Episode 14: The midlife crisis: what it is and what to do about it – with Kim Searle

“Midlife is NOT a crisis” author Kim Searle explains what the midlife crisis is all about – when it can happen, what triggers it, what it means and what you can do about it.

Today’s guest

Kim Searle, author of Midlife is NOT a Crisis

Website: Kim Searle

Facebook: Kim Searle Midlife Mentor

LinkedIn: Kim Searle

Instagram: kimsearlepowercoaching

Contact: kim@kimsearle.co.uk

Having split up with her husband, Kim was holding down a demanding job and raising two young children.  She was physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually overdrawn and she was running on empty.

With hindsight she realised this was her wake-up call but for several years she functioned on autopilot and never gave herself the time to heal and reflect.  This effectively led to corporate burnout. She then decided to find the way back to herself and did this by training in counselling, coaching and Neuro Linguistic Programming.

This gave Kim considerable insight into how her past had affected the present and she realised her break up was less to do with her husband and more to do with her own doubts, fears and needs. It was at that point that she decided to move forward and to help others to do the same.

Kim then trained as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and has spent the past twenty years tapping into powerful techniques across many therapies in order to help clients take back control; become empowered; be happier; healthier and more wise about the hidden keys that can unlock their lives.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • The midlife crisis can start at any time and it starts when you realise what you’re doing isn’t what you want to be doing
  • Why changing your external world won’t necessarily make things better and the importance of looking inwards
  • How we are “programmed” from a very early age and take on beliefs all through our lives
  • The importance of getting curious and looking for what draws your attention
  • How computer games and TV numb our lives
  • Bringing what we enjoyed from childhood into adult life
  • The importance of working every day towards what it is you want

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 14: The midlife crisis: what it is and what to do about it - with Kim Searle

Kim Searle
We can all choose to be happy in the moment. We can all choose to be grateful with what we've got. But invariably, we're always looking at the external validation of who we are. And it's all about...

Jeremy Cline
The midlife crisis. What is it, how does it happen, and what can we do about it? In this episode, we'll find out. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life. The show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. My guest this week is Kim Searle. Kim is the author of Midlife Is Not A Crisis, and in this episode we dive really quite deeply into what the midlife crisis is all about, what it's telling us, and how we go about responding. Here's the interview. Hi, Kim, welcome to the podcast.

Kim Searle
Hello. Thank you very much for asking me Jeremy. Very excited.

Jeremy Cline
Can you tell us what it is that you do?

Kim Searle
I market myself as a midlife mentor. And that is actually an umbrella term that I'm using for all the different skills that I have - hypnotherapy, NLP, coaching and some others.

Jeremy Cline
NLP being?

Kim Searle
Neuro linguistic programming. It's been around probably for nearly 20 years, but it's becoming more prominent. And all it is is about the way we speak, the way we think, and the way we act. So it's the science behind all that.

Jeremy Cline
So as a midlife mentor is this something that you have changed to in midlife, or is this something that you've always done?

Kim Searle
No, this is very recent. I came up with this last year when I I left work and decided to set up on my own again because many years ago I worked as a therapeutic coach, helping people with challenges that they were facing and I've always wanted to go back out on my own since qualifying as a cognitive hypnotherapist back in 2011. And I'm finally doing it. But I wanted something that was targeting the midlife journey if you like because I think it's such a major area in our lives that's ridiculed, it's mocked - but not really understood.

Jeremy Cline
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that because it's something that seems to me something of a cliche. It's, oh, you know, you go and buy the sports car or have the affair with someone who's much younger, or take six months off and go to India to discover yourself or all that sort of thing. It just comes across as a bit of a cliche. I mean, is their substance to it? When you get down to it, what is the midlife crisis? What's going on? Actually when does it start first of all?

