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Midlife: time to find your passion

Nov 27, 2020

Growing older can be challenging, doubly so during a global pandemic where nothing is certain. How, then, do we cope with this transition? Dr Eddie Murphy gives sage advice on navigating midlife and restoring meaning and passion to our lives.

Psychologist Elliot Jaques coined the term “midlife crisis” in a 1965 article referring to a time when adults reckon with their mortality. However, most people do not develop classic midlife crises. Some individuals develop conditions such as depression and anxiety, but not everyone. Rather than the doom and gloom associated with a midlife crisis, use this period for taking stock instead.

A time of transition

Midlife is the central period of a person’s life, spanning from approximately age 40 to 60. It is a time of transition. We can all struggle with times of transition – bereavements, unemployment, illness and so on. Many people come to feel discontented and restless as they struggle with ageing, mortality, and holding onto a sense of purpose.

Other challenges also occur during this transition: an empty nest, financial concerns, a clearer sense of mortality, and growing unhappiness with the daily grind. For some, the temptation of ‘far away fields’ or a red sports car can look persuasive.

At this point in life, it is easy to tally failures and disappointments with an overly negative focus. People struggle with their life’s purpose, but here are some ways you can find your life passion and true purpose.

1. Explore the things you love to do

We are all born with a deep and meaningful purpose that we have to discover. Your purpose is not something you need to decide – it’s already there. You can begin to discover your passion or your purpose by exploring two things: what you love to do, and what comes to you easily. Work is required, but suffering is not. If you are struggling and suffering, you are probably not living your purpose.

2. Decide where you want to go

Decide where you want to go by clarifying your vision. Then, lock in your destination through goal development, positive affirmations, and visualisation, and start taking actions that will move you in the right direction.

3. Focus on your legacy

Think about the legacy you want to leave behind once you’re gone. How are your relationships? How is your health? How do you want those things to be remembered? Once you are focused on what you want, the ‘how’ will show up right when you need it.

4. The Passion Test

Developed by Chris and Janet Attwood, The Passion Test is a simple, yet elegant process. You start by filling in the blank at the end of the following statement 15 times with a verb: “When my life is ideal, I am ___.”

Once you’ve created 15 statements, you identify the top five by comparing the statements against one another to determine which is most important. Take the winner of that comparison and decide whether it’s more or less important than the next statement until you’ve identified the passion that is most meaningful to you. Repeat the process with the remaining statements to determine your next four passions.

Next, create goals for each of your top five passions so that you can look at your life and easily tell whether you are living that passion.

It can be tough work to understand your passions truly. But once you know how to create action plans, you can turn your dreams into reality.

Dr Eddie Murphy is a clinical psychologist, mental health expert and author.

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