Your halftime opportunity: finding meaning in the second half of life

Jeff Bernier |

Many years ago, I read Bob Buford’s classic Halftime. While I found it interesting and thought provoking, it didn’t resonate with me at the time. Fast forward to 2012. My 50th birthday was looming right around the corner, and something made me pick up the book again. This time, the message hit me like a ton of bricks. I had hit my own personal “halftime,” and the implications were huge.

If you’re already in your own “halftime,” the symptoms will sound all too familiar. It can happen at any age, but it’s that time in your life when one question stands above the rest: “Is this all there is?”

For most, halftime comes after decades of striving for success. You’ve built a successful career and earned impressive titles and well-deserved accolades. Your kids are (finally!) showing their true potential, and you find yourself swimming in all the trappings of material success: a lovely home, the car or your dreams, a country club membership, and more. You are truly living “the American Dream.”

So why does it feel so empty?

Suddenly, your accomplishments and conquests simply aren’t enough. You begin to feel like the child who, two weeks after Christmas, is already tired of all the new toys. It can be a challenging and confusing time. Just when you can finally relax a bit and bask in all you’ve achieved, you realize that the external rewards no longer provide excitement and motivation. As a result, you may find yourself simply “going through the motions.” And it can be the last thing you expected after the excitement and energy you’ve felt during the “building” stage.

Here’s the good news: you’ve done the hard work. You’ve clarified your values. You’ve developed your talents. And you’ve already made meaningful contributions to the world and the people around you. The biggest question now is what’s next?

Luckily, neither you nor I are the first people to travel this road. This means that those who have been here before (including Bob Buford) can offer valuable perspective and guidance. The S-curve below illustrates the journey pretty clearly. In the earlier stages of life, we focus on education and growth. We sacrifice time, energy, and capital to prepare for a strong future. Then, after years of hard work, we reach point A. Our careers and “first-half” pursuits are peaking. We’re in “the zone,” we’re performing at our peak and life is good! And yet it’s a critical time. Why? Because without a conscious decision to steer our own ship toward a purpose-filled future, the point of burnout is inevitable. We’re driving at 100 miles an hour and we’re starting to feel the wear and tear. Soon that familiar energy and excitement is harder to find. Our stress levels rise, and we can even lose confidence in our abilities, develop negative attitudes, or experience a decline in our health. An urgent course correction is mandatory to avoid a classic midlife crisis filled with regret, burnout, and decline.

How can this classic downfall be avoided? Bob Buford suggests that a trip to the “locker room” can make all the difference. “Halftime” is the time to carefully assess what happened in the first few decades of your life, and then map out a strategy for the decades to come. Rather than waiting until you’re in the thick of decline, halftime is when you are still healthy, confident, and able to make choices based on your own wisdom and insight. Now is the time to make the wise choices that dictate how fulfilled you are for the remainder of your second half of life.

Sounds great, right? But it’s easier said than done. We humans like the status quo. We’d rather not change. So when we’re at point A, when life is good, our self-preserving ego says, “why should I even bother?” It can take time, diligence, and a boatload of courage to even begin to ask these deeper questions. 

Interestingly, what I learned in my own “Halftime Journey” is that divine providence sometimes steps in and creates a crisis to force our hand. I wonder if it’s God’s way of getting our attention. And when that happens, “what matters most” can suddenly become crystal clear. It’s an often painful “falling” that can sow the seeds for choices that bring greater meaning and purpose in the years to come.

If you’re at ”halftime,” I urge you to take the time to read Bob Buford’s book and see if it resonates with you. It may just be the catalyst you need to start thinking seriously about “what’s next” and begin to create a strategy for finding greater purpose in your second half of life.

Want to discuss how your “halftime” plans mesh with your financial foundation? Let’s schedule a time to talk. I’m here to help.

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