Cultivating Meaning in the Second Half of Life: Win, Win, Win!
Cultivating Meaning in the Second Half of Life:
Win, Win, Win!
A few weeks ago in a coaching call with one of my clients, a very successful professional who has reached the age of 70, I found myself wondering why it was so difficult for him to be excited at the opportunities that awaited him. When I explored his overall angst and his consistent procrastination at furthering the things that he stated he wished to further, I found an overall sense of fear and lack of energy. I asked him to share with me what he thought of the idea of “retiring”, what did that conjure up in his mind? Lo and behold, the response did not take too much time: “ Lack of activity…nothing to get up for…staying at home…boredom…feeling of irrelevance.” Ok, so no need to look further, correct?
What my client had voiced is so often voiced by people who have hit their 50th birthday and way beyond, it is one of the greatest stereotypes that cut across borders, religions and societies- that we become irrelevant at a certain age, that when our work is “up” (whatever that means), we are no longer of value, no longer creative and no longer of interest to anybody, outside of our grandchildren perhaps. This view of the second half of life would not be so pernicious if it did not affect the masses that it does; in the end it is a sorry case of “lose-lose-lose”. We all lose- the individual who is performing this “self-talk”, the people with whom he is closest, and society at large, which loses so much of the creativity, wisdom and fruits of experience from this older person.
Dr. Riley Moynes, a retired educator and investment advisor, gave a brilliant Ted talk viewed almost 2 million times, entitled “The Four Phases of Retirement”. In his talk, Moynes said: “Everyone says you have to get ready to retire financially. But what they don’t tell you is that you also have to get ready psychologically…I wish I knew then what I know now about the psychological challenges that accompany retirement. It would have made things much clearer and easier.” Moynes went on to talk about 4 great losses many people experience when they retire: a loss of identity, routine, work relationships and sense of purpose. While I believe we can all envisage this, I would suggest: is this just because of retirement? Isn’t “retirement” just masking a much bigger challenge people have as they age, one of the need to seek meaning in transition, cultivate meaning in a new stage of life and welcome the opportunities that await them?
During the early months of the Covid pandemic in 2020 I sat myself down and wrote an e-book that reflected many of the things I was finding once I reached the age of 60. I called the book, "The Inner Journey: Finding Meaning in Life after 50", and into it I poured all the various feelings, insights, practices and concerns I had at the time. It was about that time which I realized that it is WE ourselves who are the biggest enemies of cultivating and enjoying meaning as we age. It is our “ageist” views that we hold within us, coined the “Inner Ageist” by Connie Zweig, that blocks off the opportunities that await us. These opportunities abound, they are everywhere: in renewing our work or volunteering interests, our hobbies, our deepest interests, our most simulating relationships, our attitudes and practices, and what we value most in our lives. The Second Half of Life is a wonderful time to put aside much of the”rat race” and let ourselves dive deeply and meaningfully into those paths that have awaited us so many years.
Viktor Frankl wrote, in Yes to Life in Spite of Everything: “Life is not something: it it the OPPORTUNITY for something.” What will it take for us to open our eyes, minds and hearts to see that getting older in life is not defined by one’s work identity changing or even coming to an end. But that in getting older we are finally able to open up to the wisdom within us and all the wonderful things that our lives may have in store for us, but we just did not how to view them.
Out with the “lose-lose- lose”. In with “Win-Win-Win!”
* Ronnie Dunetz, MBA, is a senior life & business coach, group/workshop facilitator and a graduate of the advanced training in logotherapy from the Viktor Frankl Institute in Israel. Ronnie specializes in coaching for life transitions, with an emphasis on cultivation of meaning in the second half of life. He is currently a PhD candidate in Wisdom Studies writing his dissertation on Reflections of children of Holocaust survivors in their second half of life. His website is www.wisdom-opportunity.com