Who Am I?

If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you say?  It isn’t easy to tell someone else who you are in a short and precise answer. You are much more than anyone can ever see. They see your mannerisms and expressions, hear your words and observe your actions. But your private thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and doubts can’t be seen. This week, begin to create a picture that expresses all that you are. Let your imagine soar by imagining you’re interviewing a famous person — you.  You might ask:

  • What hobbies do you have? What do you enjoy doing when you’re at home? What do you do for fun?
  • Who are the important people who share your life?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you do really well in your work?
  • What are your greatest talents? Skills? Abilities?
  • What gives you the greatest joy and you love so much that you get lost in it and lose all track of time?
  • What key principles do you hold dear and how do they manifest in your everyday actions?
  • What values are important to you, in your life and at work? How do they inspire what you say and do?

What else would you ask?  You might surprise yourself whit all that you learn about yourself by doing this exercise. Better still; ask a friend to help you with this exercise. It will be more fun.

Finding Precious Time

The concept of time is somewhat of a double-edged sword. On one hand, time is simply a unit of measure. There are twenty-four hours in a day, no more, no less. And when we look at time in terms of meaningful moments it’s easy to focus on what’s most important and ensure that we live without regret. We all realize we only have a finite amount of time to achieve all that we dream about, yet we rarely take a moment to reflect on how to make the most use of this precious time. This week, take a few moments of reflection and ask yourself what you really want to accomplish that’s near and dear to your heart. Then commit to finding 1-2 hours each day to work on your dreams.

  1. Based on my age today, what can I accomplish if I spend 1-2 hours each day to work on what really matters?
  2. How can find 1-2 hours each day to work on dreams yet unfulfilled?

Once you start, you’ll find it’s amazingly easy to find the few hours every day.  Make a “Stop Doing…” list to make more time to focus on the right priorities. Then create a “Start Doing…” list that will inspire you to take action.  With a focused list you can look forward to doing the work you most need to do.  You may even decide that you want to spend more time each day working on what really matters.  That’s when you’ll know that you are focused on the right things.

Creating An Inspiring Bucket List

The exercises you’ve done until now have likely highlighted a few areas of your life that need attention. These areas can form part of the goals you add to your bucket list. This week I invite you to think about what you really want in different aspects of your life. Forget what you need. As Author Thomas Moore says: “Admit to what you desire and what you fear… It’s all right to have grand and eccentric longings. It’s all right to be afraid. Only by embracing these two emotional pillars will you glimpse the nature of your soul, which is the ground of your existence.” Suspend the notion that wanting is being greedy and don’t allow your censoring inner voice tell you it’s impossible. Think about your goals and dreams from a perspective of no limits and allow yourself to create an inspiring bucket list.  Ask yourself what you want that gives meaning to your life in each of these aspects and jot down a few notes as to why you want it.

  1. Life Partner
  2. Family, Friends and Community
  3. Health and Leisure
  4. Vocation
  5. Financials and Home
  6. Spirituality and Sense of Self

I’m sure you have a very good list to work with.  In the coming weeks we’ll work on identifying the priorities for your list of goals and begin to set achievable and sustainable goals to achieve the success you want.

A Vision of What’s Possible

Congratulations on all the hard work you’ve done so far. I’m honoured that you’ve stayed with me until now and I hope that the exercises you did over the last few weeks have helped you to understand yourself a bit better.  This week I’m going to ask you to really stretch your imagination and think about what’s next in your life.  And I want you think about it from a perspective of: “In my wildest dreams…” Answer the questions below with what comes to mind and without any limitations or censoring.

  1. If time was infinite…
  2. If money was plentiful…
  3. My burning desire is…
  4. I want to…

Wasn’t this fun?  It is so rare that we give ourselves permission to think completely out of the box. We’re often too busy with multiple priorities that demand our attention. It is only by setting time aside to allow ourselves to dream, without limits, that we can get at the core of what our soul wants us to know. This exercise is the beginning of what’s possible for the next part of your life’s journey.

