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Archive for the ‘Turning Sixty’ Category

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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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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With everything I am learning about the Third Act, one thing is glaringly clear – it is time to explore new territory. It feels like so much of my adult life was about holding back, not stepping out fully into the truth of who I wanted to be. And doesn’t it seem to you that the Third Act needs to be dedicated to being truly authentic and identifying ways to express this identity you so yearn to embrace.

Four years ago, two of my young entrepreneur coaching clients embarked on an adventure by opening their own art studio. Yes, it does seem that the ‘Y’ generation is more daring than we ‘baby boomers’. When I saw their first workshop advertised, I sent them a congratulatory note to which they replied, “we have signed you up”.

My first instinct was to refuse. Fortunately, some internal craving or deep-seated instinct stopped me from doing so. I accepted the offer. That was just slightly more than four years ago.

Yesterday, along with Your Arts Council for Cornwall and the Counties, I hosted my first Art Exhibit. With excitement and trepidation, I decided to step out. It is not about the event however, exploring this new territory has really been about finding me. As a student of art when I was young, taking numerous courses in drawing, painting and designing, I was well on my way to having a strong creative presence. And then I put it all away, for 30 years. There was no specific reason, no ego inflicting crisis; I simply stopped. Doesn’t it make you wonder why and doesn’t it cause YOU to reflect on what you put away that may be begging to be let out of the bottle again?

Art in my sixties has also been an entirely different experience. As I picked up the brush again, I envisioned myself as a Georgia O’Keefe, boldly painted flowers filling the canvases. So I did.

Life Force

This did not inspire me. It was what I used to paint those many years ago. The subject matter did not engage me. I asked myself why I was painting these images and the only answer I could find was ‘it’s safe’.

Do I want to be safe? Is this a great Third Act Choice? Or was it time to explore new territories, to seek inspiration from within, from my surroundings, certainly from different sources. A friend of mine suggested that I take a look at the daily images posted by NASA. With a small amount of cynicism, I did and there is where the magic began. The result was Synapse and the birth of what I now refer to as Earth Energy Art.

Synapse

This felt like a riskier choice. People like flowers. I wondered if they would like energy art. They do!

And it doesn’t matter.

The Third Act is just that, the third and final act of life. I asked myself, am I here to please others or me? The answer – you can guess.

The Third Act is your chance to explore new territory. Do it for yourself. It is not selfish, in fact, it is anything but. It is your opportunity to model to others both the wisdom and impact of showing up in life authentically.

There are no rules for this time in your life, only the ones you decide to self-impose.

What is it that you yearn to do, feel or experience?

What is it that you have pushed away for years and you now yearn to harness?

What is stopping you?

Time to step up and step out! Time to explore those territories that will light you up. If not now, when?

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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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In preparing for the Third Act, an easy default position is to fill our heads with facts, expose myths and do whatever it takes to reassure our minds that everything will be just fine. Of course this approach neglects what my heart may be saying about this journey.

In life you can choose many roads, those frequently traveled and those less so. The journey into and through the Third Act of life, undoubtedly needs to be a healthy balance between understanding and feeling, a balance between head and heart. I say this as in my own experience, no matter how much ‘self-discovery’ I engage in, no matter how much I reassure myself that I still have a great deal to offer the world and others, I am still experiencing the myriad of feelings that go with simply growing older.

I have always been a very purposeful and goal-oriented individual. This has served me well, whether I was working a physiotherapist, health care manager or educator. Goals have been the back bone of my life. I suspect I am not alone.

Today, I still love the idea of purpose. I find myself more curious about how that purpose might manifest and indeed, I feel less inclined to be quite as goal obsessed, in fact, I find myself being intentional instead. Something you might also consider.

One of the perks of the Third Act is less urgency. You have the opportunity to explore and discover, to be curious about what’s next and how this might manifest. It is healthy to have a sense of what is important to you and what lights you up – that important sense of purpose AND rather than launching into a plan, why not relax, breath and wonder what this might look like.

Just for clarity, intention, by my definition, means opening up possibility. Rather than specific goals, attached to specific outcomes and time frames, I recommend simply “attracting all that is in your highest good” or “attracting what serves your purpose”. Then exercise your curiosity and pay attention to what begins to show up.

And then there is the whole issue of choice. While I am not fully ‘retired’, I have chosen to work differently. Three words keep coming up: Freedom, Flexibility and Fun. You would think that these would be natural and easy to adapt to. Right! Not so easy, especially for those goal-oriented, list-making, scheduled individuals like myself. So I am sliding into this choice, gradually. It’s all about choice I remind myself.

