Tuesday, April 18, 2017

And Why Are You Doing This?

For the past couple years, I've talked about creating an online retirement planning course. I wanted to reach the individuals in work environments where it's not "safe" to talk about retirement. I also wanted to offer my workshop participants a resource that would continue to support their transition into retirement.

At the beginning this idea was mostly talk. I didn't know how to create an online course. But then the more I talked about it the more I started to gather the pieces I needed to make it happen.

Eventually I was past the point of talk. My house started to look like a recording studio with camera, lights, and an iMac for editing. At that point my husband quizzically asked, "And why are you doing this?"

I have my reasons. I want to expand my outreach to a corporate audience. I want to create the next product. I want to stretch myself. But mostly I'm creating this course because it brings me great satisfaction. This project has required learning iMovie and editing. It has required creating new content and expanding my topics. I'm having fun being the person I get to be on the project: writer, creator, teacher, editor, and more.

In Rob Bell's book, How to Be Here, he says, "Some things you do for you. You do them because it gives you great satisfaction and it puts a smile on your face and that's it. And that's fine. It's not just fine, it's necessary. It makes you a better person, it fills your soul, it opens you up to life in its fullness."

If I created this course only for this reason—to have the experience fill my soul and open me up to life in its fullness, then this is my answer to "And why are you doing this?"

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

ikigai 生き甲斐

Last night I curled up on the sofa with a cashmere blanket and glass of wine, and then settled in to enjoy Rob Bell's recent book, How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living. As I was reading I got really excited when I learned about ikigai—a Japanese concept meaning "a reason for being." This isn't a new concept, just new to me, and it fits my work on retirement perfectly!

In my speaking and writing, I encourage people to know what they want to make themselves available to, before they retire. It's important to know what you're going to, more than what you're leaving behind. In other words, it's important to know your ikigai.

I encourage people to bring their own value to their work and activities, that their worth is no longer tied to their economic status or place in society. Your ikigai doesn't care about who you were, or how impressive your accomplishments. In retirement you can connect to your ikigai, your reason for being, without being concerned that you're too educated or too professional or too anything to do it.

According to Bell, "Your ikigai may involve a paycheck and it may not." Don't let not being paid keep you from experiencing your ikigai. Do what you love, whether you're paid or not. If you wait until someone else places a dollar value on your work, you might never get to do the work.

Bell states, "Your ikigai is exhausting and exhilarating, draining and invigorating, all at the same time." In other words, your ikigai is not always pleasant; it's not always easy. But you do it anyway because it brings you great satisfaction. Your goal isn't to make retirement easy; it's to make something that you want to get up to each morning.

I'm experiencing my ikigai right now as I write from a local coffee shop's window seat. I arrived early, ordered café mocha in a real mug, and set up my "office"— computer, phone, glasses, and notebook. And then the real work begins as I face a blank page. As hard as this work is, it's the most natural thing to do. Thinking about people who are planning for and transitioning into retirement, brings me joy. Offering direction for this next stage of life is what I like to think about, whether I'm paid or not. It's the reason I got up early this morning.

That's how your ikigai works; you do the things you do, not because you're forced to do them, but because they are natural and spontaneous actions.

What will be your ikigai and how do you find it? This question is too big for me to answer.  A good starting point to learn more about the concept of ikigai is to read Bell's book. You might discover that you already have an ikigai; you just didn't have a name for it. That's what happened to me. And now that I have a name for it, I'm even more committed to this work. 

Your ikigai is a gift, and retirement may be the best time to open and cherish this gift.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Perfect Age to "Fail"

For the past couple years, I've talked about creating a program that is easily accessible to companies and their employees who are anticipating retirement. In thinking about the course, I preferred an online format. In Corporate America it is often not "safe" to talk about retirement. Employees don't want to "show their cards" for fear of someone taking over their job or being passed over on more interesting projects. An online course provides anonymity.

I'm excited to report that now is the time to create this program. I have talked about it long enough. In fact, I think that I've spoken it into existence, which is a great method for getting what you want in life (but that's a future blog post!)

To create this online course I'm working with Cindy, a talented friend who has experience with videography. I have none. And so when she came over to my home to set up a recording studio in what previously was my son's bedroom, I had to learn everything from the beginning.  Three point lighting. Editing on iMovie. Saving to QuickTime Player. I literally had to learn everything.

I told Cindy that it was good for my brain to learn something new. Frustrating at times, but I feel like some new neurons are firing and clearing pathways. She said, "Most people our age aren't willing to try something that they might fail at, so I'm proud of you."

I appreciated her admiration, but I had to think twice about doing something I might fail at. I hadn't considered failing. And what is failing? That my videos aren't the quality of a major motion picture? Or that just a few people will be interested in taking my retirement course? Is not being a polished personality in front of the camera a reason for failure?

