The Atlas

Making time for the things that didn't used to matter

As someone whose work centers around major live pivots for people (typically) over the age of 40, it should come as no surprise that I study a lot about the unfortunately-named concept of the "mid-life crisis."

To start, I take issue with that term. If/when I use it, it's simply because it's something that people recognize, even if the word "crisis" feels melodramatic and inaccurate -- to say nothing of being laden with trite cliches of balding men dumping their long suffering wives for a sports car and a 25-year-old.

There are a lot of lenses to use to look at what happens to many of us during mid-life -- physical, neurological, professional, emotional, familial, spiritual, etc. -- but it almost doesn't matter which one you pick, because the net result for many people is often very similar: we come to realize that things we didn't used to think were important take on an entirely new sense of urgency.

Over the past few weeks, I've talked about the challenges of making friends as we get older, working to build a slower paced lifestyle, (finally!) developing an identity outside of work, the importance of relationships on our long-term health and well-being, learning to ask for help and outgrowing the need to prove ourselves.

The common denominator in all of those is that at some point, time starts to feel finite in a way it didn't used to. And with that comes an awareness that the long list of things we always thought we'd "eventually" get around to isn't possible.

In project management terms, we call this the Triple Constraint: time, scope and resources are each a different side of a triangle. And as middle school geometry taught us, shortening one side of a triangle automatically impacts the other sides. Once time becomes short, both scope and resources are affected.

So re-evaluating what is most important becomes inevitable. The challenge arises when we realize that we have to make changes, especially when they impact other people and are at risk of challenging the status quo. It can feel indulgent. It's definitely a privilege, and not one that everyone has. But that doesn't diminish its value.

However, the most important thing to remember is that not all radical reinvention has to flip the table over on your entire life. The way we view ourselves, our lives and the people around us has an enormous influence on how we feel about and engage in our lives. And sometimes that's the most meaningful place for us to focus our time and energy.

If you could change how you feel about one thing in your life, what would it mean to how you show up for yourself and your loved ones?

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