Do you remember your days? You were passionate about things, and you had a vision. You were eager to learn and worked hard to build your ideal future. Fast forward to ten years, you had a reputable job, earned more than the median income, and had a family to provide for. When you thought you were finally leading a stable life, you looked at people in their 20s, and the dread of existential crisis hit you.
I vividly remember that when I graduated, my family and friends told me to make the best out of my twenties and “live in the moment”. But no one said to me that it was equally important to plan for what was coming ahead. Soon after, I realized that there were times when:
- I felt lost,
- I ran out of hope,
- I got caught in the hamster wheel and
- I became less productive.
This is when you discover that an existential crisis has hit you.
And no, it does not necessarily only happen at 25 or 50, but at several times in your life.
AM I ACTUALLY HAVING AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS?
Existential crisis doesn’t mean questioning your existence itself. Several minor anxieties can become a major existential crisis if not dealt with soon enough. These anxieties happen when significant transitions are happening in your life. Some of them could be –
- The transition from college to corporate life,
- When you are about to start a family,
- When you are dealing with a divorce,
- Dealing with the loss of a close one, or
- Your private life and your professional life are colliding
Dealing with existential anxieties can feel dreary, and thus people turn their heads to the other side (Yes, I am also guilty of that). But the first step toward dealing with a problem is identifying that there is a problem.
Every now and then, new transitions, challenges, and things to ponder are brought to you. Most of my clients that come to me are 35+. They talk to me about what bothers them on several levels, personal, career, financial, or health. Listening to their worries has helped me gain a holistic view of what I was doing wrong and how I can better prepare myself for the future. And if it has helped me, it surely can help you.
Take this whole blog as an exercise. I have made a list of such questions for you to assess. These questions are categorized by each decade and a milestone in your life (39, 49, 59, and 69). It doesn’t matter at what stage you are currently. If you can identify and answer these questions, you are advancing in the right direction. And that is how you can turn your existential crisis into an opportunity to grow and thrive in your personal and professional life.
Before we go in-depth, I advise you to take these questions with you on your little trip:
- Do you recognize yourself in your current phase?
- Do you remember your experiences and emotions in past stages?
- Do the questions in the future phase match your expectations?
They will help you get an overview of how you can set your future goals and what parameters you should consider.
Let’s dive deep into the crisis of each decade, shall we?
39 – The year of dark circles, forehead wrinkles, and hurried footsteps.
39, the brink of middle age. You are way past beyond the worries of youth. You have a real job, you can support your family, and you don’t have any significant health issues. This stage in life might as well be the prime of your life, considering all the life goals you set in your early twenties. But it is not all fun and games. These are some of the concerns of my clients being 39 or so:
a) How can I get the most out of my situation?
You are facing your 40s, and you have a steady income. You have toiled through your 20s and 30s to get this kind of stability. It is high time you do something for yourself now.
Why not go on that trip you couldn’t make in your late twenties because you were busy hustling? Why not go to the gym or start taking meditation classes that you always wanted to but didn’t have the motivation to pursue? Or pick back up on reading!
b) How can I keep up with the 25-years-olds?
With age, the Fear of Missing Out also increases. Today people in their twenties are building huge companies, running highly profitable businesses, and influencing thousands if not millions of others to dream. You miss being young and eager, and I get it, which is why I am writing this blog.
Have you allowed the curiosity inside you to die? Are you stuck in the same work routine? Are you not eager to reach out for something better? With your financial freedom now, you have many more opportunities to explore. So, why not?
c) Wait, Is that grey hair?!
Looking back at your photos from a few years ago might feel like a decade. Is your skin not radiant anymore? Have your eyes become droopy over the years? No one ages gracefully just like that, and I am one of them – by the way.
I know you have worked tirelessly over the years, but now it is time to work on yourself. Take some time off for yourself and keep a check on your body. Develop a healthy diet if you haven’t already. As someone has rightfully said, eat right, and you will glow.
49– Much wiser, more tired, but less worried
Did you know the average life expectancy back in the 1900s was 48? The good thing about reaching your fifties is you have more time to focus on yourself now, unlike a decade ago. But middle life is not that fun altogether. Your fifties also mean disappointment from your unmet expectations in your twenties. You get a severe reality check. For someone in their fifties, this is what might worry you:-
a) How can I live my best during the second half of my life?
In the first half of your life, you had to opt-in for a safer and stable career option, considering you had a family to provide for.
What were those ambitions at 20 that you somehow lost? Alright, not everyone has a fiery passion for things in their twenties, but it is never too late to find yours. Rethink if your personal goals align with your professional goals. You can start by fine-tuning your sense of purpose.
b) How can I reinvent myself and redefine my identity?
You can only reinvent when you let go of your past self; it is like shedding your old skin. For that, you must ask yourself these questions:
- What is the baggage that I must let go of?
- When do I perform at my best?
- What does success look like to me?
Keeping these three questions in mind, try to figure out your ideal scenario. Where is it that you will thrive more even at 49?
c) Do I have enough for the rest of my life?
You need to be financially sound to pursue something other than what you have been doing for most of your life. There is this urge to do something different, to reinvent and redefine, but there must be a safety net on which you can fall back.
Ensure your health insurance, estate, and retirement fund are in check. Because hey, there is a real possibility that your body might not allow you to work tirelessly as you did back then.
d) How can I compensate for my loss of body functionality?
When you are approaching your 50s, you are not as active as before. Your body does not cooperate with you in many ways, and I am talking with experience here. Here’s what you can start with:
- Try strength training and lifting weights.