4 Ways to Embrace An Aging Population And Connect Generations

Population aging is inevitable in societies where you have a combination of declining birth rates and longer life due to medical advancements. It imposes new realities for these societies, where they simply cannot afford to set an aging population adrift without the necessary programs and services to help them remain productive members of that society.  It is disheartening to hear leaders label aging members of the societies as economically unproductive; or to see politicians treat aging as if it is a scourge on society, where members of this growing club are seen as nothing more than a tax drain. Building more housing complexes that serve to isolate this generation from the youth of these societies is not the answer either.

What business and government fail to see is that today’s aging population is eager to contribute fully to society. Like Jack Kornfield, author and Buddhist Practitioner, Boomers are asking: “How can I live in a way that maximizes, that fulfills the capacity for wakefulness, love, freedom, liberation of the human heart?”  One way is to create opportunities that reconnect the generations in meaningful and valuable ways. We need better approaches to facilitate the contribution of aging members of our societies well into the later stages of life. We need to make government funding available to cover the costs associated with creating new programs that promote the well-being of all generations. Our children and their children are starving for role models and mentors as they try to figure out this crazy world they live in, whether in matters of life or work. The opportunities are unlimited to create the utopian societies we all dream about.

  1. At School
  • Invite the newly retired to help overwhelmed teachers with curriculum activities or to help children with special needs.
  • Partner Boomers with school counsellors to offer additional support to young people who are struggling with stress.
  • Involve Boomers in after school and local youth programs such as the YMCA.
  • Partner with libraries to start reading programs for children who have trouble reading.
  1. In community
  • Create volunteer programs to replace the music and arts programs that the schools can no longer afford to fund. These programs enrich us all.
  • Start new programs designed with children in mind through the local rotary clubs and legions.
  • Start genealogy clubs so children can learn about their ancestors.
  • Start cross-generational clubs at your church and involve youth.
  • Start home cooking classes and invite young people to socialize, cook and share meals and great conversations. Get them away from technology.
  • Use technology to match the interest of retirees with the needs of children.
  1. At Work
  • Find ways to involve soon-to-be-retired employees in activities and projects that help prepare the next generation of workers to take on leadership roles.
  • Invite retirees to participate in events that showcase career opportunities at your organization for those that are just beginning to consider post-secondary education and careers.
  • Get retirees involved in spreading goodwill about the company where they spent a career. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of goodwill.
  1. At Home
  • Partner with home builders to design and build inclusive communities that house multi-generations instead of housing that isolates the generations. Draw on successful models in Scandinavian countries.
  • Create neighbourhood activities that foster interaction between old and young.

John F. Kennedy once said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” This newest generation of seniors is ready to take on that new kind of leadership, one where they teach, but where they learn as much as they teach. And the younger generation is more than ready to teach the older generation. The collective experiences, insights and wisdom of Boomers beg to be openly shared with youth. The younger generations benefit from being exposed to new perspectives that enhance their understanding and it promotes well-being and development. The older generations benefit from maintaining invaluable connections with youth. The issue of ageism disappears and a new sense of purpose and contribution is ignited. It seems governments, businesses, schools and communities have important choices to make about how they will embrace this growing population segment. The best way to ensure the elders of a society remain vibrant and productive members is to facilitate their involvement, to liberate them to become all they are capable of becoming. By liberating them, society builds the foundation for paying forward generation after generation. Everyone wins. Utopia may not be that far-fetched after all.

Drawing On Inspiration

We are all inspired by many things, a gorgeous sunrise or sunset, stunning beaches, the beauty in others, a great movie, beautiful music, quotes and roles models. They are important in our lives because they inspire us to be more than we can ever imagine on our own. They give us clues on what we should be doing and give us the courage to believe that what we want is possible. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

  1. What are your favourite books and why?
  2. What are your favourite quotes?
  3. What music moves your soul?
  4. What movies stir your emotions?
  5. Who are your role models, your heroes and heroines?
  6. What places inspire you?

Knowing where you draw your inspiration from can give you the courage you need to take the next step in your life.  And the best part is that they are always there to draw upon when you need inspiration.

