Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Change in Priorities

What does a bum knee and birthday party have to do with designing a fulfilling retirement?
A lot. Let me explain.

I decided to mark my 55th birthday with a special celebration—a reason to bring together sisters and daughters, and at the same time be physically challenged. The Tufts 10K women’s race in Boston presented the perfect balance of effort and enjoyment.

I reserved hotel rooms, booked dinner reservations, and decided on a sub-55 minutes 10K training schedule. Little did I know that a yoga class would derail my training and targeted goal. Due to a knee injury, I had to settle for walking instead of running. I had looked forward to running a great race—defying my age and running past women half my age. Instead, I got something much better.

I can’t boast of a 55-minute race and yet this was one of my most rewarding races. Why? 

I learned that my need for connection takes precedence over my need for achievement. 

If I had been able to accomplish my race goal, I would have done it alone.

Kim, Patrice, and Laurie
Lessons from this weekend are captured in one picture—a reminder of two competing needs—achievement and connection. I can choose to focus on the race clock, which is the slowest time I have ever finished a 10K race, or focus on the connection I experienced with my sisters. It’s a choice.

Which brings me to retirement—the perfect time to re-evaluate our priorities. 

Throughout our careers we have been driven by achievement—the next rung on the ladder. And while achievement still has its place in retirement, we need more. Without connection, achievement is superficial. 

But start with connection and add achievement, you have a winning combination!

Note: Although I ran my slowest race, I walked my fastest race: 12.1 minutes/mile.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ditch the "To-Do" List

During the first six months of retirement many of us develop long “to-do” lists. With this we derive satisfaction from crossing chores off the list that have been unfinished for years.

At first a to-do list is just what we need in retirement. The jobs bring structure to our day and create a sense of accomplishment, both important at a time when we may have lost our sense of direction.

Nonetheless, sooner or later a to-do list loses its power to satisfy and gratify. If you’re hitting the snooze button for the third time, then it’s time to consider a different list: a “no-regret” list.

A no-regret list is a way to live life backwards—by fast forwarding we find direction for how to live now.

Begin by considering what really matters to you. If you were on your deathbed, what would you regret having left undone?

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, then begin with a list developed by a palliative nurse who recorded the most common regrets of the dying in a book called “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.”

  1.  I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. 
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. 
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Consider each of the above and create a to-do list based on no-regrets. For example:

*Initiate steps to pursue an unfulfilled dream.

*Speak up—commit to courageous conversations instead of playing it safe and settling for a mediocre existence.

*Reconnect with friends and family.

*Stop pretending to be happy. Pursue new habits and patterns that will bring laughter and silliness into your life.

Retirement is the perfect time to work on your no-regret list. The other lists can wait.

Adapted from The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. Click here for full article.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Road of Discovery

A good way to discover what you need and want in retirement is to be reminded of what you don’t want. Let me explain.

This week when my husband asked what I had planned for the week I went through my daybook. After mentioning a couple meetings, conference calls, and yoga class, I said, “Not enough.”

If “not enough” is your response, then it’s time to do something about it. That’s the advice I’d give you, so it’s the advice I gave myself as I entered a home decorating fabric studio and saw an announcement for a part-time sales associate position posted on the door.

Hmmm, maybe this is a “god-thing.” Maybe I’m supposed to apply. I love handling fabrics and transforming rooms. I know a lot about fabric—my undergraduate degree is in textiles and clothing. Spending time in this environment will nurture my creative spirit and address my need for more social interaction.

I was scared to inquire about the position, but then asked myself, 

“What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” 

The answer, “I’d mention my interest in the position to my sales associate.” So, I did. She went to the back of the store and brought out the store manager.

I told the manager about my knowledge and experience with fabrics and decorating. Then she told me about the hours and expectations of the position. 
  • Three Saturdays each month. 
  • At least three days each week. 
  • Schedules created a month in advance, so no last minute decisions to get out of town for a few days. 
The manager reminded me, “This is retail.” She’s right. Retail requires that staff be available when people are available to shop. So why did this information deflate my enthusiasm for the position?

When I got back to my car I was proud of myself for asking about the job. I didn’t allow fear to hold me back. Yet, when I thought about committing 3 out of 4 Saturdays to the design studio, my interest plunged. Ideally, I could set my own hours—have a place to go when I’m available, not according to a pre-determined schedule. The pay wouldn’t matter much if I had this freedom.

Take away the freedom, and the pay matters more—more than it pays.

So will I apply? No. If the decision was only mine to make and I didn’t have to think of anyone else, then yes, I’d consider it. In this situation, a Saturday could be just the same as any other day of the week. But, I’m in a partnership with my husband. Having only one Saturday each month to be free with him is not enough when we have other choices.