- Get Aerobic/cardio exercise.
- Add more protein to your diet.
- Biking is an all-time favourite. It helps strengthen muscles and supports joints(excellent for people who have arthritis).
As you age, your body stores more fat and loses muscle due to hormone shifts. You start noticing changes in your body, and you must begin working on your metabolism by this time to stay functional.
59– The happier decade, as they say
You are finally approaching your sixties! That is a huge milestone. You have maybe paid all your debts, and your kids are working and getting married. While my clients that are aged 59 have done well on the financial and family front, these are some problems that worry them:
a) How can I create meaning for myself?
At this age, you have experienced almost everything a human goes through in their lifespan. Before you hit middle life, you have experienced the joys of youth, the delight of having a companion and starting a family of them. You have also lost some of your dear ones.
While going through several phases in life, there’s a possibility that you have lost your sense of purpose. But this is also a time where you can transform and reinvent yourself by asking:
- How have your objectives changed over the years?
- What have you done for yourself over the last few years?
- Do you want to sit in that rocking chair for the rest of your life?
I believe the saying, ‘let life take its course’ is not very good advice when entering your sixties. Asking these questions is fundamental because they will act as your cue to what kind of life you want to lead in your second half.
b) How can I best use my experience to create value for others?
You have spent 30+ years working in the force, and you are at the point where you have in-depth knowledge of the industry you worked in. And if you are someone who is still hungry for more and want to contribute, here’s how you can evaluate if you are fit:
- How is your experience relevant to other industries?
- What do you bring to their table?
- Are you open to learning things from scratch?
With your experience, you can always bring a fresh perspective to today’s fast-paced corporate environment. It is much more relevant to today’s tech-savvy world than you might think.
c) I have done well, so now what?
Was there a side venture you always wanted to pursue but could never get the required time? Were there hobbies that always intrigued you but couldn’t take them up because of your hectic schedule? If yes, this is the time! Now that you have saved enough for your golden years, you can take a back seat, not worrying about your finances.
d) What did you say? And where are my glasses?
Is your body starting to give up now? You can’t remember things well, and your cognitive abilities decline. I remember doing this thing where I was looking for my glasses until my wife spotted them on my head. It is hilarious and scary at the same time. Try incorporating these things into your routine to stay self-reliant and healthy in your sixties:
- Get an hour of body movement.
- Get regular health checkups.
- Make more nutritious food choices.
It is crucial to take care of your health as you age. You would not want to depend on your loved ones for basic day-to-day functionality.
69– The age where life peaks for the second time
Did you know that Life Satisfaction Rate is a U-shaped curve? It once peaks at 23 and then 69. Your dissatisfaction in your fifties starts to decline because you lower your expectations and start embracing reality more. But there are still some existential questions that you might face. Some of them are listed below:
a) What is the legacy I can leave behind?
For someone in their early sixties, I often think about this question. How many lives have I impacted positively? How do I want people to remember me?
When you have lived your life, you understand that it is not your money that stays but your legacy. I always try to be a mentor to my kids and those who need advice relevant to my experience. If someone can benefit from my experiences, I could try my best to help them as well.
b) How can I best stay relevant?
After toiling half my life to get a sweet retirement, the idea of not working seems a bit unreal, and I know many of you feel the same. These are some things you can do to stay relevant as you age:-
- Keep up with the technology. It can be puzzling initially, but it can help you tremendously to keep up with today’s trends.
- Keep upskilling. It is never too late to learn a new skill with abundant knowledge and material on the internet.
- Don’t reminisce too much about the past. I know you miss the good old days (I do too), but that shows you are not eager to learn more.
It is ultimately your choice how you want to spend your retirement. But you can only stay relevant when you get out of your comfort zone. Go the extra mile. You have less to lose but always more to gain.
c) How can I give back?
At this point in life, you have saved up enough to sustain yourself for the rest of your life. Since you are already leading a comfortable life, this is the time when you can start giving back to society!
Pick a charity of your choice! What is it that you are passionate about? Animals, environment, education or something else? There are all sorts of charities available nowadays. You can contribute, however, to your liking!
d) How can I best stay alive?
I had noticed that the majority of my clients did not start taking care of their bodies when it was required. But it is better late than never. Although health care has advanced quite a lot in the 21st century, there are some things that you must do to stay alive:
- Make sure to take your vitamin and medication (if any) every day without skipping.
- Meditate. It is proven effective in improving your focus and sleep conditions.
- Get loads of rest. Don’t force yourself to do work where more power is required.
- Go for treks! I frequently go on treks with my family. A fun way to take care of your health?
Ageing can be scary. It takes a lot more effort to go up a flight of stairs now, and you are out of your breath many times. But that does not mean you need to give up on living. You can live an entire life if you try.
These existential worries may not appear that grave if looked at individually, but if not taken care of, they can hinder your personal and professional growth. Use your existential crisis to get in touch with your core and be at peace with where you are in life. It helps you go beyond mundane activities’ typical day-to-day chaos, uncertainty, and clutter.
Making progress on your goals is a lot easier to think about than it is to accomplish. It’s an ongoing battle between your ambition and your inertia and will continue for the rest of your life. But if you can tackle your way through these questions, you’ll be ready to take on whatever challenges come your way.
If you are someone who can go way and beyond to achieve your vision but is not so sure how to, I know how to help you. I have helped several working professionals navigate their way through such worries by assisting them in creating a Personal Business Plan for themselves. Get yours now!