OK. I lied. the formula's not all that secret, but it got your attention, didn't it? If you didn't know better, you'd think that the anti-aging formula was really a secret, though, when you consider how many men ignore it, deliberately or not. In this article, I intend to introduce a new terminology that I hope will help people become more aware of the conscious process that can turn midlife into a wellspring of possibilities. How's that for a secret?
I've decided to call my midlife success formula ‘Proactive Transformative Integration', or PTI. It looks like a really complex idea, but it's not that hard to understand, once you've broken it down into its components. As you might expect, there are only three elements:
- It requires awareness and the making of conscious decisions
- It requires active involvement in the process of change
- It requires a willing acceptance of both possibilities and limitations
Before I consider each of these points in their turn, I'd like to talk about the three attitudes that people have toward the aging process. Two of them are, quite literally, deadly, while the third offers abundant hope. The first and probably the most prevalent attitude is denial. That attitude causes people to fight the aging process with kicking and screaming, or by using various escape mechanisms (like external show) that will allow the person to pretend that it's not really happening. That's where we see the infamous ‘midlife crisis’ with all its self- and other-destructive tendencies. The second attitude that some people take is surrender. Anecdotal evidence suggests that one segment of the population just gives up and dies (or becomes essentially catatonic) shortly after their working career ends. The third attitude is one of positive acceptance: an approach that considers the midlife transition just another event along life's pathway. Guess which attitude results in the most positive lifestyle!
Now, let's look at the three elements of Proactive Transformative Integration (PTI). The first element consists in becoming proactive with regard to the evolution of your life, making informed and conscious decisions based on the facts as they present themselves to you. On the one hand, there can be no room for denial in proactive decision-making. Conscious awareness (that means taking time for inner, spiritual reflection) is not an option. The temptation to run and hide in external distractions needs to be fought continually and at every turn. Knowing intimately precisely where you are at every stage of the evolution of your life gives you the perspective that you're going to need to make appropriate decisions. ‘Making appropriate decisions’ also means that you make the hard decisions, and you make them early. Waiting until difficult situations have engulfed you - making reactive choices - will never bring you positive results.
The second element demands that you view your life as dynamic rather than static. In blunt terms, it means giving up the quest for security as the pipe dream that it is. Afer all, ‘security’ suggests that you're not vulnerable, and that never was, nor ever will be true. ‘Security’ imagines a stable world and a stable life where the forces of change can't touch you. Of course, if you're rational about it, no such state actually exists. There is change, and that means that new (and often unexpected) things are coming, and old (and often beloved) things are passing away. Every change (not just death) involves going through the five stages of grief (cf. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross). Making your life transformative requires that you grab life's tiger by the tail and hang on tight, getting through the stages of grief as quickly as possible and embracing with a passion the new challenges that come at you continually.
The third and final element refers exactly to that process of embracing with a passion that I just spoke of. Right here we discover the stark difference between ‘surrender’ and ‘acceptance’. ‘Surrender’ suggests defeat and a passive submission to life's (often unreasonable) demands. If you were to ‘surrender’ to retirement - in fact, when you surrender to anything - what you'd really be doing is just giving up on life: you'd be abandoning in cowardice your responsibility for living.
In contrast, there's nothing at all passive about ‘acceptance’. ‘Acceptance’ implies a ‘get-in-there-and-get-your-hands-dirty’ type of approach to life. Who are you to say that the life you're being offered at midlife should be considered any less valuable (and worthwhile and productive and exciting) than the one you're grieving now? ‘Acceptance’ (or integration) means that you're going to continue letting go of the old in order to make room for the new that you're being offered. You can't cling to the old and embrace the new at the same time, so why try?
There it is, folks: the secret formula I call Proactive Transformative Integration (PTI). You don't think you can handle it? Don't be silly! You've been doing this (with greater or lesser degrees of success) your whole life. All you need to do now is make it a 24/7 conscious decision. Stubbornly insist that life - your life - deserves nothing less than your best effort. Then, as the song says, “Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it!"
H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC
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