You Only Live Twice: Midlife as a Creative Transition Into Our 'Second Act'

Erik Otto Driessen, University of Pennsylvania


Our rising life expectancy mandates a re-design of our life span and redefines ‘midlife’ both technically and conceptually. Lagging behind other life stages in its scientific study, midlife is often connoted with a ‘crisis’ of sorts. Yet historically, midlife represented an apex in life; moreover, conclusive ‘crisis’ evidence has yet to emerge. Some manage to thrive in midlife by maintaining an attitude rooted in The Good Life, a concept tracing back to Aristotelian ethics. Positive psychology, the science of what makes life worth living, has studied The Good Life in modern times and contributed to understanding midlife in well-being terms. Together with neuroscience, positive psychology can help dispel myths regarding midlife, reframing it from the onset of decline into a creative transition for our ‘second act’ based on an enhanced sense of authorship. This self-creation process involves three key well-being themes: revision, prospection, and individuation. Reviewing these themes and ‘layering’ them with different well-being perspectives relevant to midlife, we may achieve meaningful positive psychological constructs and activities (and eventually, interventions) in three areas: positive narrative identity, serious play, and self-regulation. Of these, serious play, which unlocks the tacit knowledge our bodies disseminate in a state of play, seems especially key to enhancing authorship. One serious play application, LEGO Serious Play, which aims to build identities trough metaphors, seems especially promising for enhancing well-being at midlife in positive psychology workshops.


Date Posted: 25 September 2018