Kim Searle
Okay, well, I'll start with that one. It can start any time, because all it is is where you suddenly realise that what you're doing isn't really what you want to be doing and you're asking yourself the big questions. Who am I? What am I doing? And where am I going? Most often, though, it tends to happen from 40 plus, although I did mine at 36. And it's where your life just comes crumbling around you. There's been a trigger point. It may be a bereavement, it may be a relationship breakup, it may be something to do with your work, redundancy or, you know, passed over for promotion - there's a trigger that has gone on that has just crushed your world almost, and you're like, what's going on? What's that all about? And it makes you start thinking. Now, people seem to think that it can be an instant thing. It can take a few years to really, you know, become a problem. The trigger may have been, you know, 3, 4, 5 years ago, but it's only now that it's beginning to cause you a problem. And it's at that point when you start to find people taking drastic action to change their lives in some way. Because they think their external world, if it's better, it will change things. But I need to be very clear - it doesn't. It's what's going on in our internal world that's the problem.

Jeremy Cline
So when you say there's a trigger - that sounds quite dramatic. Is there always something that you can point to that that has this effect or can this be just a sort of a gradual realisation that you get to something that makes you think 'Nah, actually something's got to change here.'

Kim Searle
I haven't got any scientific evidence to back it up - yet! - Jeremy. In my experience, it can be either. But generally there will have been a trigger that if you look back, whenever I've seen a client, they're coming to me for a reason. When you start to track back something has happened to them in their past, that they think they've got over. That they've dealt with, that it's not a problem, but it's actually sort of festered and grown and just builds dissatisfaction all around, I think. Is that true? I don't know. But it's certainly my experience with the clients I've seen and my own personal experience. But either way, you start that period of dissatisfaction, which is possibly what you're referring to - this idea that it just suddenly grows, and over a period of time you suddenly start to realise you're just not on the right path.

Jeremy Cline
So what is the problem? Where does this come from? Why is it that it seems that so many people get to this stage and they have this this response this 'I'm not on the right path'. Why has that happened?

Kim Searle
Well, it's interesting. I think it's always happened in one way or another. The term midlife crisis was only coined in the 60s but I think it's been going on for a lot longer. And that was specifically around relationship breakups, divorce. But for me, and the studies that I have looked at and taken on board, is that we are programmed from the moment we're born - and actually probably beforehand in the womb -to our environment. So we learn through modelling through our parents. We learn from our external environment whether things are good or they're bad. We're pretty much channelled from the moment we go to school in whatever is our expertise, or sometimes even what's not our expertise. By the time we get to college, we're already expecting to set our life plan as a job and what is expected of us - to get married, perhaps settle down, have children, have a career - we're already being programmed in a very large way. And by the time we get to 35, we're pretty much set. We're cooked if you like! And it's only some years later that we suddenly realise that some of the things that we're doing, some of the things that we're being, or saying or thinking, are not our own. They are your mum's voice or your dad's voice or it's what you were told to do. So I'm not saying that life is wrong, but there will be elements of it that we are living that are not our own. We're not being true to ourselves.

Jeremy Cline
It's the programming that we receive from or possibly shortly before birth that doesn't necessarily reflect who we truly are. Is that right?

Kim Searle
Yeah, I often liken it to a computer. When you get your new nice shiny laptop it's running really quickly, and it's learning all the applications that you're putting on there. It's learning how to respond and it starts to store information. It stores all your favourites, all your likes. Goodness, Google stores all your clicks and goodness knows what else doesn't it - but it slows the system down. And sometimes you'll take on viruses and bugs that will do other things, or you'll take on a programme that actually conflicts with something you've already got - and they just constantly battle each other. That's us. What I like to think of is that that's what's driving the whole system just to close down, start to question what's going on. We start to shake the thing or whatever, and we just need to ask some questions - what is working for us? This application works, that one doesn't. I'm asking us to start to review the behaviours of the laptop, what is the laptop doing or not doing that's working or not working? And start to get under the bonnet of that, and fix it.

Jeremy Cline
You said that people tend to try to 'fix this' by changing some external factor - be it the job, the relationship, the car - but that doesn't work. So why doesn't that work, or can it work? Is that sometimes what solves the problem?