The Stuff Legacies Are Made Of

In 1999, it cost only seventy dollars to build a well in Uganda; yet most families had to travel many miles each day to find safe drinking water.  Ryan Hreljac, a 7-year old boy from Ottawa heard about this and was so moved that he started a campaign at his school and raised seventy dollars to build his first well in Uganda. Seventeen years later, his foundation, Ryan’s Well, has helped build wells and latrines – the most basic needs for good hygiene – for close to a million people. Ryan provides resources and know-how, but more importantly he provides a legacy of self-sufficiency.

His story made me wonder what legacies are really made of.  The dictionary describes the word legacy as “a law, a gift of property, especially personal property, by will or bequest.” That’s all fine and good, but what if we don’t’ have any money or personal belongings to leave behind? Does this mean we can’t leave a legacy? This definition also suggests that a legacy doesn’t happen until we die. It seems to me that our most important legacy is NOT something we leave behind; but rather it is moulded and shaped by the actions we take while we’re here on earth. It’s too late to worry about legacies when we’re on our death bed.

If I was asked, I would define legacy as: “a gift of self or resources, in life and after; given to others through love, compassion and integrity; an inspiration for future generations.” This definition feels more encompassing and complete.

In many ways, we’re hardwired to help each other and legacies are a way of doing just that. Legacies also come in different shapes and sizes.  Some we wish we could forget like the Legacies of Shame – The Holocaust and 9/11. There’s no question those legacies were fuelled by misguided ideologies and while we’d like to wash away the stains they’ve left, they’re too deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. But there are many more great legacies.

  1. There are Legacies of Means – for those who have more money than they can ever spend in a lifetime. Warren Buffet, the multi-billionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway, recently created a philanthropist club. To join this very exclusive club, you must 1) be a billionaire and 2) you must commit to giving at least 75% of your net worth to your favourite charities. Sara Blakely, the owner of Spanx and Bill Gates of Microsoft are among the club’s 143 members.
  2. There are Lasting Legacies – those that keep on giving, like Terry Fox’s Annual Marathon of Hope, whose foundation has raised over 650 million dollars for cancer research so far. Terry far surpassed his dream of raising $1 for each Canadian. There is Andre Agassi’s (former USA tennis player) Preparatory School that gives poor kids in Vegas – a city synonymous with excesses – an opportunity to prepare for and attend post-secondary education.
  3. There are Legacies of Compassion that help the most vulnerable members of society. Mother Theresa says she felt called to work with the “poorest of the poor”. Today, 517 of her missions operate in over 100 countries. It’s not surprising she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Mark and Craig Keilburger, two Canadian kids, started the WE DAY movement to inspire young people around the world to lead global change, right in their own communities. Their annual rally celebrates the accomplishments and fuels the inspiration of those amazing young people.

These are all admiral legacies in their own right and I am the first to applaud the incredibly positive impact these legacies have. But we must not forget the most important Legacies of You and Me; those small everyday expressions of love and acts of compassion that come from teaching our children to be kind; helping a friend who’s going through a rough patch or mentoring youth.

The greatest legacies have less to do with money or Grandma’s antique butter dish, and more to do with the way we treat the people we love, while we’re here. Maya Angelou captured the essence of legacy when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The emotional connections we have with each other are the stuff that the best legacies are made of.

Ryan Hreljac is still only 24 years old today. Imagine the legacy he’ll create in his lifetime, and it all started with $70 and a big dream. You can find more information about his charity at  The footprint we choose to leave on this planet is ours to decide, but let’s be sure our legacies are not defined by chance or by historians. What will the legacy you are building today say about you tomorrow?

Navigating The Six Stages Of Retirement

“This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it; not just cope but thrive. India, like life itself, I suppose, is about what you bring to it.” These are a few words from the script for Judi Dench’s character in the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011). She reflects on the enormous change she and others have made when they moved to India to live out their retired years; when they realize that retirement is a different and uncharted world for the uninitiated. And like any major change, it has its own transition cycle. How we manage through that cycle determines, in large part, how successful we are in managing ourselves through the transition. Six unique stages in transitioning to retirement characterize this change, each one bringing with it a new set of challenges and opportunities.

