This question has been a touchstone since my early thirties and has propelled me along my life’s journey to what I now call my “third act quest.”
Like in medieval times, a “quest” is where a hero seeks something meaningful (the holy grail, true love, the truth) and conquers his/her foes (fear, uncertainty and self-doubt). It’s a search that requires desire, intuition, resilience, and action.
Considering my journey as a quest has helped me to shape my midlife making the most of the same virtues, and you can do it, too.
Despite what people may believe, our “third act” can be the most joyful and fulfilling chapter in our life’s story. All of our life experiences shape us, often in ways, we don’t expect. And because of that, we are “gifted” with a set of emotions and wisdom that lead us to feel whole.
Unwrapping the gifts of our “third act”
“Old age” for our great-grandparents is now “middle age” for ourselves with a remarkable extra 30 years added to our life expectancy and this extension of our time on earth has precipitated exciting changes in attitudes about ageing. Instead of stepping back, we’re stepping up to embrace this gift of time to follow our hearts, explore new possibilities and reinvent parts of our lives.
As Susan Avery Stewart, PhD, a psychotherapist, professor emerita from Sonoma State University and author of Winter’s Graces: The Surprising Gifts of Later Life said: “Age itself brings a number of trends that enhance our lives and offer support for a heartening view of ageing, including audacious authenticity, creative ingenuity, necessary fierceness, self-transcending generosity, and a growing capacity to savour life and to ride its ups and downs with humour and grace“.
Are you ready to unleash your heart’s desires and reclaim parts of yourself that have been lost?
Here are the gifts to unwrap now to explore the possibilities of your “Third Act”.
Awe is defined as the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world. It’s that feeling you may have watching a hummingbird dart among the flowers, listening to a goosebump-worthy song, or looking into the eyes of your new grandchild.
A complex emotion, scientists have found that awe has positive effects on our health and happiness. Several studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center’s Dacher Keltner have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose later in life.
Resilience, the silver-lining thinking
Did you know that when lightning strikes a beach, it creates beautiful crystals? In life, we learn that some of our most challenging moments can create unimagined positive outcomes.
The process and gift we receive when we successfully adapt to life’s disruptions and challenges is called resilience and is particularly essential in midlife as can make us, silver-lining thinkers, see the light out of the darkness.
According to The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab, which conducted a study that looked at transitions mature adults experience and how they remain resilient, the older you get the more resilient you become. Adults in their 60s reported higher levels of resilience, compared with people in their 40s and 50s.
Clarity, Intuition and Hard-Earned Wisdom
Knowing and understanding your truest desires, trusting your intuition and taking clear action are essential to living a fulfilled life. As we age, we are likely to develop an internal “GPS” that lets us know when we’re on the right path and guides us when we’re lost. Connecting the dots becomes easier.
Curiosity and Courage
By nurturing curiosity, we fuel courage and unlock creativity. When we ask questions, listen deeply, challenge assumptions, and take risks, our possibilities become infinite.
Author of the book Curious, Todd Kashdan PhD, maintains that ‘curiosity is one of the most reliable and overlooked keys to happiness,’ acting as a buffer against everyday stress as well as strengthening our relationships.
So how do we preserve or improve our innate sense of curiosity? Getting out of our comfort zone is an option. When you push yourself to do things you’re afraid of doing, it helps you expand your sense of what you’re capable of. So get out there and do something you never have before – you’ll be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish!
Creativity is an essential part of being human. It’s important to know that it’s not just something “artsy” people do. We can all tap into our hidden creative power to try something new with passion, enthusiasm and dedication.
In this era of mindfulness, and today’s preoccupation with pursuing a meaningful life, creativity classes and seminars for those in their 40s and 50s are thriving. So are books devoted to creating a meaningful life plan ahead of retirement. It’s never too late to begin again.
Stoicism – Letting go
Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that teaches us to distinguish between what we can control and what we cannot. We do have power over our thoughts and behaviour and therefore, to decide to not worry about the past or the future. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have goals or take risks; rather, it’s about letting go of the worries and beliefs that can keep us stuck. Let’s use these midlife years to let go of our old ways of thinking and plant new seeds of possibility.
Deep Connection and Compassion
These are invaluable parts of life that help us stay aligned with our values – in our work, relationships, and self-care practices—and help us to create meaningful connections with other people, nature, and ourselves.
Researcher Brené Brown defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
Midlife is the right time to befriend yourself and others with a higher sense of meaning.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the never-ending list of to-dos and responsibilities that make up your days? Many of us fell like victims of the clock, always wishing for more time. Some of us even wear “busyness” as a badge of honour. But what if I told you that you are not a victim of time, but its owner? You own your time and can use it however you choose, learn to spend it wisely.
The road to reimagining life begins with optimism. Optimism isn’t just seeing the glass as half full; it’s also believing that anything is possible. No matter your age or current circumstances, there are amazing possibilities ahead if you follow your dreams with optimism. Trust yourself, stay motivated, and never give up on creating the life you were meant to live!
Confidence and Self-Forgiveness
As we get older, it can become easier to feel insecure and uncertain of our capabilities. Holding onto negative energy can be disabling. With confidence and self-forgiveness, you can live without regret and have a newfound sense of freedom for the “third act” of your life.
Self-confidence is having a quiet inner knowledge that you’re capable, despite the fears or insecurity you may feel. Self-forgiveness involves letting go of anger or regret so that you can move beyond mistakes.
Synchronicity is defined as a meaningful coincidence when two or more events appear to be related but have no discernible causal connection. In other words, when seemingly unrelated events line up in just the right way, like winks from the universe. Synchronicities often appear in times of transition, when we need them most; like signs that we’re on the right path or to give us support when we have an important decision to make.
Author, Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, FRCP founder of The Chopra Foundation, cites scientific proof of the existence of synchronicity, beyond mere coincidence. How wonderful is that? In Chopra’s own words, “You don’t have to assign a specific meaning or interpretation to the coincidences, just gently appreciate the cosmic coordination of your life with everything else.”
He reveals how, through understanding the forces that shape coincidences, you can learn to live at a deeper level and access the flow of synchronicity that lies at the heart of existence. You can start to transform your life through a full-contact living, in which all things will be within your reach.
If you google “gratitude” there are about 169 million results. The mother of all gifts, gratitude is a popular practice that is available to us all. Both despite and because of our life’s challenges and struggles, appreciation for everyday miracles can fuel our happiness, and health, and instil meaning in our lives. Gratitude has the power to transform your life.
We all have the ability to make a narrative out of our own lives. It gives us clarity, and the ability to understand ourselves, giving us a framework that goes beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences. Start to tap into these gifts, the ones you already have within, to make the most of your third act.