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Archive for July, 2017

Waking Up

 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
Mark Twain

 

A former colleague of my husband Jim extolled the merits of golfing and having the ability to golf everyday once he retired. He purchased a condo townhouse in a suburb of Victoria, B.C. that was affixed to a golf course. He began his retirement joyfully believing that golf was the activity that would fill and fuel his days. Three months later he contacted Jim and asked if there was any way he could return to work or perhaps work part-time. Of course, at the point the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed on his retirement package and pension, so there was no turning back.

What Donald had forgotten was that a hobby or an interest is great as a part-time activity. It is enjoyable and it is fun, and so many other things. It is not however something that will engage you full-time unless you have set your sights on becoming a master golfer in your age category. An interest/hobby quickly becomes boring. It has no inherent meaning.

A former coaching client of mine, Joan, contacted me because she felt she was on the verge of burning out. She had retired from a busy corporate position with CN three years prior. Upon retiring, she embarked on a mission to volunteer for everything and anything as this is what she felt she ‘should’ do. She filled her time. Unfortunately, before jumping into the ‘volunteer fire’, she did not take any time to discern what was important, engaging or truly of interest to her. Once having volunteered with various organizations however, the expectation was that she would be available for certain hours and uphold her volunteer commitment.

As I met with Joan it was clear that she was tired, frustrated and bored. Yes, she was ‘engaged’ in busyness, and she was not passionate about anything.

Both these examples demonstrate that busyness does not equal meaning. In approaching the Third Act, it is wise to take time before jumping into activities simply because they pass the time. The Third Act is a significant time in life, affording you the opportunity to shift mindfully from being busy to simply being.

I recognize this is a significant shift. The world of work which you are transitioning from had scheduled your time and filled your days for years. Now you look forward and you see vacant space. You fear being bored, disengaged, useless and more. Trust me – I have visited all of those feelings. Despite this, time is your friend not your enemy. It is an opportunity to explore, to ponder, to search for what’s next, understanding that just because you are no longer in the working world, meaning and purpose continue to retain their importance.

The Wake-Up Call
It is healthy and perhaps even necessary to pause before leaping into activities, just as Donald and Joan learned. It is a time to ‘unlearn’ the habits associated with whatever occupation you were engaged with, and time to learn more about ‘being” vs doing. Given time and space for this, there comes a time when you begin to wonder, “is that all there is?”

It occurs to you that there has to be more to life. As Joseph Campbell explains in The Heroes Journey, it is more than simply the meaning of life, it is the experience of being alive. What does being alive look like? You have the opportunity of defining this for yourself,

Most of us want to have a sense of being involved in something meaningful. Identifying what that might be is not always obvious. It requires some digging, some discovery regarding the question, “what is my reason for being here/my purpose?”

This might be a ground-breaking opportunity for you as it may be new territory. Not everyone explores meaning and purpose early in life. If this is the first time in your life that you have ever stopped to consider your purpose or your passion, relish the opportunity and the wisdom in doing so. Chances are you have a lot of years before you in which to pursue the opportunities that interest you.

And remember, so many of you went to work, and then you worked and worked, nose to the grindstone, in a routine that served you well and supported you and your families. Then one day you have a  J.O.B. Graduation (Justifiable Occupation or Business). The structure and routine created by your work has vanished.

It is only then that you find yourself asking these questions of yourself, to identify what is next for you. The opportunity is to match this with purpose, meaning and passion.

What Do YOU Want?
As you consider the question, what’s next, take time to consider what it is you want. As I have learned this is rarely clear for people. There is usually great accuracy in reciting what you don’t want but not the opposite.

Clarity is important. Now is the time to switch the ‘do not wants’ into new language. ‘Do not wants’ become reality. I don’t want to be bored and you are bored. I don’t want to be disengaged and you are.

A focus on what you don’t want only reinforces this energy and attracts more of the same.

Step One – be clear about what you want. Listen to your language. Convert any ‘do nots’ into a language that will serve you.

Start now – complete this sentence: I want…..

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Humans are living longer. For those of you who are currently 65 years of age, there is a 50% chance that you will live to be 100. The numbers of centenarians are growing every year. The reality – with good health body, mind and spirit, you may become one of them.

What does this mean? Is it really appropriate to consider ‘retirement’ at least in the way our parents retired? As I was recently reminded, retirement is rooted in the French ‘retirer’ which means to withdraw, step away from. Do you see yourself withdrawing or stepping away simply because you find yourself in an age category which has been defined by society as retirement age? I hope not.

The Third Act is a way of offering you a new vocabulary. It is that time in your life post J.O.B. (Justifiable Occupation or Business) where you get to choose what you want to engage in. There is no need for you to put your feet up and whither into oblivion, although this is clearly an alternative choice.

An article in Psychology Today, April 2017, reported ‘that instead of heading en masse to retirement communities, 60-somethings are going back to school, starting new relationships, exploring their creativity, fighting for causes in which they believe, giving their time and money away, and yes, bucket listing”.

And while this is increasingly the trend, many individuals in their Third Act are still not clear on which path they should be taking. Research by Dr. Lawrence Samuel has found that, interestingly,  the financially secure are the most likely to be directionless.

Why? Too many options, too little self-knowledge, too little clarity regarding what is genuinely important. Yet with financial security, and the reality that you will most likely be healthy for many years, comes the opportunity to find the meaning and purpose that will engage you and allow you to continue to thrive. It is, as Ann Mortifee describes it, the Mysterious Journey

When a path opens up before us that leads we know not where, don’t be afraid to follow it. Our lives are meant to be mysterious journeys, unfolding one step at a time. Often, we follow a path worn smooth by the many and in doing so we lose our authenticity, our individuality, our own unique expression. Do not be afraid to lose your way. Out of chaos, clarity will eventually rise. Out of not knowing, something new and unknown will ultimately come. Do not order things too swiftly. Wait and the miracle will appear.”