Kim Searle
It's a good point. Yes, for some people it can, but it's the consequences of that that may not be so pleasant for the people around you. So my recommendation to anyone who's who's got this point where they're just not sure what they're doing or where they're going, is to pause and to start to ask themselves some of the tough questions that perhaps we don't ask ourselves. Questions such as what is it you really enjoy doing? What is it you don't? Who in your life is bringing you the value? And what you're doing is instead of looking at the external world - which is great, but isn't really the cause of the problem, because we can all be happy in the moment. We can all choose to be happy in the moment. We can all choose to be grateful with what we've got. But invariably, we're always looking at the external validation of who we are. And it's all about our internal growth. Looking at what's really going on for us, because one of the things that happens is we've been taking on beliefs all the way through our life. Certainly from childhood, 'I'm not good enough'. 'I'm not important'. 'I'm not worthy'. 'I'm not loved or lovable'. All these are really underpinning some of the stuff that's going on for us now. And they've all come to light.

Jeremy Cline
Turning that slightly on its head - what about if the belief is something like, this should be enough? Why am I unhappy? I've got the life partner. I've got the kids. I've got the house which I really like. Okay, yeah, I've got a mortgage to pay - but, you know, I like living here. I've got the car I want. I've got a job which I've been doing for a few years, I'm well respected. I've created a name for myself. Why is that not working for me? Why is that not enough? I mean, surely it should be. What's gone wrong?

Kim Searle
There is a school of thought - and I do subscribe to it - that our early years are all about the external. It is the relationship, the house, the career, it's about our identity. Who are we? And if you like going back to our friend Freud, it's all about the ego. But there comes a point when we're not nourishing our soul. It's not bringing us the love that we want for our life. Because life is a long event these days - we used to be dead by the time we were 60 or 70. We're now forecast to live to 100 plus perhaps for some of us, if we look after ourselves. That's a long time to have a life and not be nourishing ourselves, and our focus tends to start to turn towards having a purpose. You know, what am I here for, what can I do to help other people that will make me feel, you know, validated or, you know, fulfilled - it's a big word, fulfilled. So that's why it's important to start to look inward and not outward. So if you've got a relationship and a job and got all the things that seemed to be fine, and you're still unhappy, it's not them, is it? So the only one left is you - you the individual who's asking these questions. And I'll be honest, the more I talk to people, it's the workplace that it's starting to erupt more in now. You still get people dealing with the relationship or whatever, but it's work where people are getting dissatisfied and what do they do? They job hop - because the grass is greener, but it's not because what they're doing is running away from the fact that it's them that has something going on that's dissatisfying for them.

Jeremy Cline
Where does someone start, someone who is at this phase? They've got the job, which they're not feeling terribly inspired by and they've got all these feelings of I just don't know what life's about. So these are really big questions and quite overwhelming questions. So where do you start?

Kim Searle
A number of options. I think the first thing is to get curious. What is this all about, what is going on for me that's making me feel this way? And I mean, gosh, we've got the internet these days, its made so easy - just start looking and having a glance round. And when I was being trained, one of the things my teacher taught me when I was a hypnotherapist was go where you're drawn, where your passion is. So you get excited about something and start investigating it, researching it, looking at it. So if you're - like I was - in IT, but I'm very interested in the alternative side of life. So I started to look at that, read books, watch films, attend groups, and eventually did some training on it. It's not something that I've necessarily gone into in a big way. But I was just completely curious with that whole side. I did so many courses Jeremy in my early days, because I just knew there was something I wanted to do and I had no idea what it was. So I did reflexology. I did some sort of massage. I can't even remember what it was - hand and head massage I think or whatever. I did a business technical thing because I thought I wanted to do more businessy stuff. I found a company who used to do training so it was brilliant. So I did all sorts of people type training, presentation, negotiation. All those things - just look for what draws your attention in and follow that and see where it takes you. So that's a bit just to build into your life. But if you want something more specific and you are at work, why not see if business will pay for a coach for you, somebody who can start to talk to you about what you really want, and how they can move you forward or pay for yourself and see somebody who will help explore what's going on for you. Now, I focus around the hypnotherapy because I'm looking to clear the blocks, but a lot of people will have the skills in a different way to help you through that. So it's about being curious I think - that first step is to start to look what's going on. Ask yourself questions.

