When we're young, we think that by the time we're old, we'll have it all figured out. And of course, the terms "young" and "old" are all relative.
At age 6, in first grade, we think the 9-year-olds in fourth grade have all the answers. As a freshman in high school, we look at the seniors and are amazed by how together they have it. In our 20s, starting out in our careers, we imagine that by 30 or 35, we'll have everything figured out. What we learn, though, at every stage, is how much more we need to learn.
Most of us were probably taught that by the time we were moving into the "retirement years" that we'd no longer be wondering what life was all about. We'd be old and wise and no longer be questioning what we were doing with our life and why.
But the reality is, the big questions are never fully answered. Living a vital and purposeful life means continually making the very same inquiries of oneself at 60 as one did at 6. We must never stop wondering why we're here, what we should be doing with our lives, who we should be doing it with, and where.
In short, living a vital and engaged life means that we never stop asking ourselves the question, "What Is the Good Life?"
In our book Repacking Your Bags, we defined a formula for the Good Life as: Living in the Place you belong, With the People you love, Doing the Right Work, On Purpose.
Living the good life means integration, a sense of harmony among the various components of one's life. It means, for example, that the place where you live provides adequate opportunities for you to do the level of work you want to do. That your work gives you time to be with the people you really love. And that your deepest friendships contribute to the sense of community you feel in the place you live and work.
The four elements of the good life—place, people, work, and purpose—continue to beg for attention at every stage of our lives. Just because we are moving into the second half doesn't mean we can ignore the vocation question entirely. (In fact, as we move into a less intense phase, it probably means we need to consider the vocation question more seriously.)
Reflecting upon these elements is a powerful means to recalling your own story. The questions that follow provide you with a framework for thinking about who you are and how you've become that person.
These are essential questions to ask when examining your transition to the second half of life. How you answer them will guide you in claiming your place at the fire as a new elder.