The miracle will appear and you can guide the process by choosing to become clear and engaging in a transition process.

Transitions
In 1980 William Bridges first published his book Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes. In his book, he described a transitions model which he defined in three stages: Endings, The Neutral Zone and New Beginnings.

Endings describes that time when you disengage in what you have known, whether this is a relationship, a job, a way of life or perhaps a habit in which you have been engaged. This is followed by dis-identification, a time when you recognize that this same relationship or job has in many ways defined who you are and the roles that you have played. You realize that this is no longer so. Your self-Identity had changed.

Disenchantment may follow, disappointment with the events that have forced these changes, even a sense of grief at having lost what you have known for so many years. Finally, you arrive at disorientation, the ‘now what’ and ‘where do I go from here?’

The Neutral Zone is a time to feel empty, to be lost in the woods, to explore and to discover. It is a place to struggle and flounder as well as a place and time to clarify and wonder. It is the gap between your former way of life and what awaits you. If you allow yourself to linger in this space, without self-judgment, the result can be rewarding and transformative.

You then approach New Beginnings, a realignment regarding what is important to you and what you want from life. Clarity is emerging leading you to understand the possibilities you have before you, what will engage you and what you want to dedicate time to. It is also time for action.

The New Transitions
I have always appreciated Bridges model. I have used it in my own life, used it as a coaching tool for individuals and teams, and trusted it. My only question, “Is it too simplistic?”

In recent research regarding the Third Act, I have uncovered the work of Dr. Edward Kelly who has taken the Bridges model and expanded it into what he considers to be the critical steps for transitioning into the Third Act. He has defined these stages as The Wake-Up Call, The Search, The Struggle, Breakthrough and Integration.

While the roots of these stages clearly lie within Bridges’ work, the added detail allows for a better understanding of the transition process, especially for the Third Act.

ME FIRST
If you haven’t already guessed. The most important aspect of transition is to dedicate time to it and to put yourself first. I define ME FIRST as an act of selfness, versus selfishness, a process whereby you dedicate time to take care of your business and issues first, allowing you to engage in life differently and become clear regarding your future. If this future happens to include an element of service to others,  then this time of reflective consideration will allow you to be more effective in how you approach this service to others.

THRIVING
I cannot think of a time in life when a focus on YOU could be any more important. The time you invest will lay the foundation upon which you will build your choices for the final act of your life.

Thriving in the Third Act is designed as a road-map for moving forward, away from the world you have known and into the world you now want. It is built upon the new transition model as proposed by Dr. Kelly as well as strategies designed to guide your reflections and explorations.

As a first step, I encourage you to consider the transition into the Third Act as an adventure, fueled by fun, driven by curiosity and directed by your desire and passion and as an opportunity to clear the decks, release old baggage, habits and way of living. All of this creates space for new possibilities and for engaging differently in your life.

Are you ready?

 

First thing we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life.”

Gord Downie

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I am back. After a hiatus from writing, accompanied by some exploration and reflection, I am exploring the possibility of pulling together a program/learning manual dedicated to Thriving in the Third Act. I always do better when I have a little structure.

In the upcoming weeks I thought I would use my blog to roll out the framework and hope that you, as my audience would offer some feedback to me. I have never written a book this way before, so bear with me. It is a new way of doing it for a new phase in life. So here is the first installment, the Forward:

Thriving in the Third Act

Forward

Tim Carroll, Artistic Director of the Shaw Theatre wrote this for the 2017 season:

“An actor friend of mine said once that all directors are either mechanics or gardeners. A mechanic solves problems so that the machine works; a gardener creates the conditions in which something can grow. Some of the most vital jobs at the Shaw require mechanics but to direct our plays, I want gardeners.”

As I read this, I could not help but reflect on how his words not only applies to plays, they applied to life. If you simply replaced the word play with the Third Act, would the same sentiment not also apply. You can be mechanical in your approach to the Third Act. You can address whatever issues you have identified with a mechanistic approach of ‘let’s fix it’, as if life were a machine that has simply broken down. In fact, this has been in my view, the way in which retirement planning has been approached, a plan which deals dominantly with finances and the practical aspects of the Third Act years.

Or, you can decide to be gardeners and create the conditions for your Third Act whereby you can thrive. And what does thriving mean: feeling curious and engaged, exploring how you might use your gifts, talents and experience differently, being of service both to yourself and others and more.

Carroll went on to say that gardening in theatre work means “a process in which rehearsals are playful and exploratory. It means we don’t try to nail down the ‘right’ version of a scene; we play inside it and allow it to reveal itself.

Isn’t that just perfect. The Third Act is not a new job, it is simply your life’s work and experience. There is no requirement to ‘nail’ it down. The experience is designed to be softer, easier, free-flowing allowing you to ’play inside it and reveal itself ’.

I think this is perhaps the most important aspect of the Third Act, a stage in life, and if you will your ‘two-thirds life crisis’, when you transition into a new phase. It need not be governed by goals as many of you have been forced to live by during your working careers. It is most likely best expressed through intentions, the knowledge of what you want with no need to understand exactly how you will obtain this. Goals nail down the results whereas intentions allow you to live into this new phase of life and let it be revealed.

That said, what you want may not be obvious. I know that has been the case for me. In fact, the ‘do not wants’ have been much more clear at times, most of them predicated on a fear of boredom, and becoming a ‘couch potato’.

Welcome to Thriving in the Third Act, a personal self-discovery journey for ME, as I learn to transition from my career as a coach/consultant into my Third Act and one which I invite you to share.

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