Cultivating TQ to Navigate Midlife Transitions

Transitions are not always easy. Change, whether it be chosen, or thrust upon us, often requires shifting our attitudes and expectations. 

Culturally, we often see early life transitions – possibly during adolescence or early adulthood – as our most opportune time in life. The world is your oyster, you have your whole life ahead of you! 

Why then, culturally, do we slam on the brakes of enthusiasm for transitions in midlife or later as either a “crisis” or an example of a badly-played life?

In a time when longevity has increased by up to thirty years over the last century, our attitudes toward aging have moved in the opposite direction and not kept pace with our biological longevity. We are now collectively navigating this long stretch called midlife, and we are seeking novel ways to push through the societal disconnect of ageist attitudes that elicits a kind of cognitive dissonance. We are feeling one way internally – vibrant, capable, and confident – but our external social environment is trying to convince us that we ought not to be feeling such self-efficacy. 

Some psychological theorists suggest that each life stage has an associated transitional challenge. For example, Erik Erikson’s work suggests that midlife is all about ‘generativity versus stagnation.’ But, author Bruce Feiler suggests that life-stage models are outdated and that we are in fact continually navigating challenging transitions across the life course no matter our age. We are also peaking in new endeavors and chosen fields in later life too. 

So, what is holding us back? Quite often we can re-imagine a new system that promotes diversity and inclusion, but the institutions we interact with are often still operating on yesterday’s [3-stage] models for living (learn-earn-retire) that do not always bring the new longer life into the equation, because they are still playing catch-up. 

How do we work on sharpening our capacity for transitions in later life, or our ‘TQ’ (Transition IQ) to quote Chip Conley and the team at MEA? We first need to recognize that we may have absorbed cultural conditioning that says life becomes boring, dull and irrelevant at the halfway mark and beyond. We need to find ways of shedding this unconsciously but powerfully absorbed message. 

We can find others – as we have here in Australia with MEA’s regional chapter – who share our vision and support more positive attitudes to our aging journeys. Also, adopting a growth mindset can cultivate our curiosity, and adopting a ‘beginner’s mind’ helps to take a fresh outlook where our renewed curiosity then refines our TQ.  

Becoming conscious of our innate capacity for, and experience of navigating transitions can propel us forward – through the heavy veil of cultural messaging of ‘age-related labels’ to the other side of new possibility and rejuvenation in midlife and beyond! I can highly recommend the MEAx Online program for helping to facilitate this with the next course starting early next month.

– Natasha

Natasha Ginnivan is an Australian-based academic, researcher and blog-writer of lived experience, aging and transformation stories. She’s an MEA Online alum and here’s her blog: