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Archive for the ‘What has become clear’ Category

My coach Patty frequently reminded me that in life there are many choices and we get to choose what it is we want. She suggested that we chose in favor of ‘what lights us up’. While we no longer have our weekly calls, I find myself considering her advice more often than not, reminding myself that at this stage of life, my Third Act, I can finally give myself permission to choose for me. With obligation, responsibility, ‘shoulds’ and more fading into the background of my life, I finally can choose what lights me up.

The re-awakening of this idea came through a conversation with one of my coaching clients last week. Like many of us, her retirement has been dedicated to several causes. Being the loyal person she is, it has been challenging for her to say no or to step away from a group or cause once she has committed. And like many of us who are living our Third Act, she is slowly and progressively burning out because the work involved no longer lights her up. Fortunately for her, she is aware of this and is seeking coaching to understand how to extricate herself from the circumstances she has co-created and to begin making different choices for herself and what comes next?

As each of us moves forward at this time in life, perhaps any time in life, there are a few intentional questions that we might consider asking ourselves before jumping in…Does this choice light me up?

  • Does this choice bring me joy?
  • Does this choice pique my curiosity, engage me, inspire me to help me learn?
  • Does this choice serve to feed my soul, my purpose, my passion?
  • Does this choice contribute to the legacy I wish to leave for others?
  • Does this choice have meaning to me?

Have you asked yourself any of these questions? I have and I have also forgotten to. I still find myself saying yes to things that do not respect any of the above and most certainly do not light me up. The thing is, others know that you are capable, perhaps a go-getter and probably reliable, so they ask you to get involved. And out of some sense of obligation or loyalty to them, you say yes. The thing is, in doing so, you are being disloyal to yourself.

As stated earlier, life is about choice. It is my hope for me and for you that we begin making the choices that light us up because if not now, when? This is the opportunity of the Third Act.

All that said, you may be reading this and thinking, ” I haven’t a fu__ing clue what lights me up. Maybe, maybe not. If you have never explored the idea, how would you know. Maybe what lights you up lives under layers and layers of responsibility and obligation. It might be that you need to clear your plate of anything you are currently engaged in to create space for new possibilities. It’s challenging to see an entirely new landscape if you are living in the basement.

So start here:

  • List all of the activities that currently occupy your time.
  • Run them through the filter – the questions listed above. Do they fit any of the criteria?
  • Decide which of these activities you will drop (it doesn’t need to be all of them but at least some of them). This is called space management.
  • Before replacing any activity take a time out. Set an intention: “I am attracting opportunities that light me up, that bring me joy, that inspire and engage me”.
  • When something appears, especially if it is something totally unexpected, exercise your curiosity and explore it.
  • Check in with your heart frequently, your head not so much. If you find yourself excited or intrigued, you are in the right ball park.

It all sounds simple and it is. We are the filter that complicates things.

The key is making mindful decisions for your Third Act and how you want to play in the world. Look before you leap, reflect before you commit, be true to yourself and your desires. And, most importantly, have FUN!

Until next time,

Betty

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This is a dangerous thing, or at least that what my husband believes. It seems that whenever I tell him “I’ve been thinking” it implicates him as well. This is not always true and as you can imagine, some of my plans cannot be executed solo.

It has been awhile since I have written. Recovery from my knee surgery has occupied the lion’s share of the last few weeks, as well as planning a staycation when are plans to travel to Portugal were circumvented by a medical incident. I shared this in a Facebook posting as follows:

Making Lemonade:

Four weeks ago today I landed in the ER with “atrial fibrillation” (rapid, irregular heartbeat). Unexpected, surprising as this was a first and very scared. As the cause was unknown and is yet to be determined (although I have my suspicions) we were advised to cancel our trip to Portugal scheduled for Feb. 25th. The disappointment was huge, tears were shed. We had both been looking forward to escaping winter and shedding the cabin fever that had accumulated.

After a couple of days of living in this space, we both decided that this lemon needed to be turned into lemonade. I signed up at NAV Fit and began swimming twice per week. Jim played hockey locally. We began walking short distances. We checked out events in Ottawa and Montreal and scheduled plays and other events. We went for a spa day. In other words, we set about enjoying our “staycation”.

Today marks our return date from Portugal, where it has been raining most of the time we were supposed to be there, and I am celebrating what has been an amazing four weeks’ vacation. Attitude is everything; that has been my most enduring lesson. I have lingered in bed a little longer in the mornings, meditating and being grateful for the day, I have read more books, I feel regenerated. And isn’t that the goal of any vacation.

When faced again with lemons, and I am sure there will be opportunities, I plan to feel what needs to be felt, move on and make some lemonade.

Turning around this unexpected situation required some planning, an attitude adjustment and a wee bit of thinking. There is much more to share however; here are a couple highlights.

Forgiveness
My staycation allowed me ample time for reflection and reading. One of the books I chose was Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto. After listening to Mark interviewed on CBC radio, I was completely attracted to the book and to exploring a topic which has long been important to me.