The more I thought about it, the only way I can fail at this goal is to not do it—to decide that it's too much work or my product won't be good enough, so why bother? Giving up is the only way I can fail.

And so as I'm creating this course, I'm embracing the challenge of learning new technology, writing scripts with sincere concern for my program participants, delivering my message to the best of my ability, and feeling like Gayle King (Oprah's BFF) from the CBS This Morning. I love how Gayle is herself in front of the camera. She comes across as being authentic. When she stumbles, she laughs at herself. She seems to have fun with the show. If I worried about failure, I would miss out on an opportunity to feel like Gayle. How cool is that!

If you're still stuck on the fear of failure, write a response to the following questions:

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Is there something worth doing, even if you fail?

After considering these two questions, describe what failure looks like for each of these situations.

Retirement is the stage in life to rethink success and failure. When I realized that the only way I can fail at creating an online retirement course is to not create it, I knew what I had to do. And by my own definition, I'm succeeding! 

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Time Enough for Two

This weekend I attended the two-day International Justice Mission (IJM) conference in Washington DC. This is an organization that I support and care about—the fight to end slavery and violence against the poor.

After returning home, I joined my husband at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. He was waiting for me at the bar while watching the Syracuse basketball game. I loved the way his face lit up when I walked in. Our time away from each other always brings new energy to our time together.

In retirement, couples often struggle to find a good balance between couple time and solo time. As one woman said, "My time is never my own. I make my plans around his plans. I feel like I'm living a contrived retirement instead of creating a retirement."

This is when I shared a quote from The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years after 50 by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot: "that out of the intimacy and constancy of their relationships they are free to become more individuated and autonomous; the stead bedrock of support lets them take on the risks of change and reinvention." In other words, it is because of our commitment to our relationship that we can also become more individuated. Time apart is not a threat to the relationship. Neither is developing an interest of your own or experimenting with reinvention.

As a couple, it's very important to discuss how retirement will affect your relationship and change many of the patterns and expectations you formed when the two of you went separate ways for 8 to 10 (or more) hours each day. It's true that in my 32-year marriage, Dave and I have never had so much time together as we do now in retirement. But, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

This is why it's important to identify your interests as individuals and separate these from the interests you have as a couple. With one couple I coached, they found that she was drawn to working with children, while he preferred a more business-like atmosphere in his volunteer and part-time work environments. Their different interests often took them to separate places. By making room for the other person to grow and be significant in his or her own area, they reaped a better relationship when they were together: it was more interesting, vibrant, and fun. Dinner conversations were more exciting because they each brought something unique to the table.

If you are struggling to find yourself in retirement, to come to an agreement about how to navigate retirement together but not lose yourself, then I encourage you to learn about the Third Alternative. This is when you throw out your first two competing ideas for how to get what each of you wants and seek out a way to get what both of you want.

Retirement will be a lot more interesting when you get to do the things you love, AND the things you love to do with the person you love. There's time enough for both!

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mary Richards' Retirement

Mary Tyler Moore's recent death brought back fond memories of Mary Richards, the leading character in the Mary Tyler Moore Show. For many women in the 1970s, Mary Richards served as a role model for growing up as a self-sufficient professional woman. 

I rarely missed an episode of the show, captivated by Mary's lifestyle and independent spirit. I imaged having my own apartment in Minneapolis, just like Mary. After graduating from college, I applied for jobs in Minneapolis, just like Mary. As many other women my age, including Oprah Winfrey, I wanted to be Mary.

In my mind, Mary Richards will forever remain the young, independent, and spirited professional woman, and best friend to Rhoda. Knowing how much I admired Mary in her 30s, I'm curious about what I could learn from Mary if the Mary Tyler Moore Show continued to be on the air for 30 years, long enough that we could view two seasons of Mary's retirement years. If we idolized Mary in her younger years, what could Mary teach us about living in retirement?

I think Mary would continue to live with flare, humor, and courage. I wouldn’t mind if she gained a little weight (like many of us) but I doubt that she'd be having a boring retirement. I don't think she would accept mediocrity. So, today when I decided to go cross-country skiing instead of hanging around the house, I thought, "Yes, Mary would be out here."  

What else would Mary do? I think she would direct her energy and talents toward something important and meaningful. She would be "Mary" in a different setting. She would realize that not all her work was accomplished when she finished her career, but that she can build a new drama, one that reaches a high point in her later years.

Interestingly, when I think of Mary Richards 30 years later, the question, "Did she ever get married?" seems irrelevant. Thirty years later, if Mary Richards was married, I believe she would still have her single character, just as women today benefit from having their own identity in retirement. Sure we want shared goals and a vision for our future as a couple, but we also need to have our single goals. We need to keep writing our own script.

What can Mary Richards teach you about the way you want to live in retirement? You are the playwright, pen in hand, now write your own new drama.

"We're going to make it after all."

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.