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Posts Tagged ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’

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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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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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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Five months have passed since my last blog. I won’t record all the usual platitudes related to time passing too quickly; time has simply passed. the time needed to wonder and wander, to reflect and explore, to experience sadness and grief as well as curiosity and exhilaration. This is the great duality of any journey forward, of the inevitable changes that life offers us.

In my ‘weekly courage’ message this morning, was the following: Spirit has little regard for human comfort. The spiritual path is one of relentless change and letting go until you are stripped of all that is no longer working for you.

That pretty much sums it up. My experience of the last few months has been one of re-evaluating what occupies me. To the notion of what I refer to as ‘Space Management’, I am exploring what takes up space in my life and asking is it important, does it make a difference to me and others, is it something I want to continue to do and more. It is a challenge for as I examine each question I have begun to realize that many of my ‘doings’ stem from a sense of obligation, of duty, which I have to say surprises me. I had thought that my choices were predicated on what is truly important and engaging. Not always so!

What now, I ask. Back to the origins of this blog: learning to release what no longer serves me, relaxing in the space I am creating, allowing highest good opportunities to show themselves to me. OMG this sounds so easy and OMG it is not. I find myself in judgment, and occasionally worry. What if my new life is not as engaging as the life I am leaving behind? Yes this is silliness I know and yet, I am sure you will agree if you are on the journey with me, that it is real.

Here is the other side. I have released several aspects of business and with each release I do feel lighter. I am enjoying the freedom afforded me as the result of fewer clients and projects on the books. I enjoyed the opportunities the lengthy fall provided and hours spent in the garden.I recently qualified in a new psychometric evaluation called Lumina Emotion which I look forward to offering others. I have more time to paint and write, if I chose.

Here is my observation – it is easy to get bogged down in what you are giving up and lose sight of what is opening up. It is challenging to trust your intentions and let them unfold when the time is right. It is equally challenging to be patient with the process and forgiving of yourself when you have an emotional reaction to the changes in your life. All this to say, this is the journey, this is the experience of being stripped down and letting go.

So to all of you out there who are, like me, walking in your Third Act, I have simply this advice to offer you today. Love yourself and love the journey. Embrace what you feel, cry if you must. Allow yourself the opportunity of stripping away the stuff that fills your space but no longer fuels your spirit. It is your time; it is my time. We do get to choose and I for one plan to choose well. And I get it, now may not be the time for choosing as I am still releasing. The space needs some more de-cluttering and organization before I begin redecorating.

infusing-the-grid

Infusing the GRID,
Peace, love, courage, grace streaming
into the seams of  life.

This painting, Infusing the GRID with its companion Haiku,  is an apt metaphor for the experience of this journey. As you infuse your grid, chose that which fuels your spirit and helps you create the Third Act which is distinctly yours.

Until next time…..

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During the Positive Psychology conference, one of my favorite workshops was with a colleague of mine Marla Warner who led us through a number of mindfulness activates. She actually saved my day as this was the final workshop of the afternoon and I was feeling the fatigue of a full conference schedule. Her presentation and the activities were a clear reminder of how restorative mindfulness is.

Just to clarify, many people assume that mindfulness is meditation. In fact, meditation is a form of mindfulness, and mindfulness is so much more. As defined by Jon Kabat Zin, mindfulness means ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally’.

In recent weeks, with a full schedule and the task of working with Jim’s family to mover his parents to a Senior Citizen’s residence, I have engaged mindfulness in many ways. First, I have a daily routine which includes a number of exercises and stretches. At the end of the routine I have a mantra is use as follows: I am the Light of my Soul, I am bountiful, I am beautiful, I am bliss, I AM, I AM. This is followed by an Ohm and the setting of my intentions for the day.

Regardless of your choices, a daily practice such as this immediately brings you to a mindful state. Accompanied by breathing, this type of practice brings you to a place of calmness and clarity.

The second aspect which has kept me grounded throughout a time of significant transition, are the intentions set for new beginnings, in this case on behalf of our family. Living intentionally, stating clearly what you want to attract to your life, is a mindful act. Bringing yourself back to these intentions repeatedly, keeps you grounded, centered and focused. These are just a couple of examples of integrating mindful practices in your day.

Of course mindfulness is linked to positivity. As a practice mindfulness can help you literally sever the link between negative thoughts and emotions. The practice forces you to stop and to notice what is rummaging around in your head and what feelings are associated with these thought patterns. Without noticing, without being mindful, you cannot begin re-programing your thoughts.

So what can one be mindful of on a daily basis? Breath, contact, movement (such as walking a labyrinth), bodily sensations, feelings and emotions, thoughts attitudes and beliefs. You begin to realize that there is so much you take for granted on a daily basis without examining what unconsciously propels you forward in life.

Mindfulness is a skill – it takes practice. Over time it changes the way your brain works – you can use it to break down the circuits that promote negativity and build the circuits linked to positivity, taking advantage of “neuroplasticity”, the fact that your brain can be re-programmed.
Research regarding mindfulness includes the following benefits:

decreased blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, reduced pain and anxiety, improved sleep, and decreased inflammation.

Add to this, mindfulness leads to more optimism and decreased depression, greater self-awareness, the opportunity to change negative thought patterns, improved coping abilities, greater efficiency and productivity, improved learning capabilities and memory, and developing a sense of inner calm.

As you review this list, can you see the opportunities for all of us in our Third Act. The great gift of this time in our life is that you get to choose how you live. Many of you have the gift of more time. An important and useful part of this time is the investment in a few mindful practices which can serve to help you stay grounded, to intentionally explore the options for this time in your life and invest in your health.

Some Additional Mindful Practices: Meditation; Prayer, Yoga, Creative endeavors, Gratitude Practices, Mindful Eating (putting the fork down between bites and savoring the flavors), acknowledgement of others and what they bring into your life, washing dishes, gardening and so much more.

Consider this my invitation to you to put aside time every day for yourself for some type of mindful practice.

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In mid-June I attended the Canadian Positive Psychology Conference. One of the questions I carried with me throughout the conference is how can we engage the principles of Positive Psychology to enhance our experience of the Third Act.

It is interesting to note that, at least at the conference, there was little focus on or dialogue regarding this question. Of greater interest to the attendees is the impact of Positive Psychology in education and the workplace. Understood, as this is probably where the greatest opportunities lie. And let’s not be the ‘lost generation’ in this important field of study.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act’. So let me share a few of my ‘take-aways’ from the conference and explore how these apply to the Third Act.

Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0, was the opening key-note speaker. I find her ‘Broaden and Build’ Theory very compelling, as she examines what positivity versus negativity offers us in life. Here is a synopsis of what I took away from her presentation and how I believe this applies to our experience of the Third Act.

Central to Barbara’s research regarding Positivity is what she refers to as the Broaden and Build Theory. BROADEN implies expansive. Unlike negative emotions, which narrow people’s ideas about possible actions (eg. Response to dangerous situation) and outcomes, positive emotions do the opposite – they broaden your ideas about possible actions, open your awareness to a wider range of thoughts and actions, sparking your interest and urging you to explore and learn

Positivity opens us…our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and creative.

When I consider this concept, I see the importance for Third Acters. Here’s why. Personally I have approached this age with some reticence, largely because of the beliefs I held regarding ‘retirement’. Of course my beliefs have been fed by society’s reaction to this stage of life as well. If however, we approach the Third Act with positivity and optimism, refusing to accept what societal beliefs have been, we have this great opportunity to broaden the possibilities of what is possible, desirable and engaging for us. Key to this notion then of broadening is our ability to exercise our curiosity and explore all the possibilities that light you up and which may have been lingering for a while.

The second aspect of Fredrickson’s theory is building, or more accurately resource building.
Again, if you approach life through the lens of negativity and neutrality you will constrain your experience of your Third Act, and your knowledge, of the world. Positivity does the opposite – it draws you out to explore, to mix up your world in unexpected ways. This leads to new learning and gains in knowledge. All of this may be useful during the Third Act, giving you the opportunity to broaden your sense of possibility, leading you to curiously explore what may be next and broadening your experience and desire to learn.

The Broaden and Build Theory holds that – Positive emotions were consequential to our human ancestors because over time those good feelings broadened our ancestor’s mindsets and built their resources for the future.

Positivity broadens and builds. It transforms people and helps them become their best. And when at their best, people live longer, and they have more fulfilling lives.

In other words, they flourish.

Positivity also offers you the following:

  • It opens possibilities,
  • improves cognition (that’s important!),
  • has the physical effect of broadening and opening our posture (less stooping!),
  • and affects how you view the world.

 

Like a good diet filled with nutrients, it builds over time, improving your resilience in the face of difficulties, improving your heart rate variability and your immune systems, all essential ingredients to healthy aging.

The Third Act can be a generative time in your life and your capacity to approach it with a positive attitude enhances your ability to broaden and build your life. So let’s imagine for a moment that we all agreed to begin this great experiment where we approached each day with a few simple questions/intentions:

  • I wonder what is possible today?
  • I have always wanted to learn more about….; why not now?
  • I plan to approach each day with optimism, gratitude and wonder; to be a positive influence for both myself and others
  • What a great opportunity I now have. My obligations and responsibilities have lessened. The only responsibility I have now is ME!

Speaking about this great experiment, are you not curious about what we as Third Acters can create when we take this approach; how we may influence the future? Just sayin’!

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