Values Clarification for Mid life crisis - Evolving personal values

Evolving Personal Values – Values clarification for Midlife crisis

Life never goes as planned, does it?

As we walk through the journey of life, we often find ourselves at a crossroads where we have to choose between our values and responsibilities. Our desires, obligations, and beliefs. 

Our regrets, worries, and fears can leave us overwhelmed, stuck, and confused. 

Studies have shown that happiness follows a U-shaped curve and it dips during midlife. The same has been observed in apes which makes us wonder if there’s a biological underpinning to this!

Midlife crisis is like being lost in the sea, unsure if our compass is broken or if we need a new map altogether! Things that used to define us, our hobbies, passions, careers, and relationships might seem a bit less interesting. Right?

But trust me! Midlife crisis is a blessing in disguise. It is probably the best thing that’ll happen to you in a long time and you will come out of it more alive and fulfilled than ever before!

“As we age, we become more selective about the information we take in and the people we spend time with. This allows us to focus on the things that truly matter to us.”

  • Laura Carstensen

Well, don’t worry! This questioning can lead to a positive change in life.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

  • Carl Jung

You will soon wake up feeling excited and fulfilled knowing that you are living a life aligned with your values and everything that actually matters to you.

Values Clarification:

This journey of self-discovery and re-alignment is called value clarification. The various questions of purpose and identity allow personal growth!

This doesn’t come without its own challenges. Introspection in itself can be tricky and real-world responsibilities can be really demanding and time-consuming and investing enough time and energy into this journey of discovery can be hard.

Understanding Value Shifts and Mid-Life Crisis:

Shifting Priorities:

Our priorities gradually change as we live through the various stages of our life with its unique experiences and the plethora of emotions we feel through it all. When our priorities shift and we live the same life, we are not aligned with our values and needs. This puts us off.

“It’s about discovering a harmony between who we were, who we are, and who we aspire to be, guiding us towards paths less traveled in search of meaning and joy.”

Unmet Needs and Desires: 

 “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” 

  • George Elliot

The dreams and passions that we locked in the deep corners of our hearts might start weighing down on us. 

“Mid-life is filled with graveyards of dreams”

Those who accept this fact might lose a sense of direction or purpose. If we aren’t living for a dream, we aren’t moving towards anything. We just exist and that will leave us in a bad state over time.

“Fear of Missing out and the fear of regret will push us to look for change in mid-life!”

Getting to terms with Morality and Impermanence of life:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” 

  • Steve Jobs

We all reach a life-awakening moment when we understand the impermanence of our existence. We begin to re-assess our entire lives since we have limited time and energy and we must spend it wisely!

Societal Influences:

If we think about it, our environment pretty much shapes us. We don’t live in a vacuum and societal & cultural expectations influence individual values significantly that we often start to reassess during our mid-life crisis.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Other Important factors:

  • Redefining Success: We tend to redefine and broaden our idea of success and fulfillment, and our ultimate dream in life changes as we grow. For instance, research has shown that people in their 40s and 50s are more likely to seek job satisfaction and work-life balance over salary increases, with over 50% prioritizing time over money in career decisions.
  • Grief and Loss: When we suffer a significant loss in our lives, we tend to reassess our priorities and goals as we can feel lost in the depths of it all. Constant reassessment of our values is critical! This stretches beyond mental health 

Realizations Box:

  • Mid-life crisis is inevitable and is caused by shifting values and growth 
  • Our core Personal Values can change as our life changes. So it’s important to re-assess our values from time to time.

Self-Reflection Challenge for Values Clarification:

So, who is up for a challenge?

Let’s finally stop feeling overwhelmed and anxious all the time! Life doesn’t have to be too hard. 

“Pain is a part of life but suffering is a choice”

You can choose to end your suffering today. Focus on growth by being disciplined for 15-30 minutes a day! Or more if you have more time!

“Anything worth having doesn’t come easy. Growth takes time”

Here is a challenge that integrates many self-reflection exercises and mental health tools that we can use to clarify our values which is essential to navigate the rough waters of mid-life crisis.

