Some people feel content for the majority of their working life if their situation meets externally viable needs and they are rewarded properly. Many assume that rewards follow correct behavior if they are willing to sacrifice for success. Has this been the case for you? For example, individuals expect that if they do their part, life will pay off accordingly (Gould, 1972). Many of us, while in midlife, start to question the value and purpose of work. This is why it’s important in midlife to consider not only the values but also the degree of fit between the individual and the current work environment (Levinson, 1978). In midlife, some people discover during self-reflection that their current work situation is not suitable, as it does not allow them to carry out important aspects of themselves (Roach, 2011; Browning, 2007).

Is there a part of you which is not being fulfilled and is crying out for attention now? This is important to pay attention to. Many mid-life adults pay a price when the vision of their life does not match internal expectations. Many people remain in jobs for many years feeling empty while doing work, which is of little importance to them. This pattern can continue until a combination of external pressure and inner readiness emerges. This inner readiness leads to self-reflection in midlife. Some people start to ask themselves deep questions about the value of their life and their contribution to society. This is healthy. What questions can you ask yourself about your own life now? Others seek for more meaning in their work as they are meaning-seeking creatures (Hollis, 2006). Most important, however, is the realization that there might be a gap between where they expected to be and where they are now. This tension is inherent in the human condition and therefore is indispensable to mental well-being (Frankl, 1984).

Ignoring Inner Needs in Midlife

I have observed that people tend to avoid activities which prevent them from dealing with the deeper issues about their work in midlife. Sometimes people are reluctant about sharing the things which matter most. Some adults in midlife carry around the symbols of their self-worth in their consciousness (Becker, 1971). The symbols like a big house, fancy car, or expensive clothes can give them an artificial sense of self-worth. Many adults in midlife, however, feel competent and satisfied in their work (Evans & Bartolome, 1986). While they may not feel contented, they are challenged enough so that they are not driven to change by negative thoughts and emotions. Once individuals experience failure in reaching their personal goals it is easy to have their self-worth damaged. If the fear of this failure is greater than change itself, it is possible that those individuals will not be able to make the required changes in midlife that are required for renewal and growth. (Bardwick, 1986). Levoy (1997) suggests that some people in midlife are afraid to follow their true passions as they might be called “crazy” by others. This influences their sense of self-worth, which is seriously impaired based on the external feedback. Those individuals who are considered normal in terms of being well adapted are often less healthy than some neurotic individuals in terms of human values. Often they are well adapted only at the expense of having given up themselves in order to meet the external expectations. All genuine individuality and spontaneity may have been lost at this point (Fromm, 1941).

Don’t ignore your needs!

If you don’t pay attention now to your own needs during this important part of life, no one else will. Start today with self-reflection and asking better questions about your life and all its possibilties

I’ll be cheering you on as you go . . .

Craig Nathanson


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