A Path Not Taken?

It runs a chill down my spine when a series of events seem to ask the same question. Recently, between a few different bloggers and a couple of theater productions, the question around “what one thing would you change” has been raised.

This question can easily drift into regret. Regret for a path not taken, a decision made that is now considered “wrong”, an opportunity lost.   One blogger bounced that notion on its head with the idea that now, in retirement, you have the time to do “it”. The thing you did not do, the path you did not take, the choice you did not make.

As I face another radical (for me) change in our path moving forward, I started to think about things I did not do, paths I did not take. Not that I would go back and change anything, because the path I’ve taken has lead me to where I am today.   And this is NOT a bad place! But this thinking can open up the future – many of those things I could now do.

What path not taken can I now take?

As we move into our downsized house, I want to plan In-Home Friend Dinners. This will be a learning experience for me – I’ve never been an at-home-entertainer. I’ve always wanted to be, and admire those who make it look so effortless. Friend Dinners also combine two elements of my life vision – building closer friendships and cooking more. Since our new down-sized house actually has a larger, more functional kitchen, I am very excited to be able to cook more – both for entertaining and for just the two of us.

Another element I want going forward is more mini-adventures. I’m coming to the realization that I am, contrary to what I might think I should be, more of a homebody.   I have friends who travel almost constantly – off for the weekend to Chicago, a week in Paris for the Easter break, or regular ski or scuba trips. And other friends who every weekend are off on another hike, another historical site/cool town, another bike trip. And friends  who have already been to the latest restaurant opened in town, the top 10 burger joints, and the greatest dining-out patios. I have often felt I need to compete and be the same way.   Yes, my Comparison Inferiority Complex rears its ugly head. I need to acknowledge – I am not that person.   I am not the constantly out-and-about person. I like being at home.   I enjoy sitting on my porch and reading. I enjoy puttering in the yard.   BUT, I do want a few more mini-adventures. Not every weekend, but a few times a year – a long weekend away, maybe tapping into RoadScholar, which I’ve been eager to try. Maybe a cool day trip once a month – plan it and do it. And yes, let’s try that new restaurant, but maybe not the first month it’s open! And most importantly, beyond the need to do the planning, be happy in the moderation.   Not disappointed in the comparison.

This house move is a big one for us. I have not done many physical moves in my life. Given my homebody nature, I tend to dig into a place.   And my pack-rat, hoarding, can’t throw/give anything away husband?   This will be extremely traumatic as we move from 3400 sq. ft. to 2100 sq. ft.   Yes, I hear some laughter at 2100 sq. ft. being downsized!

But I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a wonderful new path in our lives. A path that is full of “can do” activities, new areas to explore, and my life vision to unfold.  And a few of those “paths not taken” elements coming into reality.

Retirement Transition – It’s the Journey

For many years, my husband has given me things (T-shirts, bumper stickers, magnets) with variations of the iconic quote “It’s the journey, not the destination.” He did it teasingly because as a Type-A, goal-setting workaholic, I was always about the destination. In retirement I am (slowly) coming to realize it IS about the journey.  And thankfully, after our recent derailment, I’m feeling like the journey is once more “in motion”!

But the goal-setter achiever in me still needs to know, how do you measure the experience and not focus on just achievement of the endpoint?

– First measure – Am I enjoying it? This is my life, so am I having fun living it? Is the activity I’m engaging in really what I want versus what I think I should be doing? The retirement “shoulds” can come from well-meaning individuals and/or long-term beliefs. There’s even the research that says what retirement should include – a sense of purpose, volunteering, healthy living, supportive connections. I continue to sort through the “should” to my true desires – a challenge that continual self-discovery helps. Enjoying the activities I choose is a great measure of success along the journey.

– Second measure – Am I giving it my best shot? So many new things to try and determine if they fit in my journey– from daily journaling to taking classes to starting an exercise program with walking, zumba and yoga. So am I giving each aspect a best shot incorporating it into the journey? Which also means intentionally choosing to focus on fewer things, so I can put in the effort on new things.

– Third measure – Am I seeing my vision come to life? Having a vision, in both words and visuals, is important for me being the goal-setter. Regularly checking to see if my weekly activities are aligned with that vision gives me regular measure of progress.

Have I fully transitioned to being all about the journey and not the destination?   No. But I am trying to enjoy the journey, and live every day fully.

Are you more about the journey or the destination in your retirement?


My Anti-climactic Milestone

We hit a major milestone in the Life Vision last weekend. A milestone we have been planning since we retired 2.5 years ago; the milestone that had a massive derailment in January. And hitting this moment feels completely anti-climactic!

After the previous plan fell apart, I spent many sleepless nights in January pondering the various scenarios to making the milestone still hit this spring. There were literally days planning and scheduling to find a new plan. And then even more hours of planning to ensure that it would be executed without a glitch as it started to look like it might still happen. We didn’t have confirmation until 7 days before that everything was a “go”.

