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Archive for May, 2016

My colleague Andy (not his real name) retired May 5th from a life time in the federal public service. I met him last September as he and I embarked, along with 40 other participants, on a seven-month certificate program in Positive Psychology. We connected as we were two of the older members of the class and we were both examining the great ‘what’s next?’ He was anticipating his retirement with both excitement and trepidation.

Well here he is on the other side. Six of us, graduates now of the certificate program, had a day-long gathering where we checked in with one another and asked the question: What has become clear to you since we last met?  (I love this question as it provokes all sorts of responses).  I was anxious to hear Andy’s musings.

I was not surprised to hear that in the three weeks since his official retirement, Andy had felt somewhat lost. It is a disarming experience to be working one day and free the next. With no reason to jump out of bed, no one to chat with at the water cooler and nothing to structure your days, you simply face the great void.

Andy, whose wife works as a consultant and who works from home, also had a reaction. He was now in her space 24-7. Oh this is a familiar one to me! When Jim retired from the pharmaceutical world nine years ago, I had a similar reaction. Like Andy’s wife, I had been working from home as a coach-consultant for 10 years, and now there he was, every day! I kept thinking, ‘Don’t you have some place to go?’ And then when he decided to partner with me in the business, an entire new dynamic unfolded. Enough said. We fail to realize that our retirement affects others as much as it affects us.

And then there are all the other questions:

  • What do I want (see last blog)?
  • When will it happen?
  • What’s the first step?
  • What’s important to me?
  • Do I still have a brain?
  • Will anyone want to work/play/be with me?

FEAR walks in the door!

And yes, you all know the acronym for FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. I prefer another option: Face Everything And Rise.

So how do you face FEAR? It’s not new. It happens during most major changes or transitions in life. It occurs because you are uncertain and you have no clear map for what’s next. It often overrides the sense of possibility that retirement holds.

As I was flipping through a book yesterday, I Know I’m in There Somewhere by Helene G. Brenner, I noticed a diagram entitled FEAR is the dark room where all the negatives are developed.

FEAR

Yep, that describes it.

So how do you face FEAR in this place called the Third Act.

A strategy I have used for several years which I believe fits here as well is to do the following:

  1. Embrace the FEAR – it’s there and ignoring will not make it go away. I goes like this, “I see you.”
  2. Challenge the FEAR – ask the following
    – what evidence do you have that what you fear will actually happen?
    – when have you faced similar situations, and fears, and pulled through successfully?
    – Is what you fear happening right now?
    – other than what you fear, what are the other possibilities?
  3. Shift gears: Recognize FEAR does not serve you and is usually driven by your head and your ego. This is the perfect time to begin the 12” journey from head to heart and to know that you can choose to be/do what you want.

I love the conversation with fear, especially the first question regarding evidence. Ninety-nine percent of the time there is no evidence, no real reason to believe the fear will manifest. And the moment you examine it, thoroughly, you really have to chuckle. So pull up your socks and step into your days with the intention that life is full of possibility and you have just been given permission to play in the possibility sandbox. Most importantly don’t push – allow some time to pass, learn to be in the moment and present to what crosses your path. Trust that all your answers, everything you need for your Third Act, is there and ready to be harvested at the perfect time for you.

On yes, and as for your partner who does not know what to do with you, understand that your retirement has a huge impact on him or her as well. Be gentle and kind and as my good friend and coach Patty said to me when Jim retired, “never make her/him wrong!”

Have some fun making friends with your FEARS! Face Everything and Rise.

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Here is where I am struggling a bit these days – what is it I want at this point in my life. Most days I am pretty clear regarding what I don’t want and yes, just as I teach others, I can turn these into ‘do wants’. Here is a small sampling of what shows up for me so far:

I want:

  • To be healthy and vibrant
  • To be engaged
  • To continue to cultivate my curiosity about life and people
  • To be of service in a way that is meaningful to me
  • To attract and create my legacy work
  • To remain involved with the arts community, and to new forms of how this might manifest.
  • To travel to places I have not previously visited
  • To have ample ‘being’ time for savoring, flourishing, reading, writing, painting and gardening and of course meditation
  • To care for our aging parents and see them safely through the transitions in their lives
  • To be present to and for my family and friends
  • To have clear boundaries regarding what is perfect for me

Okay! That’s not a bad list. AND why is it I feel like something is missing. I think it is simply this thing we call TRANSITION, the letting go of what no longer serves me, emptying the plate so that the new can be defined and take its rightful place. This is an important act of ‘Space Management’, something I have come to understand through years of piling too many things on this plate. Perhaps this leads to the next list – what am I prepared to let go of:

I am releasing:

  • Work that no longer engages me and that no longer serves my clients
  • Doing, doing and more doing
  • Always pre-planning the future rather than savoring the moment
  • Unrewarding and unfulfilling volunteer commitments
  • Responsibility that is not mine to own
  • Worry

That’s a start. I am sure there is so much more.

As we all move into and through our Third Act, knowing what we want, or at least asking ourselves the question, is perhaps the first step in determine our Third Act experience, or our legacy work. I have learned repeatedly that I cannot have what I don’t ask for and that If I am not clear, stuff shows up that I may not want.

There is not rush in developing this list, in fact I suggest we all take some time to slide into this zone, breathe, and take time to relax into it.

Some things to consider as you develop your wants:

  1. Remember all those things you always wanted to do/participate in and never had the time.
  2. What about your “Bucket List”? If you don’t know what this is watch the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.
  3. Remember your youth and all those values/ideals you had which vanished the moment you went to work. Want to re-visit them?
  4. What are the passions, creative endeavors you always meant to make time for and never did?
  5. What are the causes you most identify with? Is there something that you want to contribute to that cause within your community?
  6. What wisdom, learning or experience do you have to offer others?

As you take time to consider these questions, I encourage you to keep track of the answers – write them down. You may be surprised at what shows up. It is important for all of us to remember that our Third Act is a new beginning, filled with and fueled by possibility. The most important quality we can exercise at this time of our life is CURIOSITY!

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There are moments in your life where, in an instant, everything changes. And more often than not, it is something that you are expecting and perhaps wanting to avoid dealing with. An undercurrent of hints and signs present themselves to you and still, you keep trucking along, head turned away from the obvious, believing that if you hold your focus elsewhere, the obvious will not happen.

Then, BOOM! The unexpected/expected happens.

Part of the Third Act for many of us is having parents approaching the Forth Act (if such a term has been coined). I am the proud ‘outlaw’ of two aging parents-in law named Dorothy and Ron, ages 87 and 86 respectively. While physically healthy, both of them are experiencing levels of memory loss, judgment lapses and dementia. Dorothy has been most affected by this, leaving Ron as the primary care-giver. More recently it has been evident that Ron’s health has also been changing and, while all of us have been observing this, it has been easier to believe that things would just keep ticking along.

As I write this, Ron has been hospitalized following a weekend meltdown called pneumonia, which in the elderly is often missed, presenting as confusion, paranoia, memory loss and decompensation. This is where we found ourselves. Everything has changed as we as a family face the reality that they may no longer be able to live independently.

I am fully aware that this is yet another rite of passage for Third Acters and perhaps a perfect example of how we also approach our own aging and Third Act planning. You know that one day you will retire, in some way, and it is easy to avoid looking at it or planning for it. And then one day, your employer tells you it is time to pack up your desk, to ‘retire’ and you are shocked and completely unprepared. How is it possible you could not see this coming?

BOOM!

One day you are working, and the next day you are not. And in your avoidance, you are completely unprepared for the inevitable. What do you do now?

Chances are, the hints and signs were in your consciousness even though you were looking the other way. In our current dilemma, I had already called in the local psycho-geriatric team for Dorothy and we were waiting for Ron’s assessment to be scheduled. This at least was the first step in connecting us to community services. In other words, we have a place to start.

