How to avoid a midlife crisis
27 Jun 2023

How to avoid a midlife crisis

How to avoid a midlife crisis.

The best way to avoid a midlife crisis is to understand the concept of generativity, a psychological term coined by Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist known for his theory of psychosocial development. Generativity refers to a stage of adulthood where individuals feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment by contributing to and caring for future generations. This is usually experienced in midlife. It is a desire to make a positive impact on others and leave a lasting legacy.

According to Erikson’s theory, generativity is one of the key psychosocial developmental tasks that individuals face during middle adulthood, typically from their 40s to 60s. During this stage, individuals shift their focus from their personal needs and accomplishments towards broader concerns, such as nurturing and guiding the next generation.

The opposite of generativity is stagnation. This can occur when people are unable to fulfill the generativity challenge which may be due to various factors, including a lack of opportunities for growth and contribution, focusing excessively on personal needs and desires, or feeling trapped in unfulfilling roles or relationships

Erikson refers to stagnation as a state of feeling stuck, unproductive, and lacking a sense of purpose or meaning in life. It is associated with a failure to contribute meaningfully to society and a sense of personal and social stagnation. Individuals who experience stagnation may feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied, and disconnected from their own personal growth and the well-being of others.

Generativity can be expressed and achieved in various ways, including:

Parenting: Raising and nurturing children is a common expression of generativity. It involves providing care, guidance, and support to children, ensuring their well-being and development.

Mentoring: Sharing knowledge, experience, and guidance with younger individuals or mentees is another form of generativity. Mentors provide support, wisdom, and encouragement to help others succeed and reach their potential.

Contributing to society: Engaging in activities that contribute to the betterment of society, such as volunteering, philanthropy, or community involvement, can fulfill the desire for generativity. It involves actively making a positive impact on a broader scale.

Teaching or coaching: Sharing expertise and skills with others through teaching or coaching is a way to pass on knowledge and empower others to succeed. It involves helping others grow and develop in their chosen fields or areas of interest.

Creative endeavors: Engaging in creative pursuits, such as art, writing, or music, can be a form of generativity. Creating works that inspire, educate, or entertain others can leave a lasting impact and contribute to the cultural and artistic legacy.

Random acts of kindness: A random act of kindness refers to a spontaneous, selfless gesture or action done to bring happiness, support, or assistance to others without any expectation of receiving something in return. It involves performing an act of kindness towards someone, often a stranger, to make their day better or to help them in some way; such as paying for someone’s coffee who is queuing behind you or offering a person a compliment.

Erikson believed that successfully navigating the generativity versus stagnation stage leads to a sense of fulfilment, purpose, and a positive outlook on life. It contributes to ongoing personal growth and the ability to continue making meaningful contributions to society throughout adulthood.

It’s important to note that Erikson’s theory of stagnation is just one perspective on the challenges individuals may face in middle adulthood. Personal experiences and circumstances can vary, and individuals may navigate this stage in different ways.

If you would like help with your midlife transition or to find direction in the second half of life, why not read The Midlife Crisis Handbook or attend a course at The Midlife Academy.