  1. Anticipation: Ah! Those delicious dreams of the day when we’ll say: “Hi honey, I’m home, for good.” The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter each day as we wait with bathed breathe for those wonderful leisurely days when we have time to do what we please instead of meeting the expectations of everyone else. We can see it, we can taste it, we can smell the sweet elixir of a life that is 100% ours to create as we wish
  2. Arrival: The day has finally arrived. The time around the big day is often loaded with nostalgic thoughts of the great work that was part of our life’s journey for so long, the recognition of all that one has accomplished and a tinge of sadness that it is all coming to an end. It’s time for goodbyes, dinners and celebrations of a full and successful working life. The retirement gift adds to the mood of a joyous, celebratory event. Uncertain of what lies ahead, we nevertheless choose to greet this day with joy and immense hope that all will be fine.
  3. Excitement: The blissful joy of immersing oneself in the pure pleasure of nothingness. Life feels like one giant vacation. There are projects waiting to be tackled, honey-to lists and vacations to take. All that heady excitement has one believing that life is one giant leisurely stroll.
  4. Questioning: Then the questions start coming. “What now?  Am I becoming irrelevant? Why do I feel so disconnected?  What is my purpose now? The emails, calls and lunch invitations from former colleagues slow or stop. The days feel longer somehow. The excitement has worn off and the realities of being “retired” set in. Thoughts of starting something new or wondering what else to do to keep busy and engaged start taking up more space and time. It is during this period that we are most vulnerable, where it is easy to get caught up in brooding over regrets, lost opportunities and things that never were or never will be.
  5. Reflection: A new period of wonderment sets in and the focus changes from “now what” to “what’s possible” with all the time at our disposal. This period can be very creative and open up new possibilities that were not likely visible before. It’s time to think outside the box and create a whole new bucket list, one that captures our thoughts and dreams, one that is anchored in core values and feeds the soul like never before.
  6. Acceptance: Once the storm has passed and new ideas have percolated, it’s time to embrace the new norm that is this stage of life and make the most of it. Nerves settle down, emotions steady and reality becomes clearer. Life becomes easier.

The event itself of “retirement” is wholesale and free of emotions, but the transition that ensues is often emotionally charged and an extremely personal journey that sways on a pendulum from fear to exhilaration, often at the same time. The transition can only be understood by those who are having the experience as they move through these six transitory stages. The good news is that humans are hardwired to manage change and, in large part, successfully. Change creates opportunities for new and once unimaginable growth to take shape and forces one to leave behind a part of the essence of the current self in order to grow more magnificent in the emerging self. Instead of going through a cycle questioning relevance and what’s next, what if we moved stage 5 – reflection, before retirement actually begins?  That would accelerate and smooth the transition process. Reflection would allow for insights and clarity to bubble up and for new possibilities to emerge. Rather than leave retirement to change or to fate, why not take charge and make it happen, on your own terms? Let’s make sure we are thriving, not simply coping.

The Roles and Events That Shape Our Lives

On any given day we play several roles at once. We can learn a great deal about ourselves by looking at these roles. The typical roles include relationships with others such as your Mother, Father, Spouse, Daughter, Brother. Professional roles might be Leader, Coach, Technician, Administrator, Nurse, Volunteer or Student. When  the roles you fill fit well in your life, you experience a higher level of satisfaction and meaning.

  1. What roles do you currently play at home?
  2. What roles do you play at work today?
  3. Which ones are deeply satisfying?
  4. What roles would your like to stop playing?
  5. Given a choice and time permitting, what other roles would you like to play?

Your past is enriched by these roles and also by the life and work  experiences that have shaped you. These experiences have either shaped your life in positive ways or shaken you to the very core. Some events may have been thrust upon you and may have had a deep impact on your life.  An example of such an event may be divorce, the death of a loved one, serious illness or tragedy. They may have changed the course of your life in ways you never imagined. These events, however difficult, teach valuable lessons at the same time that they leave lasting impressions on your soul.

