What is Retirement?

The Origins of The 3rd Act by Anna Ewins

By November 15, 2009 June 1st, 2023 One Comment

Reinventing Retirement: The Story of The 3rd Act Workshops

When Bev Scott and I met for dinner some 4-5 years ago, as we had done since we first met in the 1980’s, little did we know that our conversation would lead to The 3rd Act workshops.  We’d been casually discussing for some time what we’d like to do for the next stage of our lives. We were both clear that we expected to be just as active as before, but with a rebalancing of our interests and priorities, to include more of what we wanted vs had to do.  We knew that the traditional concept of retirement, the one that our parents’ generation had typically followed, wouldn’t work for us, and furthermore, we sensed that it we weren’t alone in this sentiment.

We began to explore what others were thinking, through speaking with friends and colleagues that we knew personally, researching the popular media and the academic literature on the subject. Before long we had determined that there was a rapidly growing interest in reinventing “retirement” and so The 3rd Act workshop was conceived.

In developing the design we were each drawn to particular aspects of the subject.  For example Bev was especially interested in helping people discover their signature strengths (although that has since taken a lower profile), while I was attracted to helping them apply the relatively new science of positive psychology.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, “Finding Flow”, was an important trigger for me here.

Positive Psychology speaks to the importance of finding meaning, learning to live in the moment, and active engagement.  Although it was not introduced as a formal subject of study until the late 1990’s, by Martin Seligman, then President of the American Psychological Association, its findings resonate with what many of us know from experience. Back in the 1970s, before my organizational consulting and coaching career, I had been a career counselor, helping young people at the outset of their second acts make career choices. Helping them explore their values, examine what gives them meaning, and recognizing that they have transferable skills, was as important then as it is for people now in mid-life generations contemplate their third acts.

Once we had the design – initially a 2-day workshop – we previewed it with a series of introductory workshops to carry out the market research and marketing that any new venture requires.  We wanted to validate our assumption that the 3rd Act was a subject that people would be interested in enough to invest a weekend of their time and to get feedback on the topics we covered and the emphasis we gave to them. We also wanted to provide people with a taste of how we would work with them both as individuals and as a group to stimulate self-exploration and dialogue.  Greatly encouraged by what we learned from these introductory sessions, we went on to launch the first of what were to be several full 2-day workshops.

Our first participants were people that Bev or I knew directly. Over the next 2 years we realized we needed to develop a marketing strategy to reach out beyond our immediate circle of friends and colleagues.  With the feedback we received from the workshops we condensed them to one day.  In other words, our venture was a living example of the challenge that many of us will face in embarking on a new initiative in our third act. Even though Bev and I applied skills that were readily transferable from our respective second acts to a new initiative that held meaning and purpose or us, this wasn’t sufficient.  Research, Planning and persistence to fully understand and reach out to our target audience were also necessary.

As I had to pull back from active involvement in The 3rd Act workshops, Bev moved forward with a new partner, Patricia Cavanaugh.  Together they launched a new independent website and a monthly newsletter which I must say I find quite impressive.  The news of The 3rd Act is spreading and gaining traction.  It’s been exciting to see it grow! I am proud of my role in conceiving, designing and launching The 3rd Act.  I hope to re-engage more actively in the future.

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