Monday, August 14, 2017

Start at the Bottom

Down the road from my apartment in Saratoga Springs, NY, a luxury condominium building is being constructed. Over the past several months I've watched construction crews tear down an existing building; large bulldozers clear the land and dig a foundation; and eventually, steel beams and wood framing appeared. Today windows are being installed. 

Last week, as my husband and I walked by the site, I said, "I wonder how builders know where to begin. The project seems so big and confusing." My husband responded, "You start at the bottom."

I think it’s fair so say that my husband knows nothing about home construction, and yet, it seems clear that you have to start at the bottom and then build up.

In some ways, building a retirement is similar to building a condo. It’s big and confusing. So where do we begin? I’m suggesting we start at the bottom and build up. We start with a foundation that’s formulated from our values.

Building the Foundation

If you were starting a new life today, what would you absolutely require? What do you want your life to be based on? What do you value most? Susan David, author of Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, provides these descriptions of values:

·      They are freely chosen and have not been imposed on you.
·      They are not goals; that is, they are ongoing rather than fixed.
·      They guide you rather than constrain you.
·      They are active, not static.
·      They allow you to get closer to the way you want to live your life.
·      They bring you freedom from social comparison.
·      They foster self-acceptance, which is crucial to mental health.

If you’d like to learn more about your values, take a values assessment quiz. There are hundreds to choose from a Google search. Click here for a link to an assessment tool that I find helpful.

Back to the conversation I had with my husband. He missed one very important step when stating you start at the bottom and build up. Contractors don’t dig a big hole, pour concrete, and then sit down with a beer to talk about what type of building will sit on the foundation. Instead, they begin with whiteprints, the technical drawings that capture the architectural design.

This is where building a condo and building a retirement differ. The whiteprint, the architectural plan for our future, is designed from our values. Once these are solid, we can sit down with a cold beer or iced tea and dream about what we want to build on this foundation.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Make Every Day Count

When you go to bed at night, can you say that you feel good about how you spent the day? If this were your last day on earth, would you be okay with how you lived?

Living every day with a sense of purpose and direction can be challenging when we’re no longer employed. When we were in the workforce, it was much easier. We had to show up to work. We felt productive because that’s what we were supposed to do—get stuff done.

Conversely, in retirement this sense of purpose and being productive can be elusive. It’s hard to live every day with intention. I don’t want to disappoint you, but most likely there will be some times when you’re languishing and mindlessly wondering about the house. You’ll get in your car to drive somewhere, but have nowhere to go. It’s not easy to purposely fill 16 hours (960 minutes!) Busywork doesn’t count. I’ve never found satisfaction in just keeping busy.

Over the years I’ve written several blog posts about intentional living. I encourage you to browse through these archived articles to learn how to create a retirement with meaning and purpose. You’ll find a lot of great ideas that will bring direction to your retirement years. Here are just a few suggested posts to get started:

Still, even if you read every post I’ve written since 2010, there will be times when you feel like a boat without a rudder. One these days, before the day ends, I suggest doing something that will make a difference in the world. That might sound like a big task. Fortunately we don’t have to find a solution for world hunger, or build a school in Nairobi, to benefit from the positive emotion that comes from extending a small act of kindness.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Fill a large bag full of clothes that you no longer wear and put it in a collection container. When I was in Uganda, I witnessed the difference these clothes make in the life of a micro-entrepreneur who mends the clothes and sells them to support her family.

Instead of going out for drinks, give $25 to KIVA. It’s a gift that keeps giving because once the entrepreneur has repaid the loan, you get to reinvest the money in another entrepreneur. Plus it’s really fun to choose the person, country, and type of business that you want to support.

Prepare a meal for someone and/or deliver homemade cookies to a college student. If the recipient invites you to stay for a visit, stay. You’ll leave feeling good from connecting with another person.

Send a card or write a letter to a friend or family member. Remember years ago how wonderful it was to receive a long letter from a friend? Email and texting are not the same. You’ll experience a sense of anticipation once you drop the envelop in the mailbox. Days later, you’ll make someone’s day when he/she receives your letter.

I encourage you to try one of these suggestions and to come up with your own. Then post a comment below. I believe you’ll be surprised by how rewarding a simple act can be, and make you feel good about your day!

 “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Psalm 11:25

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.