What are the tough questions about the Third Chapter in your life?? 5 Questions to consider – and there are more!

July 23, 2015

Right up front, here is the toughest question I can ask myself as it relates to being well into my *Third Chapter:  who am I if I am not defined by my work?

I grew up in the somewhat hardscrabble Ottawa Valley where hearty Irish and Scots valued hard work above all else.  “She worked hard all her life” someone would say with reverence when a woman died who had married at 18, raised 6 kids, milked cows, put three square meals on the table every day for 50 or 60 years, and then outlived her husband and spent her final years watching over grandchildren.

I didn’t do any of the above, having been lucky enough to be born to the generation that came after that one, but working hard was engrained into me at an early age and has stayed with me throughout my 65 years.  There are those that would label me a workaholic, but I don’t agree.  I continue to work because I love what I do and I think I balance it well with other activities.

But when the conversation shifts to how much my work defines who I am, that’s where it gets a bit trickier.   I have an active consulting and coaching practice that brings me into contact with business people ranging from smart CEOs to bright young people just starting to shape their careers.  I truly do love the work and love being engaged.  And yes, I think to very large extent my work defines who I am.  Which begs the question of what my personal definition would be – will be one day – if it is not work?

What are the tough questions that you grapple with, particularly if you are nearing or into that magical Third Chapter of life?  As discussed in my June 2015 blog, this Third Chapter is somewhat uncharted territory. If you are in this phase, you are among those whose experience with the Third Chapter may load up into a new book!

As I listen to clients and friends who are hovering around the Third Chapter, here are some of the other tough questions that come up:

  1. Who am I in this Third Chapter?  Whether it was work or being a Mom or being known as an activist – whatever defined you in the first two chapters of your life, may not be what defines you going forward.  More to the point, what do you want to define you?  Perhaps for the first time ever, you get to hold the pen on this definition.
  2. What will I do with my time? Continue working, start a consulting business, volunteer, travel, play golf?  I know one man who had a massive calendar planned out for the first year of his retirement and he was determined to fill in something for every day!  Conversely, we see people who quit their job and drift aimlessly, never really finding their path again.
  3. How will I pay for my Third Chapter?  We can make some assumptions that most people have at the very least given some thought to putting money aside, but investment advisor Janine Guenther (see side panel) tells us that we are often woefully unprepared for life’s unexpected occurrences:  health care costs suddenly skyrocket with the diagnosis of an illness; an adult child gets divorced and lands back in the basement, perhaps with a couple of grandchildren; our parents outlive their own savings and require expensive institutional care.
  4. Who will be with me in my Third Chapter?  It is not a cheery statistic but truth is that women outlive the men in their lives.  What’s more, according to Statistics Canada, “grey divorce” has been steadily growing among those 55 and over, with rates expected to increase as more people continue to age.  What would you do if you suddenly found yourself alone?  What would it mean to start a new relationship in this chapter?  Your network of friends will be critical: who is in it?
  5. How do I keep physically active?  Can’t run those 10k races anymore?  Or maybe you can but you really have to wonder if it is worth it for all those aches and pains afterwards.  At what point do we abandon the runners for yoga tights?  What are the best ways to stay physically active in the Third Chaper?

Questions lead to answers and answers lead to finding your own peace with your Third Chapter.  For all of the concerns we may have, the Third Chapter also beckons as a time (in Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s words) for “Passion, Risk and Adventure”! (More on that in my next newsletter!)

Think about the people you know who have not just eased into their Third Chapter, they have positively rocked it!  What can we learn and emulate from them?  And most importantly, what should we be thinking about now to make sure our Third Chapter is as great as it can possibly be?

If this is a topic that interests you, please check out the information on the right!

Best wishes,


*The Third Chapter is borrowed, with permission, from the book entitled The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50, by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.