Friday, September 11, 2020

The Play Project Pivot

Hello again. I’ve missed writing these bi-monthly blog posts. I intentionally took time off to re-evaluate my work and consider what I want to do next. As a result of this break, I learned I need more play and playfulness in my life. And so, I’m creating the Play Project.


My goal is to bring more play into my life—more fun, more joy, more community, more spontaneity and whimsy. I’m doing it for me. But I also recognize that the people who are drawn to my work, also tend to have trouble placing value on play. For those of us who are looking for retirement to be more than a 365-day vacation, investing in the value of leisure and play is one of the areas we might be least prepared to do well.


In this first Play Project post, I’m giving you a brief glimpse of what you can expect in the coming months. Play is best done with others, so if you’re interested in playing along and experimenting with play exercises, please contact me and I’ll add you to our play group. You’ll receive monthly play exercises and be involved in play research. And it will be fun!


Defining Play

When I tell people that I’m going to research and experiment with play in retirement, one of the first things I’m asked is, “What is your definition of play?” At first, I said I needed to do more research before having a definition. But now, after reading some of the research related to the state of play, I’ve decided that play is not easily defined. Nor does it need to be defined. As Fred Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, says, “It’s not easy to come up with a definition of play that feels just right. And that’s probably because something deep within all of us ‘knows’ the immense value of play.”


What is play? You’ll know it when you feel it. For some, what is work for others will be play.


I’m Just Playing


When I’m exploring a crazy idea, before mentioning it up to my husband, I often preface it with “I’m just playing…” This keeps him from forming an immediate response to my idea. A response that would usually try to talk some sense into my idea and show me all the reasons why it won’t work or it’s not practical, or we’re too old or something…Not that he’s a pessimist. He’s just a realist. But reality is what we make it so by just playing we can challenge reality.


Schedule a Play Date


When we make ourselves accountable to another person we are more apt to show up. Accountability in retirement is a good idea. Not so that we'll do the things we don’t want to do, but so we'll do the things we do want to do! This is why inviting another person to join us in a play experience is a good idea. Plus, the social interaction will be an added bonus.


Create a Play List


Lovers of music usually have a play list that they create on their favorite platform, be it Spotify, Amazon Music, or whatever. It’s a place you can go to and be assured you’ll hear the music you prefer. I suggest creating your own Play play list. What types of activities do you enjoy doing? Make a list. If you’re having trouble knowing what type of play you prefer, consider what you liked to do as a kid. What got you really excited and brought you joy? When you’re feeling bored, visit your Play list and find something to do.


Getting Good at Play


There are a whole lot of things that make up a rewarding and meaningful retirement, many of which I speak about in my online course. But even if you ace all these components, there’s still time in the day for more. You’ll still be asking, “What will I do all day?” This is why getting good at play is so important. It’s as important as creating meaningful work in retirement and being involved in meaningful volunteer roles, and giving away money to charitable organizations. Good play makes up a great retirement.


Copyright 2020. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

And What Do You Do, Now?

I’ve written a lot about the familiar cocktail party question: What do you do? For retirees, this can be an especially challenging question. I encourage people to have an answer to this question before their first day of retirement. I make it mandatory that they talk about more than what they just did.

And so, I got to thinking about my answer to this question: “I write and speak on the social and psychological side of retirement.” Most people understand what this means, and if they’re retired or close to retiring, they often want to learn more about my work. I enjoy talking about something that other people find interesting.

However, if I’m being honest with myself, the pandemic has changed what I do. I had eight speaking gigs cancelled between now and August. It’s too early to make the fall and winter schedule, but it’s very likely social distancing will still be necessary. Bringing together large groups of people may not be in our near future. And so, If I’m being realistic, I’m not speaking about retirement. At least not now.

To continue saying I write and speak on the social and psychological side of retirement is like saying I’m a stay-at-home mom, except that my three children are not home. Yes, I did that, but it’s not what I’m doing now. Similarly, yes, I wrote a great book on retirement and I speak about retirement, but it’s not what I’m doing now. There needs to be evidence of what you say you do.

Perhaps the pandemic is a good time to reevaluate just what you are doing, or want to be doing. Your standard response to, “What do you do?” might not fit you anymore. Maybe you’ve outgrown it. Or maybe this is a good time to experiment with other ideas. Maybe this is the time to let go of the “safe” answer and try some other identities.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, authors of Designing Your Life, state, “How many different people, roles and opportunities have you imagined for yourself before you picked the role you are in today?” They encourage us to “remember how expressive, fearless, and open you used to be—before you got so serious about being the one person you turned out to be.”

It’s been said that retirement is a “roleless” state. Yet, it can also be the perfect time to expand our thinking and imagination—to try on new roles and see how they fit. I’m going to use this break from being a “retirement expert” to focus on some of the other roles and opportunities I have imagined for myself. I don’t need to remain so serious about the one person I turned out to be. And neither do you.

Copyright 2020. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Creativity and Retirement

COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives in ways we never imagined. At first it seemed like this might be a short interruption. My mindset was just hang in there a few weeks and we’ll get through this. But one week turned into another week and another, and still the end is not in sight. Living in New York, at the epicenter of the virus, Governor Cuomo is practicing extra caution about opening up our state.

