There are four areas that are important for us to process psychologically; we have been talking about the first which is just to wrap our minds around the fact that we may be here for many more years.

The second is denial and it shows up in two ways.

Most people always deny that at some point their life is going to come to an end. This form of denial is like being an ostrich with your head in the sand.

But just because you are not thinking about it –doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be.

The second part of denial is simply denying that you’ll have a third act in the first place. – It’s difficult to even imagine a roadmap for this stage of our life – having no context or concept of what it could be.

That’s why a third area of psychological process is designing a plan for yourself.

Now, this might not seem to fit here is a psychological process but let me push back for a moment.  The second act which includes building a career and growing a family is all about planning and striving with goals and benchmarks.

The third act is tricky because it’s about Soul work and words like “calling” and “legacy” are often used to help us get a handle on what this exploration is like.

Does this really call for a plan? Yes, it does because if you don’t create one for yourself you will find your life fills up… of course it will nature abhors a vacuum right? — But we don’t want our lives to fill up with just anything.

We want to be choiceful.  We want to be intentional but not driven as many of have experienced in the second act.

This time calls for reflection and for deep listening to a small quiet voice that has often been drowned out by necessity or habit.  The psychological challenge is to pay attention in a more subtle way.

Without a plan you will lose the opportunity that this stage provides. — One of consciousness and connection to our essential selves and others in the deepest way before we pass from the gift that is our life.

And finally, the fourth area that needs to be processed psychologically is the concept of Identity.

We’re so consumed in this culture with what we do– that we think we are what we do.

Living another third of your life without being attached to what you’ve done for the last 25 to 35 years can feel completely intimidating as sin… “WHO AM I?” If I am not what I do, what is left?

And that is exactly why I started my third act business at the age of 64 to help people make their last act their best act with confidence and enthusiasm.

In summary here are the points I want you to take away and remember.

Most of us will go through a complex psychological process as we traverse this newly discovered third act land.

  • We will face feelings of fear and excitement as we peek into a new reality–
  • We will struggle with denial and it’s two components of death and a limited ability to imagine what has never been before–
  • We will try to develop a roadmap that may be very different from the plan we had in our second act and–
  • We will battle with the life question of “who will I be as I age without the trappings of my second act?”

So, what can you do as a pioneer? –Remember, we are all pioneers in this new frontier. How can you set the stage for yourself and future generations? –After all–this is a life task we are being called to now.

Just as the wonderful poet Mary Oliver challenges us, my question to you is “How do you want to live your one precious life?”



The 3rd Act was founded and is led by Patricia Cavanaugh — a seasoned psychotherapist and licensed coach who has helped hundreds of retirees find their path and purpose in this phase of life.