Friday, December 11, 2015

Is Work the Answer?

I’m learning in my retirement experiment that designing a rewarding and engaging retirement can be harder than working. My age doesn’t help. I’m 57. Most people my age are still working—and working long hours.

I’m very fortunate to not have to spend my days in an office, stressing over work and meeting other people’s demands. This freedom is a gift. And while I’m grateful, I'm also frustrated. What do I do with this gift of time? I think Seth Godin had it right when he wrote, "Freedom is our problem and freedom is our opportunity."

Image result for the internYou know what I'm talking about if you've seen the movie, The Intern. In this movie, Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), a 70-year-old retiree with too much time on his hands, describes retirement as "an ongoing relentless effort in creativity." After describing all the things he has done to keep himself busy (travel, golf, cooking classes, spending time with his family, hours at Starbucks, etc.) Ben says, "Don't get me wrong. I'm not an unhappy person—quite the contrary. I just know there's a hole in my life and I need to fill it, [long pause] soon." That's when a posted ad for a senior internship program grabs his attention.

Again, if you saw the movie, you know that Ben regains his zest for life as a result of the internship. He has a place to go. He has a reason to get up in the morning. He has younger people to mentor. And he has great respect for his boss, Jules Ostin (Ann Hathaway.) He even finds new love at work (it is a movie!)

So what is the take-away from this movie? If we're feeling a "hole in our lives" is work the answer? To find your answer to this question, reflect on what work has done for you. Identify the benefits of work that you're missing. Then get creative. You may decide that work is the best way to regain these benefits or you may find other ways to fill the hole…and soon.

Listed below are 5 non-financial benefits of work that are often absent in retirement. These missing benefits create what Ben called "a hole in my life." Consider how you can bring these benefits into your life, be it work or another creative endeavor.
  1. Work provides a place to go.
  2. Work develops structure.
  3. Work comes with a community where you have a sense of belonging and affiliation.
  4. Work offers challenges and opportunities for recognition.
  5. Work makes you feel a part of something. 

List other benefits of work that you value and consider ways that you can regain these benefits in retirement.

Copyright 2015 Patrice Jenkins, All Rights Reserved 

Monday, October 26, 2015

On The Hook


Finally our time is our own. We're "off the hook" when it comes to work commitments and related responsibilities. We have the freedom to do whatever we want with our time and energy. Many of us need to recharge our physical, mental and emotional batteries after dedicating 25+ years to a career. For a while, this period of freedom is replenishing and fulfilling.

And then what?

If we want to live an engaged life, which I assume we do, then we may need to think differently about being "on the hook." It might not be something to avoid.

According to Seth Godin, author of: What To Do When It's Your Turn and It's Always Your Turn, "Being on the hook is a privilege. It means the people around us are trusting us to contribute, counting on us to deliver. It's not something to be avoided."

In my endeavor to create possibilities, I often find myself on the hook. I do it to myself. No boss or supervisor or parent makes me do it. However, when I begin to feel pressure from these responsibilities and commitments, I'm tempted to wish I hadn't offered—I want to get off the hook. Here's an example:

Recently I offered to present a program at the local library on "The Retirement Experiment Project." This project is in a conceptual stage. In preparation for the workshop I had to bring more clarity to the topic and develop materials for the participants. I was on the hook to deliver something of value for the people who were giving of their time and energy to attend. A week before the event I asked, "Why do I do this to myself?" I wanted to get off the hook.

So what came of this commitment? I did the work. I showed up. Fortunately Godin's statement is changing the way I think about self-imposed responsibilities and commitments. By approaching the library commitment from Godin's perspective I felt privileged to be a source of information and ideas that may help people find meaning and purpose—a sense of direction—in retirement. Being on the hook was a good thing—for me and for the program participants.

