What is the Third Chapter of your life going to look like? 5 Tips on making the 25 years after age 50 totally rock!

June 24, 2015

What is the Third Chapter of your life going to look like?

5 Tips on making the 25 years after age 50 totally rock!

What are the years after age 50 going to look like for you?  Maybe you are already past 50 – so how is it going?

On average our generation is going to live 30 years longer than our great grandparents.  Demographers are recognizing the significance of a distinct developmental phase: those years following middle age when we are “neither young nor old.”


Actress/Activist/Fitness Queen Jane Fonda calls it The Third Act – a period that kicks in somewhere between age 50-60.  The brilliant sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lighthouse dubbed it The Third Chapter and has this advice:


“We must develop a compelling vision of later life: one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty, but one that recognizes it as a time of change, growth, and new learning; a time when ‘our courage gives us hope.'”

(from The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50)


What is your “compelling vision of later life”?  Do you have a plan for those years in your Third Act or Third Chapter?  Arguably, this stage is somewhat uncharted.  Where is the road map for this new way of being during this phase of our lives?


I have decided to create a workshop to spark this discussion among women over 50 and start to lay a path for this important phase of our lives.


Having recently reached the age of 65, I am well into the Third Chapter.  I see a lot of my contemporaries who are still happily engaged with work or have found a work replacement that gives them a sense of engagement, risk and adventure – and with a clear sense of passion about it all.


I see folks who really want out of their jobs but can’t afford to quit, or can’t imagine a life without work.   Or people stuck in a life pattern that they can’t break, as much as they might want to.


Whichever camp you are in – satisfied, not satisfied, or somewhere in between – we are fortunate that some smart people are starting to take a thoughtful and provocative look at this phase in our lives.


Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot refers to herself somewhat whimsically on her website as “portraitist, witness, archeologist, spider woman, storyteller and mirror” but is in fact a renowned American sociologist and Harvard professor who has been studying patterns of culture for decades and whose many distinctions include being the first African-American woman in Harvard’s history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor.  We highly recommend her book The Third Chapter.


My experience and observations from working with CEOs and other leaders has yielded these tips:


    1. Start now!  Whether you are still ramping up to age 50 or you are well past the mark, there is no time like the present to start thinking about the Third Chapter of your life.
    2. Start with purpose!  We are assuming it is important to you to continue, or start, to lead a life of purpose.  Perhaps you have been the leader of an organization that had significant impact on people’s lives, or a teacher who can take pride in generations of children who have become happy and successful adults.  What next?  What is your purpose going forward?
  • Put YOU first! Not so easy for many of us; in fact, some of us don’t even know where to start to think about what it is that we truly want.
  • Talk to others!  The good news about Third Chapter dwellers is that there are a lot of us! Think about how you might want to structure, or even formalize those discussions.


  1. Plan!  It has been said that most people spend more time planning their 2-week vacation than they do what could well be 25-30-40 years of their lives.  You wouldn’t go into a new project in your work life without a plan, why wouldn’t you plan this important phase of your life?


Wherever you are on this spectrum of approaching 50 or well past it, we look forward to writing your Third Chapter with you!