Our First Act, which ends in our mid-20’s, is all about learning, growing and exploring. The First Act is where we Define ourselves.

The Second Act, which goes from the mid 20’s to 50’s, is the period where we make our mark; achieve our goals; stake our claim; raise our family; build our business and; prove our worth. The Second Act is about Building, Climbing, Achieving and Acquiring.

Historically the Third Act starts around 50, when most have reached the pinnacle of Second Act expansion. We’ve had success and failure in work, family and goals. Our children have moved on, things are slowing down and life is settling into routines. There’s little energy, necessity or desire, to start or learn new things; we become armchair explorers via books, TV, cruises; seek comfort over striving and; depend on past experiences to inform our future decisions. This Third Act is less about growing, expanding and achieving and more about Security, Comfort, and Acknowledgement.

The New Third Act is entirely different. It kicks in anywhere from the late 40’s to mid 60’s. It is all about finding meaning, fulfillment and purpose in our lives. It is motivated by an overwhelming desire to make a meaningful contribution. It arrives as a result of asking, “What am I really here for?” “What have all of my years and jobs prepared me to do?” When we ask these questions we discover a new source of energy in our life and a new vehicle for growth expansion and spiritual evolution. This phase of life is often preceded by a Shattering: we hit bottom; face our addictions; lose our livelihood; experience the harsh reality of an empty nest, confront our ugliest character defects or experience a life threatening illness. For many it is our first, undeniable, glimpse of mortality and is accompanied by an overwhelming feeling we’ve yet to accomplish or contribute anything of real significance. It is, at its least, a mid-life crisis, but more often a dark night of the soul. When embraced it is heroic and mythic. To it we need only ask ourselves, “What would I most regret not accomplishing if I died in one year?” The New Third Act is defined by a life affirming desire to make a real Contribution. We find ourselves seeking to Collaborate, Simplify, discover our Purpose, experience Community, be of Service and find Spiritual Fulfillment. It results in the experience of our value as an individual and our oneness with others.

Previous article