Making the transition to 60
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
- Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche
I recently celebrated my 60th birthday and it has brought a lot of reflection for me about the next chapter of my life. As a part of this process I have been reading a lot, especially books on topics that I don’t normally read about, participated in 2 meditation retreats and engaged with the topic during conversations. I have been learning a lot through this and it made me think that as leaders, our intention is to guide others to be successful in their transitions from current to future situations. However, we are all on this journey through numerous transitions in life and how we navigate it is a critical part of preparing ourselves and our teams.
Numerous philosophies describe and recognise the different stages of life. Carl Jung detailed 4 stages of life which were: the athlete, the warrior, the statement and the spirit. Indian philosophy uses the term Ashrama to also describe the 4 main phases of life which are; Student (0-20 years), Family (20-40 years), Acceptance (40-60 years) and Renunciation (60-90 years).
These descriptions are useful to understanding how the different phases and transitions in life can influence our thinking and the experiences we are having. My sense is that it is more effective and less stressful if these transitions are conscious and deliberate.
In my experience I have found the discussion around the concept of ageing quite difficult, particularly in western society where there is a focus on hanging on to youth and hence the deep desire to maintain our youthfulness. There are many experiences of ageism and “invisibility” in society as we age. On the other hand, in Eastern and Indigenous cultures there tends to be a greater reverence for the Elders and the wisdom they have acquired.
So then how do we bring these aspects and understandings into leadership? It is key to leverage and embrace wherever we are in the life process and optimise that as part of our own growth and learning. Part of this is considering what your contribution is to making the world a better place. What is the legacy you will leave behind and how does that look? Is it philanthropy, mentorship or another kind of offering?
In my case, as I begin the transition towards the next phase of my life, I am considering what Elderhood means, how I talk about it and how this learning can be transferred to my clients. I hope that sharing the bigger picture and perspectives on the layers of life will enable me to share my insights and learning with others on life’s interesting journey.
This month I discuss some perspectives on vulnerability and it’s importance to leadership.
Click here to listen
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Richard Rohr
In Falling Upward, Father Richard Rohr offers a new way of understanding one of the most profound of life's mysteries: how our failing can be the foundation for our ongoing spiritual growth. Rohr writes about the duties of the first half of life and then charts the adventures of the second half of life where spiritual maturity is the goal. The first stage of life is in effect to create a strong container for identity whereas the second stage is to fill that container with the content of our deepest and fullest self.
Rohr challenges the perception of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, and the whole thesis of the book is to demonstrate that it is in fact exactly the opposite.
Drawing on the wisdom from time-honoured myths, heroic poems, great thinkers, and sacred religious texts, he explores the two halves of life to show that those who have fallen, failed, or 'gone down' are the only ones who understand 'up'. Rohr posits that in later life we grow spiritually more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. It is definitely a book that provides food for thought!