Umair Hardie, in his blog, The Economic Roots of Your Life Crisis – (see link below) talks about a life crisis. It’s a great blog piece for a whole lot of reasons. Firstly, given the subject matter, the fact that it’s written by a bloke is amazing. Secondly, the admission that “he thought he was the only one lucky enough to be having a life crisis” and that there is currently a life crisis epidemic is refreshing and thirdly, his definition of a life crisis as “a crisis of human potential foregone” … occurring when “you know you are not living up to your potential, but it’s frustratingly difficult to see what, if anything can be done about it” is highly relevant. Finally, his thesis that it is the breakdown of institutions that is partially responsible for said life crisis is interesting.
I notice that he doesn’t mention that words “mid-life” anywhere, so I assume that Mr Hardie is in a life stage that is something other (and possibly younger) than mid-life. It is actually quite heartening to realise that all sorts of people, including those of the calibre of Mr Hardie experience one (or several) life crisis. Mr Hardie’s social research which shows his friends also in the throes of a life crisis correlates with my own social research. I have been having this sort of discussion with my social circle for a while and it is amazing to discover just how many are striving to tap back into their dreams.
So why don’t people talk about this stuff? Why isn’t it manly, dignified or barely mentionable in polite conversation? Why is it so hard to admit that we have settled and conformed and that we aren’t comfortable in doing it? Rather than a sign of weakness, these feelings of malcontent and vulnerability are great change agents. Look at how many people have gone on to bigger and better things after a life crisis? No doubt the process is unsettling, especially if you are like me, you like to have and maintain all your ducks in a row. But, the prize at the end… the life you were destined to live whether brought about by a better job, starting your own business, a better relationship or whatever ….is so worthwhile.
The life crisis phenomenon is no longer confined to mid-life. Younger people are constantly questioning relevance and purpose and will more likely have no less than three career changes in their lifetimes. And so they should, so we all should. A fulfilling life has purpose, it needs to be meaningful and engaging. Thankfully, the stereotype that only middle-aged men going through the bikes and babes stage or only middle-aged plastic surgery addicted women go through life crisis seems to be changing. Take as an example the expression “quarter life crisis” recently being introduced into our vocabularies.
There are times in life when one doesn’t have all the answers… and that’s ok. Why do we always think that everyone else has all the answers relevant to reaching their own potential? Why do we think that no-one else has to settle? Thanks to Mr Hardie and HBR for being a part of this much needed dialogue. There is certainly no shame in any of this.
Getting back to the ducks….one thing I have recently learned is that ducks are live animals with a mind of their own and can easily wander out of their row positions. As you chase that stray duck to get her back in the row, remember that the possibility that the chase can open up a new path is very real indeed.
- The Economic Roots of Your Life Crisis (blogs.hbr.org)