X & Y: The Midlife Axis

My friends and I have been engaged in some chat about what I call the Midlife Axis. 

On the X axis (across the bottom) is your age. 

On the Y axis (down the side) is the level of investment you’ve put into whatever you’re doing with your life right now (a working professional, stay-at-home parent, student, retiree, etc.). 

 Think about your own Plot of Investment.  I plotted my investment (of time, energy, emotion, education, money, etc.) as a small business owner, assuming it was zero on the day I was born.  You can do the same for your own job, your role as a mom, dad, volunteer, superman or woman, or any other role.  Mine looks like this:

By mid-life, many of us  have invested a great deal into our jobs and other positions in life.  Because we’ve invested so much, we can become scared about making a major life change (a move, a career change, a divorce, etc.).  We’re afraid to start from the bottom again.

What we forget to consider, however, is the equally important Plot of Happiness.  Do another Plot, but change the Y axis to your overall level of happiness.  Mine looks like this, assuming I was off the chart baby-high at age 0.

Next, overlay the two Plots.

If you are smack-dab in the middle of this cart and your Happiness level is below your Investment level, you might be going through a midlife evaluation period.  I am.  It seems like I’ve put a lot of extra effort into my business lately, but my level of happy has taken a nose dive.

If you’re like me, you could be wondering if all the investment you’ve put into your life position so far as been worth the effort…wondering why…after all the hard work…your happiness level is not sky-high.  Some people never have these thoughts, but many of us do. 

We feel like we’ve flat-lined and don’t know quite what to do about it. 

I’m not going to make any specific suggestions on how to handle it, because I’m a far cry from Dr. Phil.  Changing paths may be right for you, while charging ahead on the current course might be right for someone else.  My point for now is that many of us get to this stage in life.  It’s common….it’s normal…and it frequently happens after age 40. 

Whether you take baby steps or one giant leap, it’s never too late to bring your life into X/Y Axis Balance.  If you feel out of balance, then this may a perfect time to re-evaluate….to take stock in your accomplishments…and to take charge of your future.  What makes you happy?  Are you investing enough in that?

What do your plots look like?  Do you have any advice for making major, midlife decisions?

Tomorrow ends the A-Z Challenge, so don’t miss the final post!

16 responses to this post.

  1. Very clever post and very informative. I was wondering what you were going to do for X and Y.


  2. Got BA and two MA’s but can’t do eighth grade algebra. X and Y. Chromosomes, ain’t they?


  3. Great post, Tracy. Being just over 40 myself, I’ve began to reevaluate my life and what I’m doing. I have plans for the next five and ten years, but don’t look beyond that.

    For me, life has gotten too busy, and I’ve been just going every day without enjoying anything; everything is a job.

    So to give me more time for me and for my young children, I’m quitting my part-time job that can take me out of the house for 26 hours a week and add unneeded stress to my life. Instead, I’ll focus on writing and selling books . . . and raising sheep.

    Sheep is my new ‘happiness’. I’ve always wanted to raise them and decided now was the time. If nothing else, this will be an interesting adventure, one the kids can share in. I’m most happiest when I’m working close to home, close to the soil, close to my kids.


    • Awesome! And don’t forget about your ass, Diane. Hee hee. Are you going to use the sheep as any type of income, or just raise them for fun?


      • The sheep will generate some income eventually. I can sell their wool in the spring. I’m also going to compose the manure and sell it.

        We were discussing this afternoon how the animals can ‘earn their keep’. Once the 15 hens start laying, they’ll make about $30 a month. That will pay for their feed and bedding. About $3 of that can go aside for watering dishes/feed dishes/etc., if one needs replacing. All this and we’ll get an endless supply of eggs for free.

        Of course, all this is ‘for fun’ and ‘for health’. BUT a small income — which will grow over time — will result. It’s a win-win situation.


  4. Only around 40…? I must be having a quarter life crisis then… 😉


    • I had one of those too – 25 is the time when I started to feel rooted, and I had this intense inner struggle between being “free” and “independant” vs. holding down a job, a steady boyfriend, etc. What’s tearing at you these days?


      • A little more like 33, Tracy 😉 Uprooted a few months ago… didn’t work out as I thought… now I have no clue where to put down new roots… or a reason to… When ‘it can be anything’ is your option, what do you choose..? I feel a bit like shopping for shampoo – remember your post from the other day? haha (Just a much bigger decision 🙂


  5. Ah Tracy..if only I were mid life..sigh!


  6. Truer words were never spoken (written). Those who don’t re-evaluate at mid-life are very rare. It’s a privilege to think hard about what the next era will look like.


  7. What a faaaaaaaaabulous post, Tracy!

    You always share the most interesting topics on your blog.

    As I’ve shared with you in several comments, I live my life very differently than most people. I plan nothing, but rather take what’s in front of me at the moment and live it. I allow my life to make me. I have found that happiness is a state of mind. I’ve had some of the most wonderful careers where everything is smooth and easy; making me very happy. Yet, I’ve also had careers that were a struggle. It’s during those careers that I learned to find my inner happiness. And amazingly enough….I always have.

    Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!



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