Midlife Career Crisis

By Hannah Wallace April 30, 2007

A red convertible and a new flame aren’t the only signs of midlife crisis. Suddenly, a career you spent your life developing may no longer motivate you.

“At midlife there’s a lot of second guessing and re-evaluating,” says Dan Tisch, owner of Midlife Crisis Coaching in Sarasota ( “You may reach the top of the ladder and find it’s against the wrong wall.”

Midlife crises—or, as Tisch calls them, “life transition issues”—can come anywhere between the ages of 30 and 70.  “It’s not a title most people want to claim,” Tisch says. “They either think of themselves as approaching midlife or way beyond it.”

“The midlife years may be marked by confusion,” he continues. “People experience it in every way: Career affects family, family affects career. It’s normal. It’s what we go through as we get more accomplished.”

All well and good, but just how do you get yourself through the midlife tunnel to a brighter other side?

Survival Guide

1. Don’t do anything rash. People going through a transition may be “longing for more adventure and flirting with rash actions,” Tisch says. “These things build up over time.” It helps to change your thinking from crisis mode to breakthrough mode. “Life is an adventure,” he says. “People go on to have three and four careers. It’s not our parents’ philosophy of ‘put in 40 years and get a watch.’” 

2. Determine what you really want—and what you don’t. “There are so many messages about what we think we should have,” Tisch says. “It’s not about succeeding in anyone else’s life.” He recommends a “peak experience exercise”—identifying times in your life that made you feel good. “What was present? Were you in love? On top of your game? You get a sense of what makes for a fulfilled state.”

3. Visualize.  Create a picture of “the best possible outcome,” Tisch says. “What does your life look like with the things you want?”

4. Create a path to where you want to be. “The difference between succeeding at any goal is having a plan,” Tisch says. “The more structured the better. Have ‘by whens’ attached to it. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.” If you’re looking for creativity, incorporating a hobby may be all it takes to have a more fulfilled life. On the other hand, don’t be afraid of changing career directions. And don’t derail your dreams by accepting “helpful but biased advice” from family and friends. “Find someone who has you as the focus,” Tisch urges. “It can be a friend, colleague or a coach.”

5. Develop practices for success. Any new habit takes about two months to become ingrained, so be consistent and accountable. “If you write your goals down and tell someone, the higher the probability for success,” Tisch says. “An accountability structure with a spouse or friends” may help you reach your goals, he explains, because it’s not just your dream anymore. Above all, “know you’re not alone. Midlife issues are natural and normal.”

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