Jeremy Cline
You mentioned looking at what interests you. I have seen people say 'Thing is I don't really have any interests'. 'I like to watch TV' or 'I like to play computer games', or something like that. So what do you say to someone like that? Someone who just doesn't think that they're interested in anything? How do they find what they might be interested in without feeling overwhelmed that you've got to start trying to get interested in everything?

Kim Searle
Yeah, absolutely not. It's just about being curious and starting somewhere. So it's interesting you've mentioned computer games and TV. These are just like, the many other tools that we've used to numb our life out. So my recommendation to start with is what brought you joy as a child, what excited you as a child. So there may have been things that you were drawn to and you were interested in, at that point. Have a look at those things. If there's something there that you could perhaps bring into your adult life. I mean, obviously, computer games is something that a lot of people will have done, but what what's that giving them? Is it the excitement? Or is it the challenge? Is it perhaps that they're playing with other people on the web? So is it community that they're looking for? Understanding what that is about and then finding out how they can bring more of that into their life. Because invariably, there will be something in that that will help you today. Does that make sense?

Jeremy Cline
I'm just wondering, I mean, aren't children curious about lots of things, and often the same things. I mean, you know, every child seems to go through a phase where they're fascinated by dinosaurs and every child seems to go through a phase where they're fascinated by space travel or something like that. How do you identify your thing that's not just what every kid goes through. Because it's exciting, it's these great big monsters or it's travelling to the stars, or all that sort of thing.

Kim Searle
But is that true Jeremy? Is that true - everybody involved liked dinosaurs? I liked dragons. It could be classed as dinosaurs, but there was magic involved in the dragons. I used to love those. I used to love all the magical stories they had out there. I still am a big fan of King Arthur, and Merlin. Love it. Is everybody into that? No, probably not. So there will be things that were really, really important to you as a child, and I don't know what they would be because everybody is different. And yes, some of them will be generic. Everybody was into Harry Potter, let's be honest, and that's fine.

Jeremy Cline
Some of us still are!

Kim Searle
Yeah, I'm not saying anything! But you know it doesn't matter. It's just what is it and how can you bring more of that into your life now? What's the meaning for you? What did you get from it? Did it make you feel good that you know there was a good was conquering evil in the Harry Potter series or did you like the fact that they work together to get things done? Did you love the fact they had magical abilities? Well what are your magical abilities? Because we've all got them. It's just finding which ones they are.

Jeremy Cline
So can you talk us through an example maybe to take that on. So maybe a client of yours - what they've identified in childhood, and how that has helped where it's taken them to?

Kim Searle
Yeah, it's a very good point. I'm going to use myself as an example because it's really interesting. I loved films where good always came out. So I'm a big Star Trek fan. Oh, my word. And one of the first theories I used to really get involved in and I didn't realise until recently watching a documentary on it, how the person who came up with the idea wanted the human race to have resolved all conflict. Wanted that they weren't fighting with each other, that they were working together. It's very rare you see them falling out with each other - certainly in the first series - that they fell out with each other. They didn't, they fell out with aliens! All these other things. But there was some really big moral stories going on in that - the whole kissing a black woman, you know, JT Kirk actually kissing a black woman. They were dealing with the difficulties of today in a space that was safe in the future. And I didn't realise how much of an effect that had on me until I start looking at what I'm doing today. I'm wanting people to deal with their inner conflict, their inner space, dealing with their own alien that's within them that's not their own. Looking at them resolving that conflict and feeling that they're 'winning' for want of a better word - but they are coming out on top. So it's really interesting. So for me space travel has always been an interest for me. But actually I'm exploring the inner space, not the outside. Not the not the universal space outside earth, I'm looking at the inner space.