 

Spreading Your Wings

Spreading Your Wings

One of my Third Act choices has been a return to painting. In my late teens and twenties, I studied art and various mediums, only to leave it behind for three decades. I can’t explain why that happened. Life I suppose. Then four years ago, two of my coaching clients opened a new studio and the next thing I knew I was taking one of their courses – a happy accident (or perhaps a significant SIGN!).

As I write this I am preparing for my fist Art Exhibit (yes, this was designed to give me a goal!). Painting, like life, is a process. The feeling of paint on a brush and then the movement across the canvas, how a slight flick of the wrist can leave an image that is magical. Testing myself in both abstract and realistic forms and with each step learning more about the important triad of brush, paint and canvas.

And isn’t that what you are doing in the Third Act, painting a new life, body mind and spirit. There will be times when the paint goes on easily and the image simply grows on the canvas just as there will be times when the paint gets muddy and you have to start again. The important thing to remember is that you have the freedom to choose what you will paint. You can exercise flexibility in how you approach your creation and most importantly in you can have fun because in the end, the choices you are making are for YOU!

With this ramble today, and it is that, I simply encourage you to engage your head and your heart for your Third Act journey. As I am so often reminded, I do not want to approach the end of life with regrets, nor I suspect do you. Listen to your heart and begin to explore what is truly meaningful to YOU. Set an intention and explore the possibilities regarding which path might lead you to where you want to land. Enjoy the journey – enjoy your freedom to choose and spread your wings.

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How do we change or influence the ageist views of society, especially our youth? This past weekend I viewed a video on Facebook created by AARP (American Assoc. of Retired People) in which millennials were interviewed. When asked what age defined old the majority responded late 4o’s or 50’s. The interviewers went on to ask the subjects to perform certain tasks the way they thought an older person would. The results were interesting. Ah yes, perception! Then they young’un’s were introduced to some seniors, who for the most part outperformed them on certain tasks as they were invited to teach one another. The change in perception was amazing and when re-interviewed about their attitudes and thoughts about aging, it was evident the seniors had an impact.

I was left with a personal ‘WOW!’; is that what they really think. Have young people become so distanced from elders, their parents and grandparents, that they really view us as ‘incapacitated’? We have some work to do!

And, what are we as ‘Third Acters’ believing. Have we bought into the same ageist philosophy which suggests that retirement is a near death experience?

Through the years I have coached many folks who are retired and my sense is that they have lost their way. They retire with the belief that golfing will occupy their time; or perhaps volunteering, or reading, sewing, knitting, woodwork…..the list goes on. They grow disenchanted because they become bored or they realize that the activities which they are pursuing are not engaging. They did not understand, or they forgot, that the Third Act is the opportunity for a New Beginning and that the new beginning requires some thought and reflection and definition.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges examined the human side of change. In his model, change or transitions evoke three stages: Endings, Neutral Zone and New Beginnings. The model is an excellent beginning to approaching the Third Act, specifically when you are leaving a job behind. Endings is that opportunity to assess, and if you will, mourn, the loss. When you step away from a job or profession, you shift your identity; you lose your tribe, those whom you have worked with; you give up your routines and habits. While you may be looking forward to all of these things, many people approach the Third Act with little or no consideration regarding what it will mean everyday. Many have never considered or planned for the empty hours.

While this sounds negative, perhaps a little daunting, the upside is the opportunity for New Beginnings, the re-invention of self. My experience with coaching clients has been that they forget that they have choice on their side and that there are many things they do not forfeit by retiring: the essence of who you are, your strengths, your values, your accrued wisdom and experience and so much more. These are the important building blocks for what’s next.

The there is the magical time between these two stages – the Neutral Zone. This is the fallow field, the time to release the past, reflect, dream, consider and play with possibility. It is the time to dabble and experiment, to question and to research. Clearly it involves more being than doing. And this is the time where flourishing begins to be defined and where the work begins in  defining the New Beginning.

I have had my own journey with transitions through the years, first when I left health care almost 20 years ago to begin roadSIGNS, and then most recently as I begin to consider my plans for My THIRD ACT. The journey I am developing for Third Acters is the one I am experiencing and supported by my previous work and Positive Psychology. These are exciting times. For those of you sharing the journey with me – hop on board. The best is yet to come.

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