Monday, December 18, 2017

My talk on Mid-life Crisis #2 : Coping Mechanisms


A really good book on coping with mid-life life crisis is entitled Midlife : A Philosophical Guide by Kieran Setiya. It may be the first detailed review of the problem of mid-life crisis.

I shared 3 coping mechanisms in my talk :

a) Engaging in things of existential value

There is  a typical story of a hard-driving Singaporean man who climbs up the career ladder to hit his peak and then realises that work is the only thing that he knows about. He becomes depressed wondering whether is this the only thing meaning he has in his life.

Singapore is not just a country that subscribes to credentialism. We also over-invest in things of Ameliorative value. Things of ameliorative value are things which we need. Buying a portfolio of REITs has ameliorative value because it generates dividends that pay for our meals and transport.

We can over-invest in "useful" things if we ignore other intangibles that make life worth living. Existential things include engagement with hobbies and Art. I am no fan of the local Arts scene and get bore easily, but I make it up with my life's dedication to Dungeons and Dragons. 

b) Look backwards when looking forward

In about two week's time, the financial blogosphere will be predictably inundated with New Year Resolutions. Most bloggers will be in their 30s and have plenty of things to look forward to like increments and additional members to the family.

For the folks in their 40s, resolution days would be more depressing. There is a lower chance of an increment or a promotion and the years will start to look like every other year.

One way of coping with this is to look backwards as well as forwards. While there is nothing to look forward to, you would have achieved a lot more than someone 10 years younger.

Reward yourself by looking back and account for what you have done so far in your life.

c) Know the DC Flashpoint story

If you are a fan of DC comics like me. Flash wanted to undo his mother's murder so he used a Cosmic treadmill to travel back in time to prevent her from getting killed. He managed to save her but messed the timeline so badly, it changed the DC Universe. Superman was captured by the US government as a baby. Batman turned out to be Bruce Wayne's dad and Wonder Woman and Aquaman have been at war for decades.

In our 40s, there is this tendency to look back and think about our lives would have been much better if we'd not make one mistake in our lives. For me, I misread a F Maths question during my A levels which pushed my grades to a B, otherwise I would have been a straight A student who may have a better chance of getting a study award.

The thing is that, like the Flash, I might be able to undo a small mistake in my A levels, but I may also undo all the good things that happened in my life so far. My dedication towards personal finance arose because I felt such a bleak outlook for a locally trained engineer when the dot com bubble burst about a year into work. I also have a great family. All this can be lost if my life changed to the point where I could have gone overseas for my first degree.

In the next article tomorrow, I will talk about the problem of an existential crisis and how it can be used as a framework to solve your mid-life crisis problem.



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