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Archive for the ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’ Category

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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Every once in a while I reach into my bookcase and pull out an old friend – a book read months or years ago which is not forgotten yet not at the fore front of memory. This morning I reached for John O’Donohue’s books, specifically Bless the Space Between Us. I think it is best to describe O’Donohue as a ‘Celtic Mystic’. whatever category I place him in, his words speak to me. This morning it was a blessing for retirement:

This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let you heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.

Have the courage for a new approach to time:
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire,
To live the dreams you’ve waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.

There are so many lines in this poem/blessing that sing to me.

What is left undone – do I even know? what do I need/want to say that has been unsaid; what is it I want to express in art or writing that has not yet been painted or written?; what is it I want to see, explore or experience which has not yet been seen? This is the opportunity of the Third Act. Time to create a ‘bucket list’?

Befriend your own beauty of soul – now this suggested finally releasing the self-critic, a lifelong companion, and seeing the beauty that lives within me: my strengths, my gifts, my wisdom, my experience, all that I still have to offer which has taken a life time to hone. This calls for new conversations with self and my soul, a little bit of neural re-programming.

To awaken the depths beyond your work – awaken! doesn’t this feel a bit like letting the genie out of the lantern. Despite a naturally curious mind I am still a creature of comfort and the known. Habits sustain me. Somehow the notion of ‘beyond my work’ suggests there is so much more to explore which of course fuels my curiosity but also scares me just a little. The great ‘what if’ this leads to a more interesting view of life, or what if there is so much more that I just do not see?

As I transition into this new land, it is these short yet powerful phrases that put me on notice and perhaps remind me that it is not so much what I am doing at the moment but more about who I am being. Being allows me to receive, reflect and ponder before jumping into any new beginnings, to continue to play in the Neutral Zone of life, feed both my curiosity and creativity and DREAM.

I would love to hear your thoughts on O’Donohue’s words.

Until next time,

Betty

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The spark for change is change.

From this morning’s message from the Universe, this short quote emerged. If you don’t subscribe to Messages from the Universe already, I highly recommend this – go to http://www.tut.com for your daily dose of wisdom and humor.

Change – there has been a great deal of that going around these days. Change and Transition. In my view transition is the human side of change, how we react and respond to the events around us that influence our lives. As we all know change is inevitable and there is that platitude, ‘change is the only constant‘. Curse change if you will and apparently you cannot escape it. Do you then embrace it or is that simply expecting too much?

I will admit that I am a person who seeks change. In my younger years I was plagued by boredom which resulted in me changing jobs at an alarming rate. I thought that a new venue would be more interesting even though the work with the inherent responsibilities were the same. Self-employment has been ideal for me as a result, as you get to create what you do, you can shift responsibilities around, search for new directions – you get the picture. And somewhere in there you need consistency and direction otherwise self-employment will spin out of control. Fortunately I have also been purposeful and yes, somewhat driven, which makes the changes upon me now the most challenging ones. This change is my transition into retirement.

Over the last few months I have been musing about this eventuality. The decision to release my ‘work’ responsibilities has not come lightly or easily. And, by the way I am not there yet although well on my way. As a self-employed coach, consultant, facilitator and teacher, my work has taken on many forms through the years from corporate consulting to individual coaching, from running and facilitating retreats and workshops to public speaking. I have never been bored in any of these roles because of the diversity and the variety which this approach has offered me. And trust me, I still love all of it.

So why retire or as I prefer to think of it re-tire. I have been living with a number of questions recently, the most important of which is “what is left for me to do or be in my Third Act?” I am ready for change and for new frontiers to explore. This awareness has led to my understanding that if my plate is still filled by all the activities that I have consistently been involved in, there is no room for anything new. Change sparks change. Emptying the plate creates space for something else.

When I first landed on the literature regarding the Third Act, my interested piqued by both the language and the possibility of what’s next for me, I decided that understanding this would be part of my continuing journey. The thing was, I was premature in thinking that my timing was right to dive in. After a few weeks of playing with the material and planning, I put it aside. I was acutely aware that I was not ready to pursue this. There were a few transitional steps to complete before jumping into a new arena.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges describes the first step as ENDINGS. Sounds easy! Yet endings implies letting go and I have found this to be a challenging process. First you need to make a decision to let something go. Then you need to actually do it and then you need to be in the impact of that decision which, from my experience, has been both grief and relief. First I decided that we would take on no new clients. That wasn’t so bad as we have, and continue to have, corporate clients who keep us well occupied. This was followed by decisions to stop offering weekend retreats, stop our monthly Healthy Living Cafe, and finally to stop writing my monthly newsletter. I also gave up my license to marry people and stepped down from my role as chairperson of the local arts council. These decisions took place over a two-year period, allowing me to deal with one ‘loss’ after the other. A wise decision and one I recommend for anyone, as an all or nothing approach can have a devastating effect.

Interestingly, I have led my own transition. I have made my choices when I intuitively knew it was time. There will be more decisions to make down the pike. In all, the changes have been emotional yes, and relatively easy because of the pace.