  1. Looking back at the top 3 positive events of your life, how did these events shape who you are today?
  2. How did the difficult events in your life impact and shape who you are?
  3. Which events provided fresh insights, new lessons and wisdom that you now draw upon as strengths?

Appreciating The Lessons In The Milestones Of Life

Taking a look at what you’ve accomplished in your entire lifetime may feel a bit daunting, but it’s amazing what you can learn by doing just that. These milestones are rites of passage that show how you’ve grown. They also show how much you’ve learned and how far you’ve come.  It’s not uncommon to remember very little about your childhood when you begin this exercise, but in fact, you remember more than you think when you start looking back. To make it more manageable, break the milestones into chunks of life.

  1. Start jotting down all that you remember about your childhood until the age of 18 – the Toddler years, Primary school, Junior High school, High school. Think about your friends, family traditions, religious milestones, first crush, sports, awards, etc.
  2. Now think about your early adulthood, from 19-35. Think about best friends, new friends, family events, college, your first apartment, your job, your first real love, marriage or children. There may even have been world events that impacted you profoundly as well.
  3. Now that you’ve done the hardest work by looking way back, think of all the significant milestones from your mid-thirties to today.

Seeing your own timeline unfold is a wonderful reminder of just where you’ve been, how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished, isn’t it?  You’ll continue to surprise yourself with how much you do remember. Don’t be surprised if new recollections pop up in your mind over the next several days or weeks. Keep adding to your timeline as you remember events.

The Changing Landscape of Work in Later Life

There is no question Boomers are re-writing the script that defines retirement. They no longer fancy a life of uninterrupted leisure, but rather look for opportunities to develop and the right mix of productive activities. One important component of that mix is work. According to a 2014 survey of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 27% of Boomers over the age of 65 participate in the workforce and this number is expected to grow to 32% by 2022. Statistics Canada and the rest of the G8 countries show similar numbers.

Why are Boomers working in such large numbers?

As more information emerges, we are gaining a clearer understanding of the reason Boomers work beyond age 65. Money, it seems, is not a primary reason. A recent Merrill Lynch found that Boomers work:

  • To stay mentally and physically active
  • For social connections
  • To maintain a sense of identity/self-worth
  • For take on new challenges
  • For the money and benefits

What type of work are Boomers doing?

Starting a business is high on the list for Boomers who plan to continue working beyond age 65.  Four out of ten want to start their own business. Another 40% want to work part-time and the rest plan to work a full work week, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. You can find Boomers in politics, in media and across a wide spectrum of in businesses; whether they are working for themselves or for others. A number of movie stars are also working well beyond the traditional age where they were considered “over the hill”.  Betty White, a young 94 year old, and Morgan Freeman, 79, are in demand more than ever. You will also find many Boomers pursuing new fields of studies.

Retirement is now a dynamic and fluid process

Boomers no longer relate to the traditional view of working 40 years, getting a gold watch and fading into the sunset to play bingo and for lawn bowling. While they won’t miss the deadlines, heavy workloads and commutes when they do retire, they will miss the social connections and intellectual stimulation that work provides. More than anything, Boomers want to stay relevant, make use of their talents and mentor the younger generations of workers. It’s great to see companies develop age-friendly workplaces to accommodate workers across 4 or 5 generations. That’s a positive sign for Boomers who want to continue working beyond traditional retirement – whatever “traditional” means anymore. The day is fast approaching when we will no longer ask: When are you retiring? Instead, we will ask:  What kind of work is keeping you busy these days?

Four Anchors That Promote An Enriched Retirement Life

Barbara Beskind is 91 years old and on the payroll at IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm in Silicon Valley.  She still commutes to work one day a week. Three years ago she saw an episode on CBS’s 60 Minutes about IDEO and decided she’d like to work there. They hired her and today she is busy developing a portable airbag to help older people prevent serious injuries when they fall. Barbara is undoubtedly someone who has figured out how to enrich her retired life. Enrichment in retirement is supported by four key anchors or wellbeing – physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual.

