“I Am Ready To Serve.”
During the first half of our adult life, there are all kinds of "I am" statements that define our identity:
- “I am what I do” (achievement)
- “I am what I control” (power)
- “I am what I own” (status)
- “I am how I look” (vanity)
- “I am what others say about me” (admiration)
- “I am what pleasures me” (hedonism)
Development psychologist Erik Erikson said it's around midlife that these ego-centric identities start to lose their grip on us. They're replaced by the legacy-inducing "I am what survives me." While I've been teaching this idea at MEA for a few years, on occasion, a wise compadre in one of our workshops will tell me, "Chip, isn't creating a legacy another ego-filled proposition?" At first, I pushed back, suggesting that what survives you doesn't have to be your name on a building. It could be the mentee who is wiser because of your relationship. It could be the community garden you helped organize. It could be the memories you created with your family.
But, with time, I started to agree that focusing too much on one's legacy feels a little self-serving. As one recent compadre said quite gently, "Why can't we simply accept 'I am' and leave it at that?" What a beautiful idea.
Eventually, it led me to contemplate my own personal "I am" statement. I realized that I gravitate to serving at this stage in my life. "I am ready to serve" or "I am how I serve" feels right to me. Of course, that may not be the right 'I am" for you, especially if you've been serving others most of your life.
After 50, maybe we all need to create our own "I am" bumper sticker that intentionally outlines our guiding vision for our post-50 years.
What would yours be?