What of the person who retires from a  ‘conventional job’ where one day you are working full throttle and the next day you are not. This is a more significant shift, one which many folks are not prepared for. This is where Third Act planning can help and hence where my interest lies.

And now that I have emptied my plate from a significant amount of responsibility, the space is there for me to explore. I am now entering my CREATIVE ZONE, the second phase of Bridges’ transition model. It is not a time to fill the plate with new doings, it is a time to consider options, be curious and explore. It is a time for life review and capturing the things that ‘light me up’. It is a time to acknowledge my gifts, talents and strengths and wonder as to how these might be engaged in some new way. It feels freeing and exciting and a little scary.

Care to join me?

Until next time…..

Betty

 

 

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My friend and colleague Aileen Gibb and I had a conversation two days ago about what’s next. With both of us on the brink of retiring, or at least adjusting our life style as we are apt to name it, a bag full of questions have emerged, what’s next being one of them.

Our conversation then took a detour to the subject of our respective ‘Third Acts’ and the idea of thriving or flourishing in  the last decades of life. It seems I cannot escape this conversation. A year has passed since I first began to examine the idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act” and then life stepped in and the subject was relegated to the back burner. Not forgotten, just less of a priority as my current work life clicks along and family matters superseded this conversation.

In this recent conversation Aileen asked, “What shape do I want my work to take in the next 10 years?” My Work – these are the critical words for me as retirement needs not imply stopping, stepping back, doing nothing, putting your feet up (although all are options). It can mean re-tire, replacing the old treads with new initiatives, interests, opportunities, learnings, and so on. Okay – I am definitely up for that!

We also discussed how we can contribute to a world of meaningful conversations, legacy and appreciating what you have achieved and accomplished over a lifetime, story telling and capturing the collective wisdom of elders. All of this can be captured within the context of Thriving in the Third Act.

Here is what I have also noticed: People do not prepare for retirement. There are a lot of assumptions about that blank slate and what will fill the space previously occupied by work. Yet retirement and the Third Act are one of life’s great transitions, and in William Bridges words, a significant ending to many of the things we have known and experienced. For most, retirement is not gradual as North American society has yet to introduce a ‘graduated retirement process’ as they have done in many European countries. One day you are working, the next day you are not.

I recognize that I am shifting from Third Act to Retirement and back – the two are usually, though not always, synonymous. For the purpose of this discussion let’s agree that the issues are similar – what shape do you want your work (note this is not J.O.B.) to take in your retirement/third act years? And how do you prepare?

Let me mention one ‘bugaboo’ here – the number of times I hear people say that once they retire they will either a) volunteer or b) pursue their favorite hobby full-time. Golf is a good example! I should also mention the number of third act clients I have coached who have become totally bored with that hobby or completely burned out by the volunteer work. Why? Because it has no inherent meaning.

Back to the ‘transitions work’. In Bridges model, once the endings are completed which includes a mourning period of sorts, you enter the neutral zone, a time of exploration, reflection, learning and remembering. Exploring your options; reflecting on your past and understanding your gifts and strengths; learning new skills that might propel you forward, and remembering what is truly important to you. All of these aspects inform what will become your new work. I can assure you that your choices for the future, volunteering as an example, need to be rooted in what interests you and gives you a sense of purpose, otherwise you will simply be marking time.

All of this brings me back to basics and the ME FIRST work I have been facilitating over the last decade. I realized that the third act does not need a new program to be developed, it is just a continuation of the work I have been doing, a conversation within a slightly different context called thriving in the Third Act. As I realize this, I am both relieved and curious; I don’t have to create something completely new and what will ME FIRST look like in this iteration? More to come…..

Life is a tapestry – what is left to be woven?

I will leave you with that question. I am packing the question in my luggage as Jim and I prepare to depart for a month in Spain. Love the questions and let them lead you to undiscovered lands!

red-sky-at-night

Red Sky at Night

Contemplating the sunset and wondering what tomorrow will bring!

Until next time,

Betty

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I swear my mother-in-law Dorothy is like a cat; it is evident that she has nine lives. My only concern is that by my count she has lived at least seven of them. Two week’s ago she was clearly on a downhill trajectory, unable to recover from a severe gastrointestinal flu and complaining a terrible stomach pain. Multiple ER visits were leading us nowhere (more on that later). any attempt to receive additional care services were in vain. we were in that no man’s land where families often arrive. Even with three health care professionals in the family, we were at a loss as to how to support her.

I reached out to her former surgeon and a friend of mine who immediately referred her to Palliative Care and the physician who leads the community program. The first thing she did was totally clean up the medication Dorothy was consuming daily. It seemed radical, but several on the meds have known GI side effects. That was six days ago. This morning on the physician’s follow-up visit, Dorothy was a new woman. She is eating again and enjoying her food. Her mobility is improving. Her mood is light. She is BACK!

Polypharmacy, yes this is a diagnosis, is common in the elderly. Drugs get added and rarely removed. I am finding that drugs are not being reviewed on a regular basis by family physicians, which is by the way, part of their role. Family physicians are the gate keepers for their older patients. They need to be informed as to the side effects of medications and they need to monitor the possible drug interactions.

