Life and the Currency of Time

Time Stream

When you think about your third act, where does your imagination take you? Travel, the Great Outdoors, part-time work, hobbies, fitness, service, mentoring, grandchildren – there are many avenues when thinking ahead to this important chapter in our lives.

Retirement readiness is most often associated with money: Is there enough in the bank to retire? This is an important question because financial security is a natural buffer in life. As a certified coach specializing in mid-life transitions, I don’t minimize this emphasis, however planning ahead on how you will spend time, not just your money, is also necessary. It’s a matter of being proactive rather than reactive and requires us to dig deeply to ask the question, “What’s next for me?”

In previous generations retirement was considered more of an end point. Today, it can be a vital new beginning. For this to happen, an investment needs to be made, with a consideration of time as a currency. On average, retirement lasts over three decades and offers many phases and stages. The goal of financial independence is securing a comfortable lifestyle that takes into consideration the ever-changing scenarios related to aging.

The question becomes, when every day is Saturday, how do you create meaningful contrasts, balancing novelty with routine? It’s the paradox of leisure: When all you have is free time, for some it can start to feel like work to fill it. During the “Decompression Phase” of retirement, time is an ally, with energy going toward taking that long awaited trip that lasts more than two weeks, or puttering around the house with home projects, taking leisurely lunches with friends, an extra round of golf or an afternoon matinee. Once the novelty wears off and life starts to normalize, the reality is there are a lot of hours to fill each day. It’s going from a model of time scarcity to time abundance. Having a newly minted, meaningful life plan in place allows you to feel more secure with the natural shifts this existential transition brings to the surface.

Figuring out what “The good life” looks like to you is the goal and this is definitely not a one-size-fits-all plan. The dream of a realistic, yet idyllic, post-work phase of life is certainly within reach, but it doesn’t happen on its own. There are some ways to get started to help prepare and create some comfort and confidence in the process.

First, think about the people in your life you admire in their third act. How do they spend their time? What’s their approach to everyday life? Ask them questions to better understand what is beneath the surface, both the joys and the challenges. Their responses and your inner voice will reflect your values and vision and may offer clues for how you want this next chapter to unfold.

Second, take inventory of your past interests and hobbies and see what still has appeal and potential. Think back: music, arts and crafts, sports, volunteering—to name a few. Once you have come up with a list, make it a point to regularly explore if it’s a fit again, or find an alternative that meets your abilities and interest today. Also, consider what activities you currently enjoy in your free time and find out if doing it more often is better or just becomes a drain. That sweet spot is what you are after.

Third, have conversations with your significant other to see how aligned your visions are when thinking about this all important life transition. One person may dream of traveling the world, while the other wants to stay closer to home. It is important to communicate and share ways to find common ground when it comes to scaffolding what life will look as a couple in this next chapter. Time together and apart can be hard to balance at first, but research tells us that compatible couples with an interdependent relationship have the most success in their retirement years. Honest communication goes a long way in charting a path that allows for flexibility and compromise. After all, adaptability is one of the most important attributes to have in later years and what better place to practice this trait than with your loved one?

And finally, if this transition is in the near future, it is smart to practice your new lifestyle. That way you can work out the kinks before you invest too deeply emotionally and financially. If you are planning to stay closer to home, take your vacation time and just stay put and pretend you are already retired. Try and organize around the life you intend to live and see how it feels. Do spending habits change when you have time on your hands? Do you have enough companionship beyond your spouse? Does life feel full enough? If you have more of an appetite for adventure, go out and practice that lifestyle. I am taking my own advice and renting a camper next summer with my husband to see how it feels to be on the open road. We imagine what this experience will be, but there is nothing like getting some miles in to really know whether it’s a fit. What’s important is to plan some practice rounds to assess and perhaps modify.

I love the quote from The Natural and find it fits well here, “I believe there are two lives, the one you learn with and the one you live after that.” Knowing yourself and planning ahead with your wisdom and instincts will generate a good life, your good life.

[Read more…]

A Friendly Universe?

i-think-the-most-friendly-unfriendly-universe-einsteinDid you know Albert Einstein was a philosopher, on top of all of his other stellar contributions? He philosophized that the most important question you will ever answer yourself is a simple one: Is the universe a friendly place?

When I heard this question in a webinar the other day, I smiled, knowing my answer.  Think about it for yourself. Do you find the relationship you have struck up with the world around you to be friendly or adverse, or somewhere in between? Your answer is pivotal because by cultivating awareness, you can shift your perspective and change your narrative. Let’s face it, we all have a life story we are unfolding. And the universe plays an important role, as we either find flow or bump up against it constantly. The dance is a give and take and offers us information that can help to guide us along in the journey.

