By Jeff Spadafora, Halftime Institute Director of Global Coaching
I recently read a review of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, written in Italy in the late 1200’s. It’s fiction I had always heard about but never read (and I still haven’t, I’ve only read a detailed commentary!)
I was struck how Dante’s life and his epic poem are both classic Halftime stories. Dante was a Papal magistrate in Florence when he got caught in the cross-fire of political maneuvering that resulted in getting “laid off” from his job and banished from his hometown. At the top of his game, Dante’s career and identity are ripped from him.
There is a myth that all Halftimers are successful and virtuous people who suddenly decide to go make a noble difference with their lives in their 40’s and 50’s. The truth of the matter is that many are broken and have been pushed into a situation that causes them to re-evaluate their lives. Could this be you?
The hero in Dante’s poem (also called Dante) finds himself in a similar situation at midlife. The opening reads:
“When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
for I had lost the path that does not stray.”
Sound familiar? For many Halftimers that are pursuing success, they suddenly realize at mid-life that it’s not as fulfilling as they had hoped and they are disoriented by this new awareness. It’s a painful season when everything you dreamed of turns out to be empty. The poem continues:
‘Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,
that savage forest, dense and difficult,
which even in recall renews my fear:
so bitter — death is hardly more severe!”
In this valley of despair, Dante (the hero) looks up at the mountain tops and sees sunlight shining on the pinnacle. In Halftime parlance we call this “Discovering Vision”. The Halftimer sees a distant hope that they could do something with their life that has more purpose and joy. As Dante strives to climb the mountain toward the light, he keeps running into obstacles: a leopard, then a lion, and lastly a wolf. He gives up the effort believing it is too arduous.
This is a common challenge for Halftimers: when trying to reorient toward God’s true calling for us, our work, finances, lifestyle and relationships often get disrupted. We see many Halftimers, initially enthused about a newly envisioned life, give up around months 6-8 of their effort. “Death can hardly be more severe” than giving up on our comfort zones!
Like many Halftimers, Dante decides to drop back into the valley of status quo, where he meets Virgil (the first Halftime Coach!) who says:
“But why do you return to wretchedness?
Why not climb the up the mountain of delight,
the origin and cause of every joy?”
Virgil proves to be a great encourager and guide as he ultimately helps our hero overcome many obstacles and ascend back up the mountain toward the life God has always intended for him.
As for Dante the poet and author, his second half legacy is this masterpiece of literature that he would probably never had written if his prominent status and job weren’t ripped from him. Could something painful in your life right now be a blessing in disguise that is the starting point of new adventure that might lead you to a life of deeper joy and impact?
To explore how the Halftime Institute can help you navigate this journey, click here. You can experience what the poet and hero Dante discovered: there is a better life available if you lean into this exhilarating – and sometimes painful –discovery process.