Sometimes I have a lousy attitude. Take, for example, this idea of people creating a second act. The lousy attitude is the one that channels the voice of critics, real or imagined, who say, "who are you kidding?" - "this is the folly of the middle class, of society's better-off who can afford to think about a second act." I know all too well that for many in our society, the worries are about simply making a living, of paying the mortgage or health insurance, or lasting in paid employment until social security kicks in. I'm not blind to that. I wish - and hope -that that reality doesn't necessarily kill all dreams. Even for those struggling, imagination can be liberating.
And then there are those who say, " Who are you talking to?! What qualifications do you have to talk to us about encore acts? If you have had an extraordinarily successful first act -- say, as a business leader or executive, a game changer, or an innovator -- then you have likely already embarked on your second (or third) encore act, and by extension, be qualified to lead others on their journey to successful encore acts." If that is the kind of achievement you're looking for in your encore act, you definitely need that something else. But what I've observed, and what many writers and thinkers contend, is that beyond a certain point, career achievement (or lack thereof) rarely correlates to the level of satisfaction one attains in life's second half.
My personal internal critic might say, "what difference will my small effort make?" Perhaps I can simply set these lofty ideas aside, get comfortable, and enjoy the day (or the "retirement.")
What if you simply wanted to try something because it is an idea that originated from you, and it was something unique to you (even if others had similar thoughts.) Why let the voices of critics, real or imagined, take away your power and energy? A declining attitude allows you to take an easy way out, shirking the courage and perseverance it takes to bring "changes into a world resenting change." (Sandburg)
Your "thing" - what you want to do - might be big or small. My aunt, for example, wanted to resolve long-standing family tensions and animosities before she passed from this world. She made it her task, in her gentle humble way, to reach out to family members, create understandings, and to build bridges and relationships. When she died, a piece of her kindness and wisdom had been passed to many people who had earlier been suspicious and guarded. The task of talking to people who had long been seen as transgressors seemed unsavory, and the much younger me at the time even advised against it. I wonder how tempting it may have been for my aunt to just "let it go" and not follow through on this task, which was likely extremely challenging. But she did it, and she didn't let a self-defeating attitude get in her way. Whether you're thinking of making a small change, planning a project, or building a dream on a larger scale, don't let a declining attitude get in the way. Not now.
The first Encore Incubator group concluded last month. It was a great learning experiment. A small group of people met every other week with the common goal of creating time and space to think about the next stage of their lives through a combination of guided work and group support. Individually, the participants had very different goals, or in some cases, no real goal, but simply an intention to explore. Some people were navigating late-career changes or adjustments, and others were trying to take a moment away from their busy work lives to identify and articulate what is important to them now, especially as they looked ahead towards retirement or the next stage of life. (When was the last time you took stock of your life and thought about how to bring about more satisfaction and fulfilment in your life?)
For some, this exploration process unearthed some fresh old ideas, those shelved long ago -- like a long-lost dream to travel or to pursue a creative activity -- all things that lead to self-renewal and rejuvenation. Others started developing ideas for a project or endeavor that they would like to pursue in the future. I hope that each will now continue the important work of planning and bringing their ideas to fruition.
According to the self-assessments, it's clear that each participant benefited from the flow of new ideas and energy and ideas that rose from the group.
Most interesting to me was that each participant made movements in a "positive" direction (based on their individual needs) on the pre- and post- self-assessments. That's encouraging based on a three-month session. A group session over a longer period of time with slightly more structured support may better facilitate change over time, but I think this initial group demonstrated that tangible outcomes resulted even after three months. (I decided to bring the formal meetings of this group to an end at this time in order to explore different formats.) This process has shown that this kind of guided conversations can help to spawn new ideas and unexpected positive outcomes for participants and help people be more intentional about how they think about the future.
My greatest thanks to those who participated in the inaugural group. I learned a lot from the opportunity you gave me run this group.
Thoughts for creating success in the second half of life.