Washed out sometimes. Washed up? Never!

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.

~Betty Friedan


Confronting the question of ‘Do I stay, or do I go?’ catches up with all of us eventually. It may be complicated by issues of money, the desire to stay busy, or uncertainty about who we are when we are not working. Reframing is key.


Whether we have performed hands-on work, managed people, pursued professional goals, or cared for children and members of the community…eventually the question of how to shift from ‘working’ into ‘retirement’ looms large. Depending on how heavily we invested ourselves in our career track at the expense of all other potential life activities, we may find this transition easy or downright frightening. We may have done what was needed, and been who was needed, for so long that we are no longer sure of what brings us joy. We may have forfeited engagement with friends and activities that kept our spirits high. We may even have lost track of who we truly are.


Learning how to live to our own rhythm, how to take better care of ourselves, how to pursue interests and open to new life question is as big a transition as leaving home, launching a career or starting a family. Research suggests that staying active, connected, and open to new ideas and activities is essential to our health and wellbeing. Finding out what our lifestyle priorities really are and what would give meaning and purpose to our daily lives is key to longevity.


Whether your decision to pursue a ‘Second Act’ is driven by pragmatic concerns such as money, or the felt need to keep busy, learning, connected or growing doesn’t matter. What is important is that you find activities that minimize drain on your energy while bringing as much uplift to your spirits as possible.


1.    Know your motivational style

This journey starts with understanding what get us moving and keeps us moving. Motivational factors vary. For one person the prospect of winning may be what gets the blood pumping, while for another, the feeling of having moved a mountain of work may spark desire. Discovering what is true for you, is important. When you engage with life through your natural motivational preferences, your energy will flow more freely, and the results will be more rewarding.


2.    Know your lifestyle priorities

There are many different things that bring a sense of fullness to our lives and allow us to explore our true selves: time with friends, exposure to culture, volunteering, learning new things, etc. Giving time to all the kinds of activities that are most meaningful to us enhances the overall richness of our lives. Understanding which lifestyle priorities are most stimulating to you, and making them a priority, is a sure-fire way to feel more alive and engaged.


3.    Know your coping strategies

We all have habitual patterns for how we handle stress. Depending on how our life has unfolded, we may have lived significant parts of our lives in a stressed-out state. We may be prone to guilt, defensiveness, anxiety, or prone to getting sick when things are not going well. Understanding your patterns and mindfully reducing their life-robbing impact can free up your energy for better uses.


4.    Know what a good job-fit looks like for you

We all have natural behavioural preferences that make us uniquely who we are. We like to reason, relate and act in some ways and not others. When we find work that taps into our strengths and minimizes reliance on our non-preferences, we feel alive, drawn in, and delighted about our contributions. Finding out what activities, paid or volunteer, would line up with your natural preferences is worthwhile. They may not all be feasible given other constraints, but they can spark your imagination and bring you closer to a milieu that suits your true nature.


5.    Invest in a high-quality predictive career analytic

Because these tools are science-based and designed to help people laser in on what roles are likely to bring them the greatest degrees of satisfaction and success, they are great ways to explore questions around Second Acts and ‘paths not taken’. They can help you gain a deeper understanding of your behavioural preferences, career interests, and career suitabilities. By taking a deep-dive into the information, you can discern what would be most energy giving and life affirming for you, whether you want to continue in a in formal ‘work’ or simply want to round out your life.



Germaine Watts is a thought leader, author, speaker and co-founder of Ensentious – a consultancy and workshop/retreat provider dedicated to helping individuals, teams, and organizations thrive. As a mindfulness coach, SuccessFinder expert, and facilitator with the Centre for Courage and Renewal, she seeks to foster connection between soul and role in ways that support of personal, organizational, and societal transformation.