& the Second Half of Life
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
— MARY OLIVER
WHAT IS HALFOLESCENCE?
If there is a common misconception about human development and aging, it is the idea that people stop growing, that we cease to learn new things or take on new challenges once we reach a certain age. This is just plain wrong. The world is full of radical second half lifers who challenge societal expectations and continue to grow and prosper.
If we allow ourselves to accept the false paradigm that at some point in our lives we are too old to learn and grow, then this belief itself can become self-fulfilling prophecy. In effect, we limit ourselves needlessly, and, even though we long for something more, we tragically settle for less.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. The goal of the Halfolescence movement is to share the good news about basic human development and to inspire you and a whole community of people to move through halfolescence and pursue an extraordinary second half of life.
A UNIQUE JOURNEY AT MIDLIFE & BEYOND
This may seem like a question that would be posed to someone just starting out on their life’s journey. The world is a new and engaging place, full of mystery and possibility, and what better question to ask yourself as it opens up before you? We at Halfolescence, though, believe that this is a question we would do well asking ourselves at all stages of our lives, our years, our months, even our days. The world never ceases to present us with choices and possibilities, and asking ourselves what will truly bring us meaning and joy never gets old.
Indeed, as we grow older, we can see how patterns and expectations that served us in the past no longer do so. At times we feel as though we are trying on a garment that fit us twenty years ago…and while we can get it on, it is too tight through the shoulders, or too wide in the hips. Understanding and reflecting upon the paradigms that guide us through the first part of our lives can help us to open our minds and hearts to how we can go beyond them, and travel places we never expected to go.
Whereas a traditional route of retirement focuses on stability and contentment, a transformative approach focuses creating an Autumn of our lives filled with exploration, mystery and growth. This diagram, developed by Dr. Terry Nyhuis, demonstrates how focusing on seven different areas of expansion can radically transform your life.
This diagram outlines the journey of basic human development from start to ﬁnish. In general, childhood, adolescence and typical adulthood are well understood.
But what has not been explored as deeply or explained as clearly are the normal, natural and healthy phases that can occur in the second half of a person’s life.
Halfolescence is a term we’ve coined to describe a second adolescence that typically could occur any time after the age of forty. Unlike the first adolescence, which is physically impossible to avoid, entering into halfolescence involves a more conscious choice. It requires that we ask the following kinds of questions:
1. DO I WANT TO GROW MORE?
In your Halfolescence, you can grow morally, spiritually, and emotionally. Start looking outside yourself and your past beliefs and experiences. Reach out to new people, new places, and new ideas with an open heart and mind.
2. DO I WANT MORE FROM LIFE?
Many people who follow a traditional retirement model because depressed and unsatisfied with their lives. If you choose Halfolescence, however, you can enrich your life immeasurably, physically, mentally, and spiritually. You’re at a crossroads. Take the less-traveled path and see where it takes you.
3. AM I COMMITTED TO REMAINING CURIOUS?
Many people become jaded in the second half of their lives. They feel as though they know it all, that there is nothing else for them to experience. One of the greatest blessings of Halfolescence is realizing that the world is a very big place. No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn.
4. WILL I SETTLE FOR WHAT I HAVE OR REACH FOR SOMETHING DEEPER?
It is possible to happy with were we are, and not yearn for anything more. Those who embrace Halfolescence, however, understand that there is more out there if they are willing to open themselves up to it. Transformation comes from surprising sources. Think big, dream big, reach for the stars.
5. AM I GOING TO KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS?
Once people reach a certain age, it is often assumed that they have all the answers. If we are honest with ourselves, though, we have to admit that we don’t know it all, and that growth often must take place outside our comfort zones. Be brave. Ask questions you are not sure you want to know the answer to. Learn and grow.
To be clear, many people are content to live their entire lives following a blueprint that was clearly established for them in the first half of their life. This is totally fine, it is a perfectly good choice, and our research tells us that around 85% of people will do this. However…
There are others who choose to embrace a second adolescence. These folk are often perceived to be misfits, creatives, trend-buckers; wild second half of life people who dare to reach for more. They test the status quo, ask questions, and fall in love with the deeper mysteries of life.
These are the people who live an incredible second half of life, and these are the ones who form the foundation of our work here at Halfolescence.
In Retirement Reimagined: From Ordinary to Extraordinary, Dr. Nyhuis goes into more detail as to how we can approach these expansions in a practical way that can almost guarantee our success in each of the seven areas. Growth does not mean casting aside all that we have understood and experienced; rather, it means placing it all in context and using it as a starting point for our journey of transformation. We hold on, we let go, we agree to risk what we believed to be absolute truth in order to go beyond and become stronger, more compassionate and perceptive human beings.
Take a look at the wheel of expansions above, and choose just one area to start with. Write down concrete ways you can make change happen within yourself, choose just one, and begin. That’s all there is to it. Then, if you wish, share your experiences with us either through our contact form, on our blog, or via Facebookor Twitter. We’d love to hear how you are creating a deeper, more meaningful Autumn for your life.
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