Monday, August 14, 2017

Start at the Bottom

Down the road from my apartment in Saratoga Springs, NY, a luxury condominium building is being constructed. Over the past several months I've watched construction crews tear down an existing building; large bulldozers clear the land and dig a foundation; and eventually, steel beams and wood framing appeared. Today windows are being installed. 

Last week, as my husband and I walked by the site, I said, "I wonder how builders know where to begin. The project seems so big and confusing." My husband responded, "You start at the bottom."

I think it’s fair so say that my husband knows nothing about home construction, and yet, it seems clear that you have to start at the bottom and then build up.

In some ways, building a retirement is similar to building a condo. It’s big and confusing. So where do we begin? I’m suggesting we start at the bottom and build up. We start with a foundation that’s formulated from our values.

Building the Foundation

If you were starting a new life today, what would you absolutely require? What do you want your life to be based on? What do you value most? Susan David, author of Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, provides these descriptions of values:

·      They are freely chosen and have not been imposed on you.
·      They are not goals; that is, they are ongoing rather than fixed.
·      They guide you rather than constrain you.
·      They are active, not static.
·      They allow you to get closer to the way you want to live your life.
·      They bring you freedom from social comparison.
·      They foster self-acceptance, which is crucial to mental health.

If you’d like to learn more about your values, take a values assessment quiz. There are hundreds to choose from a Google search. Click here for a link to an assessment tool that I find helpful.

Back to the conversation I had with my husband. He missed one very important step when stating you start at the bottom and build up. Contractors don’t dig a big hole, pour concrete, and then sit down with a beer to talk about what type of building will sit on the foundation. Instead, they begin with whiteprints, the technical drawings that capture the architectural design.

This is where building a condo and building a retirement differ. The whiteprint, the architectural plan for our future, is designed from our values. Once these are solid, we can sit down with a cold beer or iced tea and dream about what we want to build on this foundation.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Make Every Day Count

When you go to bed at night, can you say that you feel good about how you spent the day? If this were your last day on earth, would you be okay with how you lived?

Living every day with a sense of purpose and direction can be challenging when we’re no longer employed. When we were in the workforce, it was much easier. We had to show up to work. We felt productive because that’s what we were supposed to do—get stuff done.

Conversely, in retirement this sense of purpose and being productive can be elusive. It’s hard to live every day with intention. I don’t want to disappoint you, but most likely there will be some times when you’re languishing and mindlessly wondering about the house. You’ll get in your car to drive somewhere, but have nowhere to go. It’s not easy to purposely fill 16 hours (960 minutes!) Busywork doesn’t count. I’ve never found satisfaction in just keeping busy.

Over the years I’ve written several blog posts about intentional living. I encourage you to browse through these archived articles to learn how to create a retirement with meaning and purpose. You’ll find a lot of great ideas that will bring direction to your retirement years. Here are just a few suggested posts to get started:

Still, even if you read every post I’ve written since 2010, there will be times when you feel like a boat without a rudder. One these days, before the day ends, I suggest doing something that will make a difference in the world. That might sound like a big task. Fortunately we don’t have to find a solution for world hunger, or build a school in Nairobi, to benefit from the positive emotion that comes from extending a small act of kindness.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Fill a large bag full of clothes that you no longer wear and put it in a collection container. When I was in Uganda, I witnessed the difference these clothes make in the life of a micro-entrepreneur who mends the clothes and sells them to support her family.

Instead of going out for drinks, give $25 to KIVA. It’s a gift that keeps giving because once the entrepreneur has repaid the loan, you get to reinvest the money in another entrepreneur. Plus it’s really fun to choose the person, country, and type of business that you want to support.

Prepare a meal for someone and/or deliver homemade cookies to a college student. If the recipient invites you to stay for a visit, stay. You’ll leave feeling good from connecting with another person.

Send a card or write a letter to a friend or family member. Remember years ago how wonderful it was to receive a long letter from a friend? Email and texting are not the same. You’ll experience a sense of anticipation once you drop the envelop in the mailbox. Days later, you’ll make someone’s day when he/she receives your letter.

I encourage you to try one of these suggestions and to come up with your own. Then post a comment below. I believe you’ll be surprised by how rewarding a simple act can be, and make you feel good about your day!

 “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Psalm 11:25

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 14, 2017

imagine Sunday evenings...

When I speak to a group of pre-retirees, I only have to say, "imagine Sunday evenings," and then pause a few seconds, to trigger a wave of laughter and sighs from the participants. Instantly people understand the wonderful feeling of approaching a new week without facing impossible deadlines, micro-managing supervisors, stressful commutes, etc.  

By the time we've been in the workplace for 30+ years, most of us are more than ready to give up these unfavorable aspects of employment. But there's one lingering characteristic about work that is difficult to let go—our work identity. We become so attached to our work role that we don't know who we are without work. This can be a real problem when adjusting to retirement.

Think back to the workplace for a minute. We're all familiar with the annual job performance review—an evaluation of how we measure up to our stated goals and objectives. Now I invite you to think of another type of performance review—your eulogy.  One strategy that might help to release some of your attachment to the work role is to fast-forward to your final performance review.

What's important to people when they face death? Do they focus on their accomplishments or do they talk about the little things? As Arianna Huffington says in her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, “Our eulogies are always about the other [non-work] stuff: what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to our family and friends, small kindnesses, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.”

How do you want to live on in the “minds and hearts of others?”

If we can acknowledge that work is a role—a role that will require less of our time in retirement—then we’re free to examine other roles. It’s often these other roles by which we will be remembered in the final performance review. 

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Grand Invitation

"The grand invitation is to embrace the reality of your life and to figure out what to do with it." –Chip Edens, Rector of Christ Church Charlotte, congregation of 6,000 members

When I read this quote in Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin's book Lead Yourself First, it struck me that the "grand invitation" relates to our retirement years—an invite to figure out what to do with this next stage of life.

I think grand invitations are exciting; such as the type I receive for big expensive weddings. I enthusiastically open the envelope, and then the second envelope, pulling back the thin sheet of tissue paper to read a message that's written in beautiful cursive font. 

If only retirement were so easy—an invitation arriving in the mail that perfectly describes how to live in retirement, complete with a RSVP card to reply, "I'm coming." Unfortunately retirement doesn't work this way.

You receive the grand invitation but don't miss the phase between "grand invitation" and "figuring our what to do with it." You can't accept this invitation until you "embrace the reality of your life."

What is the reality of your life? Be honest with yourself. If you've been retired for a while it might be easier to describe your reality. You've been retired long enough to know what comes with this new stage of life.

For many of us, the reality is that we have lots of free time. And yet, some of us hold fast to the idea that busy-ness equates with significance so we pack our schedules so tight so that we don't have time to think and reflect on what we want to do with this grand invitation. When I acknowledge this reality, I'm more intentional about how I spend my time, investing it in organizations and relationships that enrich and expand my life.

When one guy got real with his realities, he said, "I have the financial resources to do more than I've been doing in retirement, but I've been living as though I don't." His grand invitation is to figure out how his financial resources can best be used to add to a meaningful retirement. Perhaps your reality is that you're less prepared financially for retirement than you want to believe. Still, start with your reality, embrace your situation, and then figure out what you want to do about it.

Once you realize your realities, then you can acknowledge what's working and what's not working for you in retirement. Now what do you want to do about it?

Your grand invitation is waiting. This is a party you don't want to miss!

Copyright 2017 Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.