Subtle Differences Between A Midlife Crisis And A Midlife Awakening

Subtle Differences Between A Midlife Crisis And A Midlife Awakening

If you’re feeling restless, unfulfilled, or just plain unsettled as you get older, you’re not alone. This pivotal time in life can bring up a lot of questions and a deep desire for change. But how do you know if you’re experiencing a crisis, or whether it’s actually a midlife awakening? Here are some key differences to help you figure it out.

1. A midlife crisis feels like a breakdown; a midlife awakening feels like a breakthrough.

A crisis leaves you feeling lost, confused, and kinda desperate for something to change. It’s that overwhelming sense of “this can’t be all there is,” and not knowing what to do about it. An awakening feels more like finally snapping out of a daze and seeing the world (and yourself!) in a new light.

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2. A midlife crisis makes you want to blow things up; a midlife awakening makes you want to build something new.

The crisis is all about ditching your current life – rash decisions, throwing caution to the wind. Think impulsive decisions you might regret later. An awakening gives you the clarity and drive to create a life that actually makes you excited to wake up in the morning. It’s about intentional change, not reckless destruction.

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3. One is fueled by fear, the other by hope.

The midlife crisis is often triggered by hitting a milestone birthday, that creeping feeling of time running out. It can make you focus on all the things you haven’t done yet. The awakening is about the possibilities – recognizing you still have decades left and wanting to make them count.

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4. A midlife crisis makes you see your past as a waste, while an awakening helps you appreciate your journey.

The crisis has you regretting choices, feeling like you’ve failed somehow. There’s a lot of focus on missed opportunities, paths not taken. An awakening allows you to see how your past experiences shaped you, both the good and the bad, and use that wisdom moving forward.

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5. It’s all “me me me” during a crisis, but an awakening makes you think about your impact on other people.

Having a midlife crisis tends to make you very self-centered, Forbes notes, and you end up obsessing about your own unmet needs. You might start to feel like everyone else is to blame for your unhappiness. The awakening broadens your perspective, you start to consider your legacy, your relationships, and what truly matters in the bigger picture.

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6. A midlife crisis is temporary chaos; a midlife awakening is a shift in how you approach the rest of your life.

The cliché sports car or affair might provide a jolt in the crisis, but it’s fleeting. Those external fixes don’t solve the real problem. The awakening is about sustainable changes – new hobbies, reconnecting with old dreams, or deepening your relationships – that create lasting fulfillment.

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7. A midlife crisis makes you see problems everywhere, an awakening highlights potential solutions.

The crisis leaves you feeling like a victim of circumstance. It might seem like everything is stacked against you. With an awakening, you take ownership of your power to create positive change, even if changes feel scary at first. You start to focus on what you can control.

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8. With a crisis, you crave escape; with an awakening, you’re ready to fully engage.

The crisis might have you daydreaming of running off to a tropical island. There’s a desire to check out of your current life. But the awakening is about being present, appreciating what’s good in your life right now, while also figuring out how to build on it even further.

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9. A crisis can lead to some cringe-worthy choices, an awakening is more about internal growth.

Think bad tattoos and questionable fashion decisions in the crisis category. The awakening inspires things like therapy, taking a class, pursuing those bucket-list items… stuff that actually makes you a better person. It’s focused on self-improvement, not just superficial changes.

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10. One leaves you feeling older, the other makes you feel reborn.

The midlife crisis emphasizes the aging part, freaking out about lost youth. It can make you feel like your best years are behind you. The awakening is about embracing a new chapter, seeing all the experience you’ve gained as a strength rather than a liability.

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11. A midlife crisis is often followed by shame, an awakening by a sense of pride.

Looking back on those impulsive crisis decisions rarely makes you feel great. The awakening creates a sense of accomplishment, as you know the hard work of self-improvement is what brings real satisfaction. You feel proud of the growth, not embarrassed about bad choices.

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12. Midlife crisis can make you lonely, a midlife awakening strengthens connections.

In crisis mode, you tend to lash out at loved ones or withdraw emotionally, Verywell Mind reveals. Your focus is on your own unhappiness, and that can create distance. The awakening has you prioritizing relationships, investing in people in a deeper, more meaningful way.

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13. With a crisis, you cling to the past; with an awakening, you get excited about the future.

The crisis is about desperately trying to recapture your younger years. The awakening lets you mourn the past a bit, then gets you pumped about creating a life you’re genuinely stoked to live NOW. It’s about looking forward, not desperately holding on to what you’ve already lost.

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14. Midlife crisis is fueled by external changes, awakening comes from within.

Age, gray hairs, your kids growing up — those external changes can trigger a crisis for some. The awakening is about an internal shift in attitude, less about what’s happening to you, and more about what change you want to create going forward. You realize that true happiness comes from within, not from fixing all your external circumstances.

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15. Crisis is a cliché, awakening is a chance to defy expectations.

The midlife crisis has become a joke for a reason. The awakening is about realizing you don’t have to follow some generic script for how your life “should” go in middle age. It’s a chance to define what fulfillment means for you personally.

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16. With a crisis, you’re the passenger; with an awakening, you get in the driver’s seat.

The crisis makes you feel like things are happening to you. An awakening is about taking the wheel and actively steering your life in the direction that genuinely fulfills you. It’s empowering, recognizing your own ability to create the life you want at any age.

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Gail is Bolde's social media and partnership manager, as well as an all-around behind-the-scenes renaissance woman. She worked for more than 25 years in her city's local government before making the switch to women's lifestyle and relationship sites, initially at HelloGiggles before making the switch to Bolde.
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