Living Authentically in the Second Half of Life

I was reading about Carl Jung and discovered the following quotation:   “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” I shared Jung’s quote with several friends and was surprised by how much it resonated with each one of them.

Most of us grew up wanting to please our parents, educators, and other principals in our lives. Undoubtedly, many of us pursued their unrealized dreams instead of our own. Even if we didn’t pursue their dreams, we may have chosen a path that validated their life choices or compensated for their shortcomings.

In the first half of life, we do what our childhood principals taught us we “should” do. We also do what culture and society expect us to do. We climb the corporate ladder, marry, raise children, and go to the neighborhood church or synagogue. Fear or public opinion may compel us to suppress creativity, artistic expression, originality, and innovation.

Carl Jung’s quote compels us to ask: “Whose life have I been living?” Although this is an excellent question at any time, it is particularly important to ask in midlife and beyond. Midlife is an amazing time of possibility – a time that affords us the opportunity to realize our fullest potential and to live authentically. Because people are living longer now, our so-called “retirement years” can be 30, 40, even 50 years. This gives us an opportunity to examine our lives, discover who we really are, and determine what is most meaningful to us.

Throughout life, we make certain choices. Out of necessity, that means we forego others. Often the choices we forego represent our childhood dreams, fantasies, aspirations, talents, and sense of vocation. These things don’t just go away because we abandon or neglect them.  Instead they reside deep in the psyche, and it’s important to reconnect with them. Doing so allows us to become whole and to actualize our unique potentialities. 

In the second half of life, we can reawaken creativity, reinvent ourselves, change careers, follow our bliss. We can chose to live an authentic life. How do we do this? It is important to pay attention to what interests us, what ignites our passion, and what we personally value.  Being mindful, and keeping a daily journal about what we discover can be quite useful.

One helpful exercise is to sit quietly and reflect on our childhood. What did we love to do? What talents did we have but fail to develop fully? What were our dreams and aspirations? Carl Jung suggested such an exercise when he wrote: “What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to what you should be doing in your worldly pursuits.”

Another helpful exercise is to check in with our bodies when determining what direction to take. If our muscles tighten and constrict, we feel a sense of suffocation or confinement, or we experience some other negative physical sensation, the direction is probably wrong. If our muscles relax, we experience a sense of lightness or spaciousness, or we feel liberated, the direction is probably right. Our bodies are very good compasses.  If we listen to them carefully, they will direct us to the life we are meant to live.

Whose life have I been living? In the second half of life, there is every reason to believe that our answer can be: “My own!”

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About ahalifedesign

As a master certified life , certified creativity, and trained meaning coach, Laurie helps clients live their best life. She works compassionately with clients to dissolve limiting beliefs that prevent them from realizing their fullest potential and to take action. Laurie helps baby boomers reinvent themselves at midlife and beyond; she guides them through the transition and transformation they inevitably encounter in the second half of life. She works with baby boomers to discover abandoned aspects of self, explore passions, find meaning, and fulfill their life’s purpose. Laurie also helps writers, artists, musicians, actors, business entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to be more creative, overcome blocks (i.e., overwhelm, perfectionism, procrastination, self-sabotage, fear) and other obstacles to achieving their dreams. Laurie lives in Denver, Colorado with her two rambunctious golden retrievers, Liza Jolie and Zydeco Ardoin. She loves the Rocky Mountains and the inspiration and diverse activities they offer. She loves literature, theatre, music, dancing, and art. Laurie is a consumate learner. She has a background in law, psychology, positive psychology, creativity, Buddhist studies, and meditative practice. She is fascinated by the human brain and recent developments in neuroscience.
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