The book is a memoir dedicated to his grandparents Hugh MacLean and Mitsue Sakamoto, both of whom experienced incredible hardship during WW2, Hugh as a prisoner of war in a Japanese Camp and Mitsue as a Japanese Canadian expelled from her BC home to labor in Southern Alberta.

Can you imagine the first time these people met around a kitchen table when their respective children decided to wed? The book describes Mark’s grandparents’ journeys, and how these journeys formed him and led him to understand forgiveness.

I learned long ago that to forgive was to give yourself a gift, for those that you refuse to forgive have no idea that they have wronged you. Not forgiving others causes you pain, not the unforgiven. To forgive is to release oneself from the pain and the burden. I also learned that forgiving never implies agreement or condoning the actions of another. These two learnings have helped me time and time again.

“Forgiveness is moving on. It is a daily act that looks forward. Forgiveness smiles.”
Mark Sakamoto

 

Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
I have long-held the opinion that self-esteem and self-confidence are different. I believed that as despite thinking very little of myself for much of my life, this did not stop me from having the confidence to try things.

In her book Wire Your Brain for Confidence, Louise Jewell describes self-esteem as one’s global evaluation of self and one’s self-worth. By contrast, self-confidence is defined as the belief you can do things well or succeed, feeling the capacity to cope with things. You can have one without the other. Finally, she also describes self-efficacy which is essentially the courage to act.

It occurs to me that these days it is self-efficacy that I need the most. Yes, I have spent a life time in action, I have always had goals to be reached, I have always been willing to dive in and see what happens. This seems to have changed recently however, as I step away from the business that has kept me occupied for over 20 years. Frankly, I feel a bit lost. And while I know that the sense of being lost is very much part of the transition process, that neutral zone of discovery, I have to say it doesn’t feel that comfortable.

In looking further into self-efficacy and saving myself from falling into a self-judgmental hole, Jewell goes on to recommend several ways of retaining one’s sense of self-efficacy including setting goals, perseverance (which I also consider to be GRIT), and expecting positive outcomes. Of all of these perseverance rings most true for me, bringing me back to GRIT which is defined as Passion + Perseverance.

What I have been thinking is that it is time for me, perhaps all of us, to define our passion for this phase of our life, that thing that lights us up or which we want to influence in some way and then set about defining how this can happen. All of this requires esteem and belief in oneself, the confidence and courage to try what might be new things. It all feels a bit like starting over.

 

This is some of what I have been thinking about, finding my way through what some days feels like a maze and other days feel like a vast open field. Either way I have a couple of solid intentions for the journey forward:

  • A happy healthy body, resilient and strong
  • Work/projects/activities which both inspire and engage me and which contribute in someway to the betterment of our world.

Sounds simple….Maybe not….Jumping in anyway!

Until next time

Betty

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In this conversation Transitioning into the Third Act, we have arrived at the final phase of the model INTEGRATION. It is the obvious consequence of waking up to your new circumstance and wondering what is next, searching the landscape for what the new possibilities are, releasing old habits that no longer serve you and de-cluttering your life, and breaking through to see a new vision for your life emerging.

INTEGRATION feels like a happy, contented place to land.

As I look at this from my perspective I am finding that INTEGRATION takes time to achieve and in some ways, I wonder if it really ever happens, or if it does, if it is only temporary. At the moment it is an elusive target.

Like any model of change and transition, the stages are rarely linear meaning that you circle around. You have this magical AHA moment where you realize that you have this blank canvas before you and you get to decide what masterpiece you paint. Cool! The search begins. But does the search ever end? If you and I are true to ourselves, we may want to exercise perpetual curiosity, keeping the search open. Just sayin’.

And then the struggle – the de-cluttering of one’s life. Okay, clearly this happens in layers. If I have learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that clearing one layer simply opens another layer, opens another layer and so on. The perfect metaphor for me has been our decision to place our house on the market, understanding that we are choosing to downsize and simplify. Seventeen years in one location, forty-four years of marriage, and what do you have – more stuff than you can imagine. An interesting note here is that I have always complemented myself on my ability to de-clutter. Guess what – I forgot to look in the corners. And isn’t this just like life!

And then there is Breakthrough when we begin to see the possibilities for what we want emerging. Layers of clarity dust away the blurred edges of a future vision. As the edges sharpen, it sometimes means going back to the Search for more information. Occasionally you can see you are standing in your own way so you need more de-cluttering and attitude adjustment. The process is circular.

This enhanced understanding of transitioning into the Third Act is helpful. Change and transition is a dynamic process, it is never-ending and if we are honest with ourselves, it is probably what keeps us alive and engaged.

So now what?

Integration is the time to create a plan of action. What is it you want? What has been highlighted for you through the other phases that you now wish to pursue. Unlike other times in your life, you may not need to identify specific goals however, you may wish to declare your intentions. For example:

“I am engaged and inspired; I am attracting opportunities that build from my strengths and interests. I am open to exploring new possibilities for learning and expressing my great gifts.”

In terms of goals, “In the next four weeks I will identify 1-2 possible opportunities for me to explore; I plan to sign up for a course in creative writing in January; and so on”. Goals have a concrete action or outcome.

