A lot of adults are currently experiencing midlife crises. It is a time in which adults come to realize their own mortality and how much time is left in their lives. Midlife crisis is experienced by many people between the ages of 40 – 60 (sometimes earlier) when they realize that their lives may be more than halfway over. Midlife crisis usually starts to come into effect when the person begins to realize personal conflicts with themselves and the goals they want to achieve aren’t being reached by a certain time frame or age. Sometimes, a crisis can be triggered by unemployment or underemployment, or realizing that a job or career is hated but not knowing how else to earn an equivalent living. Additionally, when experiencing a midlife crisis, people may reassess their achievements in terms of their dreams. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in core aspects or situations of day-to-day life, such as career, work-life balance, marriage etc. But for many the result is a breakdown.
I have reasons to think that someone who has been living a life of purpose will have a happy midlife transition rather than midlife crises.
A life of purpose is not an accident. It starts with taking definite steps and being disciplined about them. I have been to a youth seminar where the speaker hammered heavily on having a vision. But there is a significant step that comes before that which I felt the speaker should have mentioned. That step helps in forming the right vision for oneself. It is self-discovery.
People tend to run away from this and end up living purposeless lives. Being unclear about yourself means that you are unclear about your future. Self-discovery can unsettle you and until you discover yourself do not settle. Ask yourself who you are. This is for the courageous. It is like going to that core within you after clearing through layers that have formed over the years; layers artificial to your being. Some people find themselves after weeks and even months of introspection. In the process of self-discovery, you discover what God has given you; you discover your passion and your skills become clearer. The importance of this primary step cannot be overemphasized. Do this with prayer.
After finding or discovering yourself, form a vision that aligns with who you are. This should be your vision not someone else’s. One without a vision only exists; he does not live.
The next step is to develop a plan starting from your present state to achieve your vision. Consider your present skills as well as those you may need to acquire. Those you need to acquire offer an opportunity to grow. Act on your plan. As your plan leads you slowly to your vision, it gradually changes your present for the better. What can you do now? Your plan is not to get you to your destination overnight but to lead you towards it. One can be given a million naira today and in the next three months the money would have gone down the drain. A woman actually inherited millions from her late father. After six months, she could not account for the money. It was lavished. That is a person without vision and therefore without a plan. “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. A person with a vision is ready to make use of resources and opportunities when they come. On the other hand, a person without vision wastes resources and opportunities. This is the case with many. It is a reality.
A clear vision has the benefit of giving your life a direction. It can prioritize your values and keep what is most important in your life always in your mind. You find out that those things that need to be uprooted out of your life give way to your values. They were standing in the way of realizing your vision and now you have a strong sense of direction so they give way. You have a clear vision and decisions are already made with it. Without vision, seemingly good things or even good things keep you from achieving the best thing. If your vision demands more education or a new skill acquisition, make a plan for that. Reading is a means. If you can read, you can learn. Reading will aid the fulfillment of your vision. Both your vision and plan should be written out in black and white. This keeps you focused.
In a country like ours what I have discussed so far may seem non applicable, only to be followed in well-developed countries. But there is a religious aspect to it. God expects us to look with the eyes of faith at all situations we live through especially the difficult ones. In the parable of the talents, Jesus warns us against closing ourselves off from coming to know the faith of God and not to be slothful in using everything that God continuously gives us. Upon leaving five talents to the first servant, two to the second and one to the third and requiring them to work, the Lord gave them an opportunity. A talent is a gift and a certain substance, but at the same time an opportunity. God trusts you and expects you to use it properly. If he has given you certain abilities, then he is not indifferent as to what you do with them. If certain situations make you feel tense, it means that your talent is hidden within them, as if a diamond were buried beneath ashes. What do you do with it? How do you use it? Unfavourable circumstances are a whole mass of talents. But we are often like blind people who understand very little. Later we will see the ocean of talents in which we have been immersed.
These are what you should do:
- Educate yourself: By this I do not just mean going to school. Education opens the mind. It broadens your horizon. True education teaches you how to learn. You are basically responsible for your education. Education forms a man. It affects the way he thinks. He sees the parts in a whole and can as well form a whole from the parts available to him. It makes him think thereby becoming a problem solver. An educated man applies his knowledge to solve problems. Education develops our minds and affects our way of thinking. It enables us to try a new approach to achieve a goal when a particular approach does not bring the desired result. In essence we are not defeated because we know we have learnt how to learn. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason but no morals…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”
- Focus: According to John C. Maxwell, the keys are priorities and concentration. If you know your priorities but lack concentration, then you know what to do but never get it done. If you have concentration but no priorities then you have excellence but no progress. Harness both to see the power of focus.
- Take acceptable risks: In taking risks do not be reckless. Calculate the risks and decide. Do not however run away from taking risks. Attempt not to take any risk and you are at risk of living an unchallenging and unfulfilling life.
- Stay Positive: Your attitude is crucial because it determines how you act. You stay positive, you achieve success where success is not just the definition the society has attached to it – too much money – but more than that.
- Cultivate Discipline: Choose between the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. If you choose the former then follow John C. Maxwell’s advice to “develop systems and routines especially in areas crucial to your vision and success.” It is not going to be easy for starters but do not quit and it becomes part of you. If you concentrate on the difficulty of the work instead of the rewards, you are likely to become discouraged. Discipline yields a huge dividend.
While our eyes go up as a result of the vertical relationship we have with God, we should also work to see that the world which God created for us to dominate is actually becoming better. The world is not just in a state but in an evolutionary process. We should contribute our quota to this evolution. There is a task you have which will not be fulfilled except you discover yourself. God is within you hoping you open up yourself to him. A creature cannot more than the creator.
Take away God’s existence and life becomes one long string of pathetic moments. It is with a very close relationship with God that we find ourselves; that we truly live; that we realize the meaning of life. It is to your peril that you do not live a life of purpose. You do not have to be close to the grave to realize that. But the good news is that you can prevent that from happening. So choose. Now!