How To Find Your Reason For Being In Midlife

Many years ago, as I was turning 50, I noticed a “dullness” or a “lull” in my life where things just didn’t seem quite right. It felt like my reason for being in midlife was gone.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Midlife Crisis:

In society, this is often referred to as a Midlife Crisis. But upon further research, this concept has been continually disproven. In fact, according to Margaret H. Huyck, PhD, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Psychology in Chicago, “If you look at the research, evidence for a midlife crisis is just not there.”

So why, then, do we feel like this?

“This stage in life is a huge transition.”

As I began to study career and life transitions, I came across the concept of the U-Curve of Happiness. A study found that younger and older adults are happier than middle-aged adults. If the U-shape applies, then there should be a downward slide. From the teens or early 20s into the 40s and 50s and a climb back up after the 50s (Galambos et al., 2015; Piper, 2015).

So that is promising! At least we have the upward part of the curve to look forward to! 

Stage In Life:

Upon digging deeper, I began to ask myself. So how can we, in midlife, really find true happiness and climb up the U Curve? 

This stage in life is a huge transition. We can transition in our careers, our health, our relationships. Yet, rather than looking at it as a crisis. Why not look at this time in our lives as an opportunity instead? How can we live the rest of our lives truly happy?

A big question, I know. But that is when I came upon a further concept that really transformed me. This concept is called Ikigai. It originates from research conducted on residents of the Japanese village of Okinawa, Japan. Which is one of the worlds’ Blue Zones where the highest percentage of 100-year-olds reside. Residents of Okinawa practice the concept of Ikigai. 

In Japanese culture, to find meaning and purpose in life is to find one’s ikigai (ee-key-guy). Ikigai, which is a combination of the Japanese words ikiru, meaning “to live,” and kai, meaning “the realization of what one hopes for,” can be understood as a reason for being, or that which makes life worth living. The Japanese have a clear way to find reason for being in midlife and beyond.

“This realization forms the basis of how we can live our next chapter in life.”

Life Transitions:

This concept has been extensively studied. And in fact, was highlighted in a recent excellent documentary called “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones”. Here, Dan Buettner travels to Okinawa to speak directly to the island’s oldest residents. Where he digs deep into this philosophy. 

So, how can we bring this concept of the Ikigai practically into our lives as we face career & life transitions? I decided to decipher this for myself. And now I take my clients through a powerful step by step process to actually help them find their Ikigai. This realization forms the basis of how we can live our next chapter in life. And ultimately be happy!

As we look to rediscover ourselves in midlife, finding our purpose in life is so fundamental. In fact, one of the most fundamental human needs. While the concept is personal and specific to each individual, ikigai is consistently found at the convergence of four elements. Namely, passion (what you love), mission (what the world needs), vocation (what you are good at), and profession (what you can get paid for) (Garcia, Miralles, & Cleary, 2017).

Finding Your Ikigai In Midlife:

Research suggests many positive results of finding your Ikigai, including decreased anxiety, enhanced immune function, increase in life expectancy, improved resilience, enhanced self-esteem and acceptance of adversity. 

According to the concept of Ikigai, the secret to a long and happy life (and a way to find reason for being in midlife) is to live with purpose every day. People can find meaning from many different  sources: relationships,  work,  religion, or hobbies, for example. 

To discover your ikigai, you must first identify: what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you are good at. 

Ikigai can be found at the point at which these four elements converge as depicted in this Venn Diagram: 

Screenshot 2024 03 22 044302

Self-Reflection To Find Reason For Being In Midlife:

Finding one’s Ikigai is an ongoing process of self-reflection. Your Ikigai is likely to change as your circumstances change over time. Therefore, it is beneficial to practice this  exercise as often as you can so that you continue to explore different possibilities as your circumstances change.

As an example, I found, after doing this exercise, that My Ikigai is: 

“To guide and coach people through their life transitions, and to inspire people through my words, whether oral or written.To create positive connections with people and communities in order to spread knowledge and understanding.”

Our Ikigai changes through different stages of our lives. But at this midlife stage – if we can find what truly gives us happiness and what truly is our Reason For Being – we can climb up that happiness curve with confidence!

Additional resources can be found in Kavita’s bio below.

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