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.

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