There are a number of transition points in where you leave one phase behind and embark on another – leaving school and getting a job; getting married and settling down – and the one as we enter our 60s. The difference now is you’ve got decades of experience behind you.
At milestone age points, such as the age 50 or 60 transition it can be helpful to pause, look back on our life and use this to move forward. To learn from the past. Time for a life audit.
That’s what you’ll use to make this next stage – your Third Act – the best it can possibly be.
I was interviewed by a journalist a few days ago and featured in the Daily Mail. All good stuff, but I wanted to be able to explain it in greater depth.
A life audit goes deeper than using the ‘wheel of life’ shared by life coaches which is a good way of seeing how you are against eight chosen areas. These are generally areas such as work, family, relationships, health, spirituality/religion, hobbies and interests etc.
A life audit gives you a chance to review how your life has gone to date. It’s a chance to understand ourself better, and helps us to learn from previous situations so we can face similar in the future with a deeper understanding.
A life audit will be personal to you, and can include all aspects of your life including things that take up our mental and physical energy.
A life audit does come with a warning; just like if you ever go for counselling, it may identify things you have kept hidden, it may trigger shame and guilt and it is helpful to understand this may happen and if needed to discuss with a coach or counsellor.
It can also trigger comparisons with other people. If you find this happening STOP. We only ever see what is going on in someone else’s outside life, we have no ideas of their inside feelings and fears.
A Life Review inevitably produces regrets. Why did you put up with that toxic partner/ boss/ friendship group? Why didn’t you pursue your ambition when you were young enough to have made it a life’s work? Don’t blame yourself. Remember: you did what you thought was right at the time. Every experience has made you who you are now.
Clear your mind of guilt, and think about the time you were at your very happiest. Recreating that is your goal now.
Jane Fonda as inspiration
Jane Fonda has shared her story around this; saying that at age 60 she realised that life was not a dress rehearsal and as she was approaching her third act she didn’t want to end up with a lot of regrets. She said that she realised that how she lived her life going forward, would determine to what extent she would have regrets at the end of her life.
The Daily Mail had a multiple page article related to this, written by Amanda Platell as she described going through her own life audit which led to her reaching out to her ex-husband, to tell him that she had reached a place where she only remembered the happiness they shared, backpacking the world and arriving in London together. She also made changes so, for example she was more honest with people. She decided that she wanted to be more intentional in how she goes through life.
I was asked to provide some key tips. These are good, but in this article, I wanted to go into more depth to help you to conduct your own life audit.
HOW TO DO A LIFE AUDIT
You can take a journal approach and do free form writing. I suggest you use a notebook and pen rather than to type on a screen. We seem to go deeper, and spot more connections through the process of writing. Don’t worry about making changes and crossing things out. This is your life audit and the only person looking at it will be you.
You may then like to give yourself a number on a 1-5 scale, perhaps. This can be helpful as you review at a later stage to see how you have changed, and perhaps to help you decide where to focus your attention.
I have a comprehensive list of areas to consider but it is your choice. You can decide to focus on just one area, that may be enough. However, the full life audit helps you to see the bigger picture and to enable you to pull out themes.
As we look back on our life we can see the challenges, and failure points and accept our role in them. Then use this to move forward in a more authentic way.
Don’t do too much at once! A Life Review is a big job.
Break it down into headings and work on one section at a time. I was 60 when I realised I wanted to end my marriage, but I couldn’t have coped with that bit of the “audit” if I was also trying to change wider family relationships or radically overhaul my work. Make regular journaling a habit, write it all down methodically – and tackle each element (finances, work, love life, friendships, family) separately.
AREAS TO CONSIDER
Your daily life
Your routines and habits, what you think about your lifestyle. Overall are you happy? Can you be you? And if not, what can you do to change this?
Do you like your job? Do you have a plan? Any ideas for what you would rather do? How close are you to burnout?
Go back in time. Think about what you wanted to do with your life when you were a child of ten, or a teenager of 15, or a young woman of 21. Look at old photo albums if you like. What made your stomach flip with excitement? Was it lying in a field watching butterflies, or reading novels, or running the history club at school? What happened to that first obsession? Did you fulfil your ambition to become a naturalist or write a book? Think about how you can re-connect with those passions now. If not through work, in your wider life.