Jeremy Cline
And so then what does that translate to? How does that person go from identifying what might have excited them as a child and possibly then what still excites them? How do you go from translating that into whatever changes presumably that you need to make either to yourself or to your external environment so that you start to feel more satisfied with your lot and what you're doing?

Kim Searle
Yeah. I think once you identify the gaps, because that's like any business. Anybody who's in business will know that the business has already got this strategic direction you're going to, this aim of going somewhere - and there's where we are now. And there's always a gap between the two. Our regular appraisals every year are the same thing, just in a smaller scope. This is where you are, this is where you need to be, this is what you've got to work on. The same principle - you're just taking those very good ways of being into your personal life. So for me, I didn't realise it, because that's the journey I've been on. But I knew something wasn't working for me internally. And I needed to find the answers. So I've been on my own journey to find what was not working. And I had all those beliefs I mentioned earlier going on. And as I've worked through them, it's freed me up to bring in the things I want to bring in. So I very much wanted to work for myself. I wanted to help people clear their stuff. I don't want them to take 20 years to do it like I have. I want to do it in a much shorter space of time and get them back out into the world and doing what they need to do. And I think I think for me it's been a journey of discovery for myself. But I do think once you start to open yourself up to potential, open yourself up to the things you want to do, all you've got to do then is start to plan the next steps. So the first step is just to understand what you can do. So if I was the main wage earner in a family, quitting my job and going self-employed isn't the first thing you'll do. You'll need some steps to go through it. So you plan it like you would a career change or that you want to move house or you need that exotic holiday - you start to plan for what it is you want. And start working on it every day. Do something towards it every day, speak to somebody. Find out from somebody else who's done it. What do you have to do? How do you get there?

Jeremy Cline
Is this a one-off process? Or is this a continual thing? Is it something that you look at every five years, something like that, or is this something that just people need to need to go through on a regular basis?

Kim Searle
Honestly, I suspect it should be something you do review because we sort of organise ourselves at work, don't we. We've got these goals and targets and the things we've got to do. And even within life stuff in our early years, you know, we've got these expectations that we'll do - but actually we change. I'm not who I was at, you know, 30 or 40. I'm not that person anymore. So I think it's worth reviewing how you do it. Obviously, it's up to you. But you get any good book on personal development, there will be a list of questions that you can ask. Key it into Google. You'll get a list of questions that you can ask yourself to review where you are. And I think you should do it regularly so you're preventing the slip into what am I doing? Where am I going? What's that all about?

Jeremy Cline
Are we wrong then to talk about the midlife crisis, but actually we're talking about just keeping ourselves up to date? Is that a way of looking at it? Back to your computer analogy, you're kind of installing your updates!

Kim Searle
I think we should be installing updates. And I think the midlife crisis is a reflection of us being asleep. I mean, I actually refer to it's a wake up call. They refer to midlife crisis as a wake up call. 'Hello, it's your soul knocking at your door'. It's who you really are saying, Come on, this is your life too. It's lovely, all the people around you, the family, whatever - but what do you want from life? And I think we should do updates on a regular basis. I mean, in an ideal world, and we're not there - maybe in Star Trek world, we would all have somebody with us that we would meet with, you know, on a basis to be agreed, where we can review where we are. Why not? Couple of sessions with somebody like a coach or a mentor or, you know, a therapeutic type intervention saying 'So what's working for you and what's not working for you?' There's two powerful questions straight away, what's working for you and what's not working for you? And if what's not working for you, is causing you enough pain, what can you do to change it?

Jeremy Cline
It's interesting you talk about pain because someone else I spoke to said that people make change, either because they want to increase pleasure, or more likely, they want to stop the pain.

Kim Searle
Exactly. They said it beautifully. I can say it no better than that. And that's what the midlife crisis is - a pain, and its not a physical pain. It can be a heartache, an emotional ache. It could be a thinking pain. It could be something else. But it's got to that point.

