What exactly causes a mid-life crisis?

A mid-life crisis can apply equally to your personal life and relationships, your business (normally after 5-10 years), your career, your spiritual life, etc.

Why do some people do drastic things and others weather the storm with just a minor blow-up?

You start out as a young adult with wide open possibilities and few obligations. You have the potential to write your own story.

As you go through life (or business) you can acquire obligations. A spouse, pets, kids, loan, a mortgage are some of the obvious ones. You require growing income to pay for all the obligations and the search for higher income becomes an obligation in and of itself.

As you build relationships and increase your circle of friends you acquire obligations to spend time with them, attend their weddings, etc. As you age, you then need to go to their kids weddings, funerals, etc.

You need to spend time with your spouse, your kids, your pets. Your obligations start driving your life.

If you are a business owner, you have obligations to your business, your employees, your shareholders, your vendors and your customers. Eventually, it will likely overwhelm you.

Then at some point, often a birthday, you realize you are doing everything for everyone else and not yourself. You realize you are mortal and running out of time.

What is your next step?

  • Panic and blow up,
  • Try to control everyone else or everything else,
  • Do nothing until the next trigger, or
  • Take charge.

The infamous middle life crisis is the first option. Do something extreme to show you are in control (eating a tub of chocolate ice cream is not really extreme). Focus totally on yourself and flip the obligation relationships.

This is the immature response and rarely works well.

Ignoring the problem rarely makes it go away. It just increases the likelihood of a blow out (and you saw what can happen there with BP and the Gulf).

Trying to control the external worlds is like trying to hold the ocean in your hands, fleeting at best and likely to drown you at worst.

The mature response is to take charge and change things so that you are again driving your life's story, without wrecking all of the relationships and destroying your family unit, or some other drastic events.

Sure you may make some drastic changes, but they should not be impulses or polar opposites just for the sake of it.

The trick is to decide where you want to go with your story. Longer-term, shorter-term, etc. and then work to get there by taking action.

J.D. Meiers, has a website and upcoming book ("Getting Results") that teaches you how you start building your life using the principles of agile software development. It is not the only system in town for getting results but it looks decent, doesn't require a lot of time or even require that you know the full destination; just that you make choices actively every day.

This should resonate well with many software developers out there. It applies equally well to personal and business situations. And the best part is that it meshes with my current thoughts on business planning; including the software we are building to help with that process.

So if you are feeling like your business is driving your life, or your obligations are overwhelming you in your personal life, or you just are going anywhere in your life; find a system that works for you and start writing your own story… making choices on purpose.

Disclaimer: The author did not do any of the following and is not planning to: buy an expensive sports car, replace current spouse, quit job to become a rock star, buy clothes that a 20 year old would wear, jump out of an airplane, etc.