Sunday, December 22, 2019

My Favorite Things

Most of us are familiar with the popular song from The Sound of Music: “My Favorite Things.” As the lyrics state—raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens—it is the little things in life that can bring us joy and satisfaction.  

These favorite things are also a great place to look for an answer to “What will I do all day?” When we know what delights us, we can use this awareness to make the most of the extra time we have in retirement. Time spent doing our favorite things is a great way to add meaning, direction, and enjoyment to the extra hours we have when we’re not going into the office everyday.

One of my favorite things to do is bake cookies—big cookies. When my children were young, I often had to bake cookies for their class parties. Baking cookies was one more task I had to squeeze into my day, usually after the kids had gone to bed.

Now that I have more time and fewer commitments, I can enjoy the process of baking. I take my time. It is the experience of measuring, mixing, and smelling the freshly baked cookies that I take pleasure in—I’m not rushing through the process just to get it done. This is where the mindset in retirement is different.

What are some of your favorite things? Write them down. Consider what it is about each experience that delights you.

Next, consider how you can delight in this “favorite” even more. I call it selling up. For example, after baking cookies on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I packaged them in brown paper packages tied up with string (I’m not kidding!) Then my husband and I delivered them to elderly friends in the nursing home. My favorite thing, baking cookies, became the favorite part of the day for several other people. I know that many of them didn’t “feel so bad” after our visit. Favorite things have a way of doing that.

To get the most out of your favorites, let yourself get totally immersed in the experience. Multiply your joy by seeking out others to enjoy the experience. And think about ways that you can sell-up your list of favorites. I can almost guarantee that on a day when the bee stings and you’re feeling sad, after doing one of your favorite things you won’t feel so bad.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Noun vs. Verb

I’ve been thinking a lot about work identity.

This topic is also on the minds of the people in my retirement workshops. For many of us, our work identities are so tightly connected to our personal identities that what we do is who we are. We’ve built reputations on what we do, how well we do it, and how society views the importance or significance of what we do. Relinquishing this identity can negatively impact our confidence and happiness.

Perhaps there is another way to think of our work and our not working.  

Dr. Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at University of Texas at Austin suggests we “treat our career more like a verb than a noun.” He claims, “as soon as you give a label to something, you come to believe that somebody or some object has essence of that thing. A cat — why is a cat a cat? It has essence of a cat. That’s true not just for biological categories, it’s true even for professions.”

According to Markman, “Your job title doesn’t define you. It’s just one slice of your identity, and swapping out one for another doesn’t change the core of who you are.” Click here to read full story.

When we make the shift to thinking about our career as a verb, it’s easier to release some attachment to this identity. It also builds confidence in trying new identities. Try it.

The next time you’re asked, “What do you do?” remember “do” is a verb.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Magic of a Goal

Do you believe in magic? If you asked me this question I’d say “no.” When it comes to magic, there’s always a trick. This is why I don’t enjoy watching a magician. I want to believe what she is performing is real, but I know that I’m being deceived by her skilled ability to draw my attention away from her hidden actions. Magic is trickery, not supernatural power.

There’s one exception. Goals. Let me illustrate.

The reason I’m writing this blog post on November 30th at a time when I’d rather go to bed is because I have a goal to write two blog posts each month. I’ve met this goal for the past couple years. Yes, I could write on December 1st but then my website wouldn’t show two posts for November. A goal works like a supernatural power to make things happen.

I experienced the same “magic” on October 31st. At the beginning of the year I set a goal to get a flu shot by the end of October. When I realized it was the last day of the month, I put forth the effort to get my shot. No goal. No shot. Magic.

Where else can goals perform magic? Everywhere. I have a goal to go to cycling class three times each week. At the beginning of the week I write these classes on my calendar. Almost every day I can come up with a reason to skip class just this once.  But I don’t because I want to meet my goal. Magic.

Where would you like to perform magic? Name it, and then create a goal to get you there. In writing your goal, be specific. Make your goal measurable and realistic, but don’t play it too safe. Your goal should excite you. Most important, your goal should help you achieve something that can only happened with the help of a little magic.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Savor It!

The last weekend in October Dave and I went to Norwich, Vermont to attend a pasta making class at King Arthur Flour’s baking school. In the three-hour class we learned the fine art of making fresh pasta—weighing the flour, incorporating the eggs, kneading the dough, and cutting it into common shapes. 

We invited friends to join us—Dave’s college roommate and his wife. The fun started before class when we got together to enjoy a beer and glass of wine while catching up on what’s happening in our lives. The laughter carried on as we worked to form the perfect shaped fettuccine, ravioli and tortellini, followed with a pasta meal after class. 

Even though two weeks have passed since our class, positive emotion lingers as we reflect on our time together and the shared practice of pasta making. Actually, this isn’t surprising considering this experience has all the ingredients for creating a psychological state called savoring.

According to Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff, authors of Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, people have “capacities to attend to, appreciate and enhance positive experiences in their lives.” Strategies that boost this capacity include sharing an experience with others, having pictures or a memento to remember the event, celebrating the event, engaging all our senses in the experience, and being completely absorbed in the activity. As I said, all these “ingredients” were present in our pasta-making weekend.

If we wanted pasta for dinner, we could have saved $170 by going to the grocery store and paying $1.00 for a pound of fettuccine. We could have avoided driving three hours from Saratoga to Norwich, and back. But if we had done this, I wouldn’t be writing about the experience. It would not have contributed to an ongoing sense of happiness and positive emotion.

Now that we’re “expert” pasta makers, our plan is to host pasta-making parties with friends. And in doing so, we’ll create more opportunities for positive experiences.

Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved. Patrice Jenkins.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Start Where You Are

Today is the day to dust off your retirement dreams. Begin by writing down what you imagined doing in retirement. Don’t edit. Crazy ideas are the most fun to bring to life. They provide the chapters in your life story that your children and grandchildren will talk about for years.

Now take a close look at your list. Is there a dream that seem impossible to achieve or improbable at best? Is there a big divide between where you are and where you want to be? When the gap appears impassible, it’s easier and more comfortable to dismiss your big ideas and try to convince yourself they’re no longer important to you. Before you do this, let me tell you something about camels.

Being married to a veterinarian contributes to knowing some unusual, interesting facts about animals. One is that camels won’t step over something if they can’t see the bottom. The Catskill Game Farm built a trench 18 inches wide and 24 inches deep, similar to a moat but without water, to confine the camels. There was no fence. No need for a fence. The camels believed the ditch was un-crossable. If they had tested this limiting belief, they could have easily stepped over the 18-inch divide and been set free.

Is there something keeping you from living the life you imagined in retirement? Is there a limiting belief that needs to be challenged?

Like camels, we view the gap between where we are and where we want to be as impassible, which keeps us from stepping over into a dream or goal we had for this stage of life. To move toward our dreams we need to start where we are. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Don’t wait for a bridge to be built across the moat.

Take the first smallest step, and find out that you can.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.