Tuesday, May 17, 2016

One-Year Project

After speaking to a roomful of retiring educators, a woman named Linda came up to me saying, "I'm feeling very anxious about retiring because everyone at work keeps asking me what I'm going to do. I don't know what I'm going to do. I wish they would stop asking—they're only increasing my anxiety." 

I turned to Linda and suggested she focus on what she would like to do the first year—narrow her timeframe to 12 months. Many people I speak with have a to-do list that covers the first 6 months or more. Not that I recommend a long to-do list, but it's often what helps people feel more comfortable with their newfound freedom.

Still, Linda was not inspired, which might be a good thing. She will have to search a little longer, dig deeper for inspiration, but the outcome will be worth the effort.

I continued to think about Linda on my drive home. What could I offer that would give her a sense of direction? Retirement is unchartered territory and even a little reception from her internal GPS might offer hope. That's when three words from Brene Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection, came to mind: courage, compassion and connection.

The answer to "What are you going to do?" is "I'm going to spend the first year of retirement focusing on three areas of my life: courage, compassion and connection." My one-year project is to explore what these mean to me and then take steps to create more of each in my life." One-year projects are a popular notion—think of the success of The Happiness Project and the true story of Julie Powell's one-year commitment to cook every recipe (524 recipes!) in Julia Child's cookbook.

Back to Linda…
To start her project, Linda (and you, if you wish to play along) needs to define what courage, compassion, and connection mean to her. She can look to the dictionary for definitions, but I prefer to define these words from the heart. What does courage mean to her? What difference will courage make in her life? What would she do if she were more courageous? Ask the same questions for compassion and connection.

The next step is to take action. Come up with a plan for exercising courage, compassion and connection, every day. Share it with others to increase commitment and accountability. At any time during the year Linda may discover new interests and how she wants to spend her retirement. Perfect! Now she has more than one answer to "What are you going to do?"

Copyright 2016 Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Altering the Course of My Life

(This post is purposely brief to demonstrate that it only takes 250 words to alter the course of your life.)

When was the last time you did something that altered the course of your life?

You may believe a life-altering experience requires something so big that you decide, "What's the use? I don't have any BIG ideas. That is what happens to people who are smarter, braver, richer…"

I might agree if not for the stories from people who make big changes in their lives by taking small steps, not knowing where they are going, but refusing to stand still. According to author Elizabeth Gilbert, "any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion."

I love the idea of inspiration being drawn to motion—a genie's bottle that once rubbed releases ideas and opportunities. Frans Johansson of The Click Moment agrees, "By taking action, you open up a wide range of new ideas, possibilities, and connections." By putting something into motion, you "create something for these forces to latch on to. You must actually do something, even if you are not sure where it will lead."

You don't have to do something BIG to release these forces. One woman applied to volunteer in the National Parks for a summer. In her words, "I felt it was right. The experience would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that by sending the application, I was altering the course of my life."

Put something into motion. Send the email. Make the phone call. Submit the application. Actions are the way to alter the course of your life!

Copyright 2016 Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Magic of the Calendar

Retirement is a great time to try something different, get involved in new roles, explore new hobbies, and take on new challenges. According to authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, "You can’t put limits on what you’ll do. You have to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things if you want break-throughs in your life. A different result requires doing something different."

All this sounds great except that it's not easy to do something different. New ideas and activities are uncomfortable. Instead of using this next chapter in our lives as a midlife opportunity, we fall victim to inertia and comfort. By overestimating the risk of uncertainty or failure, we play it safe—too safe.
If you're thinking about doing something new, but feeling a little scared, or a lot scared, then write the event on your calendar. Even if you think there is no chance of doing it, still pencil it in. I call it the "Magic of the Calendar." Here are three reasons why this works:

You learn if the event fits into your calendar—do you have conflicts? If not, you know you have time for this event. If you have conflicts, can you work around them?

As you add other things to your calendar, perhaps required commitments, you'll notice if your pretend event is still a possibility. You can't get off the hook by saying you're too busy.

As you look at your calendar over the days and weeks to come, you start to get used to the possibility of following through on this idea—it's called the "mere exposure effect". Research suggests that the more exposure we have to something, the more we like it. Initially a new idea or activity elicits a fear/avoidance response. However, repeated exposure causes less fear and more of an approach tactic. By simply scrolling through your calendar, you are repeatedly exposed to this thing that you're not sure you're going to do.

I recently experienced the magic of the calendar. At a women's conference I learned about an organization that is committed to fighting slavery and violence against the poor (www.ijm.org). I also learned the date and place of their annual conference. For the fun of it, I wrote the event on my calendar. I really had no intention of attending. I thought it would require too much effort and expense to figure out the logistics—travel and accommodations. Plus, I didn't want to go alone. Still, each time I scrolled through my iPhone calendar, there it was—IJM Conference.

Then, to my surprise, I learned that my sister-in-law planned to attend the conference, and I could stay in her hotel room. Transportation—the train to Washington DC is affordable and convenient. Now that the logistics were worked out, I was still a little afraid to attend the conference. I knew if I learned about bonded slavery and other crimes against the poor, I had to respond. But I also knew if I didn't attend, that nothing would happen—and that was scarier.

I am happy to report that I attended the event and had an amazing weekend. Now I can say that I'm participating in the fight to end slavery and crimes against the poor. How cool is that! It was the magic of the calendar that put moved this idea from a pretend event to a lived experience.

I encourage you to give the calendar exercise a try. What have you been thinking about doing but too afraid to make it happen? For the "fun of it" write it on your calendar. Then let the magic work for you!

Copyright 2016 Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.