Saturday, March 17, 2018

Peak Moments

Take out a piece of paper and write down 10 most memorable moments in your life. Really. Do it now.

(Pause—I’m waiting for you to write your list.)

Got it? Ok. Now read through your list and put a check mark next to the events that happened before your 40th birthday.

Maybe your list looks something like the top 10 memorable experiences that authors Dan and Chip Heath uncovered in their research for The Power of Moments:

1.     Having children
2.     Marriage
3.     Begin school
4.     College
5.     Fall in love
6.     Others’ death
7.     Retirement
8.     Leave home
9.     Parents’ death
10. First job.

You’ll notice that for most of us, seven of these events happen before we’re 40 years old. And, two of the three remaining events are related to death. Not exactly something to look forward to.

How many check marks do you have for the under-40 question? If you have six or more, you might ask, “Have I already lived my best years?”

Not necessarily.

The reason we remember moments at an earlier age is because we experience many firsts during this stage of life. Firsts have the power of being high emotion—hence, memorable. However, in retirement, our day-to-day emotions are pretty even. Not many high peaks—unless we intentionally create the moments. But how?

According to Power of Moments, do three things:

First, boost sensory appeal.
Second, raise the stakes.
Third, break the script.

Creating peak moments requires effort—most good things do—and it’s worth it. I created a powerful memory for my family over the Christmas holidays. Our adult children made plans to come home—requiring flights and using vacation time for all of them. So instead of just another Christmas at home, where everyone knows the routine and falls into expected roles, I decided to apply the peak moments’ formula, starting with renting an Adirondack home in Lake Placid for four days.

Christmas in Lake Placid broke the script. Sensory appeal was boosted by a sense of adventure. The stakes were raised by having matching pajamas, searching for a Christmas tree on December 24, and skating on the Olympic outdoor rink. My son-in-law and my son’s fiancé both experienced firsts: cross-country skiing and going on the Olympic bobsled and skeleton rides.

According to the authors, “Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, amazed, motivated.” These words perfectly describe our Lake Placid Christmas—a peak moment that will continue to live on in our memories. 

Retirement is the perfect opportunity to invest your extra time into creating peak moments!

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Olympic Commercials

The 2018 Winter Olympics is almost over. If you’re an early riser, you can stream live the closing ceremony at 6 am Sunday morning, Feb. 25.  For the past two weeks I’ve been inspired by the athletes’ commitment to their Olympic goals and athletic achievements. I’ve also been inspired by the commercials during NBC’s coverage of the games. I believe we can take inspiration from these messages to create our best lives in retirement. 

“Start Your Impossible”—Toyota
We can all come up with reasons to not start something that we’ve always dreamed about doing. And when we’re retired, it’s even easier to use excuses to ignore that little (or not so little) voice in our head that says, “You always wanted to …”

You might be on a fixed income. You might be in your 60s, or 70s, or 80s. Your dream or goal might seem too big—too impossible. And yet, what if you just started? What if you ignored the negative voices, and acted “as if” it’s all going to work out?

Do something, before you have all the answers. Before you have all the money. Before you know exactly how to do what you want to do. Just start.

“Because I Can”—Diet Coke
I’m addicted to Diet Coke, and evidentially there are a lot of people like me. When people ask, “Why are you drinking Diet Coke before 9am?” this commercial suggests a response, “Because I can.”

There is a lot we can do in retirement that might seem unreasonable or impractical. For example, each month I drive 9 hours (round trip) to clean my dad’s house. I could expect him to do it, or to hire someone to clean. Instead, I choose to do it “because I can.” I’ve learned it’s not about the cleaning. Instead, it’s an opportunity to visit with Dad and show my love through action.

Once we admit to having free time, and not being so busy, there is a lot we can do, because we can, because we’re available. Don’t let soul-sucking “reasonableness” keep you from doing something. Just do it, because you can.

“We’re born to do what can’t be done. Do what you can’t.”—Samsung
What dreams have you placed in a category of “can’t be done?” If there’s anything on your list, now is the time to test these assumptions. The way to do what can’t be done is to just start, in some little way, to move in that direction.

I thought buying a second home couldn’t be done. Still, I started looking online (love Redfin and Zillow!). I met with a realtor, making it very clear from the start that I was “just playing.” Now, three years later, I’m writing from my second home.

“If you’re going to do something, make it matter.”—Hewlett Packard
A lot of retired people simply focus on “keeping busy.” I have a problem with “keeping busy,” which is probably why this advertisement from the 2012 Olympics stuck with me all these years. Don’t just do something to stay busy—do something that matters—to you, to the world, to something or someone!

You don’t have to solve world hunger, unless that’s is what you want do, but whatever it is, give it your all. Satisfaction doesn’t come from the status quo or “good enough.” We might be tempted in retirement to be easy on ourselves, to lower our expectations. But happiness and a sense of gratification come from matching our gifts and skills with equally challenging tasks. Make it matter!

“Thank you Mom”—Proctor and Gamble
Olympic athletes express gratitude for the countless hours, sacrifices, and support they received from parents, coaches, and others who believed in their dream.

Research shows that expressing gratitude is a sure way of experiencing more happiness in life. According to Sonya Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, “Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, avarice, hostility, worry, and irritation.”

Make it a daily practice to write down five things for which you are thankful. Write a letter or make a phone call to someone who has had a positive impact on your life. Even better—deliver this message face-to-face. Focus on the present moment, expressing appreciation for your life as it is today. If you want to be happier in retirement, be more grateful.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Landing the Plane

At the end of a pre-retirement seminar, a guy in the back of the room, whom I’ll call Bob, raised his hand. He said, “I view retirement as ‘landing the plane’.” He went on to explain that he’s been on a 35-year plane ride and now it’s time to come in for a landing. As the date approaches, the tray tables are to be returned to their upright position. All carry-ons tucked under the seat in front of him or in the overhead compartment. Computers and other electronic devices shut down. 
At first Bob’s description was a little depressing to me—the ride is over. It’s time to be grounded. But that’s not how Bob sees it. He views the plane as a means to get to his next adventure—retirement.

Ironically, just a few days before I met Bob, I’d written a blog post about going from “95 to zero” in a weekend. Bob’s perspective on approaching and preparing for retirement is the opposite of slamming on the brakes. He’s planning psychologically by picturing a plane landing. Maybe he’s doing other things too, such as taking on fewer responsibilities at work, increasing his social network outside of work, and exploring new interests and opportunities. When the captain turns off the seat belt light, Bob will be ready to grab his bags and go.

The plane vision works for Bob. What image will help you visualize the transition from full-time employment to hours of unstructured time and freedom? If you were reading a guidebook about your next destination, what would it be? Perhaps the title would be “Going from Success to Significance” or “Moving Toward What You Value.” If so, what can you do now to prepare for a smooth landing?

By imagining how you want to live this next stage of your life, you’ll have a greater sense of direction and purpose. You’ll have your bags packed and be ready to arrive.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.