Elliot Jacques coined the term “mid-life crisis” 40 years ago, when the average lifespan was 70 and “mid-life” came at age 35. Individuals could expect their quality of life to decline from that point forward, Jacques argued, so some extreme reactions to encroaching mortality were to be expected, such as having extra-marital affairs and buying a Corvette.
Not any more, says Prof. Carlo Strenger of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology. In an article co-authored with the Israeli researcher Arie Ruttenberg for the Harvard Business Review last year, and another in the journal Psychoanalytic Psychology, Prof. Strenger posits that the mid-life years are the best time of life to flourish and grow.
Citing research based on empirical evidence and studies from the field, Prof. Strenger says that adult lives really do have second acts.
“Somehow this line has been drawn around the mid and late 40s as the time for a mid-life crisis in our society,” says Prof. Strenger. “But as people live longer and fuller lives, we have to cast aside that stereotype and start thinking in terms of ‘mid-life transition’ rather than ‘mid-life crisis.'” He dismisses the prevailing myth that reaching the years between the 40s and the early 60s means adapting to diminished expectations, both internally and from society. …
“If you make fruitful use of what you’ve discovered about yourself in the first half of your life,” Dr. Strenger argues, “the second half can be the most fulfilling.”
Most people make many of their most important life decisions before they really know who they are, he says. By age 30, most Americans have already married, decided where to live, bought their first home, and chosen their career. “But at 30, people still have the better part of their adult years ahead of them,” Prof. Strenger says.