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Week # 2 – The Many Layers of Self

The journey towards living a life on purpose begins by uncovering the many layers of your own life. One of these layers is your vocation – the work you do.  Other layers include your relationships, your well-being and your spiritual self. And since life is lived multi-dimensionally, there is an interdependency that connects all of these rich layers together.  These layers call on you to express all that you can become. This week, take a few moments to answer the following questions.

  1. How well does my work contribute to my sense of well-being and sustain what’s important in other areas of my life? How does it contribute to my personal growth?
  2. The relationships in your life include your life partner, immediate and extended family, friends, business associates and co-workers. What’s working really well in your relationships today?  What areas need attention?
  3. What are you doing to maintain your well-being, physically and psychologically? What needs attention? What leisure activities bring you the greatest joy and how do they contribute to your sense of well-being?
  4. How would you define your spirituality? How does it manifest in your life and in the life of those you love? How does it support you in your everyday life?

Understanding what’s working well in different aspects of your life will give you a good sense of what you need to keep doing and begin to highlight what needs attention.

How to Become the STaR of Your Own Retirement

If I asked you what hopes you have for your retirement, what would you say? You might be surprised to hear that most people say they don’t want to stop working. The answer seems counterintuitive to the notion we have about what retirement should be, doesn’t it? But for a generation who measures much of its self-worth on their career, imagining a life without work is a scary proposition.

When I ask participants in my seminars if they have a retirement lifestyle plan, most say they don’t. They usually have a financial plan but not a lifestyle plan. According to a survey conducted by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, only 14% of Fifty-somethings make a lifestyle plan. Stats Canada also found that 2 in 3 new retirees express some regrets within the first 3 years of their retirement. Lack of lifestyle planning may very well be the reason why so many are struggling during the first few years of retirement.

Next to establishing a career and raising a family, retirement is one of the biggest transitions we make in our lifetime. It challenges every part of life – social, physical, intellectual and spiritual. To engage fully in a retirement lifestyle that is meaningful and filled with purpose, we must have a good sense of what it is we hope to achieve.  It can be helpful to think of how we want to show up, how we want our STaR to shine in retirement.

Strive

In the early stages of retirement, it’s natural to feel lost in a sea of murky waters, without a clear view of what lies ahead. During the early stages friendships from work began to drift away and daily routines are unclear. It’s a time when we feel compelled to re-confirm the values we hold dear, and we may find ourselves struggling with our new identity as “retirees”. It’s the perfect time to ask ourselves what retirement will mean exactly; what we’re going to do with all the free time we have. There are only so many golf games to be played and trips to take before we realize that we want more out of retirement. Lifestyle planning in invaluable to gain clarity on the interests and dreams we want to pursue in retirement and to do a reality check of what’s possible. Ideally the planning starts long before retirement officially happens.

Thrive

Once the murky waters begin to clear, most retirees emerge with clearer goals and a newfound purpose. They find meaningful ways to stay productive and have a better understanding of what they need to do to stay physically and intellectually active. This may include work, volunteering or finding other outlets to contribute to society in rich and engaging ways. Learning is also important. Those who thrive have found the sweet spot in the lifestyle they want in retirement. Life has a new pace that feels right. They realize that they are no longer infatuated with the notion of what might have been and are content to simply enjoy life. Research shows that spiritually, in the broader sense of the word, takes on a new level of importance in retirement.

and Reconcile

Later in retirement the time comes to reconcile those things that no longer serve us well. That time comes, early on, midway through or at the end of retirement when we make peace with what never was or will be. We settle differences that drain our energy and restore harmony in our lives. It’s an individual process that has no best before date.

Retirement has its own unique cycle and every retiree moves through the cycle at their own pace. It is a time of personal growth that offers an opportunity to put the spotlight on what’s most meaningful to you – a time to become the STaR of your own life. It is also a time to polish the rough edges of a legacy that will inspire younger generations.

 

Week One – Yes! I Can Do This!

It seems right to begin your hero’s journey this with a brand new journal and a package of colourful pens and pencils. Think of your journal as a blank canvas to create your future self. The action of putting pen to paper is powerful and brings clarity to the jumbled thoughts that occupy the mind, especially in this incessant, on-demand world we live in. It lets your creativity flow uncensored and acts as a form of feedback analysis from you to you, like a mirror reflecting back. In this journal, you can pretend, without risks, try things on and dream big about what you picture yourself doing. You can dare yourself to admit, “Yes I can do this.” The act of making your ideas visible is the beginning of a promise to yourself to reach for your full potential. Select a journal that will inspire your best work. Make it elaborate or keep it simple. It’s yours to create, your own work of art.

