Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Paint Your Nails Red

A couple weeks ago I visited my sister Laurie while our husbands were both away. While I was there Laurie scheduled a manicure for us, a special treat for sisters to enjoy together. Just before we went into the salon Laurie asked, "Are you going to get color?" My instant response was, "No, I always wear clear nail polish." 

A couple minutes passed and then I announced, "Maybe I should get a color. Maybe I should paint my nails red!" Mostly I was kidding. Since I only have a manicure about once or twice a year, choosing the "right" color is really important to me. I knew I was safe with clear. However, after agonizing over the decision (yes, I know how ridiculous this sounds), I decided to go for red.

This was no small decision, so I asked myself, "What is the worse that can happen?" Answer: "I don't like the color and take it off when I get home. I waste $30.00." I decided to take the risk.
To my delight, when I walked out of the salon, I was in love with what looked like an exclamation mark at the tip of each finger. And four weeks later I'm still amazed at the impact this small decision has had on my life. Last week I decided to buy red lipstick—another first for me. Now I think that every woman should wear red lipstick at some point in her life. Appropriately, the name of the lipstick color: 
"Are You Red-Dy" 

Why all the talk about red nails and lipstick? The point I want to make is that while a routine is helpful when navigating retirement, occasionally we need to step out of our routine if we want to live life more fully. A little shift opens up new channels of creativity and possibility.

"Because of the routines we follow, we often forget that life is an ongoing adventure." 
Maya Angelou

I encourage you to change up your routine. Begin with something small, a low-stakes decision. For me it was red nail polish. You'll find that little changes will increase your confidence, expand your interests, and contribute to life being an ongoing adventure.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Crash and Learn

Written by Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Brinckerhoff

I had to crash the plane. It was just a dream but as real as life as I flew the plane down the four-lane highway, with traffic heading toward me. I flew just above the tree line, barely missing the trees. I knew I had to crash the plane, there was no runway in sight and I had no idea how to find one.

I landed the plane nose first. I was ok, bruised, the plane heavily damaged. When I woke from the dream, I knew that the whole incident was a metaphor for where I was in my life. I had been "failing" retirement for a decade. I’d read articles on retirement, tried over and over again to get myself into gear, feel productive, get in sync with a new lifestyle. And yet, I just couldn’t get my act together. Maybe that’s because it was an act.

I looked to others for direction, and then realized I had to find my own way. But what was my way? Just as in my dream, I needed to crash land and stop the repetitive pattern of standing in place. 

A friend and I walked in the park several days a week, great exercise for the body but all our conversations still left the unanswered question, what was I going to do now that my career, my work identity, the demanding but comforting schedule and responsibilities of the workplace were no longer part of my life. 

I became involved in various town activities and felt satisfaction at being able to help make things better for others. But what about me? What was I going to do with the rest of my life, with any time left that I would be lucky to have?

Not knowing what to do, I did what came naturally. I organized. Until now my home, my castle, was much the same as it was before I retired. By keeping my home intact, the home that had existed during the years I was working professionally, I was still anchored to the past. I needed my home to make room for my new stage of life.

It's true that when you live in an atmosphere of things around you that are annoying or leave you with a bland feeling, you internalize that feeling. You feel burdened, a quiet or sometimes not so quiet pressure. This is where you live, where you come home to, where you sleep, cook, enjoy, and play. When you leave your home to go out to the world, you carry the feelings you have created within you. Getting rid of things and creating space for new beginnings changes all this.

Lighten up, Open up 

Go through your home, room by room. Surround yourself with cognizance of what is meaningful to you. Save the basics and what creates happiness within you. If you love something, keep it. If you feel annoyed or ambivalent when you see it, pay attention to your feelings. As organizer Marie Kondo suggests, get rid of things that don't spark joy. Give it away, toss it, recycle it, or share it. You're smart enough to not cut back too far.

Throughout this process, keep the flow of energy alive. Think of the freedom you will feel when your surroundings are fresh and meaningful, you'll open up to new things in your life. Your creative mind will be activated, the pleasure centers stimulated. You will "enjoy" that walk, be more alert to learning. You will "be there", maybe for the first time in a while when you are not weighed down by things. 

That’s what I did. And now, I’m ready to read the articles, listen, and put my own life together.

Copyright Elizabeth Brinckerhoff 11/2014

Elizabeth Brinckerhoff is an organizational specialist who has discovered that "being organized" just for the sake of being organized isn’t the answer. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Having Fun in Retirement

Written by Guest Blogger: Dave Bernard

What is the point of retiring if you are not going to have fun? Our careers typically span many decades and the challenges we face to successfully prepare for and arrive at retirement are many. A lot of sweat and sacrifice goes into navigating our way. When we finally arrive we have earned the right to do what we want and enjoy our second act to its fullest.

Although it sounds like the perfect ending to a great story, it is not always easy to smoothly jump from full time work to full time retirement. Without a job telling us what to do and occupying the majority of our waking day, the sudden freedom of choice can be overwhelming. If you retire at 65 you can hope to live another 20 or more years retired. What are you going to do with all that time?

I began my retirement journey back in 2010 while "temporarily" between jobs. For six months I submerged myself in the ever joyful job search process but with no results. I realized it was possible I might no longer be what they were looking for in today's fast paced high tech start up arena. That was where my career had been but now I was 50. What if no one would hire me again…ever?

I began to ask myself, if I was retired - assuming the financial side of things was relatively okay - what would life look like? What would I do to keep busy? How would I stay engaged and enjoy my second act?