Secondly frequent ER visits by an elderly patient should be a red flag for those attending to her care. Several of my physician colleagues were dismayed to hear that no one connected the dots for Dorothy and no one referred her for follow-up care post hospital stay. I assume that those who discharged her thought she lived in a nursing home which is not the case.

Finally, we have a home care system which, at least from my experience to date, is not working. They have been contacted three times in the last two weeks, by myself, the residence where Dorothy lives, and the palliative care physician. to date they have not made a visit.

Let me be clear – I am over the moon grateful for her recovery! Fortunately she has more resilience than most women her age and an amazing network of family support. Without this she would no longer be here.

And I have learned that having a health care advocate is essential. My message to those of you reading this is to stand up for and speak out for the care of your elderly parents. Without my interventions and the help of my colleague, Dorothy would not have been referred to Palliative Care.

I now understand that we as a family needed to be more clear on insisting that she relieve a referral to home care follow-up before being discharged. My advice to you – don’t assume anything.

Finally be a bad ass – a squeaky wheel if you have to. I plan to follow-up with home care today to find out what is going on.

As we all age in our Third Act, we will need to advocate for ourselves as well. While we need to be reasonable in our requests, we need to speak up when we are not being heard, to stand for our own well-being, and to expect the health care we pay for in our taxes. I personally am not a big health care user at the same time I am currently awaiting an appointment to the Joint Assessment Clinic. It took my family physician five weeks to make the referral after we discussed it. Is this reasonable – I don’t honestly know. Is she busy – yes. The thing is, stay with your requests.

Okay, this is my RANT for today. The Canadian health care system is amazing as we all know. We need only yo look to our southern neighbors to realize that we are fortunate. And the system has its flaws which we can all work on to correct. Let’s work together on this, be grateful, show appreciation for our health care workers and advocate for ourselves and others.

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While it is easy to embrace the concept of the Third Act in one’s sixties, what happens in the ensuing decades.

Over the last four weeks, along with other family members, I have been heavily involved with my 88-year-old mother-in-law. In her words, ‘it is not funny to be sick’.

Not only is it not funny, it is a wake-up call for all of who, despite our best efforts, will most likely be in her shoes one day. This winter’s GI bug hit her on December 27th and it has been a challenging upward battle ever since. Three visits to the ER. Traversing the waters of will she make it or not. Encouraging and cajoling her. Supporting my amazing and patient father-in-law. I admit to being overwhelmed at times, as we in our family all are.

I worked in the health care system for 25 years and for the last 10 years of my career I dedicated much of my time to developing geriatric services within my hospital and the Montreal community. Still I was unprepared when the issues I dealt with then landed firmly on my doorstep.

Before I continue, let me be clear that I am grateful for our health care system and for the many kindnesses we have experienced with the ER staff and mom’s surgeon. And, I have experienced the other side, the one I witnessed too often among my health care colleagues – the invisibility of the elderly.

It was during her second visit, with one nurse in particular, that edgy attitude, the “I can’t be bothered, she is simply old”. When I look at Dorothy I see the woman who raised six children, who at the age of 40+ returned to school to complete her High School diploma, an opportunity she was denied as a teenager. I see a women who then went on to college and became a draftsman and went on to work in drafting for a number of years, working well into her sixties. I see the amazing grandmother of thirteen, a grandmother who was actively engaged in their lives, the ‘go to’ babysitter. I see the great-grandmother of five. I see the woman who danced at my sixty-fifth birthday celebration only two years ago, with her partner of over 65 years Ron, and stunning the room with her agility. I see a little ‘Mighty Mouse” for although she is small of stature she has always been big of spirit. I see her quiet presence, the strength behind her husband Ron, the man who has been a community leader. I see the role model she has been for me and her entire family.

And I weep, for her and no longer being visible to some, for those who don’t even try to see her and what they are missing.

Don’t get me wrong – there is lots of pressure in health care. AND you and I know that the elderly do not command the recognition and respect they truly deserve in our society.

We need to MARCH – to show our colors, to share our accrued wisdom, to collectively stand together and not be overlooked. I want the elderly to be VISIBLE.

I am not an activist by nature and, in this year 2017, a year of new beginnings, I am wondering why I am being gifted with this situation. Yes, I want it to go away and selfishly I want Dorothy to come back to us, to health. And on the larger scale, I am witnessing the complacency of the young and the lack of stature we as the Third Actors, hold in society. I want to change that. I don’t have a strategy yet, and as I declare this intention here, I am sure the Universe will show me the way.

For those of you who read this, I ask for your prayers for an amazing 88-year-old named Dorothy. I pray for what is in her highest good.

For those of you who believe as I do that we must be visible, I welcome your input and ideas as to how we empower our generation, the baby boomers, the largest  wave of aging humans in history, and how we influence societal attitudes that continue to exist. Each of us has a role. I am seeking to understand mine.

If like me, you have an aging parent, make sure you remember them, the life they led, and the amazing feats the accomplished. The greatest gift we can offer is to SEE them!

love-on-the-rise

Until next time, let us rise in LOVE!

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