Midlife Transformation and Learning – Does it pay off?

By Kristin Einarsdóttir

At the moment we are living in a time of rapid technological development leading towards a shift in the education paradigm. A shift that may, in fact, change lives in unexpected ways. Us who are now considered in our midlife, are quite focused on the need to prepare today’s youth for tomorrow’s future, as we have just woken up and realised that the evidence for rapid climate change is real and compelling. Some of us (not naming anyone) even blame ourselves for contributing to the climate change by being a child of the 80’s using enormous amounts of hairspray and not listening to your mother who said all that hairspray would make a hole in the ozone layer! That was the basic knowledge of climate change in the 80’s.  

  We are now seeing more individualized approaches to education for our children with more autonomy and more time in nature and in Europe where I live all children are educated in taking steps towards a healthier future by implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals to their daily life.

The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it ís important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.

But how about ourselves – It was a bit different back in the days right?

From around 5 to 6 years old — when most of us entered a formal education setting— the structure of our days changed. We needed to start ticking other people’s boxes on other people’s timelines.

We are told when to learn what, how to show we know it, and we repeat this pattern for weeks, months and years. The normalized life script tells us that just as we’re finishing up our post-secondary studies we’re ready to meet someone, settle down and have a couple of kids while being expected to launch some kind of career. We keep at this pace, raising children, working on life and relationships and trying to get it all done for a couple of decades. Then suddenly our kids reach an age of independence that offers us the first real opening in this heavily-scripted checklist, and at that moment it hits us: WHO AM I? Cue the sudden urge for a freedom to explore, investment in self-discovery and the pursuit of our passions. Or, anxiety, grief and sadness over time lost.

Some might call it a midlife crisis.

midlife crisis is defined as a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals. It is a psychological and behavioural observation that commonly occurs with individuals between the ages 45–64. … Its observations differ in a diverse manner for each individual. While some individuals may experience feelings of depression, remorse, and anxiety, others may experience feelings such as the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle or atmosphere.

Of course there are many ways people can live their lives and certainly many people do make decisions outside of this script, but this path, in particular, is the standard template; the “normal” life.

  It’s exciting to consider that the changes that are slowly making their way into education systems around the world are allowing young people to connect with and explore themselves in a way that could significantly change their experience down the road. Innovative approaches to education are a necessary addition to a rapidly changing world, but I believe these approaches also include real benefits for the individual on a personal level.

Imagine a life lived where connecting with your passions and maintaining your curiosity and sense of exploration were given a central focus from day 1 rather than being allocated to recreational time. Imagine the self-confidence that would come from being a collaborator in your learning environment and trusting your inner voice; for all of this to be true throughout your formative years and beyond. How would we be wired and how would that impact our base relationship with our self in mid-life? How would it affect our physical and mental health if we never lost touch with our own needs?

The quest for these qualities in our lives seems to be a focus in the adult world and rightly so — we should always be growing and discovering ourselves. I just don’t believe it should start so late in life.  

Midlife education and lifelong learning are two of my key passions. Education has always been an important part of my own process of growth and self-renewal. By nature, I am very curious about life and human nature, so I have never stopped educating myself. I truly believe that we should at least dedicate 10% of our day to some form of educational development.

The renowned twentieth century French philosopher Henri Bergson wrote that: “To exist is to change; to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” 

I find that the process of midlife goal setting is straightforward. When practised assiduously, it is a reliable strategy in dealing with midlife transitions. One sure-fire midlife goal setting resource is an openness of spirit – a willingness to continually be learning and growing.

With respect to discovering your self, Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, said that “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled …”

An aspect of education is developing an appreciation of yourself as a spiritual being. Distinguishing between religion and spirituality can be a useful way to resolve your midlife crisis spirituality issues.

Understanding how midlife cognitive development can lead to healthy and successful ageing is important to achieving midlife happiness.

For both men and women, particularly those in long-term committed relationships, understanding what their partner is experiencing will strengthen their relationship. There are many ways for women and men to deal with his midlife crisis.

A crisis can occur at any age. However, transitions are an integral part of personal development. Is the male midlife crisis really a myth? Or is it an opportunity for liberation?

  There are some action steps you can take immediately to empower you. Online learning is one of the actions that people can take. Students in online programs can effectively manage their time, learn the materials, and complete assignments on their own schedules to name just a few benefits of online learning and recent studies are showing that online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face education.

I have found a midlife crisis in women, as the popular media refer to it, is an opportunity for midlife education, growth and development in women, perhaps even more so than for men. As a woman, I challenge women to ask themselves some key questions for planning the next chapter of their life.

Are you showing signs of midlife crisis?

Do you see yourself as a victim?

I also challenge you to take charge of your life and become the creative force in your life.

Midlifers don’t have to be trapped in the old paradigm of ageing: decline, decrepitude, depression and despair. By understanding the process of midlife development you can achieve happiness throughout the process and I guaranty  you, your third act will be amazing!  

Kristin Einarsdóttir is a woman just over 50, mother of three children and a recent grandmother, a new role that for her puts life into a different perspective. Kristin’s educational background comes from Occupational Therapy and she has two Masters degrees, one being in Public Health Science and one in Sociology with Race, Ethnicity and Conflict studies as a major. Kristin has been working towards a PhD in Gerontology in recent years. 

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