MidLife Crisis: No Need For That!

I had a choice. I could stumble along at the edge of a midlife crisis, or I could reimagine my life. Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Life Reimagined is arguably the best book on middle life ever written. Not only is it in beautiful prose, but it’s also thoroughly researched. In order to feel understood and to anticipate the future, everybody from 30 to 70 should read this book. It is a joy. George E. Vaillant, MD

New book Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife, by former NPR correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty, came about because she’d suspected she was entering a “midlife crisis“— and she wanted to know how to navigate such an imposing hurdle.

Hagerty interviewed “an astonishing number of middle-aged men and women and the psychologists, sociologists, physicians, geneticists, and neuroscientists who study them,” and what she learned was positive and hopeful, notes Kirkus Reviews: “The experience of middle age, she has discovered, ‘is more mountaintop than valley,’ characterized not by depression but by optimism and renewal, happiness and growth.”

The themes she addresses include—but aren’t limited to—work, sense of purpose, love, and friendship.

Selected Quotes from Life Reimagined

Our default mode at midlife is entropy. The default is not destiny, and on this, the research is unequivocal: for every fork in the road, you are almost invariably better off making the harder choice. Harder in the moment, that is, but easier over the years, as your body and mind remain strong. By resisting entropy, but pushing through the inertia the beckons us to rest a little longer, to slow down just a notch, until your life has narrowed to a pinprick – by resisting those forces, you dramatically up the odds that your life will be rich to your final breath, deeply entwined with family and friends, engaged in intellectual pursuits, and infused with a purpose that extends beyond yourself. 

Our brains resist change, they rail against it, our amygdala will always want the safe bet. But are the obstacles truly insurmountable? Is it a brick wall? Or is it a sliding door, which, once you decide to approach it, begins to swish open? Because even though our brains prefer safety in the short run, in the long run they crave meaning, challenge, and novelty.

The men and women who scored highest on conscientiousness—that is, who control their impulses, who were dependable and goal-oriented—had 89 percent lower risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s than the least conscientious people.

Choose where to invest your energy, and do so intentionally, because the clearest path to a robust midlife is purposeful engagement.

In fact, people with little purpose were two and a half times more likely to develop dementia than those with a mission.

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