As retirees, we may be better prepared to handle more time at home. Then again, many of us spend our retirement on the road. I’ve cancelled a trip to Denver. This week I was supposed to be in Chattanooga. The following week my husband and I had reservations on a Danube riverboat cruise from Passua, Germany to Budapest, Hungary. All cancelled. Travel is a favorite pastime for many retirees, but right now it’s not an option. Actually, this might be a good thing. Travel keeps us from having to figure out what “home” is.

On the positive side, the stay-at-home orders are inspiring us to be more creative about what we do at home. As you might have heard, people are baking bread more than ever before. Yeast sales are up 2,000 percent! King Arthur Flour is posting baking videos online called the Isolation Baking ShowLast week the CBS Morning Show aired a story on what people are doing at home. Click here to view episode.

This artistic mindset is especially good for retirees, because unlike many others, we won’t be returning to the office. We are home. And many of us need to discover and create more ways to enjoy this next stage of life.

My new creative activity is piano lessons. My sister is an excellent piano teacher, but she lives three hours from me. I’ve often said if we lived closer, I’d like to take lessons. Well, with her students having to stay home, Laurie needed a way to continue their lessons, and so she learned how to use video conferencing through Zoom. That’s when I decided this was my opportunity to ask if she’d take me on as a student. I understand I’m committing to a challenging goal. I haven’t had piano lessons in about 45 years! But I’m also excited about developing my skill set and receiving more enjoyment from sitting down at the piano.

I’m practicing yoga more than before the pandemic. My favorite yoga instructor is posting classes online, which means I can take a class when it works in my schedule and motivation.  

I dusted and oiled my sewing machine to get it in good condition for sewing facial masks. I also sewed fresh pillow covers for the deck cushions. It’s fun to reconnect with a something I used to do every day.

I’ve also used this extra time at home to write long letters to college friends. Normally they receive mail from me only at Christmas, and it’s the standard annual letter and picture. This time I savored the experience of connection as I reminisced about college days and shared the impact they have had on my life. In return, I’ve received long letters from them.

Instead of just trying to get through this pandemic, let’s look for ways that we can use this time to learn, grow, and create new meaning and purpose in our lives. When the stay-at-home lockdowns are lifted, hopefully we’ll emerge from this experience with new interests, hobbies, and connections that will further contribute to our quality of life in retirement.

Copyright 2020. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Bigger Vision

I want to create a vision board to hang in my home office. I limited my search to Pottery Barn because I had two coupons that were going to expire. Fortunately, I found exactly what I was looking for—a beautiful linen corkboard that’s available in two sizes: 2x3 foot and 3x4 foot. The cost of the larger board is only one-third more than the smaller one, and yet it is twice as big. It makes sense to buy the bigger board, and so I did.

When the package arrived, the board looked really big. I questioned if it would proportionately fit on the wall above my desk. In fact, it does. The wall is big enough for the board. So now the question is, “Is my vision big enough for the board?”

My plan for the vision board is to create a space to display dreams, goals, and images or objects that awaken creative thinking. Maybe paint samples for home decorating. Fabric samples for the business I’m dreaming about. Quotes that are inspiring. Pictures that bring back happy memories. I want my board to be a place of beauty and inspiration.

Questioning if I had enough to fill the board, I considered returning it to the store to buy the smaller panel. The 2x3 foot might be about the size of my dreams. But then I thought, what if I expand my dreams to fit the board?

Authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, in their book The One Thing, state, “When you lift the limits of your thinking, you expand the limits of your life. It’s only when you can imagine a bigger life that you can ever hope to have one.”

Buy the bigger board.

Copyright 2020. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Who's on the Line?

In my retirement seminars I lead participants through an exercise called, Who’s on the Line? 

Here are the instructions:

Imagine that your phone rings. You don’t recognize the number so you let it go to voice mail. Good idea. Most of the “nothing” callers don’t bother to leave a message. But, this one did, so you listen to the message. To your surprise the caller is someone you didn’t expect to hear from. It might be someone you don’t know. But this person knows something about you and your gifts, talents, experiences and interests. You’re being invited to be a part of something BIG. You’re surprised because you never anticipated an opportunity like this to come your way. This idea is kind of crazy, but also exciting…Who’s on the line?

I use this assignment to help people move past their safe plans for retirement and toward something that energizes and excites them. Most often the opportunity on the line feels too risky or out of reach, which is why we play it safe with our plans.

For the past five years I’ve known my response to “Who’s on the line?” The call is from a small group of smart women who have heard about my skills, interests, and experience. They’re inviting me to join their new business venture. I plan to say “yes.” I’m waiting for that call.

Author Seth Godin says, “The best way to be in the room where it happens is to be the person who called the meeting. Things rarely happen on their own. Everyone is waiting for you to organize the next thing.” So, this week I decided to be the person who makes the call. And, by being the person who makes the call, I get to choose what’s on the line.

I sent a text to a friend inviting her to be part of the business. Within minutes she responded, “Sure!!!” I sent an email to another woman inviting her to be on our team. She responded, “I’d love to.” By making the call, I got the call. I’m in the room where it happens!

Who’s on your line? Keep in mind that things rarely happen on their own. Make the call.

Copyright 2020. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.