Do you some examples that represent how friendly the universe is? I have many. Just today I experienced such a moment. I had misplaced my vehicle registration and knew I needed it for my son’s second behind-the-wheel test (he didn’t pass the first time—I am thinking this was also a friendly sign, but I digress…) So I ransacked and didn’t have any luck. Then today I went to my mailbox and there was my registration in its old, opened envelope. Yes, a simple example, but most of life is made up of these kind of smaller moments. And “the universe” comes in many forms, from a stranger, to an inanimate object, to what can look like fate blowing through to shift everything. [Read more…]

From Time Scarcity to Time Abundance

medium_284995199-630x315The Days are long, but the years are short” ~ Gretchen Rubin

As a coach working with clients who are in major life transitions like retirement, time is often a big part of what makes us feel anxious. It boils down to the perception of time: going from structure in the known world, deadlines, etc. (scarcity), to less structure, more leisure and breaks for the unknown (abundance.) With most of us, it sounds better than it is. With work, it feels like our time is accounted for, when we are on the clock, so to speak. This is true for entrepreneurs as much as it is for those who punch in because we are accountable to someone or something when it comes to our working life. As we shift away from the rigors of a career to become more in charge of our days, a new pressure emerges as we consider how to make this precious time count.

So, existentially, when every day becomes a Saturday, it can be daunting. Ask anyone who has gone through this reckoning and you’ll hear why it can be so hard to reconcile. It has to do with missing routine and social interaction, as well as a sense of purpose and even a loss of identity. Imagine that, all from a job and the time it took to show up and get the work done…

The trick to this whole conundrum is replacement and practice. [Read more…]

Retirement Planning 101: Living a Leisurely Lifestyle

slider6“We are at our very best, and we are happiest,

when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy,

on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves.

It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep.

It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”

                                                                                       ~Earl Nightingale

This quote describes the idea of contrasts and why it’s important to have engagement, be it in work life or in retirement. Living a leisurely lifestyle is very different than living a life of leisure, where retirement is not about substance and instead is either rest or play. Sure, at first when people retire they often answer the question about what they are going to do next, with this simple response, “As little as possible.”

The art of doing nothing can be wonderful at first. Just being and not doing is good for the soul and it is a natural early phase related to retirement. It can last a few weeks, a few months and for some, this life of leisure never ends.

However, for most in the Baby Boomer generation, the paradigm is shifting.   Purpose and meaning, a reason to jump out of bed in the morning, has become an expectation in retirement. I know a retiree who comes to my son’s high school baseball field to barbeque hot dogs and hamburgers every home game.   We all look forward to seeing him as he engages with parents and players over barbeque and baseball. He tells me his wife is involved with rescue dogs and this is his thing, and they both couldn’t be happier. [Read more…]

Repacking for the New Journey Ahead

201109-a-insider-man-suitcase I often work with clients who are in the second half of life, looking for ways to reinvent themselves while preserving who they are already. I call it re-launching life through leveraging past, present and future. It’s fun work, re-imagining possibilities and supporting what’s next.

For me, one of the most compelling aspects of scaffolding together a new chapter is what we have to give up to make room for anything new to take hold. In the insightful book Life Reimagined by Richard Leider and Alan Webber, this action is called repacking, which asks “What are the essentials for the next phase of the journey?” Defining what is essential is personal and not one size fits all, that’s what makes each journey unique and meaningful.

Deciding on these essentials involves reflection and discernment, followed by action. Deep within us we know what we need to let go of to move forward, so we can make the wisest choices about how we spend our limited time in the second half. [Read more…]

A Proactive Key to Prepare for Retirement

Key to RetirementIn my coaching practice and with the assessments I give, there is an influencing factor that helps clients succeed in their retirement planning and that is the idea of replacement. Think about it, work is much more than a paycheck for most of us. In addition to financial stability, work offers many other rewards like a natural cadence or rhythm to our day, a sense of utility, socialization and, of course, identity.

Once we begin to think about our life beyond work, there is the realization that to meaningfully fill all those hours, it takes some thoughtful analysis related to how we imagine ourselves and what is realistic to achieve our renewed version of “The Good Life”. It doesn’t happen on its own and it certainly isn’t one-size fits all. To get it right for you, it takes some personal reflection, conversations with your significant other or those in your life you trust to be sounding boards, as well as some practice to see if expectations are in line with reality.

I will give you an example. The other day I was going over the Retirement Success Profile with a client in his late 60’s. Once he took this assessment and saw his results he got to work figuring out how many free hours each day he would now have to pursue his interests, hobbies and volunteer work. He calculated 56 hours to parlay into each week and looked at how much time he would ideally like to spend on each activity. We laughed when I asked him where his wife fit into all of this, since he mentioned family as one category and gave it only 8 hours! The point is, he thought about replacements and calculated his numbers and this is his start. With two more years before he fully retires, this first draft schedule will no doubt be modified, but he is on his way to figuring out how to find purpose and meaning during retirement. [Read more…]

Outliers in an Age of Technology

“In an age of speed, I begin to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.  In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention.  And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” ~ Pico Iyer

slowdownThis morning I listened to a new song on the radio about being still in the company of another person.   There was a break in the song, lasting only a second or so, but definitely “radio silence” and I thought it was over, then the song resumed and it made me think what a creative choice the musician made by inserting stillness into his music.