Taking Your Very Own Hero’s Journey

A wise professor once asked: “How can we know where we’re going if we don’t understand where we’ve been?” Taking a hero’s journey allows us to do just that – to consider where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished so that we create goals that are inspiring and aligned with where we want to go.

Life is lived at warp speed today and it’s easy to spend all your energies in reaction mode, doing what needs to be done and forgetting about your most important goals.  But at what cost?  When you’re too busy living you lose yourself in the process.  You need time to step back, reflect and plan more intentionally for what’s next.  By taking stock you can:

  1. Look at what’s working well in your life and build on it.
  2. Identify what needs attention in different aspects of your life.
  3. Understand what values and principles guide your life and work.
  4. Understand the challenges that keep getting the way.
  5. Learn to draw on your inner strengths and wisdom.

Why don’t you give yourself the gift of time and take stock of your life to see what emerges. You’ll amaze yourself with all that you’ve accomplished and what’s working well.  You’ll gain clarity on what you need to pay more attention to.  Over the next 52 weeks I’ll suggest exercises to help you create and travel on your very own hero’s journey. All aboard!

Nine Reasons Retirement is Different for Boomers

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover,” a quote from author, H. Jackson Brown Jr, in his book, P.S. I love You (1990. For the thousands of Boomers embarking on their own retirement journey it is great advice.

There is no question that Boomers are re-inventing the concept of retirement. Whether they are contemplating retirement, embarking on this new journey or settling into a period of what would best be described as “un-retirement”; they are all busy figuring out the next twenty plus years will look like. Boomers are looking at retirement differently than previous generations because their life was shaped and influenced by a vastly different world than in previous generations.

  1. Boomers were raised in a time of prosperity when anything seemed possible. Their parents were raised during the great depression.
  2. Boomers experienced the explosion of technology and the birth of a knowledge economy which opened access to the world.
  3. Boomers married later in life and had 1.5 children, on average, compared to 3.5 for their parents. The offspring of Boomers were raised with more liberal values.
  4. Boomers were, and still are idealists. They pushed the boundaries on important social issues including gender and racial equality. They were game changers when they were young adults and they still are today.
  5. Boomers were the first generation where dual careers and dual incomes were the norm; but that doesn’t mean they are better off financially.
  6. Boomers tended to be more nomadic as they pursued career opportunities. They were more likely to live in suburbia. Their parents were community builders.
  7. Boomers were shaped by a global perspective which opened up a myriad of new possibilities that were not available in previous generations.
  8. Boomers had access to higher education as a norm, while many of their parents left school to work after the 8th or 10th
  9. Boomers had and continue to have better and more access to healthcare. Because of advances in healthcare, the average life span has increased by 15 years longer than previous generations.  This means much more time spent in retirement.

So how do these influences shape retirement differently for Boomers? With an idealism that is embedded in their DNA and not easily tempered, Boomers aren’t quite ready for lawn bowling, bingo night, or a good game of cards. That may come later. They have many more goals to accomplish and dreams to chase. Armed with good health and lots of energy, they are ready to tackle new challenges. They are hungry to learn more about the world and its cultures; to consider new philosophies and explore the breath of their spirituality.

This new generation of retirees has the time and resources to make significant contributions to humanity and to the planet, whether it’s eradicating poverty, advocating for the environment or promoting peace. They have longevity on their side which allows them to continue to make meaningful contributions to society for many more years to come. Forget retirement! Hello un-retirement!

Yeah Baby! I’m Living The Dream!

If we’re all “living the dream”, why are we so miserable? We feel more disconnected from our dream life today than we ever did. You can hear it everywhere. “I feel stuck and my life is going nowhere.” “I hate my job.” “I’m overworked and stressed out.” “I’m bored.” “I’m frustrated, angry and scared.” “I’m depressed.” “I wish I could just run away from it all.” “I need to get a life.”

Living the dream! Yeah right! We’re too darn busy working, raising families and making ends meet to have time to think about anything else, much less chasing our dreams. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results then it makes sense to change what you’re doing. Hope will only take us so far. But still, we hope that we can get away from the everyday grind for a few moments to focus on the pursuit of unfulfilled dreams. Hope is what gets us out of bed in the morning.

