For many of us, midlife is a time to take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Typically, it’s an opportunity to evaluate our choices and wonder if we’re on the right path. We naturally reflect on our accomplishments and set new goals for the future.
It’s a time to consider who we’ve been and who we shall become.
I was first introduced to the idea of evaluating the second half of life when I read a book by Bob Buford entitled “Half Time.” In the book, he distinguishes between the first half of life and the second half. The first half is a time of building – acquiring education, developing job skills, seeking successful careers, and accumulating wealth and possessions.
The second half, on the other hand, is a time of becoming – using our talents and resources to make a difference in the world. In the second half of life, we focus on how we want to be remembered by others after we die.
Whereas Success, in the first half, is about achieving our own goals and ambitions, significance, in the second half, is about making a positive impact on the lives of others. As Buford writes, “Success is what we accumulate. Significance is what we contribute.”
The question then is, how do we move from one stage to the other, from Success to significance?
I’ve discovered that if we continue to evaluate the four areas below in midlife, we’ll set ourselves up for a meaningful second half.
1. Reflect on who you are. Ask yourself, what have I accomplished thus far in my life? What people, events, and experiences have had the most significant impact on me and my life? What patterns and trends do I see? After years with your head down, midlife is the time to remember your strengths and values. Now’s the time to be honest – what worked? What didn’t?
2. Assess your current reality. Ask yourself, how am I really doing now? Take time to think through the big areas in your personal portfolio (i.e., your faith, your family, your fitness, your finances, etc.) Ask yourself what’s going well. What’s wrong? What needs improvement?
3. Focus on people. If you’re like most people, your relationships are crucial to making life feel meaningful. Spend time and effort understanding why they make a difference in your life. Take time to consider what you need to do to continue to boost these relationships in the future.
4. Discover your purpose. Don’t just live your life to fulfill your own dreams and aspirations. Take time to evaluate what the world needs and ask how I am best equipped to meet them. Find things that are deeply important to you and organize your goals, time, talent, and choices in life around that.
Remember, significance isn’t something that will happen overnight; you have to work towards it. Pursuing it, however, will change your life and the world around you. I hope you take your next step in that direction.