I happened to read the first few chapters of Bob Bufford’s book HALFTIME some months ago and I remember being so gripped when I read the introduction. The idea was so powerful: the first half of your life is all about success; the second half is a quest for significance.
Bufford says that the moment you step off the stage on your college graduation, most of us go on a sprint chasing for success, looking for the best, high paying, meaningful job we could find. We change jobs once in a while, not just because we are not satisfied with the salary but because we look for a place where we could charge ahead and not stay the same.
Many people who are so driven reach their first million in a few years time. Some make it to the top of the corporate ladder sooner than others. Success is the byword of our dinner dates with friends. Even in church, whenever we talk about money and success, our heads turn.
Then people reach forty. The dreaded midlife fork in the road. The proverbial halftime of our lives. The point in time when our lives are supposed to begin, as if our younger years are just the prelude to this grand act. According to Bob Bufford, this doesn’t have to be a crisis. This is the time when our focus shift from success to significance.
SIGNIFICANCE. That deep, philosophical-slash-spiritual word. They say that when you reach forty, you begin to reevaluate your life. You begin reviewing what you’ve done so far, if your life made a mark in this world, if your existence is significant, if you were able to do what you set out to do when you were young and full of hopes.
At forty, you see things better than when you were in your thirties. You change gears. You shift from a question of success to a question of whether your life mattered. At forty, you begin chasing for meaning, for legacy, for something you could give back to humanity. It’s glorious and frightening at the same time.
Someone once told me that part of the reason why people in their forties give in to vices is because they reached their halftime and realized they’re not proud of the many things that happened so far. Their youthful dreams elude them. They’re not as successful as they wish to be. And so they feel the need to drown out the nagging feeling of failure that haunts them.
I am still nine years away from that mystical crossroad of the forties. I can’t tell for sure whether Bufford’s supposition is true or not. But I believe the issue is not the universal veracity of his claims but the steps I am currently doing to ensure that when I get there, I am ready to face it. Are you?