You do as well and the first step is to simply relax, breathe, and recognize the opportunity that stretches before you. It is fair to say that you will miss your J.O.B. You will miss the routine, the work itself, the social connections and more. All of this can re-created in a new way and first, give yourself an opportunity to recognize that stepping away from your J.O.B. is a significant loss. It is part of how you have defined yourself for many years and it is not only appropriate but important to grieve this loss.

This is the first important step of your Third Act. Experiencing and expressing the loss you may feel, allows you to release it and create space for what’s next in your life.

Do yourself a favor and book some time with a massage therapist, an energy worker (Reiki, Integrated Energy, or networking chiropractic), or any practitioner that can support you in moving forward. Consider meditation, yoga, physical work outs of any description. Avoid signing up for every volunteer opportunity offered to you because others know you now have loads of free time. Trust me, this is not a solution.

Learn to ‘BE’ for a while, giving yourself that important opportunity to know yourself and assess what is important to you today and in the future.

Welcome to your Third Act!

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As I sit with the Idea of Flourishing in the Third Act, feeling my way into my experience and what I want to create for myself and others, I have a knowing that there is no rush. I have to say this is a new sensation for me. I am not the type to simply sit with things for an extensive period of time. Of course I have been writing this blog and discussing Flourishing in the Third Act with others, and this has raised interest. And yes, that is my intention. And, when asked last week by a colleague when I was starting the program, I had a momentary sense of panic. I am not ready.

As another colleague of mine stated during our monthly Women Entrepreneur’s Network,  I am composting, in the fermentation state. I might prefer the word incubation, regardless, I am sitting and being with the idea.

This morning in our daily read from Robin Sharma, the following text was highlighted:

Confusion always gives rise to clarity over time and
a moment does come when all the new learning becomes
wonderfully integrated within your understanding.
This is the beginning of real wisdom.
Celebrate your confusion because it is simply a reflection of your growth.
It is always a little chaotic when you leave the Safe Harbor of The Known
and sail out in search of New Oceans.

I have decided to celebrate my confusion! To continue to read, research, reflect and learn, throwing all these ingredients into a big pot of stew, knowing that it will emerge as a savory, tasty meal.

The other roadSIGN appearing on my path this past week was a conversation with Lisa Taylor, founder of the Challenge Factory, an organization which specializes in working with individuals approaching or in the Third Act. Lisa spoke about defining your Legacy Career, a turn of phrase which I admit to finding appealing.

In my own lexicon I would undoubtedly use legacy work. I see your work in the broadest of contexts responding to the question of “what is your work in the world, your call to service, your sense of purpose?” To add to this idea and incorporating the notion of legacy, the question further dives into the impact you wish to have on others and your immediate world.

I differentiate work from J.O.B., better known as Justifiable Occupation or Business. How we make a living is not always aligned with our work. When we choose to leave the J.O.B. and pursue our work, we truly are in the legacy conversation. Legacy work can be aligned with what you do for a living just as it can be volunteer work, mentoring, pursuing your creativity, whatever is meaningful to you.

Years ago, while listening to an old Harry Chapin CD, I noticed a monologue Harry had in between cuts. He was telling a story about his grandfather:

My grandfather always used to say,
“Harry, in this world there are two kinds of tired – good tired and bad tired.”

Bad tired can follow a day when you are seen as a winner in the eyes of others, but you know that you won other people’s battles and lived other people’s agendas or dreams. You achieved great things for someone else’s cause. At the end of the day, you see that there is very little of YOU in there. You realize that deep inside yourself, the parts are not connected. You lay your head on your pillow that night, you toss and turn, you don’t rest easy. You know that your doings that day are disconnected from the deepest sense of who you are.

Then there are days when you are good tired. Good tired can be a day when you experience less success, trying but not always satisfied with the outcome. The key is that you are working at the things you love and enjoy. You don’t need to be hard on yourself because you know you fought your own battles, you chased your own dreams, and you lived your days fully. The path may be more difficult and you feel better about yourself because your choices are in-line with who you are and your work in the world. At the end of the day, your rest your head on your pillow and you rest easy. You recognize that what you did that day was connected to your greater purpose.

