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  • Writer's picturePat Birnie

Our Beautiful Third Act. Is it Time for A Life Review?

If you are younger than 50, this may not be for you. If you are younger than 50...well I'm pretty sure you aren't reading this. Most of my friends here are in or approaching their "3rd act" of life. It is important to look forward, have goals and aspirations, and be excited about new opportunities. However, looking back and making an honest assessment of your first two acts can add richness and joy to this stage of life. This type of reflection allows one to make peace with the past and truly enjoy this stage.

It's time to accept and lean into the following beliefs:

  • Grudges - are definitely of no value

  • Guilt is even less valuable than a grudge

  • Realization that everyone, including you, did their best, at a given time.

  • Forgiveness of others and yourself is a valuable gift

  • Enjoy gratitude for the many positive experiences throughout your life.

Why do a review? This study on a group of older adults showed positive results from a life review. Done in 2014 in Iran, a group of adults were split into a control group and a experimental group. The experimental group received actual Life Review Therapy to help "resolve their past conflicts, reconstruct their life stories, and accept their present conditions". The results showed that the experimental group showed significantly improved quality of life.

Participating in Life Review Therapy may not be an option, but we can all do a personal review of experiences, actions and behaviours throughout our life. Interviewing parents if they are alive, or conversations with siblings could also provide insight.

I was inspired to write about this topic after hearing Jane Fonda on a podcast*. She often discusses this process and has written a book called Prime Time, where she details how it's done. If you don't have the time or inclination to read that book, this 10 minute video by "Sixty and Me" provides a great abbreviated guideline to the process. Here's another options: Jane Fonda's inspiring TED Talk "Life's Third Act".

In reading more about this exercise, I had a few thoughts is wanted to share:

I. Be honest with yourself about what you did well and where you could have been better. Let it go, and if necessary, apologize to those that were affected, and move on.

2. Truly embrace and celebrate what you were good at. Feel good about what you have done. We spend way too much time thinking about the areas where we messed up.

3. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge experiences that you haven't wanted to face. It may be time to examine these periods and figure out who you were at the time, gaining a better understanding of your behaviour. Writing things down (and maybe destroying the evidence:) can be truly therapeutic.

This could could a real challenge for some of us. I liked the idea of addressing each decade (where did I live, what were my parents like, what was I like as a human being?) Perhaps find a notebook and spend a few minutes exploring and writing each day?

*The podcast I was mentioning is "Wiser Than Me" hosted by the wonderful, wise and funny Julia Louis Dreyfus. It is brilliant! The guests are inspiring women, Jane Fonda (85), Isabelle Allende (80) and Fran Lebowitz (72), all in their 3rd act of life. At the end of each interview Dreyfus calls her mother to chat about the interview!! An important note: I have listened to two, and BOTH women mention that they are grateful that they stayed strong because those muscles are sure helping them, now. That got me back on the weights!

Stay strong and love yourself!

Pat xo

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Suzanne Stevens
Suzanne Stevens
Jun 12, 2023

I love this review/therapy idea. Who doesn't need a little encouragement to review where you've been and where you are going. Guilt has little space in my head. :)

I saw this podcast, but haven't listened yet. You've inspired me to seek it out.

I do lift weights, so you're saying I'll be ok in the long run? 😜😳


Nicole MacPherson
Nicole MacPherson
Jun 07, 2023

I love this, Pat! I have been listening to Wiser Than Me too - I just listened to the most recent Carol Burnett episode today, in fact! I love the idea of the third act, and boy, do I ever believe in those beliefs you mentioned! Particularly guilt and grudges. Absolutely NO benefit to that, or to holding out on forgiveness for yourself and others. Thanks for this post!

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