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Posts Tagged ‘Resources for the Third Act’

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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