Thursday, September 14, 2017

Creative Change

When I speak at pre-retirement seminars, one of the first topics I bring up is the definition of retirement. That’s because as Baby Boomers we’re very sensitive to being referred to as “retired.” Just ask someone, “Are you retired?” You’ll probably get a somewhat agitated, knee-jerk response, such as: I’m refreshing, repotting, reframing, or re-anything except re-tired.

This adverse reaction to being retired is why, within the first couple minutes of my presentation, I explain that I’m not going to talk about our parents’ retirement. I disclose that I think people should never retire. And that it’s up to us to redefine this next stage of life. But to do that, we need more than a clever comment. Instead, we need “creative change.”

According to author Jennifer Mueller, in her book Creative Change: Why We Resist It…How We Can Embrace It, creative change happens when we “move away from defining something to embrace a completely new and different way of defining something.” This is more than a new name for retirement. This is a new way of living.

Many aspects of our life will have to take on a new definition for us to experience creative change. For instance, our relationship with time changes dramatically. If it doesn’t, we end up frantically trying to fill every minute—we continue to function from a time scarcity mindset and the belief that busyness equates with significance. Instead, we need to  embrace the gift of time, realizing that some things are better done slowly. 

If you're questioning how you will use your extra time in retirement, one answer is to make everyday events into something greater. In other words, do the opposite of what’s expected by turning a “molehill into a mountain.” Studies on happiness suggest people receive lasting gratification when they make a situation more challenging, take pictures to remember the event and reminisce about it at a later date. This is the reverse of investing just enough time to get the job done.

To experience creative change we need to redefine the value we place on money. Until now, financial compensation played a big role in determining the value of our work. If something didn’t pay enough, most likely we didn’t do it. Now if we wait to be paid to do something we love, we might miss out on it all together. For example, if you love to write but are waiting to get started until you’ve signed a publishing contract, you could be waiting a long time. I can’t promise, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I can assure you that if you do what you love, whether you’re paid or not, you’ll experience a more fulfilling retirement.

Freedom is another area that requires a shift in thinking if we’re to experience creative change. In some ways freedom is our new currency. We have to decide how to spend it and invest it. But there are two sides to this coin. As author Seth Godin says in his book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, “Freedom is our problem and freedom is our opportunity.” I hope that you’ll put forth the effort to invest in opportunities with your newfound freedom.

Until we creatively change our definition and relationship with these parts of retirement—time, money, and freedom—we will only come up with a new pseudo definition of retirement. Not much will have changed except for our terminology. But if we embrace creative change, if we commit to a completely new and different way of defining retirement, our futures are full of possibilities. We may be retired, but this isn’t our parents’ retirement!

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.


Jana Lindberg said...

Hello Pat,

I like the combination of the words "freedom" and "creative change". I think it applies not only for retirement but for every sort of spare time like working part time: We have to choose and give ourselves a structure instead of receiving it from the outside.

Another word I'd see linked to these words is "mindfulness" as Ellen Langer defines it: the freedom to make choices all the time. How we want to think of ourselves, what approach we want to choose for a certain task. This also makes us more creative.

Retirement then needs a lot of mindfulness to create it in a way that suits us - but with mindfulness it can be a most fulfilling time!

Thanks you for the thought-provoking post!

Patrice Jenkins said...

Hi Jana,

I love what you wrote about mindfulness. It is one of the gifts of retirement--to have the freedom to make our choices and how we think of ourselves in this next stage of life. It's a wonderful opportunity to be intentional about how we want to live our lives!

Thank you for your comments!