Saturday, March 31, 2018

Short Term Learning Goals

For over three years, Brian, a retired engineer, has been saying that he’s “figuring out retirement”—that he’s "working on it.” I see lots of “Brians” in my retirement consulting. They sincerely want to create meaning and direction in this next stage of life. The problem is they don’t have the tools to “work on it.” It’s hard to solve a problem when you don’t have a formula.

As an organizational psychologist, I often look to business theories and practices to solve retirement problems. I take the best of work and use it to create the best in retirement. So for Brian, and others like him, I recommend developing short-term learning goals.

Short-term learning goals are related to the Lean Startup methodology—a scientific approach developed by Eric Ries to create and manage a startup business. One of the principles of this model is don’t assume you know what the customer wants. Instead, create a minimum viable product and then test your assumptions by creating experiments, short term learning goals, to validate or negate these beliefs. 

Let’s apply this to retirement. But before we do, foremost, you need to want to create a better retirement, just as an entrepreneur has the fire in his belly to create a new product or service. Now it’s time to start working on retirement.

Ask yourself, “If anything is possible, how would I like to live in retirement?” Your vision of a better retirement begins with noticing and appreciating what you love and value about your life, just the way it is right now. Write down what’s working, and what you want to continue and leverage. Then build on this foundation by considering the key issues and challenges you’re facing. Write these down.

Next, what emerging opportunities excite you? What can you do now to explore these possibilities? Make a phone call. Send an email. Meet up for lunch. Hofffman and Casnocha, authors of The Start Up of You, remind us, “Whatever the situation, actions, not plans, generate lessons that help you test your hypotheses against reality. Actions help you discover where you want to go and how to get there.”

What seems impossible but would be super cool if it were possible? Let your mind go crazy. Limiting beliefs and assumptions are going to get in the way. Clear these out by writing them down. Keep a running list. Then one by one create an experiment to test each assumption.

For example, maybe you never had time to coach your son’s Little League team when you were working long hours. You notice as you drive by the baseball field that you’re missing those days when you had a reason to be at the field. Now you have time to coach, but you assume the commitment will limit your freedom, or that you’re not qualified, or that only coaches who can commit to being at every practice and game are needed. 

List your assumptions and then test them. Speak to someone who’s currently coaching. Ask if assistant coaches are needed. Offer to help with practices. Each step you take is an experiment that will show you what’s possible. Maybe you’ll realize that coaching is not what you want to do. That’s okay. On to another possibility and experiment. After all, you’re working on retirement.

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Peak Moments

Take out a piece of paper and write down 10 most memorable moments in your life. Really. Do it now.

(Pause—I’m waiting for you to write your list.)

Got it? Ok. Now read through your list and put a check mark next to the events that happened before your 40th birthday.

Maybe your list looks something like the top 10 memorable experiences that authors Dan and Chip Heath uncovered in their research for The Power of Moments:

1.     Having children
2.     Marriage
3.     Begin school
4.     College
5.     Fall in love
6.     Others’ death
7.     Retirement
8.     Leave home
9.     Parents’ death
10. First job.

You’ll notice that for most of us, seven of these events happen before we’re 40 years old. And, two of the three remaining events are related to death. Not exactly something to look forward to.

How many check marks do you have for the under-40 question? If you have six or more, you might ask, “Have I already lived my best years?”

Not necessarily.

The reason we remember moments at an earlier age is because we experience many firsts during this stage of life. Firsts have the power of being high emotion—hence, memorable. However, in retirement, our day-to-day emotions are pretty even. Not many high peaks—unless we intentionally create the moments. But how?

According to Power of Moments, do three things:

First, boost sensory appeal.
Second, raise the stakes.
Third, break the script.

Creating peak moments requires effort—most good things do—and it’s worth it. I created a powerful memory for my family over the Christmas holidays. Our adult children made plans to come home—requiring flights and using vacation time for all of them. So instead of just another Christmas at home, where everyone knows the routine and falls into expected roles, I decided to apply the peak moments’ formula, starting with renting an Adirondack home in Lake Placid for four days.

Christmas in Lake Placid broke the script. Sensory appeal was boosted by a sense of adventure. The stakes were raised by having matching pajamas, searching for a Christmas tree on December 24, and skating on the Olympic outdoor rink. My son-in-law and my son’s fiancé both experienced firsts: cross-country skiing and going on the Olympic bobsled and skeleton rides.

According to the authors, “Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, amazed, motivated.” These words perfectly describe our Lake Placid Christmas—a peak moment that will continue to live on in our memories. 

Retirement is the perfect opportunity to invest your extra time into creating peak moments!

Copyright 2018. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.