Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Retirement Evaluation

When we were in the workforce most of us experienced annual performance reviews. A supervisor rated our performance on a continuum. We learned where we were doing well, identified areas for improvement, and set goals for the future. Hopefully the evaluation kept us on track for achieving personal and professional success.

In retirement, no one is completing a performance review on us. And while that might bring a sense of relief, if we’re off course, if we’re paying attention to things that don’t align with our goals, (if we have goals) a supervisor isn’t going to get us back on the path. The good news is your job isn’t on the line. Instead, what’s on the line is your happiness, which might matter more than a job.

When was the last time you evaluated your retirement?

In the beginning, also referred to as the “honeymoon stage,” you might experience retirement similar to the euphoria you felt when you landed that dream job. It’s everything you hoped for—freedom to do whatever you want, going to bed without setting an alarm clock, traveling to foreign countries, and spending more time with friends and family.

However, when the honeymoon phase begins to lose it’s luster, (which happens to most of us) or when we start to take our freedom for granted, we settle into a pattern of living. Time goes by without pausing to question, “Is my retirement the life I want?”

A regular “performance review” will remind you that this is your life—your one life. What do you want to do with it?

Imagine that you have to write a report for your supervisor. Set aside a time and place to give serious consideration to these questions. Add questions that fit your needs, dreams, and goals.

Have you set clear goals and expectations for retirement? Please describe.

Do you know how you want to invest your retirement years? Please describe.

What was your greatest accomplishment in the past six months?

What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?

What’s missing in your retirement and what are you going to do about it?

Where do you feel there’s room for improvement? What is your plan to address this area?

Overall, rate your retirement lifestyle on a scale of 1-10. Then describe what you will do to increase your rating by one or two points.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 29, 2018

First Love

To celebrate my 60th birthday, my two sisters treated me to a baking course at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT. We joined eight other food enthusiasts, many who had traveled across the country, to learn how to make wood-fired flatbreads.

Kim, Laurie and Patrice at King Arthur Flour baking school.
From the moment I walked into the classroom, something awakened in me. The individual cooking stations, bright red KitchenAid mixers, large canisters of flour and sugar on the counter, along with other small bowls of measured ingredients that we'd need for our baking, transported me back to my seventh grade home economics classroom.  I came alive over the next four hours as we measured, stirred, kneaded, and baked the dough into beautiful and delicious flatbreads. 

It's not surprising that I felt so good while baking with others in a classroom setting. As a teenager, I loved cooking classes—so much so that I majored in home economics in college. This was my career path for about seven years before having children. Then, as with so many people, I headed in another direction when I pursued my master and doctorate degrees.

Fortunately, my birthday baking course reminded me how much I enjoy baking with others in a communal setting. It awakened my first love! I’ve decided I want to create more of this in my life. I'm looking for a way to bring baking and people together. Now that I know what I want, I can begin to make it happen.

A woman, who I'll call Susan, came up to me after a pre-retirement seminar to tell me how she stumbled upon her first love. When Susan was younger, she enjoyed playing the violin. As she was thinking ahead to retirement, her plan was to pick up the violin again. But, a request to play at a friend's wedding propelled her plan into action. Susan didn’t want to say no, but she also knew that it had been years since she opened her violin case. Putting her fear aside, Susan said yes. She had four months to prepare. She put herself "on the hook."  

The joy that Susan received from this experience is why she shared her story with me. She said she came alive practicing and preparing for the big event. The wedding was several months ago, but Susan continues to pick up her violin everyday. She's grateful that she didn't wait until after retirement to reconnect with her first love.

Perhaps reconnecting with your first love is a great way to add meaning and enjoyment to your retirement years. Ask yourself, "In what situations do I feel most alive?" and "What did I enjoy doing as a 12-year-old child?" Retirement is a great time to learn new skills and have new adventures, but it's also a perfect time to reignite the spark from your first love.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 15, 2018


I just returned home from a week in London. My husband and I went "across the pond" to see our son present his start-up tech company before an audience of venture capitalists, successful business owners, and supportive mentors. In total, ten founding CEOs delivered a 5-minute "pitch" for funding, all presenting a compelling vision with infectious passion and unrelenting drive. 