It has been five years now during which I have been "retired" all but one. The good news is I have figured out - at least for me - some of the important ingredients to finding fun in retirement.

A little routine is a good thing
As an organized person, I do well with a regular routine. It's not that I lack spontaneity - I just like to have part of my day scheduled. My typical day starts with some time on the computer writing and blogging with an excellent cup of java in hand. Next I head to the backyard to enjoy the beginning of the day, contemplate life, read a little something, and pet the cats which include me in part of their daily routine. Time for a workout and then lunch followed up by a good walk through the neighborhood, maybe to Whole Foods for dinner supplies. This gets me to about 2:00 after which I have a variety of things I may do.

Having a routine helps get me out of bed - I have things to do. Being somewhat productive - whether writing or working out or whatever - instills a feeling of accomplishment when I look back at the end of the day. And since I make the schedule I can change it as I see fit.

But it is that routine for the first part of the day that gets me rolling.

Try new things
It is important to keep exploring and experimenting with what life has to offer. Too often we view retirement as limiting rather than an opportunity to take maximum advantage of. Why watch from the sidelines when we can get into the game? Some might decide to add to their education attending classes covering subjects they are actually interested in. Whether on line or in a classroom, you can pick your topic. I recently began to learn French, something I would never have predicted. You might want to explore your creative side, trying your hand at painting, writing, singing, dancing or other artistic expressions. I have always wanted to write a book and during my "retirement warm-up" self published two non-fiction works. With extended time on your hands you might travel abroad for months instead of weeks. What an opportunity to truly immerse yourself and get to know the culture of your chosen destination. Doing new things helps to keep retirement fresh and your excitement for living running full speed ahead.

Spend time doing what you like
Retirement is your chance to do what you want - finally. You are off the clock with no career requirements hanging over your head. Are there hobbies you have neglected because you just did not have the time? What about relationships with family and friends that you might like to revisit? Do you have a stack of unread books you have been saving for the right moment? Well for all the above the right time is retirement. Now you can get back to what you truly enjoy. Why waste your time doing anything you do not want? If you start down a path and lose interest, head in a different direction. The freedom of choice retirement allows is for most of us foreign and maybe even a bit unnerving. But with a little practice we can get used to it. And what a wonderful time we have to look forward to in the months and years ahead.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be" that focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement beyond financial. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement - Only the Beginning.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I'm Not Living to Build a Resume

If you're anything like me, several of your life decisions have been based on what "looks good on your resume." You may have stayed in a job longer than desired so that future employers won't think you’re a person who jumps from job to job. You may have returned to the workforce, sooner rather than later after starting a family, to avoid having a gap in your resume. You may have taken a promotion because it looks good on your resume, even when the new role took you away from work that you enjoyed doing more.

I hadn't given this topic much thought until last week when I told a friend that the consulting work I'm doing for an amazing company is coming to an end. I had hoped for a permanent part-time position in the company; most likely this isn’t going to happen. My friend's comment: "It's been a great resume builder." 

My nearly knee-jerk response to his comment took me by surprise: "I'm not building a resume; I'm creating a lifestyle! At this stage of life I'm not living to build a resume." I didn't know I felt so strong about this until I said it, which doesn't mean that I don't plan to work in retirement, because I do.

I am a strong advocate for working in retirement. I believe there are too many benefits from work (aside from financial) that contribute to my happiness, sense of purpose, meaning, and community. But this work may never show up on a resume.

How about you? For the past 25-35 years, in what ways has your resume swayed your decisions?

Now it's time to shift your focus from resume building to lifestyle building. Whereas before you may have accepted a job because it looks good on your resume, now you can accept a job because it's what you want to do, whether you get paid or not. Before you may have rejected a job because it was "below" you. Now you can accept any job you want to do regardless of the perceived status. If you think being a short-order cook looks like fun, do it! You have already proven your professional self.

In this next stage of life, ask: "What do I want to get out of working in retirement?" and "If my real goal is to create a life, in what ways does work contribute to this lifestyle?"

One thing I know for sure: I'm no longer going to make life decisions based on how they will look on my resume. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Change Up The Plot

A few months ago I wrote about starting a new journal that only has 70 lined pages, much shorter than my other journals. (Click here to read full post.) I made the point that the journal can serve as a short story. My goal was to pack a lot of living into a few pages.

When I was down to the last 12 pages (front and back) I noted in my journal entry: "I don't have a lot of time remaining to add to my short story. Is there something I can do that will propel my story forward? Is there a sudden change in the plot?"

Isn't that how a good book reads? You're going along thinking that you know how everything is going to turn out, and then bam! You're thrown a curve ball. You didn't see it coming. And it changes everything.

For the next couple weeks I lived with the intention of changing up the plot. I said "yes" to more opportunities. I slept naked on more nights. I reserved a lakefront campsite and cooked a delicious shrimp dinner over the fire. I zoomed down the longest and highest zipline in North American. I initiated courageous conversations. I delighted in being in the moment. I let it be known, this is who I am and this is what I've come for.

A couple weeks later I savored the experience of writing my final entry in the short journal. I met my goal—I had packed a lot of living into a few pages. By being intentional, by changing up the plot, I put forth the extra effort to write an interesting story—one that is too good to put down and keeps getting better.

Retirement is the perfect time to pack a lot of living into a short story—a new story that gets more interesting when you change up the plot.