How to have a mid-life crisis!
In 2001, after a two and a half year health battle, I was finally diagnosed with a rare type of cancer which was described in the medical journals as “invariably fatal”. Other than surgery for the tumour, there was no treatment. I was given three years to live. I decided not to sit around and wait to die, so I moved to the UK (from Australia), started a new life, and the cancer never came back.
In 2013, I was again sitting in a doctor’s surgery hearing the ominous news that I had breast cancer. After nine months of gruelling chemo, surgery and radiotherapy, my surgeon said that I had responded so well to treatment that I am now the ‘case study’ that they tell all their other patients about.
I have learned the hard way how to deal with cancer – twice. I couldn’t tell you why I got cancer. And I couldn’t tell you why I responded as well as I did. But one thing I know, and that is that I am not one to sit around and feel sorry for myself, just waiting to see whether I live or die. Both times, I decided to grab life with both hands, and make life worth living. Life is short. And I really want it to count.
For me, cancer was the big kick in the behind that prompted me to make something meaningful of my life.
Many of us will have more than one ‘midlife’ crisis. There is now such thing as a ‘quarter-life crisis’, which researchers tell us happens at around age 28 – the exact age I got my first cancer. The average age of a mid-life crisis for women is 44 – exactly the age at which I finished breast cancer treatment and was battling the aftermath – feeling unfit, unhealthy, fat, frumpy and old before my time. It is that feeling that life was all downhill from here, that my best years were behind me, that caused me to say one day, “you know what? I’m just not going to settle for that!” That turning point launched me into a big experiment to radically overhaul my lifestyle to one that motivates me to live life to the full, makes a difference in the world, and inspires others to do the same, whether they have had cancer or not.
So what have I learned about how to have a mid-life crisis? I learned that the main reason I was dissatisfied with certain aspects of my life is that I had lost touch with my core values – the values that are most important to me – and I was living a lifestyle which didn’t fulfil them, and therefore didn’t allow me to live a life which was the fullest expression of who I am. I believe we all have unique gifts, skills, resources and contributions that we can bring to the world to make a difference – contributions that no-one else can make. The world would be a poorer place without you in it. And when we are not living a life that allows us to live out our unique purpose and contribution, the world, and our own soul, is the poorer for it.
So my advice to anyone else in a mid-life (or quarter-life) crisis? Know what is most important to you, and design a lifestyle that targets those values.
We all hold to a huge set of common values which are good and noble and right – things like freedom, justice, creativity, order, love, friendship, spirituality, courage and family. But because of different family backgrounds and life experiences and in-built temperaments, some of these values are more important to us than others. I call these our core values. It is our differences in core values that makes us interesting, and that define the gifts that we bring to the world around us, that enable us to make a unique and valuable contribution to the world. Defining and tapping into our core values is where our potential lies, to rise above the mediocre, and the life that just goes through the motions, and lets our true and authentic self shine through, to inspire others and make a difference, and bring us satisfaction and fulfilment in the process.
So how do you figure out what your core values are? In my book, “How to have a mid-life crisis” I set out ten lifestyle types, which describe the type of life which satisfies a certain type of people. There is a summary of these on the ‘ten lifestyle types’ page of this website. You will relate to some of the lifestyle types more than others. The ten types are a fun way of narrowing down what you find most satisfying, and why – in other words, what are the core values that that lifestyle is fulfilling. The ten types are not set in stone. They are not definitive or comprehensive, and I am not trying to squeeze anyone into a pigeon hole. The ten types are just a tool which you may find helpful to narrow down the kind of person you are, what gives you the most satisfaction in life, and therefore which core values are most important to you.
You may need to take some time (days, weeks, even months) to really understand your core values. There are some exercises in the Core Values Workbook on the Resources page to help you work through your life history to unpick what is most important to you.
Once you have done that, and you have defined a clear set of several (4-6) core values, then you are in a strong position to (a) understand why certain areas of your current lifestyle aren’t satisfying to you; and (b) what you need to do to change it.
From your own core values, you can develop an action plan for change, which will set you on an exciting new path of renewed joy in life, even with small changes to your lifestyle.
I hope you enjoy the system I have developed through my own life makeover experience, to help you discover or rediscover what is most important to you and give you a new excitement for life! It has worked for me, and I wish you every success on your own life transformation journey.