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Posts Tagged ‘Thriving in the Third Act’

A friend and fellow coach recently visited her homeland following a few years of living in Canada. Upon returning, she and her husband felt drawn back to the area and are now contemplating this as a possible choice for their retirement. And while this is a few years off, she and I began to reflect on our shared journeys of ‘coming home’.

Jim and I recently decided that post Tigh Shee, our current home, we will live in Cornwall, the city where we both grew up. Now I did not plan on this as I was happy to move away and move on from Cornwall when I left at 19, not anticipating that I would ever chose to return. And here we are…coming home?

Likewise, both of us have been playing with ‘what’s next’? Neither of us are in the mood or have the desire to be pounding the pavement promoting our services. Both of us continue to work, or as we prefer to say ‘play’ as when work is what you love, it does not seem like work. And likewise, we have both been allowing the work to come to us with the intention of attracting what is in our ‘highest good’. So far this approach has been filling our schedule to the extent that we want..

Back to the idea of ‘coming home’, there is this theory that you cannot go home again. I believe that there are two sides to this saying.

First, you cannot go home if going home means returning to the ways things once were and expecting that life will be the same. This is not possible as you have changed, life has changed, others have changed, everything has changed.

On the other hand, there is another side of coming home, the side that encourages you to get back in touch with YOU as you once were, before all the layers of responsibility fell on your shoulders, before you went to work and lost yourself. It is a remembering process and the de-cluttering process we discuss in the Third Act. Back to your roots and what is truly important to you today and for the immediate future; free of the expectations of others, free of the rules you have had to play by to be successful, free to be YOU.

And it is a simpler you – beneath all the layers, the years of clutter, the should’s and more, there is an essential you who knows what is important and what is meaningful. I am not saying it is always easy to see who you once were, I am simply saying that ‘coming home’ is a process, one that requires attention, reflection, and a few probing questions.

Reclaiming yourself, as you once wanted to be and can be now, is the process of coming home and being fully engaged in your Third Act.

Conscious Aging

In an article by Kerry Temple-Wood, I was made aware of a new term: eldering. Okay I sometimes think that we actually try too hard to invent new language for an emerging situation. Eldering does not resonate with me however, the definition does: Conscious Aging.

The article begins with the call to Boom rather than Bust as we age, addressing the ageist society we currently live by cultivating an attitude that honors our value. This means it is our work to create new roadmaps for ourselves, and become new role models for society.

The author goes on to share:
We have the opportunity to open the doorway—to forge the path of aging consciously, successfully, and mindfully. As we pioneer a new aging process, we can honor our ripening by making life-enhancing choices to become both radiant and wise. …

As parents and community members, we try everything in our power to support our young people with healthy self-esteem, confidence, skills, and resilience. Why then, do we sell ourselves short past 50?

Why do we let ourselves be sold to, convinced that aging is negative, to be avoided and fought against?

Why is older, experienced, and hopefully wiser, not better?

If “youth is wasted on the young,” then why are we not taking the lessons and experiences we’ve learned, and putting them to better use for ourselves and our communities as we age?

Temple-Wood closes with a call to action which reminds us to check in with our own mindset in regard to aging. Have we assumed it will be all downhill from here or are we prepared to set our course for aging mindfully, consciously and with intention?

This is where I am setting my sights!

 

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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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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