Friday, July 26, 2013

Ten-Year-Old Self

What did you love to do as a 10-year old?

Did you have a lemonade stand or a newspaper route? Did you enjoy playing a musical instrument? Perhaps you were a promising engineer, taking apart bicycles and lawnmowers to craft a wacky raft for your town’s annual competition.

At a time when you’re looking to the future and planning your retirement lifestyle, it might seem pointless to reflect on your life when you were in the 5th grade. Ironically, remembering how you enjoyed spending your time when you were 10 may be the best place to find clues as to how to spend your time in retirement.

This idea came to me while speaking with a group of 5th grade girls who were attending a career exploration day. In my welcoming speech, I explained that while they were going to learn from adults about a variety of careers, they might learn more by paying attention to what they love to do right now—that as adults we often learn more about ourselves by remembering what we loved to do when we were 10 years old.

To illustrate, I told the girls about the popcorn ball business I had when I was in 5th grade. To set my business apart from the others, I carefully hand picked un-popped kernels from each batch of popcorn before mixing in the hot sugar syrup. My popcorn balls came in three colors and were individually wrapped with matching ribbons. After being in business for only a few days, students were waiting for me to get off the school bus so that they could buy my product. In fact, my popcorn balls were so popular that Mrs. Daly, my 5th grade teacher, even asked for the recipe (but I didn’t give it to her!)

Considering the age of my audience, this analogy may have been lost in interpretation. But, for my current audience—retirees who are searching for something to be passionate about—remembering what you loved to do as a child is a great way to reconnect with your true self.

Honestly, the “popcorn ball girl” better describes my inner drive, talents, and where I derive satisfaction than the latest professional position I held as a college administrator. As I build my retirement consulting business, it is the popcorn ball girl who’s responsible for the motivation. She’s busy at work (and enjoying every minute) doing what she’s designed to do.

How about you? What did you love to do as a child? Make a list and look for clues that reveal the “real you.” Then create opportunities to reconnect with this inner child.

In the process, you’ll find a source of motivation and fulfillment that may have been dormant during the years when you were busy making a living.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The "R" Word


What is your gut reaction to being referred to as retired? If you’re similar to most Baby Boomers, you resist this label. Some people are even offended by the term and quick to correct our perception of their status, using titles such as rewired and repotted.

Why the strong response to a simple word? A dictionary search for the meaning of “retired” explains:

Discharged. Elderly. Aged. Old. Pensioned off. Give up work. Step down. Be put out to pasture.

Sounds like everything we’ve been working for, right?


If these words describe retirement, then it’s no wonder we need a new way to think of this next stage of life. Who wants to be grouped with a bunch of old, aged, discharged individuals? Instead, we need a new perspective on retirement—a fresh perspective.

Retired. Refreshed. 

I like to think of retirement as hitting the “refresh” button on a webpage. By refreshing the page, the information is more current. Old news no longer appears on the page. We’re not making decisions based on outdated information or way of thinking.

Even so, when I refresh a webpage, not everything changes. In fact, very often the differences are subtle. The same is true for designing a happy retirement lifestyle. Research suggests that people experience a greater sense of well being when there is continuity in their lives. Refreshing doesn’t take us to a different website, it simply represents the current status and information that we have to work with.

When you think of your life as a webpage, 
how does it look different once retirement refreshes the page? 

Have fun with this question. Take out a piece of paper and draw a webpage that represents your life before retirement. Then refresh the page by taking out another piece of paper and drawing a webpage that represents your current or future state. What changes? Do you have new categories that didn’t appear before retirement? Are some areas more or less important than they were before refreshing the page?

This is a great time to think about what you want to have more of in our life. When I did this exercise, a place for employment was still on my page, but it was more creative, in my own colors, with my name on it. It’s a refreshed version of how I want to work at this stage of life.

Try it for yourself and remember to “refresh” periodically.