Physical health and wellness
As we get older, we realise we need to pay more attention to our health. Do you get enough sleep? How is your bedtime routine? Do you wake up feeling alive? Listen to your body – if you have aches and niggles, is your body trying to tell you to rest? Do you need your medication? When was it last reviewed?
Psychological factors – our personality and values.
I have learned through my doctoral research how important it is to remain open to possibilities, to stay curious. Is this something that comes easy to you? How has your personality changed over time? This can be a good time to consider your values too. Understand what makes you tick, and who is the authentic you.
What is your outlook on life? What are you doing to improve your mental well-being?
Consider relationships with family (parents, children, siblings), your romantic partner, friends (work and personal), with yourself. Think about your role as daughter, mother, partner – are you playing a historical role, do you want to continue this?
Jane Fonda said that she learnt to hunt and fly fish to please her third husband, CNN founder, Ted Turner. That could be an area to reflect on – do you do things in a relationship such as to go to sports matches for yourself, to help the relationship or is it because of a need to please. Do you dress in a way to suit them (plain? sexy?) or yourself? Is your relationship in balance?
Every family, for example, has a particular dynamic. Are you the dutiful daughter expected to shoulder the caring burden while other siblings have far fewer responsibilities? Is that a role you’re happy to have? Or perhaps there’s a pattern in your romantic life. Maybe you’ve forgiven affairs and that’s set up a pattern in your marriage, or perhaps you’ve repeatedly pulled back from relationships when they get too serious.
Is it the right environment for you? Think about your possessions, location, amount of ‘stuff’/clutter. Is it a calming space and does it suit the person you are now?
What is your relationship with money? Is this how you want to continue or should you change? Do you spend or save? How are confident are you for money coming in if/when you retire? What happens if health leads to changes that affect financial plans?
To what extent do you want and have a connection and understanding of the wider world?
Do you consider yourself as part of a community? What about your wider community? Is this something you want more of?
What are you doing to improve yourself? What are you learning? What would you like to do in this area?
To what extent does technology rule you? What is your relationship like with social media sites?
Contribution and Legacy
How are you helping others? At work? With family/friends? Wider projects? Have you considered a legacy after you die? How you want to be remembered? Is now the time to consider this?
Hobbies and interests
How do you spend your ‘downtime’? It could be learning; watching films/reading… what do you do when not working and on household chores? Are these relaxing pursuits?
What do you do solely to give you fun?
QUESTIONS TO ASK FOR EACH OF THESE AREAS
- How satisfied am I in this area?
- What is going well?
- What isn’t going well?
- What change could I make?
AND THEN BROADER QUESTIONS
- How am I feeling about my life, right now?
- What am I most proud of?
- Am I spending my time and energy wisely?
- What am I grateful for?
- What gives me meaning and purpose?
- What gives me the most joy?
- Where do I feel unsettled?
- What is a big audacious goal I would love to achieve?
This will all take time so do pace yourself, you don’t have to answer everything today.
CREATE A SUMMARY
A life review is more than the individual elements. Now you have reviewed these different areas you can take a step back and see if you can identify any themes.
When you look closely, there are lots of patterns in our lives. When you work out the patterns you’ve fallen into over time, you can decide what to carry on doing and what to ditch.
Are you lacking in assertiveness in many areas of your life? Are you overwhelmed by conflicting priorities? Are you someone with the resilience to overcome adversity, so independent you want to do it all alone, or perhaps someone who has always given in to other peoples’ demands?
Whether it is something positive you want to keep or you realise the time is now to make the change, the review will help decide what to do next.
These are areas I work on with clients, supporting them in where to focus their attention and to move forward with intention.
MOVING FORWARD … INTENTIONAL LIVING
After a review we can often find that there was little conscious planning to what happened in our life, we were moved by circumstances including other peoples’ wishes. Moving forward, we can set intentions for our life and move forward to live closer to our values. We can have more control of our life and continue with the things we want and make changes for the other stuff.
I’d love to know about your plans to use this in your life
Till next time