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Posts Tagged ‘Thriving in the Third Act’

Waking Up

 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.
Mark Twain

 

A former colleague of my husband Jim extolled the merits of golfing and having the ability to golf everyday once he retired. He purchased a condo townhouse in a suburb of Victoria, B.C. that was affixed to a golf course. He began his retirement joyfully believing that golf was the activity that would fill and fuel his days. Three months later he contacted Jim and asked if there was any way he could return to work or perhaps work part-time. Of course, at the point the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed on his retirement package and pension, so there was no turning back.

What Donald had forgotten was that a hobby or an interest is great as a part-time activity. It is enjoyable and it is fun, and so many other things. It is not however something that will engage you full-time unless you have set your sights on becoming a master golfer in your age category. An interest/hobby quickly becomes boring. It has no inherent meaning.

A former coaching client of mine, Joan, contacted me because she felt she was on the verge of burning out. She had retired from a busy corporate position with CN three years prior. Upon retiring, she embarked on a mission to volunteer for everything and anything as this is what she felt she ‘should’ do. She filled her time. Unfortunately, before jumping into the ‘volunteer fire’, she did not take any time to discern what was important, engaging or truly of interest to her. Once having volunteered with various organizations however, the expectation was that she would be available for certain hours and uphold her volunteer commitment.

As I met with Joan it was clear that she was tired, frustrated and bored. Yes, she was ‘engaged’ in busyness, and she was not passionate about anything.

Both these examples demonstrate that busyness does not equal meaning. In approaching the Third Act, it is wise to take time before jumping into activities simply because they pass the time. The Third Act is a significant time in life, affording you the opportunity to shift mindfully from being busy to simply being.

I recognize this is a significant shift. The world of work which you are transitioning from had scheduled your time and filled your days for years. Now you look forward and you see vacant space. You fear being bored, disengaged, useless and more. Trust me – I have visited all of those feelings. Despite this, time is your friend not your enemy. It is an opportunity to explore, to ponder, to search for what’s next, understanding that just because you are no longer in the working world, meaning and purpose continue to retain their importance.

The Wake-Up Call
It is healthy and perhaps even necessary to pause before leaping into activities, just as Donald and Joan learned. It is a time to ‘unlearn’ the habits associated with whatever occupation you were engaged with, and time to learn more about ‘being” vs doing. Given time and space for this, there comes a time when you begin to wonder, “is that all there is?”

It occurs to you that there has to be more to life. As Joseph Campbell explains in The Heroes Journey, it is more than simply the meaning of life, it is the experience of being alive. What does being alive look like? You have the opportunity of defining this for yourself,

Most of us want to have a sense of being involved in something meaningful. Identifying what that might be is not always obvious. It requires some digging, some discovery regarding the question, “what is my reason for being here/my purpose?”

This might be a ground-breaking opportunity for you as it may be new territory. Not everyone explores meaning and purpose early in life. If this is the first time in your life that you have ever stopped to consider your purpose or your passion, relish the opportunity and the wisdom in doing so. Chances are you have a lot of years before you in which to pursue the opportunities that interest you.

And remember, so many of you went to work, and then you worked and worked, nose to the grindstone, in a routine that served you well and supported you and your families. Then one day you have a  J.O.B. Graduation (Justifiable Occupation or Business). The structure and routine created by your work has vanished.

It is only then that you find yourself asking these questions of yourself, to identify what is next for you. The opportunity is to match this with purpose, meaning and passion.

What Do YOU Want?
As you consider the question, what’s next, take time to consider what it is you want. As I have learned this is rarely clear for people. There is usually great accuracy in reciting what you don’t want but not the opposite.

Clarity is important. Now is the time to switch the ‘do not wants’ into new language. ‘Do not wants’ become reality. I don’t want to be bored and you are bored. I don’t want to be disengaged and you are.

A focus on what you don’t want only reinforces this energy and attracts more of the same.

Step One – be clear about what you want. Listen to your language. Convert any ‘do nots’ into a language that will serve you.

Start now – complete this sentence: I want…..

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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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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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