Help! I think I’m having a mid-career crisis
Picture this. You’ve known since childhood what you wanted to do. You went to school, trained, and finally got your dream job. Then one morning, a decade into your career, you wake up and realize something. You hate your job.
What should you do? You’ve come this far, so maybe stick it out until retirement? Or should you start over?
Many people question what they are doing at some point. This article is meant to help you understand what a mid-career crisis is and how to address it.
Many are familiar with the term “mid-life crisis.” The term was coined in 1965 by Canadian Psychologist Elliott Jacques in an article he wrote for The International Journal of Psychoanalysis.
A mid-career crisis is not very different from a mid-life crisis. Those who experience the latter often feel stuck in their careers. They struggle to extract meaning from their work and the most minute tasks feel exhausting.
Kieran Setiya wrote in the Harvard Business Review that one reason people suffer mid-career crises is too much “time at work is spent putting out fires and avoiding bad results, instead of pursuing projects with existential value—the kind that makes life worth living.” Setiya also points out that many people feel a sense of emptiness mid-career because they are so focused on future success that they are unable to feel satisfied in the present.
The last thing you want to do is make a major life decision based on temporary uneasiness. The following is a list of common mid-career crisis symptoms.
· You’re objectively successful, yet continually unsatisfied
· You have a general sense of apathy towards your work and lack interest in achieving greater goals
· You often feel impatient, defensive, or disgruntled towards your work
The first step is determining if this is truly a crisis or just temporary unhappiness. Almost 40% of adults experience stress at work. It’s possible you could just be experiencing a rough patch. Start by engaging in some soul searching. Many people recommend thinking back to why you chose your career in the first place. If you’re doing what you always wanted, maybe this is only
temporary and you should follow Setiya’s advice and focus on the present and seek out projects at work that offer existential value. However, if you’ve strayed from your dreams and former aspirations, it may be time to find a new path to realign yourself.
Second, the value of happiness cannot be overstated. When faced with the decision to cope or quit, don’t just choose the path of least resistance. Instead, choose the path that will bring you happiness and satisfaction in life – that existential value. Often the road less traveled by makes all the difference.
Third, be realistic about wants, needs, and expectations. If you’ve worked your entire life in banking and suddenly want to be a doctor, recognize that you will need to undertake some dramatic changes. When making big decisions, it’s important to take an inventory of not only what you stand to gain, but also what you stand to lose.
Fourth, old dogs can learn new tricks. It’s never too late to learn, grow, or gain new credentials. Not to mention, you’d be surprised how much you can leverage what you already know. It may not be necessary to rebuild from the ground up. You may have to take a few steps back, but your current wealth of experience may help you grow at a much faster pace.
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