Your legacy work, your third act, deserves your attention, your intention, your imagination and your commitment to allow it to incubate. I believe you also want your legacy work to be fully yours, to be engaging and which leads you to that sense of being good tired and resting easy. It is a time for you and I to choose the work that inspires and nurtures us. If you are rushing into choices because you feel you have to or others expect you to, push the pause button.

Let’s all agree to play in the confusion for a while and see what emerges.

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The Third Act of Life is a newer term in the ‘retirement landscape’ referring to those years 60 to 90. In re-framing the idea of retirement, the Third Act examines the opportunities that those falling in this age group have to continue to grow, learn, serve and contribute to society. The notion of flourishing, drawn from the Positive Psychology literature, turns the commonly held beliefs of retirement on its heels and examines the strategies and tools by which ‘Third Acters’ can lead a rich and meaningful life beyond the expiration date of their careers.

Although we have arrived in 2016, with an exponential growth in the number of individuals reaching the Third Act, we are still not tapping into this unlimited resource effectively. Retirement programs offered by organizations continue to focus on two consistent themes: financial planning and legal concerns. And while there is no argument that this focus offers important information to retirees, this approach fails to address other key concerns:

  • What will I do once I step away from my job/career?
  • What will be my identity?
  • What will engage me?
  • Will I still be useful to society?
  • Who will be my tribe?
  • Who will I be without this definition of self?

It is fair to say that the exploration of these questions is not the organization’s business or concern but is it really true? From where I sit, many of us are clinging onto our ‘jobs’ because we cannot see the future. In my case this is not so serious. I am self-employed. This is not the case however, where senior employees may be blocking the entry of the next generation. Let me be clear, this is not to suggest that these senior employees are no longer contributing, it simply beckons these question:

  1. If these employees had a clearer sense of what life could look like beyond their current employment, would they choose to stay?
  2. What if they were offered a road map for navigating the waters for one of life’s most significant transitions?
  3. What if they were offered the tools to assess how they can continue to contribute and forge a path filled with purpose and meaning?
  4. What would be the benefits to the organization and the younger generations as well?

This is where ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’ intersects with life, a program dedicated to exploring the waters of transition, where self-evaluation and self-discovery are central tenets, and where the goal is to re-discover self and create a vision for what can be some of the most productive years of one’s life.

Society forgets all too quickly that many of our favorite authors, artists, inventors and scientists made their most significant contributions during their Third Act. A few examples:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie published her first book at age 64
  • Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence at age 70
  • Nelson Mandala became president of South Africa at age 76
  • At age 69 Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Forced to retire at age 70, Peter Mark Roget complied the Roget’s Thesaurus at age 73
  • Gandhi began his quest for Indian independence at age 61
  • Dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench have picked up more awards and accolades in their third act then in their early careers
  • Acclaimed artist Grandma Moses began painting at the age of 76

The list goes on.

It is my belief that those of us approaching or currently living the Third Act need not sell ourselves short. This is the time in our life when we can take inventory, review our contributions and wonder what’s next. We do not fundamentally change; life circumstances do. We have the capacity to learn and to take all of life’s lessons and apply these in new ways.

As I sit with this concept of Flourishing in the Third Act, reflecting on the possibilities that lie ahead, I see a landscape of vast opportunity. I wonder how can I sharpen the focus on that vision. This is where I, and I imagine others, need some structure, some tools for us to enhance our self-awareness and give direction to what’s next.

What immediately comes to mind is to simply remember that everything I have learned up to now is carried forward. I have vast resources available to me including:

  • My accrued wisdom and knowledge
  • My strengths
  • My work experiences
  • My values
  • My talents and gifts
  • My education

Hopefully all of these resources can be married with curiosity and wonder and a desire to understand in what other ways can I apply these various aspects of me to new opportunities.

Certainly curiosity is at the heart of flourishing. There will be those who simply want to retire, and by this I mean dis-engage, disappear, or take their position on the couch. And it is also my belief that this does not define most of us.

So here’s to curiosity and exploring all of those resources we have!

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