By Allan Milham
Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.
For most of your career, your schedule has been jam-packed with 50-plus-hour weeks and a “to-do” list that seemed endless. Every morning, you hit the accelerator, laser focused on the problems of the day, and you pushed hard. It wasn’t easy, but your willingness to move forward and do—when others only tried—helped you reach the level of success you enjoy today.
Now, as you have or are wrapping up your fulltime career, those 50-plus-hour weeks will go away. For many outstanding leaders, this moment can be challenging. All they have known for decades is the same narrative: problem, adrenaline, action, repeat. But science (and perhaps your personal experience) show that an endless cycle of “doing” eventually leads to stress and burnout.
All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit alone in a quite room.
Fortunately, there’s an alternative. It involves hitting the pause button and shifting from “Human Doing” to “Human Being.”
The Power of Mindfulness
More and more research has shown the incredible benefits of taking a short time each day to quiet the mind. According to practitioners, mindfulness can reduce anxiety and increase cognition, mental focus and well-being, and help prevent burnout. And while meditation practice has not gone mainstream in the corporate world, a number of prominent business leaders rely on it to create what I call the Optimal Operating State—a state that gives them an edge.
Bill Gross, cofounder of PIMCO, had an almost uncanny success in the bond market. Today, he manages some $2 trillion in assets. Four times a week, he achieves an Optimal Operating State through daily yoga and meditation in a separate space where he can just unplug and relax for 20 to 25 minutes. Ray Dalio, founder of hedge giant Bridgewater Associates, insists that meditation is the “single most important reason” for his success.
The good news is that you can use the same techniques to create an Optimal Operating State for your life in retirement. Doing so can make your Third Act the best of your life.
4 Steps To A Compelling New Narrative
- Listen to Your Inner Music. If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while since you listened carefully to what’s going on in your head. Don’t worry; it’s easy. Know that it’s a bit like listening to music. So right now, take a minute and check in. If your thoughts were music, what would they be? A discordant crash of heavy metal? A frantic violin? A soothing, gentle interlude? There’s no wrong answer here. Just remember, noticing is the first step toward change. The goal is to work toward “calm” knowing it is achievable.
- Hit the Pause Button. Starting a meditation practice is as easy as hitting the pause button for as little as two minutes a day. So, go ahead. Make an appointment with yourself. Find a comfortable, quiet place to be still and take a little time to relax. You can use the meditation tips outlined here to get started. Or you can even download a guided meditation app for your phone.
- Make It a Habit. Meditation can seem awkward at first. After years of a noisy mind, it can be hard to develop a quiet one. The good news is that mindfulness practice gets easier over time. Start small, and don’t worry if you don’t “get it” right away. Even 30 seconds of inner quiet provides benefit. And soon, you’ll find you can change the music in your mind and find a moment of quiet whenever you choose.
- Enjoy the Benefits. Meditation is an opportunity to self-correct and find your Optimal Operating State. When you are in this place, you can make decisions that help you to live the life you desire. To make the connections you want. To get off the treadmill and explore new opportunities. And to create a Third Act that is focused, vibrant, and completely fulfilling.
Questage® is the New Paradigm for those desiring to create a meaningful third act of life
At Questage®, we aim to build and inspire a community of engaged leaders who work together to redefine those desiring to create a meaningful third act of life for the benefit of themselves, their families, and the world. We have more than 30 years of experience elevating top performers—from consulting with U.S. Olympians to advising senior leaders and executive teams around the globe.