02/13/2013 07:41 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2013

Negotiating Normal Midlife Changes

A friend of mine is now facing imminent retirement. Her greatest fear is that this will change her in negative ways. She feels the natural anxiety and confusion of no longer feeling certain of her purpose, and does not want to lose that sense of knowing where she fits into the world.

To her I say, I know that feeling and it does feel bad, but I also know from personal experience that breakdowns are so necessary to create the necessary opportunities for future breakthroughs.

We all fear changes in our lives, and most of us associate change with negative results. That's why I like to re-frame the idea of change by pointing out that without change, nothing in this world would ever get better. Change is that necessary first step towards a better life, and midlife is often the first time we consciously see how this process works.

Change is necessary, often positive, and the only way for us to get from our early adulthood, filled with doing what everyone else wanted us to do, to full adult authenticity. Loss and change are the major motivators in midlife. Kids leave home, careers change or are lost, perhaps we experience a divorce or a major illness, our parents become frail and need more help, all reminding us of how limited our time is here. These are some of the predictable occurrences between the ages of 40 and 65. The question is not "Will my life change?" but instead, "How will I deal well with these major life changes?"

Luckily, some of the world's top psychologists have been studying midlife change for decades, and if you're willing to listen, they can provide you with quite a bit of validation and insight into what is happening to you now, and how to best negotiate this most predictable of life transitions.

I found reading works by Carl Jung and James Hollis to be quite reassuring, knowing that millions have already been through comparable midlife disruptions, some leading to some great life-affirming transformations. I saw for the first time how "midlife" has recently become a normal, predictable psychological stage in human development, not to be avoided but instead embraced because of its ability to provide necessary stimulus for personal change.

For the first time in human history, we have the opportunity to transition from the limiting beliefs of early adulthood, learn about this new stage of human development, and then reach our full potential and power as we take responsibility for the full range of choices before us. These opportunities are especially new for women, who historically have been ignored or marginalized when it comes to attaining higher levels of education, psychological development, and consciousness. I have learned how predictable, natural midlife changes can create the perfect environment to take a quantum leap of personal growth into full authenticity.

That is why I wrote my new book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, to help everyone understand this unique time in history we share as boomers, and the origins of the relatively new concept of "midlife."

Learn how to appreciate the many possible positive outcomes of embracing and celebrating this new stage in your emotional development, instead of trying to work around it!