Tips:

  • Set aside a few minutes a day for these exercises (15-30 minutes)
  • If your days are too packed and stressful, use some of these practices mentioned whenever you find time. 
  • Celebrate progress, no matter how small it is.
  • If it’s hard to be disciplined and follow it every day, at least try to finish all the exercises within a month and keep the work all together so it’s easier to revisit when you go through this assessment again.

NOTE: If you hate introspections and self-reflections, join the gang! It is never pleasant to try and reflect on our past too much as it can bring us a range of emotions and can feel confusing sometimes! But we must also remember that 

Week 1: 

Day 1: Gratitude & Peak Moment Reflections:

Task 1: Write down 10 things that make you happy on a regular basis in your life:

When we practice gratitude as a part of our lives, we start noticing and appreciating the little things that make us happy.  Reflect on how these things bring us joy and how they connect to our values.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” 

  • Melody Beattie

Task 2: Reflect on the best experiences in your life. Times when you felt the most happy and fulfilled! What values made you feel that way? 

Other tips:

  • Use Sticky Notes to create a gratitude wall and fill it with all the things that made you happy that month!

Day 2: Life Map Creation

Task:

Begin your life map focusing on your early years. Feel free to use colors and symbols and anything creative to denote happy, challenging, and transformative moments. 

Consider what these moments reveal about your early values and aspirations and how they relate to the values you have now.

“Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.”

  • Oliver Goldsmith

Journal Exercise: Reflect on how these early experiences influenced your current values. Are there any you’ve lost touch with?

Day 3: Reverse Bucket List

Task:

 Identify three achievements you’re proud of. Delve into why these matter to you and what values they represent.

“Celebrate your successes. Find some humor in your failures.” 

  • Sam Walton

Journal Exercise: Explore how these achievements have shaped your perception of success and personal fulfillment.

Tip: Focus not just on achievements but also on moments of personal growth or joy, no matter how small.

Day 4: Values List – Visual

Task: Based on your analysis of the last three tasks, come up with a list of your core personal values from your childhood and your core personal values now. 

Tip: 

  • You can use the many online assessment tools to make it easier for you!
  • Make the values list visual so you are reminded of it from time to time.

Day 5: Letting Go:

Task: Letter to your Younger Self:

Write a letter to your younger self, acknowledging their dreams and challenges.  End by offering words of encouragement and letting go of past regrets.

This helps us reconnect with our past goals and aspirations and reflect on our lives from a different perspective. Such perspective shifts can help us to be more self-aware and accept ourselves.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” 

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tip: After writing your letter, perform a symbolic letting go ritual, like burning the letter (safely!) or releasing a balloon.

Day 6: Artistic Expression

Task: Express your current feelings through art. Let your mood and emotions guide your choice of colors, shapes, and patterns. Don’t judge your work; let it flow naturally.

 “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” 

  • Thomas Merton

Journal: Write about what this piece says about your current state and how it aligns with your values.

Tips:

  • Choose a medium you’re less familiar with to encourage a fresh perspective and uninhibited expression
  •  If you are not very artistic like me, you can still explore the various forms of art for expressing your inner self. It’s okay to skip this if you still don’t feel like painting or exploring art.

Day 7: Nature Walk + Digital Detox

Task: Engage in a silent walk in nature, focusing on your senses. Immersive experiences in nature, without digital distractions can be refreshing and help you disconnect from your daily routine and give space for reflection and mental peace.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” 

  •  John Muir

Day 8: Gratitude for the Future:  

Reflection Task: List 10 things you’re grateful for about your future possibilities.  What excites you about the next chapter?

“The Best is yet to come”

Tip: Create a “Future Vision” board alongside your gratitude list to link your appreciation for the present with your hopeful future

Day 9: Engage with Philosophy

Task: Read or watch content on philosophical perspectives on happiness or the good life. Choose a philosophy that resonates with you.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

  • Socrates

Journal: Write about how this philosophy aligns with your values or challenges them. Can it guide your values clarification?

