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.