‘By wisdom, a house is built, and through understanding, it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.’


I love this beautiful scripture in Proverbs 24 that one can apply to the midlife season. It also fits well with the focus of this blog—to thrive on purpose in midlife.

What does it mean to thrive on purpose in midlife?

Midlife is a life stage when adults refine their lives in many ways. Research shows that midlifers:

  • Maintain, pivot, or taper down careers,
  • Re-evaluate personal goals,
  • Shift unhealthy behaviours,
  • Adapt to shifting relationships with young adult children,
  • Ease into grandparenthood,
  • Explore helpful ways to deal with stress,
  • Continue to learn and grow
  • Support ageing parents,
  • Foster physical, mental and spiritual health.

Part of the refining involves turning inward to reflect on your life. This helps you notice how you’ve evolved and grown through earlier life seasons. Then, you release what no longer fits. And fill your life with the rare treasures of a refined life better attuned to who you’re becoming.

The Two Competing States in Midlife Defined

Developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, classified midlife as the seventh of eight life cycle stages in the human life cycle.

Each life stage places you in two conflicting states. The outcome can be positive or negative, depending on how you handle it. As you move through each life stage, you become equipped to be better able to handle life and challenges.

In middle adulthood, the conflict occurs between becoming generative or stagnating.

What Does a Stagnant Life Look Like?

A stagnant life is akin to a mundane existence. You feel disconnected and uninvolved with the world and people. You may believe that your best years are behind you and there’s nothing notable ahead of you. Paired with other midlife challenges, this can result in a midlife crisis.

What Does a Generative Life Look Like?

A generative life is one compared to a house filled with unique and exquisite treasures. You’re motivated to contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

The experience of midlife varies depending on a person’s life circumstances. Personal growth, physical and mental health, relationships, and finances play a role. Also, cultural, and spiritual influences shape a generative experience. Because of these unique factors, everyone’s journey through midlife will look different.

Maslow’s Pyramid

Abraham Maslow offers a simple, yet powerful pyramid he coined our hierarchy of needs. The pyramid starts with meeting basic human needs for food, water, warmth, and rest. The next tier includes a need for safety and security. The following tier focuses on a need for love and belonging in your social relationships. Next, the focus shifts to a need for esteem and respect. The final tier is self-actualisation, where you strive to reach your full potential. Self-actualised persons live with deeper meaning and purpose (see illustration below).

Living a self-actualized life means embracing all aspects of your complex nature. But it’s important to be flexible in your approach to Maslow’s pyramid. Particularly when you consider the inevitable challenges we face in midlife. Our needs can change depending on our circumstances. Factors, such as financial setbacks can threaten our basic physiological needs. Or, relationship breakdowns can disrupt your life. These fluctuations can cause your focus to shift to different tiers on the pyramid. For more on Maslow’s pyramid, see this video.

How does Maslow’s pyramid apply to the midlife season and this blog?

Inspiration for the Midlife Hours blog flowed from my midlife journey. I extracted six guideposts that framed my midlife transition. These guideposts aim to inspire midlifers at the brink of this new life season. Particularly, those struggling with a sense of loss or trying to find their footing. The guideposts align with the last tier of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. That is, to craft a midlife chapter based on wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. It’s marked by a meaningful and generative midlife stage.

A scripture in Matthew 5 captures the concept of generativity well. It references us as the light of the world:

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house

MATTHEW 5:14-15

Frederick Buechner describes generativity as a life journey that can take you to the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.

Pursuing your passions and using your strengths can be immensely fulfilling. It can instil the deep gladness Buechner describes.

The world’s deep hunger refers to the needs you see around you and the broader world. It can be any social cause or injustice. Or a specific cause in your environment that you feel drawn to.

Undoubtedly, everyone’s journey is unique. Embracing this new stage of life with openness, curiosity, and willingness to stretch yourself can lead to unexpected surprises and possibilities in midlife.

Oscar Wilde captures this sentiment well in the quote below:

What Does It Mean to THRIVE on Purpose in Midlife?

Thriving on purpose means being intentional about creating a meaningful and purpose-driven life. It’s a life anchored in your core self, values and your innate strengths and natural abilities. It integrates your dreams and passions. It considers and honours your needs and your unique life context and harnesses your skills and resources. Finally, it draws on your wisdom and resilience gained from a lifetime of experiences.

The six guideposts are built on the acronym THRIVE.

As you read the descriptions of the six midlife guideposts above, does it stir something for you? What issues in the world interest you and move you to do something about it? Do you want to align your abilities, skills, resources, and interests with the world’s needs? How can you bridge that gap?

As you start exploring ways to thrive on purpose in your midlife season, you’ll find the answers lie within you!

Additional Support

Do you require more support to explore ways to apply these six guideposts to your midlife journey? I developed an e-course that walks you step-by-step through the process. You’ll find details under Resources.

Until next time, travel gently on your midlife journey.

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