Every 7 years, plus or minus 2, we get bored and restless. This happens in our life and in our work. It is called a life cycle.
The experience of boredom or restlessness is called a mid-life crisis. Although there are theories of life and career development that suggest there is a one way path up and forward, they do not seem to reflect the complexities of today’s world. The theories that seem to hold more relevance today are called life or career cycle theories.
The theory says we spend 7-8 years trying something-in a cycle. Often, if you graduate from University in 4 years and do not go into the military, you have your first “crisis” or transition around 30. In Greece, like in much of Southern Europe, graduations are delayed so this might not occur until your late 30’s. But sometime between 38-42, and again 48-52, and 58-62, and 68-72, and on and on, you will hit an emotional wall. You will feel bored, restless, anxious, but not know why. You want a change.
If you recognize the transition and the existential dilemma it offers, you can choose functional ways to explore it. You may want to change jobs, organizations, spouses/partners, leisure groups, or more. All too often, misdiagnosing the feeling, people often give up everything in their lives that is valuable and seek out inappropriate relationships (i.e., romantic affairs), sports like sky-diving, buy expensive red sports cars (that is particularly a male response) and expensive hobbies.
If you know it is coming, or sense you are in one, then seeking out people with whom to talk is a great first step. In other countries, the attendance at graduate programs when people are in their forties or fifties in becoming quite frequent. The average age of my graduate students is 44. They come from a wide variety of countries and cities. They fly into Cleveland, Ohio once every four, six or twelve weeks for a few days depending on the specific program. I tell the students (i.e., average ager 50 at entry) in the Executive Doctorate, they are present because of their mid-life crisis and the program, although quite expensive, is a lot cheaper than a divorce (which can occur because people want to try other partners). They laugh, but it is true!
Within a work organization, knowing these cycles are inevitable, you can establish coaching or programs to help people explore other aspects of work or life. Some companies have begun using sabbaticals of 1-3 months. Other companies allow people to volunteer full time in a cultural or social service organization for 6-12 months. These are more dramatic programs. A simpler way is to stay alert to it and talk about it. It might help people re-awaken to possibilities that are exciting at work. They might get re-engaged. They might feel excited about work instead of looking forward to the weekend!
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