What is the Third Quarter of Life?
by Richard Haid and Caitlin Williams, Guest Co-Editors
Many people will leave the full-time work force with adequate financial resources, the gift of good health, and the possibility of 25 more years of a fulfilling and abundant life. Think of this 25 years as being inserted into the beginning of the second half of life for enhancement, not as life extension. For some, the possibility of the Third Quarter of Life can be a new, different, and the most fulfilling chapter in their life.
However longitudinal studies show that most people don't change very much after retirement. For many, golf, golf, and more golf doesn't do it, and every day being like Saturday is boring for many people. Being "so busy" is not the same as living significantly. It is a continuation of the "doing" and "having." This is the life map for many people, many of whom try to extend their Second Quarter.
We need new maps and Murphy and Hudson, in The Joy of Old, give us the concept of Pro-tirement, which is a very hopeful view of how to access the fulfillment of the Third Quarter. It is a portal we can enter as we end full time work. There is a shift in how we see our lives and the world. Work is no longer the defining aspect of our lives although we continue to work, often on a basis that meets our needs. Careers are now lifetime and are defined by the concept of "Career = Work + Volunteer + Leisure." I describe career as a lifetime engagement with the world and using your gifts, as you wish (full-time, part-time, for pay or volunteering).
In addition to Pro-tirement, we can also enter the Third Quarter before leaving the workforce we respond to "calls" in our lives. Throughout our lives we have questions about meaning in our lives and many persons may receive "calls" for a fuller life. The Third Quarter option is a time to respond to old calls or answer new calls. These calls can lead to great fulfillment in our lives. They may involve a spiritual journey, as well as new stages of faith including concepts of connectedness to ourselves, others, the rest of the planet, and to God. This being more reflective is part of moving through "Becoming" into "Being" and entering the Third Quarter.
Another part of the Third Quarter involves deepening relationships with ourselves, families, and other persons, and also bringing new persons into our network to help cushion against losses that occur. In the Third Quarter we no longer have to "Keep up with the Joneses" and we're more unburdened and comfortable with ourselves. There may be questions of how we are a legend and what our legacy may be. Active learning, maybe in new ways, also feeds our abundance. It can move us out to the frontier, connect, and energize us.
It is also very satisfying for people in the Third Quarter to use their gifts for the benefit of others. They usually can benefit from help in assessment, exploring underdeveloped skills and interests, and developing options to more fully engage the world. Life coaches and counselors need to be trained to help, probably by using more group facilitation and involving more "virtual university" type learning.
Many people will not experience the fulfillment of the Third Quarter and will instead go directly to their Fourth and final Quarter of life. Themes are boredom, loneliness, and disconnection. Today there are no longer any specific age makers and life's four quarters are of different sizes for different people. Being fully engaged in the Third Quarter may increase the abundance and size of the Third Quarter and reduce the size of the Fourth Quarter. Note how the abundance of the Third Quarter sustains and compensates for the losses of the Fourth Quarter.
In the best sellerTuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Alborn, Morrie is in the last dozen weeks of his A.L.S.-afflicted life and his body is clearly in the Fourth Quarter, but the rest of him is still clearly engaging the world in a Third Quarter manner. The abundance of the Third Quarter can transcend physical limitations. I believe that the abundance of the Third Quarter can transcend physical limitations. I believe that the abundance of the Third Quarter can offer optimum fulfillment and can also postpone our passage in to the Fourth Quarter.
At the November 1999 International Career Development Conference, I presented these concepts. The participants said they learned:
The Third Quarter concept opened new doors for them. Can you similarly, reach for the gift of potential abundance of the Third Quarter?
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