“Is This It?”: 4 Key Reasons for Midlife Languishing

“Is This It?”: 4 Key Reasons for Midlife Languishing

Although this article is about “midlife” the basic principles, I believe, are relevant to anyone at any stage of life.

So, no matter your age, if you feeling you’re languishing, rather than thriving and flourishing and enjoying real and meaningful happiness, then this would be well worth reading (and maybe even sharing).

Real and meaningful happiness, or MORE real and meaningful happiness, is possible and for many of us can be found in understanding these “reasons” and then counteracting them …

via Psychology Today by Anna Katharina Schaffner


  • Life satisfaction often hits bottom in our forties as we have to come to terms with the reality of getting what we want.
  • People also tend to stop learning in mid-life.
  • Most importantly, we become so busy that we tend to neglect connections.

Source: Veld/Shutterstock

It is a truth widely acknowledged that happiness is a U-shaped curve. Starting at an optimistic, youthful high, it begins to decline in our twenties and hits rock bottom in midlife. In our fifties, it gently climbs upwards again, reaching similar heights at the beginning and end of our lives. The movement of the curve has generally been interpreted as reflecting a transition from idealism to realism to acceptance.

The stage-of-life-related fluctuation of our happiness levels has not just been measured by numerous psychologists, but has also been observed by writers and philosophers. Dante famously opens The Divine Comedy with the lines: “Midway through life’s journey, I found myself alone and lost in a dark forest.” Dante’s main character is lost both in a literal and a metaphorical sense. What is more, he is also grappling with the consequences of loss at numerous levels: He has lost Beatrice, the love of his life, as well as his faith, his passion, his care for others and his energy. The dark woods in which he finds himself are the thorny undergrowth of his psyche.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s polymathic Faust figure is another deeply dissatisfied mid-lifer. At the beginning of Goethe’s tragedy, the outwardly successful and acclaimed German scholar has studied and mastered everything there is to study. But all the knowledge he amassed yields him no insights, no wisdom and no pleasure.

In fact, Faust’s life is sterile and lacking in meaning. He is so disillusioned and exhausted that he is ready to commit suicide. Instead, however, he makes a deal with the devil, who promises him wealth, women, forbidden knowledge, wild hedonic pleasures, and power. Crucially, though, none of these things end up curing Faust’s meaning crisis, either.

The mid-life crisis is not a cliché. For many of us, it is a deeply felt, painful reality. Many of my coaching clients grapple with an acute sense of loss of meaning and an absence of joy and passion in their forties. This affects both men and women. The mid-life crisis has long ceased to be the terrain of men only. And neither do most people react to it by buying shiny fast cars and too-youthful clothes and ditching their partners for younger models.

The mid-life slump of my clients takes a more existential, searching, often philosophical form. Like Dante, they wonder: How did I even get here? And where are all the things I lost on the way? Like Faust, they ask: Is this it? What lies beyond the boundaries of what I know already? They question their choices, seek to reconnect with what really used to matter to them, and wish to explore what fulfilment may look and feel like. A surprisingly large number of them wonder whether they are in the right job. Quite a few conclude that they aren’t.

Why is it that so many of us embark on this deeper meaning quest in mid-life? Our low life satisfaction in our forties seems both paradoxical and counterintuitive. In that period, many of us tend actually to have achieved most of our goals: statistically speaking, we tend to have finished our professional training and secured good jobs and incomes, we tend to own property, be married or in stable partnerships, and often have children. Many of us have reached positions in our professional lives that we desperately wanted to reach in our younger years.

So what is going on? Why does everything we have strived for suddenly taste like ashes when we hit our forties? I think mid-life languishing has 4 main causes. All are related to getting what we want.

1. The reality of getting what we want can be disappointing.

First and foremost, getting what we want is simply not always as great as we imagine it. In our forties, we are confronted with the experiential reality of what the fulfilment of many of our longer-term aims actually feels like. And it feels, well, just not as amazing as we hoped it would. Achieving our external aims, such as being successful in our careers, owning property, or having children, does not deliver the bouts of joy and deep satisfaction we thought it would.

Parenting is beautiful and sacred and intrinsically meaningful at a deeper level, but it is also hard work, exhausting and often challenging on a day-to-day basis. Long-term partnerships, too, can at times feel like they are more work than joy. When sexual passion becomes less central or fizzles out completely, we may have to contend with other, less shiny and potentially more irritating things…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE