing self-imposed barriers in life and at work. Her work includes empowerment programs and life-planning programs for women at midlife. Please visit her at for information about teleclasses (free and fee), workshops and newsletters. You can contact her at