When I was 57, there was a day of reckoning. Truth be told, it ran longer than a single day. It was more like a series of “dark and stormy nights.”

The nest was empty, and while we were delighted to see our three sons flying solo with minimal turbulence, their need for guidance from us was dropping sharply.

Sure, every now and then, they’d run a challenge by us, but they were now charting out their own life course. They were also moving through a world that was both similar and vastly different from the one we navigated at their age.

 
 

While this independence was a trait we strived to foster in our sons, this reckoning was still a bit of a jolt. It also prompted me to revisit and fine-tune a few life goals I had for the road ahead.

Happily, three years later, I’m now older, wiser and graced with three ‘aha’ discoveries that my age 57-self didn’t see.

These are three remarkable gifts that are setting the stage for a magnificent encore adventure.

Remarkable Gift #1: The Happiness Surge

Much has been written about the dreaded midlife crisis. Somewhat akin to the empty nest moment I shared, this crisis is known to bubble up for some when they reach their 40s or 50s.

It’s that point in life where stress levels run high and free time is scarce. It’s a tipping point for some where they take stock of their life journey so far and wonder, “Is that all there is?”

But there’s another phenomenon that bodes well for 60-somethings. One that’s less written about, but is backed by plenty of research: The U-Shaped Curve of Happiness.

Studies shows that our sense of wellbeing and contentedness tends to run highest in young adulthood – in our 20s and 30s – and later, as we move into our 60s. Researchers have also found this happiness curve rings true across different nations and cultures.

While there are exceptions, it’s gratifying to finally have evidence that blows away the myth about aging triggering a downward spiral. We now know the exact opposite is the case for most, as our 60s become our most blissful stage yet.

We might be moving a tad bit slower, but we’re less inclined to be chasing stuff and status. More importantly, we’re more mindful of blessings and the priceless adventures still waiting to be discovered.

Remarkable Gift #2: More Moxie

‘Moxie’ is a new favorite word of mine. It’s a rich word that depicts an uptick in energy, courage and emotional strength.

As I review my own life journey, there were plenty of uncertainty spikes along the way. There were countless occasions when confidence waned and concerns about what others might think commanded too much of my attention. These dangerous detours would sometimes spark bad decisions or worse – no decision.

Yet in my 60s, I’m now bolder, more decisive and less invested in what others might think. I’m certainly not all knowing, but I’m more knowing. As for any mishaps I’ve encountered, there’s a silver lining, because when mayhem strikes, the lessons learned multiply.

Granted, even in my splendid 60s, doubt and fear still creep in occasionally, but moxie continues to rise at a much faster pace. Moxie also fuels my ability to spot and seize new opportunities.

As Kelly Clarkson might say, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

Remarkable Gift #3: A Deeper Sense of Purpose (Your Unique Why)

I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek, author of several best-sellers, including Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Others to Take Action.

Keep in mind, Sinek is only 44 years old, but he’s wise beyond his years. He’s also championing a movement to help us step beyond the everyday distractions to embrace our unique gifts and ultimately, embrace our why.

There’s one model Sinek promotes that has strong application for both individuals and organizations. It’s called The Golden Circle. Imagine a target with “What?” at the perimeter, “How?” in the next circle in, and “Why?” in the bull’s-eye.

Sinek maintains that every single person and organization knows their What, but few truly grasp their Why. For a corporation, one might say their Why would be to make a profit, but Sinek will tell you that’s a result. To get to the Why, we must dig deeper, examining causes, values and beliefs.

Through countless interviews with people in their 60s, I’ve discovered that many are examining this more purposeful path.

What makes this third gift particularly special is that we’ve been honing it throughout our lives. Yet in our 60s, we’re now blessed with more time and opportunity to activate this super power.

There’s much work to be done in this complicated world we live in, and I can’t think of a better group to tackle this assignment than the 60-something crowd. Armed with these three gifts – and others – we’re now poised to help make amazing things happen.

How about you? Are these same gifts flourishing for you? What other gifts are you noticing? Please join the conversation and share your observations.

Donna KastnerDonna Kastner is founder of Retirepreneur, a collaborative community for professionals in their 50s and 60s, striving for a smooth segue from full-time job to part-time consulting practice. Through articles, videos, podcasts and workshops, Donna’s ushering in new conversations about blending work and retirement. You can visit her website here, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Let's Have a Conversation!