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Career Development for Living the “Good Life” on Purpose

By Rich Feller

How old one feels is a better age indicator than the number of candles on a cake.
Life’s two most important days will surprise you.
Your level of growing and giving may affect your mental and physical well-being.

Reflection on these beliefs increasingly drive possibilities as we navigate a lifetime of transitions. If you or your clients are over age 40, thinking about what’s left in life has become as important as your resume’s shine.

With the “silver tsunami” describing North America’s dramatic demographic changes, it’s time to reimagine choices about life and aging regardless of age. Adopting a spirit of “ageless aging” is changing those tired norms of what and how I’m supposed to be. What if this spirit nudged us to reframe our “what’s next,” and expanded notions of what it means to age? What if, as Atul Gawande suggests in Being Mortal, that the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the end?

As part of AARP’s initial Thought Leader team for, I’ve learned with the best in the fields of adult psychology and talent development, self-help and self-care, gerontology and geriatrics, workforce trends and labour supply. I’ve explored living-in-place options within Florida’s Villages, and observed isolation within my young-in-years but old-in-spirit neighbours. Peeking at my impending demise, I’ve been inspired by those completing their bucket list. I’m challenged by self-limitations and encouraged by the freedom I observe within skilled life designers. Many on both sides of my age cohort are crafting, not inheriting, an age-related identity. Optimistic and excited, I’m well aware that every life, fully-lived, also ends.

During 50+ retreats I watch eager learners wrestling to define the good life, and connecting it to the four elements driving a new philosophy of success. Seeing them build community and capability partners leads me to believe career professionals need to create new ways to help clients better use peer-to-peer support and locally shared resources. As psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists study and theorize how people make successful transitions, wise career professionals are creating interventions driven by three interrelated transformative elements.

Anthony Gibbons (Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, 1991) calls this the “reflexive project,” a continuous reflection about the past, present and future requiring new levels of self-awareness. People in transition are reporting that success is closely tied to creating dynamic/diverse networks found from a wider social context of role models, images and symbols of what one can become. And rather than thinking their way out of pain or being pulled into possibilities, they’re learning that they simply need to act. Creating new habits have become the muscles behind personal growth and change.

As work, job and employment are redefined, I find restlessness and discomfort around the ability to access or find meaning within traditional retirement. Many of us were raised on Richard Bolles’s, my mentor, three boxes of life: education, work and retirement. As Richard professed, this linear pathway has collapsed for most adults with whom I work. Those who followed this tenured path and benefited from the longevity revolution are often anxious or exalted about remaining relevant, visible and connected with so much extra time.

Accelerating and deepening life clarification and intentional exploration, increasing social capital and identifying purposeful commitments (proposed by requires new career intervention metrics in a time of “ageless aging.” Those metrics are being met through new insights and theories, leading to tools, techniques and programs which nudge clients to take inspired actions toward living the good life on purpose.


Rich Feller, National Career Development Association’s (NCDA) past-president, Colorado State University professor emeritus, and President of Rich Feller & Associates, has committed himself to studying the changing workplace, with a focus on bringing new tools and solutions to help people navigate a lifetime of career transitions. Feller is also co-founder of OneLifeTools and the Who You Are Matters! narrative assessment game, facilitator of the Knowdell Job & Career Transition Coach Certification, and co-author of the CDM Career Decision Making System.

2017 Summer Skills Academy

Join Rich at the CERIC Summer Skills Academy to learn more about ageless aging, to co-create with colleagues, and experience hands-on efforts you can deliver to clients that better address these needs. Life Reimagined: Career Development for Living the “Good Life” on Purpose will be held July 20, 2017 in Toronto.

For more information or to register, visit


  1. July 6, 2017, 10:04 am   / 

    Applying our career development skills to non-traditional client groups as Rich suggests, like those aged 50+, and employers, provides much needed help for individuals with whom we work to make well-informed choices for their future. I’ve had the good fortune to learn from Rich in sessions like this summer skills academy, and each time it was effective, engaging and worthwhile.

  2. July 6, 2017, 2:58 pm   / 

    This topic is so timely and critical – nearly every day I meet someone nervous about navigating their next steps, struggling with concepts of “traditional retirement” and lacking language to express both their feelings and their vision of “the good life”. Great insights in this article. The Summer Skills Academy could not come at a better time, as this topic addresses and provides solutions to bridge a critical gap in the current world of work and the support that we provide to our clients.

  3. July 13, 2017, 12:23 am   / 

    Just as younger generations (Millennials and gen Zers) are seeking to discover the secret to integrating purpose and meaning into their careers, our population approaching traditional retirement age are learning the importance of redefining their next chapter on the basis of their shifting values and passions. The power of storytelling is impacting the decisions individuals are making related to how they want to design and author their life beyond 50. I’ve learned fantastic techniques, inquiry, and process from Rich that I apply to my work everyday with adult clients desiring a purposeful transition. Such important work!

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