Tip: Start with short articles or videos if you’re new to philosophy to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Day 10: Ideal Day Visualization:  

Task: Close your eyes and visualize your ideal day, aligned with your core values.  Describe the sights, sounds, and feelings associated with this perfect day.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” –  Abraham Lincoln  

Tip:  Write a short story or poem describing your ideal day in vivid detail to solidify your vision.

Day 11: The “If I Had All the Money” Journaling Exercise

Task: Journal about what you would do if you had all the money in the world and didn’t need to work for a living. Afterward, analyze what your choices say about your values and whether your current lifestyle aligns with these ideals.

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” 

  •  Ayn Rand

Tip: Focus on feelings and experiences rather than material possessions for deeper insights into your values.

Day 12: “The Un-Lived Life” Exploration

Task: Imagine an alternate universe where you made different key life choices. Write a short story or journal entry about this alternate self. What values does this version of you live by? Are there any desires or aspirations this exercise uncovers that you’d like to incorporate into your current life?

Tip: 

  • Embrace creativity and allow yourself to explore without limitations. This exercise isn’t about regret but about understanding the hidden aspects of your values.
  • Reflect on choices not just in career or relationships but also in hobbies, travel, and personal growth.
  • Imagine how different values prioritize different paths in this alternate life.

Day 13: Values in Action (Future): 

Task: Choose a top value from your list.  Brainstorm 3-5 specific actions you can take in the next month to live more by this value.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” 

  • Zig Ziglar

Tip: Share your “Values in Action” list with a friend or accountability partner for extra support.

Day 14: Choose your non-negotiables – Power of Saying “No”

Task: What are some things that you cannot tolerate in your life? Identify the aspects of your life that don’t align with your core values. Come up with certain non-negotiables in your life that you just cannot tolerate so you can learn to say “no” to them.

Bonus day: Reflect on this challenge and the experience of values re-discovery!

Congratulations! You have reached the end of the challenge. These are some intense self-reflection activities so feel free to revisit them later whenever you have time. Keep the value list by your side and try to align your life more towards your values!

General Mental Health Tools to Integrate into Your Daily Life – For Values clarification through Mid-life Crisis:

Mindfulness and Self-Awareness:

Gratitude Journaling: Journaling is one good and effective way to organize our thoughts and introspect about the various aspects of our lives. This will help you uncover hidden beliefs and values

  • Journaling prompts for self-reflection

Meditation and Mindfulness: Meditation with intention can help you reflect on your values and things that matter to you.

Check-in with yourself: Make it a habit to check in with your inner self throughout the day. This helps you be more aware of yourself.

Exploration and Experimentation: Hidden Passions & Values

Spark Chasing: Are you a curious person? Most of us are and it’ll be great if we spend some time each day to explore activities and things that spark our curiosity! This could be reading an article on a new topic, listening to a podcast about a different career path, or trying a new skill.

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone: We all love our comfort zones, but it’ll be the death of our dreams. It’s important to challenge ourselves to step out of this zone and try to do something new every week.

This could be attending a workshop, striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know, or taking a different route on your walk. These experiences can reveal hidden passions and values.

Resources for Professional Help:

Finding a Professional:

Additional Resources:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI offers support groups and resources for mental health concerns that can arise during a midlife crisis (https://www.nami.org/Home).
  • The American Psychological Association (APA): The APA offers resources and information on a variety of mental health topics, including midlife crisis (https://www.apa.org/).

Suggested Books:

  • “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up” by James Hollis
  • “Midlife: A Philosophical Guide” by Kieran Setiya
  • “The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom” by Angeles Arrien
  • “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” by Richard Rohr
  • “Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife” by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
  • “The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife” by James Hollis

Tip: Use online summaries or AI tools to get the book summaries before you go ahead and purchase anything. 

Conclusion:

Now that you know and understand what a mid-life crisis is and why you are experiencing it, it’s important to work on yourself.

Nothing good will come out of this article if you don’t start working on yourself. It’s simple and easy and you only need consistency!

Try to do the self-reflection challenges to better understand yourself and your change values. Once you are more self-aware, you’ll find all the motivation in the world to start aligning your life toward your goals

AUTHOR SECTION

Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *