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Posts Tagged ‘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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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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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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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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“You need two things to get unstuck: Clarity and Courage. And, clarity is the reward of having courage.”

It has occurred to me in the last two weeks that courage is something to embrace as the opportunities for self-expression continue to unfold in my Third Act. Why courage? I am finding it challenging to crack open the eggshell of old habits and daily routines which have governed my life for so long. One of my greatest gifts in life has been my purposefulness and goal orientation. One of my greatest liabilities in life is my purposefulness and goal orientation!

It takes courage to face it down, to challenge it, to understand how I trip myself up by relying on what I have always known. It is a bit of a trap, for even though we can agree that purposefulness and goal orientation is a great thing, I also see the limitations, the blinders these habits impose.

Enough self-flagellation; this is not meant to be a critique of me. The question really is ‘now what’?

In a moment of clarity, the other day I realized that what I really wanted to release was the ‘need to work’. Yes need. I don’t know how it has been for you, but I was raised in the school of responsibility, obligation and ‘shoulds’. The reality for me is that I no longer need to work. Now on the government payroll with CPP and OAP, I may not be completely set for life and I know that our financial health is strong. So what is this need thing, this drive?

In its place I would much rather embrace the joy of work and be open to whatever that may be. I still love what I do and offer clients. I thoroughly enjoy coaching, facilitation and teaching. Am I not fortunate? And there are as many opportunities out there for me now as there were 20 years ago when I started my business, perhaps even more.

And here’s where courage comes in – saying ‘NO’ to the less than perfect opportunities, releasing the work that lingers that no longer engages me, because I don’t need to hang on. This gives me the space for clarity, the opportunity for opening new avenues of connecting with and serving people. None of this is a surprise; I have been ruminating on this for a while.

I am a person that also enjoys structure and routine and again I am asking if I need it. With summer upon us, I dream of morning walks, time on the front porch in the early morning sun, gardening and painting, hammock time with a good book, evenings in the gazebo sharing a glass of wine with friends. My usual work schedule does not accommodate these things or this life style.

As I envision the July and August landscape, I see great possibility. The second week of July is fully booked with a series of workshops we will be facilitating from Quebec City to Vancouver. Yes, it will be an intense week. More importantly, by having the courage to speak honestly with our clients, we will be engaged in work that we love and which we believe will make a significant difference for our client. Clarity was our reward.

Then guess what, the remainder of July and August is a fallow field. Will I have the courage to ‘BE’ in it allowing time for new possibilities to emerge and clarity to grow?

So onto you. Some things to consider. Are some of your greatest strengths also your liabilities? It is a great exercise to recognize this.

Is it time for you to address some on the repeating patterns that have governed your life and crack open the egg? What would you like to replace these patterns with? Remember if you can’t name it, it is unlikely you will get it.

Summer is such a wonderful time to relax and allow yourself to sink into the days. Why not do so? I plan to and hope you will join me, perhaps even share with me a few of your AHA’s that show up.

Have the courage to let go of what you have always known and create space for clarity to walk in the door.

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My colleague Andy (not his real name) retired May 5th from a life time in the federal public service. I met him last September as he and I embarked, along with 40 other participants, on a seven-month certificate program in Positive Psychology. We connected as we were two of the older members of the class and we were both examining the great ‘what’s next?’ He was anticipating his retirement with both excitement and trepidation.

Well here he is on the other side. Six of us, graduates now of the certificate program, had a day-long gathering where we checked in with one another and asked the question: What has become clear to you since we last met?  (I love this question as it provokes all sorts of responses).  I was anxious to hear Andy’s musings.

I was not surprised to hear that in the three weeks since his official retirement, Andy had felt somewhat lost. It is a disarming experience to be working one day and free the next. With no reason to jump out of bed, no one to chat with at the water cooler and nothing to structure your days, you simply face the great void.

Andy, whose wife works as a consultant and who works from home, also had a reaction. He was now in her space 24-7. Oh this is a familiar one to me! When Jim retired from the pharmaceutical world nine years ago, I had a similar reaction. Like Andy’s wife, I had been working from home as a coach-consultant for 10 years, and now there he was, every day! I kept thinking, ‘Don’t you have some place to go?’ And then when he decided to partner with me in the business, an entire new dynamic unfolded. Enough said. We fail to realize that our retirement affects others as much as it affects us.

And then there are all the other questions:

  • What do I want (see last blog)?
  • When will it happen?
  • What’s the first step?
  • What’s important to me?
  • Do I still have a brain?
  • Will anyone want to work/play/be with me?

FEAR walks in the door!

And yes, you all know the acronym for FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. I prefer another option: Face Everything And Rise.

So how do you face FEAR? It’s not new. It happens during most major changes or transitions in life. It occurs because you are uncertain and you have no clear map for what’s next. It often overrides the sense of possibility that retirement holds.

As I was flipping through a book yesterday, I Know I’m in There Somewhere by Helene G. Brenner, I noticed a diagram entitled FEAR is the dark room where all the negatives are developed.

FEAR

Yep, that describes it.

So how do you face FEAR in this place called the Third Act.

A strategy I have used for several years which I believe fits here as well is to do the following:

  1. Embrace the FEAR – it’s there and ignoring will not make it go away. I goes like this, “I see you.”
  2. Challenge the FEAR – ask the following
    – what evidence do you have that what you fear will actually happen?
    – when have you faced similar situations, and fears, and pulled through successfully?
    – Is what you fear happening right now?
    – other than what you fear, what are the other possibilities?
  3. Shift gears: Recognize FEAR does not serve you and is usually driven by your head and your ego. This is the perfect time to begin the 12” journey from head to heart and to know that you can choose to be/do what you want.

I love the conversation with fear, especially the first question regarding evidence. Ninety-nine percent of the time there is no evidence, no real reason to believe the fear will manifest. And the moment you examine it, thoroughly, you really have to chuckle. So pull up your socks and step into your days with the intention that life is full of possibility and you have just been given permission to play in the possibility sandbox. Most importantly don’t push – allow some time to pass, learn to be in the moment and present to what crosses your path. Trust that all your answers, everything you need for your Third Act, is there and ready to be harvested at the perfect time for you.

On yes, and as for your partner who does not know what to do with you, understand that your retirement has a huge impact on him or her as well. Be gentle and kind and as my good friend and coach Patty said to me when Jim retired, “never make her/him wrong!”

Have some fun making friends with your FEARS! Face Everything and Rise.

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There are moments in your life where, in an instant, everything changes. And more often than not, it is something that you are expecting and perhaps wanting to avoid dealing with. An undercurrent of hints and signs present themselves to you and still, you keep trucking along, head turned away from the obvious, believing that if you hold your focus elsewhere, the obvious will not happen.

Then, BOOM! The unexpected/expected happens.

Part of the Third Act for many of us is having parents approaching the Forth Act (if such a term has been coined). I am the proud ‘outlaw’ of two aging parents-in law named Dorothy and Ron, ages 87 and 86 respectively. While physically healthy, both of them are experiencing levels of memory loss, judgment lapses and dementia. Dorothy has been most affected by this, leaving Ron as the primary care-giver. More recently it has been evident that Ron’s health has also been changing and, while all of us have been observing this, it has been easier to believe that things would just keep ticking along.

As I write this, Ron has been hospitalized following a weekend meltdown called pneumonia, which in the elderly is often missed, presenting as confusion, paranoia, memory loss and decompensation. This is where we found ourselves. Everything has changed as we as a family face the reality that they may no longer be able to live independently.

I am fully aware that this is yet another rite of passage for Third Acters and perhaps a perfect example of how we also approach our own aging and Third Act planning. You know that one day you will retire, in some way, and it is easy to avoid looking at it or planning for it. And then one day, your employer tells you it is time to pack up your desk, to ‘retire’ and you are shocked and completely unprepared. How is it possible you could not see this coming?

BOOM!

One day you are working, and the next day you are not. And in your avoidance, you are completely unprepared for the inevitable. What do you do now?

Chances are, the hints and signs were in your consciousness even though you were looking the other way. In our current dilemma, I had already called in the local psycho-geriatric team for Dorothy and we were waiting for Ron’s assessment to be scheduled. This at least was the first step in connecting us to community services. In other words, we have a place to start.

You do as well and the first step is to simply relax, breathe, and recognize the opportunity that stretches before you. It is fair to say that you will miss your J.O.B. You will miss the routine, the work itself, the social connections and more. All of this can re-created in a new way and first, give yourself an opportunity to recognize that stepping away from your J.O.B. is a significant loss. It is part of how you have defined yourself for many years and it is not only appropriate but important to grieve this loss.

This is the first important step of your Third Act. Experiencing and expressing the loss you may feel, allows you to release it and create space for what’s next in your life.

Do yourself a favor and book some time with a massage therapist, an energy worker (Reiki, Integrated Energy, or networking chiropractic), or any practitioner that can support you in moving forward. Consider meditation, yoga, physical work outs of any description. Avoid signing up for every volunteer opportunity offered to you because others know you now have loads of free time. Trust me, this is not a solution.

Learn to ‘BE’ for a while, giving yourself that important opportunity to know yourself and assess what is important to you today and in the future.

Welcome to your Third Act!

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