How about you? When was the last time you purposely put yourself on the hook? If it has been a while, then it's time to do it. The best thing about retirement is that you choose your commitments. I encourage you to stretch yourself and try something new. Step out of your comfort zone and create possibilities. Being on the hook is a privilege that you don't want to miss.

Copyright 2015 Patrice Jenkins

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's kind of crazy but...

As I was signing the lease for our Saratoga apartment, Jane asked, "So, are you building a house?" She was trying to understand why I was renting a high-end apartment for 8 months, including winter months in a northern city.

My response: It's kind of crazy but I'm doing this for the fun of it. My husband and I are calling it "The Retirement Experiment." She seemed to get it, stating, "Oh, so you're seeing if you like living in Saratoga?" Okay, I guess so. That works. In my opinion this experiment will help us know if we like living in Saratoga, but there is much more that will happen because we don't know exactly why we're doing it. Actually, it's the "much more" that makes it even more exciting.

I've noticed other times in my life when something started with "It's kind of crazy but…" that great things happen. For example, my favorite consulting job came about after the HR Director wrote me an email that started with, "It's kind of crazy but…" She proposed a project that hadn't been discussed within the company. She knew the logistics didn't make sense—a two-hour commute each way. I wrote back that "kind of crazy ideas" are my favorite ideas to consider.

How about you? Do you have an idea that you're holding back on because it's kinda crazy? Maybe it doesn't make sense at this stage of life. Maybe you think you're too old or too poor or too something. Or maybe you think you're not young enough, not rich enough, or not something enough. Explore anyway. Start doing something—it can be as simple as a Goggle search. Drop assumptions. Have fun exploring and experimenting.

Often we find that our assumptions are not fact. Often there are opportunities that we didn't know about. I had no idea that it was possible to find a beautifully furnished apartment within walking distance of downtown Saratoga Springs. And to top that off, I was able to get an 8-month lease, which is all I need to try my retirement experiment.

What else might there be in life that I'm not aware of? I'm ready to experiment, even with crazy ideas!

Copyright 2015 Patrice Jenkins

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Second Best Time...

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
—Chinese Proverb

Steven's Tree
This proverb grabbed my attention—perhaps because my husband and I have two beautiful trees that we received when our two sons were born. Steven is now 26, and Jason, 24. Our sons, similar to the trees, are tall and mature—growth that takes time and can't be bought.

This proverb also reminds me of a story told by Barbara Sher, career counselor and best-selling author of seven books. A woman approached Barbara at a book-signing event to say that she had always wanted to create a museum of her family's century old farm. With passion she described her vision of a place where people could learn about the history of farming and also honor the generations who had worked on the farm. Then her voice dropped and the sparkle in her eyes faded when she said, "It's too late. I never did it."

Barbara asked the woman's age. She replied, 62. Then Barbara asked, "Are you sick?" Looking a little perplexed she replied, no. "Well then, you need to get to work on that museum. When you're 80, you'll realize just how young you were at 62."

This true story has a happy ending. The woman followed through and is developing the museum of her dreams. Metaphorically, she planted a tree at age 62.

Looking back I'm glad I planted those trees over two decades ago. It was the best time. But what about the "trees" I didn't plant? And what about the trees that you didn't plant? What would you do if now is the next best time to plant?


Make a list of your trees—a long list. Don't hold back. Whatever comes to your mind write it down even if it seems unattainable at this time.

Now go back over the list and begin by choosing one tree to plant. Next, create a step-by-step plan for getting started. Then share your plan with a carefully selected friend or family member. This person needs to be your greatest cheerleader (sometimes this isn't your closest relative.) This person will help you keep the tree alive with proper care and extra fertilizer. This person will water the tree when you can't be there.

There often is a best time to do something, but this doesn't mean it's the only time. In fact, now is the only time we have. In our retirement years let's make the most of this season!

(You may want to literally plant a tree as a visual reminder that it's not too late for your dreams to grow!)

Copyright 2015 Patrice Jenkins All Rights Reserved