Finally, people may be able to answer the age-old question "What am I going to do when I grow up?" – with guidance from two authors who visited the Quinnipiac University School of Law Center on Oct. 16.
William A. Sadler, Ph.D., and James Krefft, Ph.D., led seminars on "Professional Renewal -- Planning for the Third Age," one for health care executives and another for lawyers. The seminars provided practical information to help participants consider how they might enhance the second half of their life, personally and professionally.
"One of the most powerful events of the 20th century was the extension of life, the equivalent of a 30-year bonus," said Sadler, author of "The Third Age, 6 Principles for Growth and Renewal After Forty."
"We have this extraordinary gift of life. What are we going to do with it?” Sadler asked.
He said the conventional model of aging is based on a litany of D words: decline, degeneration, decrepitude, disease, disability, dependency, depression.
"But it doesn't have to be that way," he said.
Instead, the Third Age can become a person's most productive and satisfying time of life, he said.
Speaking to a group of 38 lawyers, Sadler said his research found those who flourish after age 40 don't necessarily look forward to retirement, but rather they redefine success and find ways to balance life and work.
"We have a chance to shape our work to fit the lives we want to live rather than fit our lives into the work we do," Sadler said.
The Third Age is a time for creativity, he said.
"There's got to be a self-renewing force to keep you going, and that's creativity," said Krefft, who, with Sadler, co-authored "Changing Course," their soon-to-be published book.
"It doesn't mean you have to be a Picasso or a Brahms. The creativity is the creativity of shaping your life. That's the art," Krefft said.
"Find new ways to work. Do work that matters. Don't do something that consumes you...Free yourself for what's important. Strip away the stuff that doesn't matter...It's as simple as that," Krefft said. And it's important to just do it, he said.
"Time is not a renewable resource," Krefft said.
Brad Saxton, dean of the School of Law, praised the seminar and Melanie B. Abbott, an associate professor of law at Quinnipiac, who brought Sadler and Krefft to the campus.
"I remain a big fan of the legal profession or I wouldn't be here at the law school, (but) I really think it's possible for people to make professional choices that allow us to have fun in life and be professionally rewarded," Saxton said.
"I'm excited about this program because I think it can say a lot to us as legal educators...We're hopeful from this program we will be able to move on and see where we go from here," he said.
Abbott envisions a presentation on the topic to the American Bar Association and perhaps offering future seminars to law school alumni. With the growing number of Baby Boomers crossing into the Third Age and re-evaluating careers, lives and lifestyles it would be of great benefit, she said.
"Lawyers work very hard for a long time, and they get through the whole process and they think 'Is that all there is?' It's a question of 'What do I do next?' There is dissatisfaction, there's unhappiness, it's very stressful, it's very intense," Abbott said. "There are a lot of lawyers that have a creative side that they don't feel they can demonstrate in their practice. It's a matter of what these people can do either within the practice or outside the profession to give themselves a chance to experience their whole self rather than just part of their life," she said.
Patricia Kaplan, director of New Haven Legal Assistance, said she is lucky to have fulfilling work that meets a great need in society. But, as with everything, it can get stale after a while, Kaplan said. She renews herself through her hobbies of sea kayaking and photography. And there is always room for more personal growth, she said.
"I learned a tremendous amount from what I heard (at the seminar). I want my life to be as fulfilling as possible in the next 30 years I may have left," Kaplan said.