Are you there yet?
Have you reached that point in your life when you suddenly realize that there are more days behind you than there are ahead of you? If you have, then you may find yourself wondering “was it all worth it?” or maybe even, “is this all there is?”
The midpoint of life, under normal circumstances, is an intense transitional experience. These are not normal circumstances. The current economic, social, political, physical and spiritual environments seem to be more turbulent than at any other time in recent memory.
Some of us may be facing involuntary career changes. Many of us are watching the retirement funds we so carefully and painfully saved over a lifetime, evaporate right before our eyes.
We may have once dreamed of retiring, but now a body that arises each day with the discovery of new aches and pains, is joined by a mind that awakens to the reality that the rest it had been promising itself for so many years continues to linger, like a desert mirage, just on the horizon ahead.
This is suppose to be a time when everything we have labored for comes together for our own good as we triumphantly live into the sunset of our legacy. Yet, as we stand on the edge of own “Legacy Cliff”, it is so easy to think, “I can’t get there from here.”
For some, the second half of life ushers in a melancholy moment of despair. This is because society celebrates youth and encourages us to tightly hang on and celebrate it with the utmost zeal for as long as we possibly can. Yet the longer we hang on the more fearful we become. For when we live by the light of our greatest hits, we find ourselves increasingly unable to do what we “use to could” do.
This can be a very confusing time because the first half of life naturally calls us to define ourselves by what we do. The future calls us to examine who we are, and who we want to be; which can be a very scary thing
Living into the future affords us the opportunity of regaining and maintaining our energy. We must be willing to leave behind everything we have done for the sake of living into who we are supposed to be. To be clear, the only way we can survive the trip over the “Legacy Cliff” is to let go of the past and live into the future.
That sounds harder to do than it is. All that is required is an evaluation of who we want to be. To live into this defining moment we must be willing to see who it is that we want to be before we cross the finish line of life. Then we must allow this vision of potential to permeate our being. By that I mean that we allow this vision to purposefully guide every thing we do.
It isn’t that we no longer do; rather we insure that our doing is connected to who we want to be. As we look to the future we realize that we can no longer sacrifice what really matters to the demands of what merely momentarily matters.
The first half of life is filled with dreams. The second half of life is filled with aspirations. Dreaming means to listen to our desires and invent an image of the future. Aspiring means to breathe life into the deepest desires of our heart.
As we spend our most productive moments contributing value at work, we often tell ourselves that the day will come when we can live into our own aspirations. That day only comes for those who go over the cliff without any thought of looking back.
Happiness comes to those who realize that they no longer need to worry about what they are losing as they age. Instead they see and understand the gains that come from growing whole.
To me, growing whole means becoming the person that I was always meant to be. It means reaching for my personal potential. It invites greater levels of self-awareness. To become whole, I must be willing to examine every aspect of my life. I must be willing to embrace being who I am over doing what I do. I must be willing to learn and grow.
Wholeness inspires a constant focus on reaching for the next level. Our eyes must always be looking to a promising and fulfilling future. When we stop reaching for the next level, we start feeling out of focus, disconnected, and even burnt out.
Sometimes, legacy is incorrectly defined by what we leave behind. While most of us are strongly connected to that idea, I have come to appreciate the probability that legacy also yields a forward-facing and future outcome. Only a portion of our legacy is bestowed upon those who follow us. The other portion is carried on with us as we move toward our own potential.
In fact, the etymology of the word legacy presents a convincing argument that it was never intended to be about what we leave behind. Instead it suggests that it denoted the continual shaping and reshaping of a future outcome.
Thus, living into our legacy inspires multiple directions. What we leave behind is important but the purpose of this life is to learn and grow through our own experiences. This means we be willing to live into a bright future. To do otherwise is to grow old and die. Yes we will cross the finish line someday, but the notable energy levels of one who crosses in wholeness compared to those who cross in oldness is quite remarkable.
Normally, this is the space where you get to hear all of the suggestions an author has for you, some sort of numbered step by step list for you to live into the things being prescribed. But this wouldn’t be your list, so it wouldn’t be very meaningful.
Instead, I want you the reader to be the coauthor of this article. In fact, I want you to write the ending all by yourself. It is my hope that you will take a moment to reflect on the following questions and come up with your our list. I am certain that doing so will allow you to fly right over the Legacy Cliff as you identify the person you want to be. Are you ready?
Who do you want to be when you grow whole?
As soon as you get a clear picture of who you want to be in your mind, please capture your the actions you must take to become that person. What are they?
Now, before you leave this space please decide if you are committed to doing those actions so that you may become that person. Be honest with yourself. If you are not, then go back to step one and redefine who it is you want to be.
If you gave this your full attention, then you are now free to let go of the past by living into your future. It’s your legacy. Reach for it.
Dr. Andrew Thorn is the founder of Telios Corporation and creator of The Telios Experience™. He holds a PhD in Consulting Psychology, a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching, and a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University. Dr. Thorn is also the author of U-wun-ge-lay-ma: A Guide to Next-level Living and the upcoming book Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Whole? The Future of Meaning and Purpose. He lives in Apple Valley, California with his wife Stacy and seven children.