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.

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