How often do any of us get still these days in the age of an over-stimulated society, where technology often trumps eye contact and conversation? It’s something I hear more about these days as I notice the frequency of Smart phones and other devices taking up our attention. I have a pet peeve about going to restaurants and observing groups together for a meal, yet each is otherwise engaged on their cell phone texting, checking social media or news, and generally being somewhere else but with each other.

There is a balance and I keep hoping it will one day be considered somewhat impolite to bring out a phone in the company of others. Right now, the pendulum is so far over in the other direction, yet I see signs that it is possible to shift culturally. We have to be the change we want to see, as wisdom tells us. [Read more…]

Ask Yourself this Question…

Happy New Year hd wallpaper 2015I worked on my vision board over the weekend and found a quote that struck a chord with me and it may for you as well, “If at some point you don’t ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ then you’re not doing it right.”

Why did this hit me like a bolt of lightning? Because with every challenge I face there is a window of time when I ask myself this very question. It used to scare me because it gave me pause, thinking perhaps I was on the wrong path or had bitten off more than I could chew. These days I am more comfortable with the question, knowing it is the beginning of something, the before stage, when I have not yet met my goals and everything is yet to be.

The beauty of getting older is wisdom begins to prevail and we have enough past experiences to know what we are made of and that despite some nagging questions, we are ready, willing and able to move forward and conquer our doubts with action. After all, the best anecdote I know for fear is action. Just do something productive, keep moving and things begin to happen. It’s all about energy.

For me, I love the new year, but there is a part of entering January that gives me pause. I ask myself, what will I do differently this year that builds on last year, yet moves me beyond my current comfort zone? 2015 in particular I wonder how to balance learning and growing my coaching practice while also taking time to lighten up and have some fun? Fun is prominent on my board because with all my recent schooling and certifications, the workhorse in me got into overdrive and I need to now have the wisdom to pull back the reigns enough to enjoy the journey more and not feel it’s a race. Does this sound familiar?

A work-life-fun fit is my vision for 2015 and what I’ve gotten myself into is committing to owning fun as part of the unfolding story of what makes me a better wife, mother, friend and professional. What are you retrofitting into your vision? Half the fun is getting there, so plan accordingly.


Vision Boards are a Mirror to What’s Next

7973761_f520“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”   ~The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver

It’s December and ‘tis the season…to set intentions and envision your wild and precious year ahead with a vision board. There is power to it. I know first hand when I look at previous boards and see what has become: My first trip to Africa, hatching a new career, getting fit with a boot camp workout, finding joy on an electric bike, watching dawn break more often; breathing more life into life.

This annual ritual begins in December when I start collecting images and words that speak to me. I get a file folder and keep it handy so anytime I see a quote, an image or something that feels like it could be part of my future, it goes in one place for safe keeping. I collect magazines, quotes from books, old calendars, cool paper and even shells or artful stickers—anything that helps tell my unfolding story.

Think about areas in your life that you may want to focus on more in 2015: health, fitness, personal relationships, your children, career, finances, school, travel, leisure time, the arts, a hobby, volunteer opportunities, a spiritual quest, or perhaps something on that bucket list? The list is endless. [Read more…]

Benjamin Franklin and Creating New Habits

 “Never leave till tomorrow that whichben_franklin you can do today”

~ Benjamin Franklin

I read this great book on positive psychology applied to daily life called, “Creating Your Best Life.“ At the end of this hands-on book there are several worksheets that I now use in my coaching practice, including “’Ben’ There, Done That.”

Benjamin Franklin was an inventor among the many roles he took up in his monumental life. He applied this creative mindset to his own re-invention, one habit or change at a time. He saw these self-improvement goals as character builders and looked through the lens of virtues to identify and focus on one major change at a time.   Journaling is how he kept track of his progress, marking an X each day he was able to use the self-control needed to meet his specific goal.

Ben never added a new goal until he was satisfied that he had conquered the previous one. This enabled him to focus on one thing at a time, adding more potency to his intention. Each goal took some time, but back then life wasn’t so rushed and I venture to guess that there was more wisdom around the adage, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Ponder for a moment the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. Why are most of these new best practices so often abandoned by month’s end? My suspicion is we resolve to change too much or make our resolutions so lofty that they become difficult to sustain. It’s also possible that we don’t put enough thought into what’s driving the goal and the long-term benefits we will enjoy if we keep at it. [Read more…]