Physical anchor

Physical wellbeing is achieved through good health, fulfilling work and financial well-being. We can ensure good health by eating a balanced diet, getting enough physical activity and maintaining a positive outlook. Fulfilling work is also essential to wellbeing. While work takes on a different meaning in retirement, it continues to contribute to a sense of purpose. It may include maintaining a home, continuing to work in some capacity at a paid job, volunteering or caring for our grandchildren. The challenge is to find work that satisfies our needs and at the same time, doesn’t feel like drudgery or a burden. Financial wellbeing is also important. It is essentially measured by the amount of income we have and our ability to comfortably manage any debt load. According to the Globe and Mail, 43% percent of retirees carry debt. Debt is a reality. The challenge is to find the recipe that works best so that we can live worry free and focused on the lifestyle we can afford.

 Emotional anchor

According to a Statistics Canada Report on social activities, 87% of retirees have either no social activities in their life or only one. Emotional wellbeing comes from the quality of social relationships we have with family, friends, life partners, and through work or volunteer activities. These relationships are critical to nurture wellbeing and to contribute to the wonderful memories we create. It is essential, therefore, to seek out those relationships that give us the greatest joy. Rather than wait for others to invite us to connect, we may need to create opportunities to connect with others.

 Spiritual anchor

While religion may have lost some of its influence in the last fifty years, studies show that spiritual wellbeing plays a greater role in retirement (Clark and Schellenberg, 2006). As we age we are more likely to attribute more importance to spiritual beliefs. Perhaps it’s because we gain clarity on the values and principles we cherish and the philosophies that guide the actions we take in life. Spiritual wellbeing comes from having a sense of purpose and a connection with the greater community we live in. It is also expressed in the compassion and love we show others and by acting on what our heart calls us to do in every aspects of our retirement life. Seeking guidance or working with a professional coach can be very helpful in redefining our passions and direction in retirement.

Intellectual Anchor

Intellectual wellbeing helps us to understand ourselves, our environment and the leisure activities that bring us the greatest joy. You may be surprised to learn that only 10% of the retired population continues to participate in educational activities after age 65, according to Statistics Canada. That’s a troubling stat, given the well documented research that shows learning as the best way to stay intellectually healthy.  It isn’t for lack of opportunity to continue to learn.  Many universities offer free courses for seniors over the age of 60, on a host of topics; and there are countless conferences to attend. When we appreciate what is present in our environment we’re at our best. At this point in our lives, the most rewarding leisure activities should leave us feeling refreshed and include fun activities with our spouses, families and friends. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

Regular renewal is a critical part of maintaining well-being and retirement provides the perfect opportunity for renewal of these four anchors. It is one of the smartest investments we can make to support a rich retirement life.  Renewal reduces stress, promotes peace of mind, enhances well-being and promotes integrity with our truest purpose. Tending to these four anchors will ensure an incredible legacy for our loved ones, support independence and ensures a retirement life that is rich with possibilities. And isn’t that what we all wish for? Barbara Beskind (full story at ) is certainly an inspiration to us all.

By tending that you have good balance in each of these four anchors will ensure the richness you want in retirement.  Most people understand what to do when the physical or intellectual anchors are out of balance but many struggle to understand what to do to maintain the emotional and spiritual anchors.  Understanding the triggers that let you know when your physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual anchors are out of balance will help you make the changes that are necessary.



Life is a Balancing Act

Balance might best be defined as an intangible feeling or intuition that all is right in our own piece of the world or as a barometer of happiness and contentment. It is elusive perhaps because perfect balance simply does not exist. What feels like a balanced life to one person may feel very chaotic for someone else. Feeling balanced means you feel renewed, centred and committed to what’s important in your life. You’re in a better position to face challenges head on and as a result you feel less stressed. Your self-esteem and confidence are high and you feel a sense of overall well-being. In essence, it’s you at peak performance.

  1. On a scale of 1-10 with ten being very high, what is your level of balance today?
  2. What are you doing when you feel most in balance?
  3. What makes you feel out of balance?

If you find that you’re feeling out of balance, try to identify the specific areas, pick one to work on and create 3-6 small steps that you can take to regain balance in that areas.  Then do the same for other areas.