As a coach and gerontologist, I’m constantly exposed to stories from the modern workplace. Again and again, my clients tell me about the culture of ageism. These days, it seems like anyone over 40 is made to believe that their best years are behind them, that it’s downhill from here. That simply isn’t true.
There is simply no shortcut to gaining the wisdom that comes with experience, and if 30 years of my own professional experience has taught me anything, it’s that ageist stereotypes are holdovers from another time. If I were a doctor I’d diagnose us as having ‘Cultura Lagosis’-- a disease, incubated amongst people and organizations who resist change. In everyday terms, we are suffering from a cultural lag. Our culture hasn’t caught up to the fact that midlife isn’t what it used to be. For many of us, our 40s, 50s and 60s are when we feel like we’re finally going to get it right! It’s time we rebrand the new life stage from about 45-65: It’s no longer midlife; today, we experience this time as: Middlescence.
A New Life Stage
Like adolescence (which, you made be surprised to learn, wasn’t recognized as a life stage until the early 1900s), Middlescence is a time of growth, change and vitality. Middlescents who understand the secret to unlocking this potential find themselves on their own journey, discovering who they want to be when they grow up—even though they are grown-ups!
Read carefully and see if you can pick up on the secret—what it is that all three of these people have in common.
Adam* spent his career climbing the corporate ladder as a healthcare executive. As he approaches 60, he feels that his work has become a “j-o-b” as he put it: drudgery rather than the kind committed engagement he usually felt. Adam knows he still needs to earn an income and expects to work for another 12 years.
Single and in her late 40s, Hillary* finds that for years she’s spent nearly all of her energy building a lucrative career as a powerbroker in the investment business. She realizes she wants more for her life. She craves an outdoor lifestyle and is determined to leave behind the cold east coast winters. She wants a life more in sync with her values.
Amy*, an insurance broker in her early 50s, has raised two sons as a single mom, and has recently become the primary caregiver for her mother. Like Adam, she needs to keep earning a living, but feels ready to retire from a job that feels too stressful with the caregiving responsibilities she has taken on. It is time she starts really living her own life, but she has to find a way to do so while also feeling like a good mom and daughter.
The secret they share? It’s called The Middlescence Factor. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a factor as “…a circumstance, fact or influence which contributes to a result or outcome”. If we accept that Middlescence is a life stage and embrace its possibilities, then The Middlescence Factor is the influence which contributes to that result. It’s the secret that brings it all together, that uplifts and shifts our consciousness so we can harness the potential of this new stage.
The Middlescence Factor is the vital nexus of connection between your vitality and energy, your sense of meaning and purpose in your life, and the engagement that brings those elements into the world. Using tools associated with the Middlescence Factor, Adam, Hillary and Amy had the collective courage to act in ways they hadn’t imagined were possible:
Adam has become executive director of a non-profit serving children. The new job gives him a greater sense of meaning and more time for cycling, yoga and travel with his wife.
Hillary moved to San Diego, where she now runs a financial literacy program mentoring young adults and young families.
Amy downsized her house, has found in-home care for her mother, and started Tango classes. She has determined that these changes are enough to have her feel “like I have a life again”. She has decided that the income trade-off makes it worth staying in the brokerage business.
It’s your turn to write the rest of your story and embrace your capacity for leadership and creativity. These are the hallmarks of Middlescence. We have so much to discover together. Check out the The Middlescence Factor for tools and tips. Let’s create a Middlescent Revolution in your life!
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of these individuals.