“Why is it when midlifers talk of fulfilling their lifelong dreams before they’re too old to do them, they’re never talking about dreams like publishing a book or singing at the Met?” Barbara Sher
You have grown up in a goal oriented society. We have been taught from a very early age about achievement and success. Most of us, whether we reached it or not, had a sense of what was expected of us.
Third Age is a shift in focus from the external world of achievement to the internal world of self-fulfillment. The focus isn’t about challenges and risk-taking for the sake of achievement, but engaging in these activities as an expression of self.
The emphasis shifts from earning a living to fulfilling a sense of purpose, by doing the work you were put here to do. Being productivity for the sake of productivity is no longer valid.
The tendency of retirement is to fill up the new “to do” list of all the activities you’ve put on hold for the last thirty years, or to flounder aimlessly because you didn’t generate a list. Shifting from an orientation of achievement to self-fulfillment requires a willingness to be still and listen to the internal voice that has often been drowned out by the roar or external roles and rules. By removing the roles that define you as well as dictated what you did, you become free to connect spiritually and shift your awareness to the internal.
Part of this process is allowing yourself the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor, stopping to smell the roses, and taking the time to just be who you are without the pressure to “do”. It involves learning to be present in the moment, but also aware of creating your legacy. That’s not easy to do in world where an idle brain is considered the devil’s workshop. It’s also difficult when you are bombarded with so many options and choices.
In the book, From Age-ing to Sage-Ing, Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi states, “[Being] involves finding a sense of “enoughness’ from within, rather than chasing after satisfaction from the outside, always as “more” more pleasure, possessions, or exciting relationships. Aging can become a ‘natural monastery’ in which earlier roles, attachments, and pleasures are naturally stripped away from us. What then can emerge is a miraculous sense of discovery, an extraordinary energy that transcends ‘doing’ in favor of ‘being’, and clarity of consciousness that comes from spiritual growth.”
The roles told you who you are and what is expected of you. Most of us follow fairly predictable paths through our lives. In retirement, we lack that sense of certainty. We loose the guides that offer the answers to how to live our lives. As a result, we have more options in Third Age, but that can be overwhelming.
When you remove the shackles of the roles of first and second age, you gain a new sense of autonomy. As Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi continues, “instead of being retired to uselessness, you now can graduate into the global function of seership, involved in the larger issues of life, the wider cultural and planetary concerns. You can earn the respect and recognition by becoming a sage, charged with the evolutionary task of feeding wisdom back to society and guiding its future development.” From this new sense of stewardship, you can create your legacy.