Does this mean I will never find a place for creative expression and social interaction? No. But most likely it will not be in retail. Perhaps a non-profit organization or my own consulting business is where I need to look for and create opportunities.

I feel like I made progress today, even though I’m no closer to having more on my schedule. By being reminded of what I don’t want—that I won’t give up the freedom that retirement offers—I’ll look for opportunities elsewhere. I’ll speak up, just as I did today. And eventually, what I want and what I need will come together.

How about you?

What do you need in retirement?

Does your schedule have too many gaps or lack meaningful activities or involvement?

Where can you start to address this need? What do you think will add meaning and fun to your schedule? What will you look into, even if you are afraid?

Take note of what you learn once you take action. Today I learned that I place more value on my freedom than I realized. In moving forward, I’ll look for opportunities that sustain my freedom, not suppress it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Are You Retired or Unemployed?

My husband, Dave, and I went camping the last weekend in August at a ski resort in central New Hampshire. On our last day Dave went to the office to check out while I stayed outside and watched people ride the thrilling Zipline and explore the surroundings on a Segway, a super cool, two-wheeled motorized vehicle.

As I waited for Dave a friendly employee named Erin approached me. We had an interesting conversation about the resort. Then she asked the proverbial cocktail party question, “What do you do?” When I told her that I write and speak on retirement she was eager to share her story.

Erin is a retired high school physical education teacher. Like many teachers I speak with, Erin’s decision to retire was based on having maximized her pension, combined with her growing frustration with Administration. In her words, “If I could just teach, I’d do it forever.”

Erin told me she has a daughter in college who works at the ski resort in the summer. A couple years ago Erin’s daughter came home from work with a piece of paper and gave it to Erin. When Erin asked “What’s this?” her daughter said, “It’s a job application.”

Erin’s response, “I don’t need a job. I’m retired.”

Her daughter’s retort, “No you’re not. You’re unemployed.”

The verbal exchange went back and forth a few rounds until Erin agreed to complete and submit the application. Long story short, Erin got the job and believes it’s the best decision she’s made in retirement. In her role as guest associate she loves meeting new people and lending a hand with the sporting activities at the resort.

So, was Erin unemployed or was she retired?

Can she be both—unemployed and retired? What’s the difference?

Unemployed in retirement refers to a state of emotional joblessness.

If you feel a lack of direction, no compelling reason to get up in the morning, no goals or challenges to meet, or a sense of disengagement, then you may be retired AND unemployed.

Erin wasn’t looking for a job—she’s retired. But, she did need something to give her a sense of purpose, structure her time, and provide opportunities to engage with interesting and active people. Becoming employed provided what she needed. Erin could have found these benefits in paid or volunteer work. Money isn’t the issue. Life satisfaction is.

Think of employment as engagement.

Erin learned to view employment as engagement. By admitting that she needed more engagement in her retirement, she changed her thinking about employment. Retirement doesn’t always mean you don’t need a job. The best scenario may be retirement AND employment.

How about you? Is retirement keeping you from being employed—engaged? If so, now is the time to admit it and do something to change it! Just ask Erin.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gifts are made for Dancing

I just finished reading a handbook for baby boomers written by 50 contributing authors, many who have the sort of business that I’m creating—consulting, speaking, and writing about designing the second half of our lives.

I read the book expecting to be inspired by people who enjoy the same topics that energize me. To my disappointment, that didn’t happen. Instead, my confidence nosedived after learning about the contributors’ impressive credentials, years of experience, and notable clients.

From this point I spiraled down, questioning why I even bother to have this business dream. I don’t have 25 years experience in a field. I don’t have big name clients to impress you. My website isn’t glossy and technically advanced. I‘m an author, but self-published. Compared to many people who do what I’m aspiring to do, I’m nobody.

And yet, my little book has helped many people with their decision to retire and create meaningful retirement lifestyles. Thank you notes arrive in the mail with these messages:

You packed a lot of wisdom in this little book.
Your book is one of my most treasured resources.
Your book was even better the second time around.

When I speak, heads nod as though I’m playing pinball and hitting the 500 extra points buzzer, and I’m not talking about nodding off. My message resonates. I have something to offer. Equally important, the work has something of value to offer me.

I feel most alive when I’m writing, speaking, designing workshops, and discussing retirement with someone who’s struggling with the transition. In these situations, I’m dancing. The only explanation for this success is I must be using my gifts—the unique talents woven into my DNA.

How about you? In what situations do you feel most alive? When are you dancing?

If you have an unexplainable drive to do, create, or contribute something to the world, pay attention and trust your feelings. Don’t be intimidated by other people who appear more accomplished. If you do, you’ll pass up an abundant source of happiness; you’ll miss out on the dance.

Gifts don’t need years of experience or credentials to be valuable. They are gifted, not earned. They only need to be acknowledged, trusted, and shared.