To make meaningful changes in your life, the first step is to make a “stop doing” list. Then ask yourself what’s most important in your life right now. And finally, ask yourself how you achieve the one goal or dream that’s most important to you now. It’s much easier to take small steps that fit your already busy schedule. You’ll also have more energy as you build momentum and start seeing the progress you’re making.

What do I want?
1. What have I accomplished so far? You’ll amaze yourself with all you’ve done.
2. What unfinished business do I still have?
3. What do I really want out of my life and why it is important?
4. What dreams can I realistically pursue, given the current priorities in my life?

How can I make it happen?
5. How can I break these dreams down into manageable goals?
6. How can I break these goals into even smaller chunks so I don’t get overwhelmed?
7. What can I do to stay focused on my goals? Ex: Give up an hour of TV? Get up earlier?
8. Who can I ask for help as I work towards my goals?
9. What can I do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to stay focused?
10. What can I do to recognize the progress I’m making and celebrate my accomplishments?

Too often we give up on our dreams because life gets in the way or doesn’t unfold as planned. Priorities change and stuff happens. The truth is that life is rarely lived in a linear fashion; it is usually lived in a spiral, with many twists and turns. But it is precisely through these twists and turns that we force ourselves to make a choice to either keep pursuing our dreams or give up. Living the dream is about having the courage to keep moving and seeing possibilities in the obstacles we face.

When we make the decision to pursue the dreams that are important, we find a renewed sense of energy. It no longer feels like we have added more on our to-do list. Rather, it recharges the old batteries and breathes new energy into our life. Sometimes we have to dig deep and find the courage to bring about the change that is needed, but we owe it to ourselves and to our loved one to create the life of our dreams.

Irrelevance in Retirement – Not An Option For Boomers!

When Ian retired a few years ago, I felt envious, wishing for the day I could announce my own retirement to come. A few months later, I asked him how he was enjoying retirement. “I hate it, I never should have retired,” he said. He identified so strongly with his work that he felt lost with all the idle time he now had at his disposal. Unfortunately, Ian’s in good company. According to Statistics Canada, 64% of retirees express regret within the first three years of retirement.

One of the biggest fears Boomers have about retirement is becoming irrelevant. In a world that values youth and productivity, it’s easy to see why one could feel irrelevant when they stop working. It is almost impossible to reconcile these values with retirement. It doesn’t help either that the Webster dictionary defines retirement as withdrawal from life, isolation and loneliness. This definition certainly doesn’t fit the perspective of an idealist generation like the Boomers. What we need is a new word for retirement. And who better to find that new word than Boomers – the inventors of everything. This latest generation of retirees is more likely to look at retirement as the beginning of a new life chapter, one that is both embracing and engaging. A fresh perspective and a new lifestyle plan will go a long way to help this generation build a highly relevant and meaningful retirement life.

Ask New Questions

Begin by asking – Who am I in this chapter of my life? Now that I’m no longer racing off to work to service customers, lead organizations or build houses, who am I?  Now that I am no longer caring for a growing family, who am I? Now that I’m embarking on a new journey in life, who am I?  These are not easy questions, but they are necessary if we’re going to challenge the perspective we may be holding onto, one that no longer fits our reality.

Go on a QUEST

Question – Explore what passions are still unfulfilled and what new opportunities exist. This will help you to create a new purpose for this chapter.

Understand – Consider what is most important to you around four anchors in your life – mind, body, soul and spirit, to find what you want in retirement.

Evaluate – Select the things that are most important to you, such as social connections, projects, community activities and wellness. Then add spice with a variety of meaningful leisure activities.

Secure knowledge – Be open to learning new things. With time to spare, learning something new may very well lead you to pursue items on your bucket list that you never knew you could do.

Treasure insights – You have tons of wisdom to share. Find every opportunity you can to share your experiences and knowledge with younger generations. You will all be richer for it.

Retirement is Renewal

It’s helpful to look at retirement as a time for renewal where you rediscover the dreams you had put on the back burner or find new ones to pursue. Make time to “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey wrote in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1988). This is the time when you can do the things that bring you the greatest joy. You also have time to really care for yourself, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

Since there is no single recipe on how to do retirement right, we get to define it on our own terms. The possibilities are unlimited. The idealism that is in the DNA of our generation should serve us well as we begin a new and exciting chapter in our lives. Retirement from work is inevitable, but retirement from life is optional. My guess is that becoming irrelevant isn’t even on the radar for the vast majority of Boomers.