Last Friday I was asked to go on the Today show to talk about second acts. Which got me thinking. The standard notion is that it starts with an itch for something better — a better job, a better spouse, a better face, a better whatever-it-is-you’re-missing. But after talking to hundreds of people who’ve made big changes at midlife, I’m now convinced that the most successful second (and third) acts are motivated by an urge to fix something that’s broken – in your community or beyond.
So it’s as much about a better world as it is about a better version of you.
I encourage people to find their second acts by starting small and exploring the intersection of what they have and what the world needs.
The adage that with experience comes wisdom could not be more true: there’s a reason why many people would only see a therapist who’s over 40. So if you’re searching for your second act, focus on the stuff that improves with age – empathy, wisdom, deep social networks, emotional stability, the ability to lead, mentor, and coach. You may not be a wiz on Twitter (though plenty of us in our second and third acts are!), but once you’ve amassed a few years, you’re at the height of your ability to guide others.
All kinds of research supports the idea that doing good feels good, that giving and helping others are the easiest way to infuse your life with purpose. Which is why volunteering and “giving yourself away” are the best gateways to a meaningful second act. They are also one of the best ways to find paying work that you’ll feel good about.