When I first started talking about "RIPE," people got the concept -- rich, rewarding work after 50 -- right away. Their faces lit up with excitement and hope.
Some of them even realized that being 50-plus was about to become the place to be. Philanthropic consultant Julia Howell blurted out, "I'm 47 1/2!" We laughed: when was the last time we appended half a year to our ages? When was the last time we wanted to be older?
Like, Julia, there are a growing number of us who look forward to what's next. I've identified six reasons people decide to ripen. Does one of these sound like you?
"I'm successful and looking for a new challenge."
He'd had a big career, culminating in a senior role at one of the largest global companies. He told me that he felt he'd learned everything there was to learn and done everything he could do. "I'm at the top of my game, and now I want to try something new."
"I gave my life to others."
When they married, she had earned a degree from a good university and was using her skills at a worthy not-for-profit. For nearly 30 years, she'd stayed home to raise their family. At 53, she was climbing the walls. "I made a conscious choice," she told me. She was glad she'd been there for her kids, "but it's my turn now."
"I realized I need to work."
He'd done everything right but lost his life savings when the financial crisis hit. He told me he was over the shock of having to continue to work -- and he really wanted to shift his view of the situation. "Now I want to believe this really can be the most satisfying period of my career. Could I actually want to work?"
"This road has come to an abrupt end."
"I'm lost in a dark wood with no way out," he mumbled, slumped in his chair. A successful venture capitalist for decades, at 56 he had become yesterday's man. Effectively pink slipped in his prime, he was unmoored and miserable.
"I haven't lived up to my potential."
She felt she got off on the wrong foot professionally, and moving countries repeatedly to follow her husband's career meant hers never quite got on track. "Do you think we have second chances?" she asked. "Is there still time?"
"I retired and want to go back to work."
Walter Cronkite was publicly candid about the fact that retirement was the worst decision he'd made; he called it "statutory senility." Many people enjoy the break at first, but then they are eager to find their way back in. This includes those who were nudged into retirement -- involuntarily, sometimes by their spouses -- and have come to regret it.
The impetus for your journey could be any of these realizations. But something else will mark its official start -- a decision to wholeheartedly reject the notion that it's time to stop working. That may sound minor (or obvious), but it is absolutely essential. Shifting our perspective -- deciding that we're ripe for change -- is the cornerstone of the foundation on which our new work will be built.
Are you over 50 and ripe for change? Are you feeling at the top of your game? Are you finding that the world wants you to go away? Share your story with us below or feel free to email me via my website.
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"RIPE" is here! This spring, I'm writing about "RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50," a 12-week course on discovering passion, purpose and possibility at midlife. Check out the video (a.k.a. book trailer!):
Be part of the "RIPE" community on HuffPost, Facebook and Twitter. Together, we are going to change this phase of life!
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