Cutting the Strings of the Past: How to Reclaim Agency in Your Life’s Second Act

“An empty coffee pot left on the coffee maker will shatter and hurt you.”

I remember, but I can’t recall where I heard this as a kid, but it stuck with me.

So much so that every morning, after I pour the last drop, I turn the machine off and place the empty pot several feet away until it is cool enough to wash.

I’m 50 years old, and I’ve done this for as long as I can recall — all with a twinge of fear lingering in my actions.

“It will shatter and hurt you.”

The coffee pot example may not be that strange, but what dawned on me is this:

I’ve never researched if this is true; I bought what an older person said at face value because I trust them, and they know better.

A quick Google search yielded a myriad of results; some say it will burn what little is left in the pot, others say shattering is a possibility.

Regardless, I will stick with my routine.

But now I am choosing my actions instead of being controlled by previously unverified words spoken over 40 years ago.

I cut a puppet string and replaced it with agency.

As we enter mid-life, we’re drawn, with the force of Jupiter’s gravity, to create meaning in our lives.

We feel the pressure of time and desperately want to discover our purpose and take actions consistently that provide fulfillment.

We want to expand into our infinite potential, leaving as little as possible on the table.

The coffee pot is the perfect allegory for our mid-life journey to meaning.

Because the purpose, potential, meaning, and fulfillment we long for are within our puppet strings.

What was the equivalent we were told as children of,

“An empty coffee pot left on the coffee maker will shatter and hurt you.”

Did we hear,

“Don’t be silly.”

“That’s not for you.”

“You’ll never be a singer.”

“Artists don’t make money.”

“Oh, sweetie, writing isn’t a job.”

“You can have fun when you retire.”

“You have to be really smart to do that.”

“That’s really hard. Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”

“Get a good job at a good company and stay there for your entire career.”

The list is endless; each is a puppet string pulling on our lives without our consent.

We must seize agency over our lives to reinvent our second half with the meaning we desire.

We do this by connecting with ourselves, and one of the ways we do this is to stop being pulled, if only for a moment, and ask ourselves,

Am I choosing what I’m about to do, or has it been chosen for me?

Why exactly am I doing what I’m about to do?

Where did I learn this behavior from?

We must identify and understand the strings dictating our lives for all these years.

Then, we must understand that the majority of “truths” we’ve been living by were nothing more than someone else’s belief, and often, that belief is someone else’s limitation.

That doesn’t mean it has to be ours.

The parent who tells a child, “You’ll never be a writer,” doesn’t have a crystal ball; they cannot see into the future, and what they’re actually saying is, “I’ll never be a writer.”

When we identify, understand, and, one by one, cut the strings that have been pulling our lives, we give ourselves the freedom to choose.

Like my coffee pot ritual, our actions may remain the same, but we’re choosing.

And when we make conscious choices, we seize agency over our lives.

Life doesn’t feel like it’s spinning out of control when we’re no longer tangled in old, outdated strings.

We choose our own way.

Reinvention isn’t about adding more but instead cutting away what no longer serves us so that we can make room for the new.

It’s about discovering our truth and living authentically.