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Five Benefits of Midlife

What words come to mind when you hear the word “Midlife”?

Google Midlife, and you’ll find scores of results for the Midlife crisis, leading one to expect sudden upheaval and decline looming on the horizon. Turn on the TV, and the ads featuring middle-agers all target loss, whether in sexual ability, bladder control, or beauty.

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Are there no benefits? Of course, there are. 

Here Are Five Benefits of Midlife:

1. We know who we are.

We experience a great deal of freedom once we’ve established our identity. Midlife is our opportunity to pursue the interests and relationships we associate with our sense of self. Insecurities wane, and confidence in work and outside interests increase during Midlife. 

Middle age is when we become comfortable in our skin, with our personalities; we know what we like and don’t like. This can mean identifying with parenting, a career, faith, or hobbies.  

2. Emotional Growth.

Our emotional growth makes us happier as we age (NPR Staff, 2015). Unlike physical development, which has a steep incline in youth and adolescence and then a slow decline through adulthood, emotional growth steadily rises from birth through the end of life. Our emotional development carries us through life, leading to greater happiness, even as our physical abilities wane.

3. We have meaningful relationships.

As we age, we shed our superficial friendships and spend more of our precious time with people we care about. Meaningful connections are enormously gratifying because we feel connected to others in ways that bring deep meaning and value to our lives. 

Midlife relationships differ from our earlier years, when we may have had many more friends and acquaintances. Growing commitments lead to a shedding of less-valued relationships, leaving us with fewer but deeper committed relationships. The knowledge that a solid base of individuals is available when we are in need, when we need someone to talk to, and when we want to share our good news is priceless. 

As careers and family obligations cut into our personal time, we naturally gravitate toward allocating our time to those we can rely on, trust, and connect with on a deeper level than in our younger years. These meaningful connections carry us through the rest of our days and to healthier, happier lives. Midlife is a time of quality versus quantity in terms of personal relationships. 

4. We are productive.

So much gets done in Midlife. Our careers are in full swing, and we move from the new kids on the block to the experts in the room. Decades of experience in life, relationships, and the skills we’ve honed allow us to become more efficient and productive in our work and home life. Ask most midlifers what they did in one day, and you can expect to hear a delicate balance of work and family life fruitfulness that would likely cause someone two decades younger to stumble.

5. We become generative.

We care for others without expecting anything in return. We do things for others because we want to—not because we have to. The desire to care for others without expecting anything in return is something we are built to do in Midlife, and it feels so good to do so. We pass on our knowledge, values, and skills to others and leave a legacy. 

Whether passing on our values to our children and grandchildren, guiding a junior colleague, or spending time volunteering with organizations, we care about; these acts make us feel connected to the world. 

Being generative helps us to feel like we are leaving our mark on the world and that our lives matter. Generativity is extremely powerful because we can reflect on our lives and think that the skills, values, and knowledge we’ve worked so hard to achieve during our younger years are not wasted but are passed on to others.  

Midlife has much to offer. We have many opportunities to feel productive and emotionally fulfilled, leaving our distinct footprint on this earth. All these are gains, not losses, and these are Midlife fulfillments rather than Midlife crises. 

Identity, meaningful connections, and generativity are three things we cannot buy, but they provide us with more wealth than our younger selves could ever imagine.

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Originally Published on

Deborah Heiser, PhD The Right Side of 40

Deborah Heiser, PhD is an Applied Developmental Psychologist with a specialty in Aging. I'm a researcher, TEDx speaker, contributor for Psychology Today, Substack blogger, CEO of The Mentor Project, and adjunct professor of Psychology.

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