From success to significance: when the pursuit of success isn’t enough

In this book, author Lloyd Reeb explores what he calls as halftime, or more popularly, midlife crisis and defines this period as:

 “…a pause in the middle of the game of life to  reflect on our first half – who we have become  – and to discover what we want at the end of  life and to redirect our time, talent, and  treasure toward something significant…a  journey – a process – not an event or a  decision.  Ultimately, this journey is more  about what we are becoming than what we  are doing or accomplishing.”

Reeb cites the distinct stages of this period:

  1. The foundation of success.  A significant life event, or a significant success or failure could trigger the unease or sense of something missing, which could be the foundation for something more significant in the second half of life.
  2. The journey inward.  Internal exploration of who God made one to be.
  3. Awakening challenge.  Exploring horizons of opportunities and preparing oneself and those around for one’s new view of the world.
  4. Reaching potential.  Fully engaging with what one is called to do and be in the second half, and finding a new equilibrium in life.

In my exit interview with a previous employer, the question was “why leave?”  My reply was prompt:  “I think I’m having a midlife crisis” a half-attempt to parry off the question.  Friends (former bosses) had also asked me why and I replied as lightly:  “I served others during the first half of my life.  I think I’m going to spend the other half of my life for myself and the kids.  I think I need to be a bit more selfish.”  Though my tone was jesting, my replies mirrored what I felt inside me.  I felt like I was coming to a crossroad.

Reeb quoted Dr. Gene Cohen, author of Creative Age:  Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life who refers to this same period as the Midlife Reevaluation Phase:

A time that creative expression is shaped by a sense of crisis or quest.  Although midlife crisis is the phrase we hear so often, most adults in this phase actually are motivated by quest-energy to make their life or work more gratifying.  Midlife is a powerful time for the expression of human potential because it combines the capacity for insightful reflection with a powerful desire to create meaning in life.  This phase typically occurs in those between their forties and early sixties.”

Maybe I’m experiencing the phase earlier in life, like Reeb who says of his own transition:

I cut the time I spent doing business, found a niche as one of the pastors at a large church…and help high-capacity business people find their second half calling.  As a result, my wife, Linda, and I have had more time over the past decade to spend with our three kids as they grow, time to spend together playing tennis and sailing.  I have enjoyed getting back into good physical shape and building a few close friendships.  By allocating part of my week to ministry, I’ve had the thrill of being a part of many men’s and women’s spiritual journeys as they pursue God and explore their personal faith…Now I no longer have that sick feeling in my stomach of being trapped in a life of busyness, pursuing things that won’t last at the expense of things I value most.  Strangely, though I work just as hard as ever, I feel little stress especially when compared to the gut-wrenching stress I experienced as a real estate developer in the first half of my life…Sure I still worry from time to time – when the stock markets fluctuate or unexpected family expenses emerge.  But it’s a different kind of worry.  I still enjoy working hard, reaching goals, and taking risks; but today I do it out of a sense of calling rather than some unexplained inner drivenness.  I do it with the confidence that I’m in the “sweet spot” of what I was created to do.  And I’m having the time of my life.

The most fulfilling journey yet… I hope.


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