What man needs is not some tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.
– Victor Frankl
Are you ready for Act III of your life? As you may recall, in Act I you built your tower as you discovered who you are and what you can do. You felt invincible, or at least pretended to be. Sure, your ego was a bit inflated, but that allowed you to dream big, set ambitious goals, and persevere in the world.
Facing Your Limitations
Then there was Act II. At this point you are out of survival mode and, humbled by your life’s inevitable setbacks, just a little less full of yourself. You are winning. You spruce up your tower and acquire expensive toys and symbols of success. Yet Act II, which is usually set when you are forty to sixty, is when we deal with aging parents, challenges with our kids, or a friend’s untimely illness or death. Believe it or not, there are limits to what you can control.
During Act II weak sections appear in your tower and you pay a price for the choices you made in Act I. Your marriage is flat, if not broken. You lack close friends. Your body tells you it’s time for better self-care.
As Act II closes, you experience the paradox of success and ask, “How can I have so much but still want more?” You gain more visibility, financial security, and creature comforts, but the quiet moments reveal that something is missing. Act II ends with the question, “Was building a tower all those years a good thing?”
There Has to be More Than This
You hit fifty or sixty and the curtain is about to come up on Act III. The opening line will be, “There has to be more than this.” You have surpassed all of your business and financial goals, so what new “why” will inspire you for the next five or twenty-five years? Is this the time to sell or the time to ensure you leave a bigger legacy? Something in your soul whispers that getting more of what you already have is like putting new deck chairs on a sinking ship; maybe it’s time to tend to the hull.
Wake Up, Grow Up, and Clean Up
The secret to fulfillment and well-being lies not in what’s on your calendar, in your bank account, or how secure life feels. At this stage of the game, happiness comes from the peace and aliveness you feel on the inside and the compassion you express to others on the outside. Here are three things you can do to prepare for an Act III full of well-being.
Let Go – Find an emotional or spiritual practice, a circle of support, or a religion that will help you let go of your attachments. It’s your attachment to your status, reputation, work, money, physical appearance, and capability that will make for a frustrating Act III. You can either fight the process of aging or you can decide that the real you is something both infinite and impermanent.
Letting go starts when you believe once and for all that you have enough and you are enough and always have been; you didn’t really need to build your tower. Radical self-acceptance will liberate you from the angst caused by persistent oughts, lingering shoulds and unsubstantiated thoughts of inadequacy.
Make Amends – Holding onto grudges and judgments is like taking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Forgive yourself, forgive those you don’t want to forgive, and express your sadness, guilt, regret, and own your contribution to the pain you have caused others. Take the risk of being vulnerable with your father, ex-wife, or former business partner, and start cleaning things up in person, in writing, or by phone. Keep going until there is nothing left to clean up. Positive psychology keeps driving home the strong correlation between well-being and a few strong, close relationships. Cleaning up past damaged relationships will be the greatest gift you will give to those closest to you, especially your progeny.
Be of Service – Find a marginalized group of people for whom you feel compassion. They could be kids or they could be people of a non-dominant race, social standing, age, or mental or physical ability. Then spend time with them. These people are most likely very different from you. Service goes beyond writing checks and mentoring young professionals. Service that sustains you is messy and will make you uncomfortable. Move outside your predictable circles and engage in the broader world. Engage civically. Engage with those who are outside your circle of friends. Stretch yourself beyond those who look and talk like you. Create a mission to serve these people in ways that impact your daily thinking and action.
Start with a blank page and write the words, “My 25 Year Plan.” Then begin to plan for how this part of your life will contain the most present, alive, and meaningful years yet.
Contact Brian to talk about scheduling an Enneagram Training and Team Alignment Session for your team. This process will increase trust and commitment while improving communication and team performance.