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Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life

‘The two most important moments in your life are when you were born and when you found out why.’ Mark Twain

As a child growing up, I was so busy being good that I didn′t have any time to wonder about why I was here, or what was important to me. I just focussed on what was important to others, and lost any sense of myself in the process. Meaning for me at that time, was to be what others needed me to be. I was definitely walking in shoes designed to fit others.

In his book ‘Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life′James Hollis states that as humans, ′e have an irresistible urge towards meaning, and our anguish at the loss of meaning in our lives, reflects its importance.‘

In the first half of life, our focus tends to be on questions like what do I need to be safe, secure, loved, valued and successful?

The second half of life however, presents a rich possibility for exploration and expansion, beyond making our way in the world. It involves a shift from a social to a psychological, and for some, a spiritual orientation. At this stage if our lives are to have meaning, we ask ourselves different questions like:

  • Who am I – really?
  • Why am I here?
  • What really matters to me in the end?
  • Have I been walking in shoes too small?

We are the only one who can answer these questions, and they are not easy. We need to value ourselves enough to take the time to figure this out for our self.

In the following excerpt, John Gardener gives us some ideas as to where we can start our search for meaning.

‘Meaning is not something you stumble across like the answer to a riddle, or a prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it′s passed down to you, out of your own talent and understanding, the things you believe in, the values for which you′re prepared to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You′re the only one who can put them together, in that unique picture that will be your life.’

In my forties, I participated in a course which changed the trajectory of my life. For the first time I had the experience of living from the ‘inside out’ rather than from the ‘outside in.’ It gave me the opportunity to reflect deeply on what was meaningful to me, in all areas of my life. I came out of the course, knowing without a doubt, that if I was willing to put one foot after the other, I could pursue what was deeply meaningful to me, and have a rich and fulfilling life. I have never looked back.

Finding meaning in our lives is an important, courageous and fascinating journey, not to be missed, otherwise we could end up ‘with a terrible fear of dying, as we have not yet lived.’ (Kafka)

The good news is that we can begin this reflective process at any time in our life. It is never too early or too late to start.

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