And then there is work – the roadSIGNS Coach continues to be Open for Business and I have yet to grow weary of work. There are days where I say I will pull back and stop and then a roadSIGN appears which suggests ‘Not Yet’. It appears that an essential part of my Third Act will be to continue teaching, facilitating and coaching, building on everything I have learned over the last 20 years and expanding the work.

Interesting, in simply writing these few words, it feels valid and true. So it would seem that one of my intentions for moving forward is as follows,

I am Open for Business. I am facilitating and coaching. I am expanding my work into the Third Act of my life.

Now this feels like integration.

I would be interesting to hearing from my readers on what has become clear to you in this journey.

Until Next Time,

Betty

Addendum


This past week I offered my first workshop ‘Thriving in the Third Act’. This is part of my integration, the knowing that I would like to share this journey with others, provide a bit of a framework for living a healthy and engaging Third Act and to continue learning.

If anyone would like to join in on this journey, you need only to notify me. It is my plan to begin offering a Thriving in the Third Act Program in 2018. This may be after all the dust settles with our eminent move, however, it is an idea that lights me up. Who’s in?

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The Struggle

The struggle of transition to the Third Act is a familiar one for me, one which has been embedded with fear and loss. Likewise, the journey has opened new horizons to explore and opportunities to embrace. This is the Struggle Phase of the Third Act, creating space for what is to come while releasing things from the past that no longer serve you.

Key to success at this phase of the transition experience is understanding that there can be no new beginnings without endings. Beginnings and endings are two sides of the same coin.

This is the point where you recognize that you are a creature of habit, that fundamentally you like things the way they are and have been. You really don’t want your life to change and yet it has. There are choices to be made – hang on tight and refuse to budge or take a deep breath and dive into the deep water not knowing what you might find there.

Craving for the comfort of desired events and outcomes, we ignore the uncomfortable but exhilarating gifts of living life as a continually unfolding process in which all moments are valuable. Absorbed in our ‘inner movie’, we miss the many minute transformations that enrich and ennoble our lives”
Julia Cameron, Transitions

Julia Cameron in her book of reflections and prayers for transition, suggests that you trust your own resilience and trust in the generosity of life. For me this also goes to the power of intentionality, reminding myself that the transition to the Third Act can be arduous and difficult or it can be fueled by ease and grace. I personally prefer the latter. So yes, you are in the struggle and yes, you can guide your own journey with an intentional choice.

I am transitioning into my Third Act easily and effortlessly,
enjoying the many moments of this journey,
fueled by curiosity and the power of ‘what if?”

 

Shift Happens

I began writing this blog posting over a month ago. Yes, time does fly and ‘shift’ was happening.

Jim and I have been discussing releasing our current home and property, which we call Tigh Shee (house of Peace) and what would be the best timing for this. This is a natural part of our transition to the Third Act as we have stepped away from offering retreats and we have downsized our business. We no longer require this much space and, as we grow older, the property, all 2.5 acres of it, is placing more demands on us physically as our bodies age.

On a recent trip home from Niagara on the Lake, Jim said he thought we should consider putting the house on the market next spring. Silently I said to myself OMG then drew a deep breath. That soon? We have been discussing this move for a while now and yes, sooner or later this release will happen. I found myself fully in the struggle, in a wilderness of grief and anxiety. Overwhelmed, I turned to meditation and reflection to understand what I was experiencing and why.

There are three qualities that define my persona and guide my life: purposefulness, responsibility and loyalty.

As I retreated into my struggle I began to appreciate that so much of my life here at Tigh Shee was connected to my purpose, the work I had been engaged in for the last two decades. Releasing the property feels like releasing a huge part of who I am.

Then comes responsibility – Jim and I built this place together, the gardens and our labyrinth, as a gift to ourselves, Mother Earth and others. How could I give up this responsibility now? Were we, was I, finished with this work?

And finally, loyalty. It is a challenge to release anything, anyone, that I have dedicated my life to. And yet….

I share this because while in theory I understand the struggle and the art of letting go, this past summer I have experienced the depth, width and pain of the experience. I have also come to understand that my purpose is intact and will continue to be expressed, albeit in another form. That my responsibility for our beautiful Tigh Shee has been fulfilled and now it is time for another person or family to assume the stewardship of this property. All of this understanding has been guided through reflection and prayer.

 

Space Management

So now it is your turn. The struggle is about managing the space you have in your life and questioning what you want to move forward with.

Without realizing it, you, like me, have accrued a backpack of responsibilities, beliefs, attitudes, and belongings that may or may not continue to serve you. It is time to empty the backpack, to examine fully what the contents are, to discern what continues to serve you as you move forward and to divest yourself of the rest.

I can assure you, this is not as easy as it sounds. Give it all the time, reflection, meditation, prayer, and conversations with yourself (and a higher power if necessary) to examine the contents and begin the release process.

Remember that when you release, you create space. You experience endings and you invite new beginnings.

In the moment, the decisions you make will challenge you, perhaps make you sad. Grief is a natural part of the process. All of this simply lightens the load and I can promise you that levity, optimism, and curiosity live on the other side.

 

Until Next Time,

Betty

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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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