“Re evaluating the Meaning of Success” by Patricia Cavanaugh

The markers of success seemed quite clear when we were younger; a job with positive social status in business, recognition in the professional world, a good home with a happy family as a homemaker or helping others in the world of service.  It was good to have a salary that kept you in the middle or upper middle class or, at least a position with a trajectory to do that.

Now in our 3rd Act the meaning of success becomes a little fuzzy.  What are the markers of success as we move out of our primary career and family responsibilities?  Lately, I have found my self re-evaluating and have begun to question what success means to me now in my 3rd act.  I spent a week away at an ocean side retreat recently and took this question with me to ponder.

I knew what my goals were in the past.  I wanted to raise my children successfully, which meant that they would be happy in their work and in their relationships and therefore with themselves.  Secondly, I wanted to serve people well who came to me as a psychotherapist.  Yet, there always seemed to be something pushing me to do more with my life. I thought I wanted to be successful in business and that had become one of my goals for my 3rd Act.
On my retreat I began to take apart what success actually meant for me now; and I found to my chagrin, that the “true north” of my compass that I had used before, was no longer there.  It had become a phantom reading that I was continuing to use to make choices on my 3rd act path. 

Success making money was still important, but not in the same way.  I was surprised by discovering in myself that in fact, it had never been a big driving force for me.  I have been using others’ expectation, what I thought I was supposed to pursue, rather than the truth for me.  As I continued to explore with the help of friends, I have found a new sense of clarity.  Money, as a measure of success, does have its place.  I certainly don’t want to lose money in a business venture.  But “true north” for me now, is imparting my learning and experience, sharing my questions and my insights to a wider circle than my friends and family.  If I am able to extend my life wisdom to a wider circle, to several hundred, or maybe a few thousand that would be success to me.  When I hold that vision in my heart and mind, I find that my body relaxes and expands with excitement, a sure indication that I am truly on track.

My 3rd Act is now well underway.   I see that even within this act there are a number of scenes and within each a possibility for a new meaning of success.  Have you taken time to see if you are using your “true north” compass point for success in your 3rd Act?  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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