The Empty Nest: A Fresh Start Begins with You
Somewhere in the silence, we must answer questions: “Who am I? What do I do with the rest of my life?” The people I meet who are thriving in the empty nest don’t just wait for life to happen. They choose to see new possibilities. They are reinventing their lives, or at least part of their lives. It’s an adventure, and it takes some courage to step out of your comfort zone, but most tell me it has been totally worth it.
The people who thrive in their second half and overcome the empty-nest syndrome have taken some important steps toward a fresh start. Here is what I observe they did to make it happen:
- They closed the chapter. It can be difficult to create a new starting point when you haven’t had a proper ending. It means realizing that you must build relationships with your adult children on a different level than before. It means accepting the fact that life is going to be different, but it doesn’t have to be bad. It means properly closing one chapter to open the next.
- They chose to change their attitude. It’s difficult to create a clean beginning if you are feeling too negative about the future. These people found an excitement about new possibilities and adventures that would enhance their second half. With this excitement came positivity toward the future. I’ve always loved this quote by pastor Chuck Swindoll: “The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. . .. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude. . .. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”
- They set new goals. Those goals could be as simple as signing up for a gym membership or as challenging as changing careers. Developing new goals brings a sharp focus on a new purpose. There is no doubt that the empty nest gives you an opportunity to declutter your life. It could be a closet or a garage, or it could be some old ways of living. You have more time with the kids out of the house, but how will you invest it? Create some goals that can help you thrive in the empty nest and remember that many of the people who do well added goals for finding a deeper spiritual connection.
- They made new friends and enhanced their old friendships. People who thrived in the empty nest learned that they measured happiness by how deeply connected they were to others. In the second half of life, spending quality time with friends and loved ones is one of the key areas of happiness as well as of living a meaningful life. For some people, it means taking more chances and putting themselves in new situations.
 Quoted in John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leader within You (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 98.