Many of these founders previously worked for Google, Amazon, and financial companies. They had great jobs, earning incomes that afforded a comfortable lifestyle in some of the trendiest cities. Still, they left these positions to create something of their own. As one guy said to me, "I decided I wanted to support my own dream, not the dream of my former boss."

I returned home thinking about my own dreams. The allure of being a founder is seductive. How cool it is to have your name attached to something great! And yet, instead of equating founding with success, what if I invest my time, skills, and resources in an existing organization where I can have a meaningful impact? 

This is the advice given by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, in their book A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity. The authors remind us that we need people to invest their lives in the existing organizations. When we put our egos aside, we can experience the same benefits as the founders, just by contributing our gifts and knowing that we’re making a difference.

Cheryl Dorsey, the head of Echoing Green, a nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurs says, "The biggest need now is for the 'intrapreneur,' the person who can move into an existing enterprise or institution, shake it up, and boost its productivity." I can do that.

I returned home from London with a renewed sense of purpose and energy—to approach my work with a couple non-profit organizations with an "intrapreneur" mindset. The same passion and drive I experienced from the young people in London, I can bring to my volunteer roles. And when asked, "What do you do?" I can talk about the impact my contributions are having in the lives of people around the world. Now that sounds like a dream worth pursuing.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Don't Fear This, Fear That!

When we commit to doing something outside our comfort zone, when we no longer allow excuses to excuse us from what we really want in life, an unwanted visitor always shows up at our door—FEAR.

Think about it. How many times have you been excited about something, maybe even signed on the bottom line, but then laid awake at night feeling overwhelmed and anxious about what you committed to? When the tension becomes too much, you decide that it's easier to renege and be satisfied with status quo, except that you're not satisfied. Instead you continue to live with a dull ache knowing that there is something more you expected from life—something more you have to give.  

You may look at other people who are pursuing their dreams—living life bigger—and think they don't experience fear. You're probably wrong. When it comes to fear, no one gets a pass. So if you wish to live life fully, plan on fear coming along for the journey. In other words, expect fear to show up. Give your fear a name. Talk to your fear. And then tell your fear to get out of the way of living your one and only life with gusto.
To help you get started, I created a "Don't Fear This, Fear That!" list. Not all fears are the same. In fact, we often fear the wrong things. We misinterpret tension and uncertainty as fear when actually these feelings mean we're onto something that can make a positive difference in our lives.  

According to Seth Godin, author of What to do When it's Your Turn, and it's Always Your Turn, "Great work is the result of seeking out tension, not avoiding it. Great work doesn't require reassurance, in fact, it avoids it." Let's get ready to do some great work!

1.     Don't fear greatness, fear mediocrity. At the end of your life when asked, "How was it?" do you want to respond "mediocre?" If not, then begin to do something about it today. Let the fear of mediocrity fuel your dream and pursuit of something more.

2.     Don’t fear life getting bigger, fear life getting smaller. Where are you thinking big? I often have people tell me they plan to downsize in retirement. This may be appropriate when we’re talking about stuff—material belongings, but it should never apply to our life expectations and dreams. These are the wrong things to make small. Think big. Act bold. It’s too late to play it safe.

3.     Don't fear failure, fear regrets. Live a life where in the end you'll be able to say, "I'm glad I did," not "I wish I had." In the end, you'll have more regrets for the things you didn't go after than the areas where you fell short of success.

4.     Don't fear stepping outside your comfort zone, fear being stuck.  There is power in taking just one step, even if it seems insignificant. According to Mallika Chopra, author of Living With Intent, "Every step reaffirms your intent, then empowers and helps create more energy for living the life you want." Lean into your dream. Do one thing today that will bring you one step closer. Keep walking—don't back down. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book, Big Magic, "You cannot afford to back down. The life you are negotiating to save, after all, is your own."

5.     Don't fear fear, fear fearless. I'm not suggesting that you should fearlessly make changes in your life that may leave a destructive wake. There is a reason that fear bangs on the door when you think about trying something new or making a decision that involves risk. The challenge is to know when to open the door and welcome fear. ‘’

So what is your response? If you give in to fear, then fear has won the day and it will return again and again. Don't let fear win. Instead, begin with baby steps. Enlist a coach or accountability partner if that will help you move forward. Don't let yourself down. Retirement is the perfect time to live the life you were created to live.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All rights reserved.