Artful Aging

Bold Ideas for a New Future: Reimagining Your 3rd Act

As you age, what’s your desired new reality?

Do you find yourself dragging your heart around every time you think about aging? Nine years ago when I turned fifty, I knew it was inevitable that my thoughts about getting older would enter new terrain. To ward off the blues, I got busy and compiled my top fifty must-do bucket list, and then started bike racing and bungee jumping and book writing, all in an attempt to stay vibrant and healthy. It was exhausting! All the while, I watched many of my friends buy dozens of jars of beauty products to slow the rising tide of the wrinkly neck, and of course I even witnessed a few contemporaries get facelifts.

In many cultures, older individuals are lauded as elders and holders of knowledge and wisdom. Why not here in this country? Isn’t it time we shifted the American anti-aging media slant and celebrate this stage of our lives? I can hear your resounding “Hell to the Yes!”

In my work as a motivational speaker and change agent, I’ve been refining a very simple visual goal-setting process to help people draw their dreams into reality. From corporate board rooms to living rooms, I’ve witnessed powerful, positive change and achievement from simply illustrating the path forward. It works! You can do it!

Get a blank sheet of paper.
Use the image on this page as a template. To start, just include the sky, clouds, mountains, the gap down the center, and the three arrows crossing the gap. Write “Current Reality” on the left and “Desired New Reality” on the right. Then write your name in that cloud at the top.

Where Am I Now?
On the Current Reality side of the picture I’ve drawn the entrenched perceptions of aging—one foot in the grave, piles of wrinkle cream, and of course, lots of bus trips. I’ve included both positive and negative perceptions and I am sure you could add a few images of your own to our collective 3rd Act experience.

I now invite you to reflect on the current state of your life. What’s going well and what’s challenging? Look at all aspects of life starting with work. Are you still working? How’s it going? What’s happening with your health? Spirituality? How about with your friendships and support systems? Add to your map what comes to mind, with both words and pictures. Don’t hold back! Even if you stopped drawing at age five, now is the time to once again let your inner Picasso thrive.
Once you have your Current State filled out, stand up and walk around the room to get your body into a new chemistry, make a cup of tea or coffee, drink some water, and do some stretching or even a little dance.

Where Do I Want To Be?
Now let’s look at the “Desired New Reality” section. You can see what I put on my picture. “Old age is the new black” and “Lauded for expertise and life experience” and “Mashing up w/legacy our new normal.”

It’s your turn. What’s your desired new reality? Imagine it’s a year from today and in the best possible scenario, what’s it like in your world? What are the qualities and characteristics of your experience? Are you more creative? Grateful? Do you feel more love? Feel increasingly useful? Capture in words and pictures the best-case state of affairs that you can imagine.

Bridging the Gap
It’s now time for the three bold steps that will help bridge the gap between the two sides of the picture. Your brain is already working on this, so make it easy. Look at the left side of the picture you’ve created, then the right, then close your eyes and ask that bigger part of you, “What’s the boldest thing I can do right now to get from here to there?” Once you have one bold step, go back in for the other two. They should be bold enough to scare you a little, and yet manageable enough so that you can conceive a few smaller steps to accomplish it.

You can see what I thought the bold steps for us to shift the culture might be. Own it, flaunt it. Create an event for positive media coverage. To put that picture to work for you, make a mini action plan for each of those bold steps, nothing fancy, just one small action that you can do right away. Know that the picture has already changed your internal chemistry; when you draw and dream the future, you fill your body with oxytocin and serotonin, so it’s best to do something right away before your life lulls you back to the beach.

If you wrote down “get healthy” then put your shoes on and walk to the store. When you get home, reward yourself with something good and healthy to eat!

Do one small thing every day to move yourself toward that desired reality. You’ll be shocked and pleasantly surprised at just how easy it is to step into that new reality.

Blast Off!
The 3rd Act is just that…a new stage for you to step on to, and every actor needs a rough script or at least some improvisational tools in order to proceed. We’ve all earned the right to be center stage now. So if you feel lost or invisible or wonder what’s next in your life and how you will get there, just make a map and draw your way to where you want to be.

I invite you to join me in reimagining our 3rd Act. Write in your own suggestions, your stories, and send pictures of you with your maps to

Patti Dobrowolski, author of Drawing Solutions: How Visual Goal Setting Will Change Your Life, is founder of Up your Creative Genius, a consulting firm that uses visuals and creative processes to help companies and individuals around the world make powerful and positive change. A critically acclaimed comic performer, internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer and business consultant, she has brought innovative visual practices to Fortune 500 companies, NGOs and small businesses. Her TEDx talks Draw Your Future and Imagination Changes Everything have inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the world.