Accelerating Midlife Crisis
Let’s be honest – we all do it.
We see a middle-aged man riding around in a hot-red ferrari that just feels and looks out-of-place. As out-of-place as socks-and-sandals.
We laugh and think to ourselves… that will never be me.
No it won’t be you… but not because you’re immune to the midlife crisis. But rather because you’ll be driving a Tesla.
I wonder if anyone has ever tried to accelerate, rather than avoid their midlife crisis.
Appreciation, Getting Intrinsic
This issue is utterly catastrophic in its implications for society as well as our own lives individually. It is beyond me why this thought is not universally broadcasted and taught.
For this reason we must each take on the mission of sharing this sense of awareness, and opening doors to this viewpoint for those around us.
Our focus in this article is exploring how we protect against and manage the Expectations Gap. In the piece on the Expectations Gap we examined how people have a tendency to ‘get happier’ after midlife, and that this is most likely due to a shift in focus to appreciation rather than aspiration.
That is, looking within and cherishing what they already have as a pose to focusing on the fruitless pursuit of extrinsically defined expectations.
Focusing on what we DO have.
In business marketing there is a tendency is to focus on the people out there in the world who haven’t yet heard of what you do. Why haven’t these people heard of me yet and how can I reach them?
But in truth your biggest asset is always your existing customers and assets – those you already have. The people who do know about you.
They already recognise your brand and your value – and so by enhancing their experience further they can become your salesforce for more great customers.
This principle rears its head in many parts of the natural world. We are so often better served by focusing on what we do have, as a pose to what we don’t have.
Why isn’t ‘Some’ Enough?
Wanting ‘more’ means you already have ‘some’… so why isn’t ‘some’ enough?
As a young man, I didn’t realise how I’d compromised my dream for filmmaking by allowing an externalised expectation to creep into the picture. To recap, I was determined I would win the Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for the same film before I was thirty – or else I’d be a ‘failure’.
I wish there’d been an alarm system;
**INTRUDER ALERT** – externalised expectation invading intrinsic dream!
The funny thing is, far less unrealistic and dramatic goals can still bring incredible dissatisfaction and internal turmoil. Everyday goals like being married and having children by a certain age, becoming a CEO or starting your own business, or simply having your dream house.
This might trigger resistance from you.
It is hard to recognise the voices that speak these dreams – and I say so from personal experience, not from any form of high-ground. It is easy to say “but the drive to do these things comes from within me”… but so often we have just been playing Chinese whispers.
You know the game – someone starts with a word, and whispers into the ear of the person next to them. The word gets passed around the circle and by misinterpretation, it tends to evolve. What starts as “I like green eggs and ham” soon becomes “Alike three pegs and dams”.
Life is not a game of Chinese Whispers and that is something we can all be grateful for. We do however need to pause the game at times, and speak the words we want to speak, rather than being part of the whisper.
We need to speak from within.
My takeaway is – don’t let your dreams and expectations be decided via games of Chinese Whispers.
The frameworks to unlock authenticity.
Since my naive teenage years of misaligned expectations, I’ve developed tools like The Minimum Viable Lifestyle and An Audience-Of-None as frameworks to keep me from falling into the expectations gap.
I also realised this week that I needed to develop a similar basic framework for myself specific to romantic relationships.
Even after starting my own business in 2017, I have reached so many forks in the road where I have felt empty, misaligned and stuck, thinking this is not what I expected. From the outside, having your own business seems impressive and always drew me praise.
But that didn’t change the experience.
For so long I’ve found it challenging – when we don’t have a strong internal voice, external voices find their way in. They do not knock and they do not ring in advance. They don’t even bring a gift.
Like the sneakiest of burglars, they deftly slide open a window creep in while you are sleeping. Once they’re in, they don’t like to leave, and take incredible internal conviction and resilience to ward out.
What I’ve found for myself is that I can’t stop burglars getting in and taking my voice without frameworks like MVL and Audience-of-None. These frameworks keep me on an intrinsic path more effectively than any other vice I’ve had beforehand.
Accelerating Midlife Crisis
After learning about the experience of midlife crises through reading (and not first-hand), I came to see how this realignment of expectations was desirable, rather than something to be avoided.
Then I realised I couldn’t wait.
I wanted to accelerate the shift from aspiration to appreciation.
This is precisely when I fell into The Minimum Viable Lifestyle (MVL). To recap the MVL, it is based on two key questions:
- What is the lowest my personal income can be, that my physical and safety needs are met? That I am comfortable and happy?
- What is the least my life could be?
So instead of asking ‘what’s the most your life could be?’… ask, ‘what is the least it could be?’
Yes I could still win an Academy Award one day. But why would I want to?
Maybe I could be a billionaire one day. But why would I want to?
Maybe I could own my own home at some point in the next couple of years. But what are the incentives to do so?
None of these things are bad, but are they indispensable? Are they essential to a good life?
Living in circles
Joe’s plan for his good life:
Step 1 – Get set-up financially.
Step 2 – Start a family
Step 3 – Neglect family to maintain financial stability and career progress
Step 4 – Feel unfulfilled and overwhelmed. Feel insecure. Feel life is passing by.
Step 5 – Buy a Ferrari or Tesla
Step 6 – Adjust expectations, lower the bar, and start appreciating the little things and treat all else as a bonus.
Joe’s plan for a good life, refined.
Proceed to Step 6, live an aligned life, and let the bonuses find you.