“I’m in love and engaged to be married.”
Patricia never dreamed of being a 73-year-old bride. After the bitter end to a 42-year-old marriage, her life was about four children, a slew of grandkids, volunteering to teach science classes to 5th graders and oodles of travel.
She was happy with her life. And now she’s happier.
That’s the thing about the last third of life. It can unfold in wonderful ways – ways we never, ever dreamed.
The belief that the best things have already happened to us and dream time over is the general narrative of growing old. Many smart people, maybe even you, cling to past defining moments as peaks of happiness never to be replaced.
Got news for you. The best of your defining moments could be in the last third of your life.
But the inability to imagine an amazing life ahead, fill your head with dreams and explore what could be diminishes the chances for a future of well-being and happiness.
Today, launching into the last third of life is an extraordinary, never-before-chance to move beyond happy. More educated than any previous generation, armed with unprecedented health advantages and financial resources, and now destined to live longer than perhaps anticipated, many boomers are in the process of designing a new life.
The process of bringing a new life forward is riddled with decisions. Important decisions.
How will you live your life?
What will you do for fun?
How will you use your talents?
How can you generate extra income?
How will you become a fantastic grandparent if you want to live in Peru, but the grandchildren are in Wisconsin?
Dreaming up life fills a pipeline of possibilities to choose from. Less ideas to explore means narrowing chances for as much happiness as you can squeeze out of whatever time is left.
Fewer options to explore increase the odds that you’ll end up settling for less, tolerating boredom or accepting that life has already give them as much happiness as you have a right to expect.
Simple as that.
Did we forget how to dream? Maybe not.
But rusty skills on dreaming up life are more common than you think. Some of us are so out of practice, we’ve eroded our proficiency to the extreme lower end of the high imagination quotient.
Fortunately we can improve, and we should.
Out of a galaxy of your options created in your 60s,70s or 80s, one or two will shine bright. You might be surprised at how pumped up you’ll be! You’ll jump out of bed each morning, just as creaky, but excited and joyful to embrace your future.
So Not Woo-Woo
People who are intentional about living their best life are working on the skill of “dreaming up life.” Crystal balls, Tarot cards, gypsy input, and energy audits may help some. But as a practical, nuts-and-bolts coach I’d prefer you crack open the “what if’s” of your life on your own.
Larry, 64, is whip smart, capable, and financially secure. Losing out on a promotion last year to an individual half his age was a disappointment. He’s planning to retire in 3 years and is making an investment to explore life ahead in Third Act Coaching.
My clients receive a summary following each session that includes observations and ideas from my perspective.
Here’s an excerpt from Larry’s second session summary:
6. Dreaming Up Life – One key learning to absorb that we talked about is that the past is not predictive of the future. As you launch into a long life ahead professional aspirations (and partnership aspirations) that were not met are a part of you, but ahead is new. Risk taking as part of new life design involves as much letting go as taking things on.
I’d like to see you dream up life a bit. What you end up doing may not involve bongo lessons, walking around the world, or learning Mandarin but taking a survey of “crazy Larry ideas” needs to be a part of your work.
While I see you as self-aware, I’m not convinced you have dug deep enough here. Exploration for the last third of life is less pragmatism and more shall we say – ‘dreaming up life.’
Sitting in traffic after a long day of work, Larry texted me last week.
“Do you know how to become a beekeeper?”
Every moment unfolds toward the future, but what if you can’t imagine it? Larry, like many of us who are facing a long, bright future, may simply need a nudge (which I will make sure he gets) to begin to aspire to day dreaming.
Eight Barriers to Dreaming Up a Life for Yourself
There are many reasons that this life stage can put up roadblocks in our ability to dream big for ourselves.
Here are eight:
- Too Many Possibilities “Well, I could do this, or that, or this-and-that.” Presumably since lots of options are the goal, this might sound swell. But nothing overwhelms moving forward more than a swirl of ideas that keep swirling. We feel more lost than ever in an avalanche of ideas. In this case, a structure for dreaming can funnel the best of the best ideas.
- Obligatory Care for Others When direct responsibility for the welfare of others is part of the package, our ability to dream only for ourselves can seem selfish and insignificant. But taking time to explore our own hopes and dreams is still a must do. Many individuals discover ways to manifest their responsibilities within a vision for life of their own.
- Partnership Blues Dreaming up your own life can be complex within a marriage or partnership you care about. Individuals often want different experiences, have different priorities or take on different attitudes as the timeline of life grows shorter. The good news is relationships can and do stretch. If finding a partner is a priority, be aware that this choice, dependent on something that may or may not happen, zaps time, energy and focus from creating a life on your own.
- Alignment to family Your mother, sister, brother, daughter and son know exactly what you should do with your life. Many people tell me how they have disappointed others with their decisions of where to live and what to do. Still, just as many work out great compromises with those they love.
- Age While exploring options for future work, an attractive, very together woman cocks her head, looks at me and says, “You do know I’m 73.” Well, no, I didn’t and who cares. Up to you to crash land any mindsets about age as a deterrent to dreaming.
- Money Some of us are paralyzed thinking we can’t afford what we want to see and do in life. Others simply see a problem to solve. They house sit around the world, sew wine bags to sell, walk dogs, and get part-time jobs. Creativity is part of imaging a future.
- Past Failures Okay, last word on this. This is a fresh start. Treat it like one.
- Fear We don’t control all of life. Fears are real. We fear unknowns and the realities of sickness, dying, and losing people. Keep fear in perspective. Be more afraid of not living your best life, than trying to find the courage in making the attempt.
Can we start to imagine what life could be? Or is being logical, practical, obedient and uncomplicated making us unable to think or feel any other way?
This is a last chance at living life on your terms.
If you want to go to the Moon (trips begin in 2020), study to become a physicist or a street juggler, start a mushroom farm, open a Marijuana dispensary, flip a house or be a contestant on Ninja Warrior (you must be at least 19 but there is no upper age limit), bring these ideas forward to investigate or bring a smile at your outlandishness.
If inspiration is needed or just for the heck of it, pick two of these questions, put yourself in a 15-minute trance and start your engines:
- If money were no object, how would you live your life?
- What would you do if you had one year to live?
- What are two things you are curious about?
- What would your twenty-year-old self advise you to do for the last twenty-five years of life?
- What have you always wanted to do that you have not done?
- Where in the world would you go if I gave you an airline ticket today?
Age brings many things including experience wisdom and perspective. Add the ability to dream big to inspire your great future.
This post is Part 2 of How to Create the Life You Want with Possibilities and Intentions.
I invite you to make a comment and join me on Facebook. Special thanks to all of you who continue to forward posts. I appreciate that!
All Photos by B. Pagano