Jeremy Cline
Do people have more than one midlife crisis? So you've kind of go through this at 35, 40. And then again at 55 or something like that?

Kim Searle
Yeah, I've done a few! And all that is, is that you haven't listened, you thought you've done it and you've moved on. And that's why your updates are so important - because it's too easy to become complacent. You've just talked about, you know being in a good place or in pain. So increasing pleasure in or getting away from pain. Our brain is programmed to move towards pleasure and away from pain. So we ignore stuff, we park it away. So if we do that, and we don't deal with it all, it will come back and bite us at some point because it will just get bigger and louder until we can no longer contain it. And then that's when it erupts. And it causes us a 'crisis' in inverted commas. So, yeah, I think you're spot on there. I do think it can happen more than once. Maybe for different reasons, but that's why it's so important. So important for our mental health and our emotional health, possibly even our physical health, to look after ourselves and be mindful of what is or isn't working for us.

Jeremy Cline
So you mentioned tonnes of resources out there, books, websites, all that sort of thing. Is there one or two that you think if people want to look at this in a bit more detail, they should start with? Something that's maybe helped you in particular, or just something that gives a really good starting point for someone who wants to dive into this little bit more.

Kim Searle
Yeah, absolutely. So I think one of the tools that I very often say to my clients when they're dealing with emotional stuff, but can actually work for faulty thinking, is a technique known as the Emotional Freedom Technique. Now, it's a very bizarre technique, but let me explain how it works. It's about tapping on key points around the head, chest and underarms that I think and believe, disrupts the neural pathways and the biological processes of what's going on. So let me explain. If you are feeling particularly angry about something somebody said to you, and it's wound you up and you're still thinking about it as you go to bed, by tapping on these key points around the eye, and around around the mouth, onto the chest, under the arms and onto the head - what you're doing is, whilst you're thinking about that emotion, you're feeling that emotion. The brain likes habits and expectations. And it works the same way every time. But because you're tapping and you're talking at the same time, you're interrupting those processes. And it starts to calm you down. Now obviously, I could talk for ages about it, but what I suggest you do is look up on YouTube a guy called Brad Yates, I think he is - EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques. He's got loads of videos on there to deal with stress and anxiety and anger and jealousy and money and blah, blah, blah. But the beauty of it is that he's got some positive stuff as well. So you can do the same thing but on a positive way. So how fabulous is that? So that's a great resource. Great resource. The other one is to look for training courses and the one that I'm currently big into is Mind Valley. He's got loads of good content on there. So from a training course perspective he's my latest thing that I'm following, because he's got loads of good information and people working with him.

Jeremy Cline
I will certainly link to all those in the show notes. Kim, this has been really, really interesting stuff. If people want to talk to you more about all this stuff, where can they find you?

Kim Searle
Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, so any questions at all on what we've talked about today I would be more than happy to answer. I am on Facebook. It's Kim Searle, S-E-A-R-L-E, and I've got a page called Midlife Mentor. My website is www.kimsearle.co.uk, and if you want to email its just Kim at Kim@KimSearle. And happy to answer any questions that your audience has.

Jeremy Cline
Cool. And again, I will put all those links in the show notes. Kim - absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for your time.

Kim Searle
Thank you so much for yours.

Jeremy Cline
The thing that really stuck out for me from Kim's interview was that the midlife crisis isn't something that only happens once and only happens at a particular time but it's something that can happen at almost any stage and sometimes more than once. I've seen quite recently lots of references to people having a quarter life crisis often when they've just left higher education and they're starting work, and listening to Kim you can understand where that might come from - how you've been building up to this career, you've been educating yourself, and then when you get there, it's just not what you were expecting. There are links to Kim's website and her book Midlife Is Not a Crisis and all the other resources we've mentioned in the show notes and they're at changeworklife.com/14. That's the number 14. If you haven't left a review on Apple podcasts, please do - it really does help other people find the show, and I look forward to seeing you next time on to Change Work Life podcast. Cheers, bye.

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