If you are growing old well, then you are likely to help a child grow up well.
40 is not old, but it’s certainly not young either. It’s the start of mid-life, and it has a well-earned, dangerous reputation. It’s when so many people have an inner crisis, even if life is sailing along smoothly on the outside. At some point disappointment, boredom, or depression accompany the person who has a career, a family, a home, a community, and all the subsequent stress of being responsible for so much. In addition, health problems of all kinds begin to flare up by 40, which remind us that we are decaying in far more ways than we are growing.
Many 40-somethings have established their career, have gotten married, have had a few kids, and have bought all the things they need and most of the things they want. They have arrived at their life destination, and they wonder, “This is it?”
For others, they are still building the best life they can, and they feel the crushing weight of pressure from what they have constructed. There are too many things to do, too many people to care for, too many problems to solve – just too many responsibilities in every area of life. They are caring for children, spouses, friends, employees, and even aging parents. They get to a point where they simply cannot balance it all anymore; it’s all just too much. In frustration they cry out, “There just isn’t enough me to go around!”
It’s a tough time of life, indeed, and for some it’s just too much, so they pull the ripcord of life. They give up on something big, like their marriage, their kids, or their career. Sometimes they chuck it all at once. Or they just give up trying very hard at anything, settling into a comfortably complacent lifestyle. They fall prey to the consumer-centered suburban lifestyle, and they go out to pasture.
So what’s a mid-lifer to do? Well, after spending four days in Colorado with some of my favorite 40-ish guys, I’m ready to convey a few suggestions based on our conversations. I’m sorry if any of this seems trite; I realize that all of these things are a lot easier said than done. But hopefully, it will help in some way – for your sake, and for your kids.
- Focus. Identify your top four or five priorities in life and focus on them — to the detriment of all else. Set your sights on just a few things that you are passionate about and that you have valued for a long time. For me (at this point in my life) it’s family, faith, teaching, and writing. If I can do those things well, then I am on the right track. But that may mean that I am not going to keep up with all my friends very well. It means that I am not going to be able to play golf, read a novel a month, or hone my guitar skills anytime soon. I have to face facts: I can only do so much. Trying to do it all is living in a fantasy world (see #4 below). Learn to accept mediocrity in the less important areas of your life. Read the rest of this entry »