Just as there is no automatic system to successfully guide our career for us, there is no prescription for how we are to live our later life. Society and its institutions and professionals are trailing at least ten years behind in dealing with the process and problems of integrating aging and working.
Those of us who are embarking on our first or second midlife are asking ourselves some critical questions: What is the purpose of our later years? Does aging have any intrinsic purpose? Is there work to be done after rearing children? What are the rules, rights, and responsibilities of older people? What are the strengths and virtues of old age? What is a good old age? Who can teach us how to grow old well? How can we deal best with time? Can we expect new thresholds to cross as long as we live?
Regardless of our chronological age, the most meaningful thing we can live for is to reach our full potential. We must find and develop the skills we enjoy using and pursue a positive idea of aging. And we must keep on a growth and learning curve.
As we move to the twenty-first century, here are five important power points to consider, particularly as we approach midlife.
- Know what you want, know that you deserve it, and know how to ask for it effectively.
- Stay optimistic and maintain a sense of humor–age is much more a state of mind than a number of years.
- See the aging process as a positive time of continuing growth and ascent, focusing on our emerging freedom, options, and choices rather than the current popular image of decline, disarray, and decay.
- Recognize that you have options and choices for aging successfully. Practice becoming adaptable, alert, and active now and you will grow old that way.
- Know that the sense of community–the rootedness, belonging, and satisfaction we get from work we enjoy and wheere we live–is absolutely essential at any age.
Jung assures us that aging has purpose: “A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning to the species to which he belongs. The afternoon of human life must have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage of life’s morning” (1933, p. 109).
McLeish (1994b) summarizes the journey in late life:
The Ulyssean Sonnet
Naked of funds and power, I now consign br>
All my disasters to oblivion. br>
All the mischoices that I once called mine br>
I now resolve never to think upon. br>
What can I do that will undo the past? br>
I can review it, mourn it, waste my powers, br>
Replay the games no whistle can recast, br>
Try to relive the unrelivable hours. br>
No–at an age when fools say all is ending br>
I consecrate myself to fresh tomorrows, br>
Resume the Ulyssean Way I see extending br>
Its noble hopes beyond all sins and sorrows. br>
I take the Sacred Present and conspire br>
To ring the future with Empyrean fire.
Excerpt “Epilogue” reprinted from Don’t Stop The Career Clock with permission
Helen Harkness, Ph.D.© br>♦ Career Design Associates, Inc. ♦ (972) 278-4701
email@example.com ♦ www.career-design.com
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