Carol Joseph’s life was out of control. Single and in her mid-40s, the Manhattan attorney was a partner in a boutique real estate law office, a firm she had co-founded in her 20s. Working umpteen hours a day, she was consumed by contracts and clients. ¨I literally did nothing outside the practice of law,” Carol recalls. ¨I needed something else.¨
That ¨something else¨ turned out to be on the other side of the world. ¨I wanted to know what it was like when people pick themselves up from their lives and immerse themselves in helping others,¨ Carol says. When a college friend, Gloria Baker Feinstein, invited her to visit an orphanage near Uganda, Carol jumped at the chance. Gloria is founder and president of Change the Truth, a not-for-profit group that supports the orphanage. Carol was intrigued. So she quit her job and in December 2007 accompanied a group on a two-week trip to East Africa.
Once their tiny crew arrived, they led art classes for the children, many of whom are war victims and have trouble expressing themselves. They sang songs and played music. They taught the kids games like Simon Says and watched as the children’s shyness melted away. The photographer snapped picture after picture, much to the children’s delight. “Many of them had never seen themselves in photographs before,” Carol says. “It was incredibly moving.”
So moving, in fact, that Carol returned last August. She made a third trip in December, when she helped patch up the dormitories, planted a garden and spent time with the children, with whom she keeps in touch through letters and email.
She does plan to go back to work—eventually. “I’m still figuring things out careerwise,” Carol admits. “But there’s no question I’m feeling more balanced.”
Carol’s desire to help other people—especially as she neared 50—is natural, says Phil Keoghan, host of Amazing Race and co-author of No Opportunity Wasted: Eight Ways to Create a List for the Life You Want Now. “As we get older, we tend to want to do more for others,” he says. “That comes with maturity.” Here are Phil’s tips for figuring out your own kind of adventure.
- Make a list. “If you don’t know what you want, how are you possibly going to achieve it?” Phil asks. Do you want to see Venice? Make up with your sister? Help a charity? Be specific. And don’t try to wiggle out of putting it all on paper. “This is a contract with yourself,” Phil says. “It’s not real until it’s tangible.”
- Prioritize. Some goals may take a lifetime to achieve, and others won’t. Decide which things to tackle now and which ones to put on hold.
- Break down the barriers. The two biggest excuses are “no time” and “no money,” Phil says. “You’re never going to have enough of either. The question is focusing on what you do have and what you can do.”