Friday, April 25, 2014

A Short Story

I love the first page of a new journal. The smooth white paper represents the beginning of a new journey that will be revealed in the pages to follow. Anything can happen. Like looking into a crystal ball—gradually the future comes into focus as the pages fill up.

I recently experienced the joy of a "first page" after recording a final entry in my red leather journal. Just the act of choosing the next journal brings me joy, and since I love buying journals, I usually have a stack from which to choose. This time I chose a small brown leather journal that Oprah Winfrey sent to everyone who registered for her Life Lessons class. It's a smaller journal that I usually buy, but it was free, so I can't complain.

On the first page I wrote:

"The first page of a new journal—always exciting and filled with dreams, hopes, and visions of what will be the story of this journal. This is a short journal—I think it will contain a short story—maybe I can pack a lot of living into a short story."

And so this is how I'm approaching the next couple months of my life. I have only 70 pages to create my story. I'll need to put forth extra effort to make it an interesting story—one that I'll want to read over and over again. I can't waste pages on boring, everyday stuff. And so, every day I look for something that will add to my short story. I plan to go for the adventures, initiative courageous conversations, and to grow by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

My short journal is a metaphor for life. None of us know if we have a long journal or a short journal. Last week I attended the funeral of a 48-year-old friend. I'm sure he thought his "journal" was much longer—that he had plenty of pages to fill. He didn't know that he'd been dealt a short journal.

Retirement is the perfect time to approach life as if it is a short story. Perhaps for the first time in your life a boss, your business, or other commitments are no longer managing you. The pen is in your hand. The blank pages are yours to fill.

All writers know that facing a blank page can be scary, but it's also an opportunity to write a bestseller. So get started—write your story, one that brings you to the edge of your seat and is too good to put down. You are the author of your life. Make it a bestseller!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Recreating Your Life

When you were a kid did you ever go to summer camp?

I did.

As I remember, the first few days I felt very lonely. From my perception, all the other campers had friends and they were having a great time. I thought there was something wrong with me. I had been told really cool stories about summer camp—new friends, campfire songs, swimming pools, sleeping on the top bunk, art and crafts, etc. I couldn’t wait to get there, counting down the weeks and days. And now that I was there, I felt like going home—back to what felt comfortable and familiar.

But I didn’t.

Instead I stuck it out and by Wednesday afternoon I felt the shift. I was becoming part of the group. By Saturday I didn’t want to leave my new friends and familiar environment and routine. Camp was fun, but only after I made it through the first few transitional days.

I recently had my "grown-up" version of going to summer camp. I started a new part-time job with a company that I’ve earnestly pursued for the past couple years. I’d built up the dream of working for this company, imagining my new life in Corporate America, getting away from my small town and spending evenings in the city. But, just like summer camp, the first couple days on the job I felt more melancholic than joyful about my new life. And, just like summer camp, I knew I needed to give it time, believing that this new life is exactly what I want to create in retirement.

I’m sharing my recreating story with you so that you’ll be ready for your "first few days at summer camp" experience. Motivational speakers and authors readily assert that changing your life is easy. Just dream it and start doing it. I agree with the "start" part. To change your life, you have to start somewhere. You have to actively take steps to move in the direction of your dreams.

What these well-meaning folks don’t say is, "It’s going to be difficult and feel unfamiliar. You might even want to give up and return to what feels comfortable, even when you’re bored and dissatisfied with comfortable."  I don’t want you to retrace all the steps you’ve taken to get your new life into motion. Instead, I want you to keep moving forward, boldly, believing that what you’re giving up is worth what you can create.

Authors Richard Leider and Alan Webber understand the "summer camp experience." In their book, "Life Reimagined" they tell it like it is: "Reimagining your life is going to be messy." You need to "start to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." And still, "It’s time for a new story to replace the old one." According to Leider and Webber, nobody gets a free pass from having to confront the hard parts of life. If you want to recreate your life, reimagine how you want to live the second half of your life, then be ready for the hard parts.

I agree with Leider and Webber: "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change their lives are the ones who do. With exploration, you begin to change your journey; you begin to open yourself up to the unknown. You begin to separate the old story—what you’ve always done, who you’ve always been—from the new story—what you’d like to learn to do, who you’d like to become."

But to do this, be prepared to experience the first few days (or longer!) of summer camp.