Every step of the execution I expected something to go wrong. I had thought through so many contingency plans. I had put into place a bunch of fail-safe elements. I had lists upon lists of details. My corporate project management skills were in full force!

Everything went smooth.

And now it’s done. And instead of elation, I just feel a sense of emptiness. I’m trying to understand why hitting this milestone is not the huge moment I expected.

Yes, I feel a decided lack of appreciation for all the effort I put into making it happen. It happened without incident because of all the work I put in… most everyone just saw it happen – no big deal.

No, I didn’t do anything to actually celebrate the achievement. It happened. Move on.

Perhaps I need to break out a bottle of champagne for myself and toast the achievement. Look in the mirror and acknowledge the hours of effort. Take the words of a blogger friend: “The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to forgive others for being human.” Forgive others for not expressing appreciation the way you want.

And then realize the rest of the Life Vision now has more potential to be realized. This milestone removed a barrier that opens up so much potential. Rejoice in that. Look forward, not back.

Have you ever felt anti-climactic when achieving milestones?

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Retirement by Design

I just completed reading Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Although I have slowed down on researching “How to do a Retirement Transition”, when someone highly recommends a book in this space, I’m still curious enough to purchase and read. You never know when a new nugget of information will help continue the transition. I wish I had read this book much earlier in my transition!   While more career focused, it can definitely help someone create their own “retirement by design”.

The core premise of the book is to use the process of Design Thinking to design your life. Design Thinking is a well-documented approach (with tools) that helps you delve into creating the “right solution”, since every design is considered to be a solution to some defined problem.  The tools are not checklists or answers, but provide the basis for gathering insights, generating possibilities, and driving to action. In this case the “problem” is the what is your best life, so the insights help in defining who you are, what you believe, and what you want to do. While most examples in the book are examples of designing the right work/career path, the tools are completely applicable to designing the right retirement life.

A few of the elements presented were consistent in my own approach to retirement transition, but they used some cool terminology:

Life Compass – a summary of your Life View and Work View. It’s basically answering the questions of: what are your values, what’s important to you, what engages and energizes you, and why do you work. I’ve explored these areas in some of my blogs like where I discussed the key needs work provides (Status and Identity; Achievement & Utility; Social Affiliation; Time Management & Structure, and Financial Compensation) or understanding how to design in happiness (Level 1 happiness is connected to enjoyment in our interests, Level 2 intensity of happiness is connected to utilizing our strengths or talents and being engaged, and Level 3 happiness is linked to our core values and helps us feel part of something bigger.) Your Life Compass is really discovering and articulating who you are and what you need.

Life Dashboard – a snapshot measurement of core elements of life – health, work, love and play. This concept is similar to my Life Domains concept (7 retirement life domains: Health/Wellbeing; Work/Career; Hobby/Leisure; Relationships/Connections; Location/Lifestyle; Personal Development; and Finances/Prosperity), but adds the idea of actually measuring each element to aid in identifying where you want to spend your time in creating your next life design.

Prototyping – actually doing something, a small step, trying it on.   Prototyping comes after brainstorming (creating the possibilities list) and narrowing down choices. Design Thinking has a bias to action – getting to a choice and starting to do is important for designers.   Taking action moving into a design direction allows you to experience and learn, adjust and reiterate. There is a fundamental belief that doing something is better than doing nothing – by doing something you can always learn what doesn’t work!  I most recently blogged about the 10 Lives Approach – pick a “life” and do it for a month – and my month of becoming a yogi.

The book also provided me with a couple of insights into areas I’m still struggling with:

Passion – passion comes after you try something, do it for a while, and discover you really like it. Most people do not have one thing they are passionate about – the one thing that infuses every waking moment. (This was a very liberating thought!)   Most people have multiple, different things for which they have a moderate passion. So try on various things, see what resonates, and become the “hyphenated person”.  You know… the “foodie-wanabee, yoga-novice, blogger-extraordinaire.”

Paths – there are many different life paths you could take. You have the talent and energy and interests to live many different types of lives, any and all of which could be authentic, productive, and fulfilling. You shouldn’t be afraid to just start walking down one path and adjusting along the journey. Or living one life path now and starting another life path in the future.


I agree with the recommendation I received – this is a great how-to book for designing the life you want, whether it is the encore career/work you want or the retirement lifestyle you want or some combination of the two!


Picture Credit: Pixabay





Winter Blues

I’m sharing this past month’s Winter Blues because sometimes I think it’s helpful to hear that not everything in retirement transition is an easy road.

My “morning mental health checks” since the beginning of this year have not been good. Yes, part of my morning journaling is an emotional assessment.   Last year seemed to be full of joy, positive expectation, and contentment. When I’ve dropped into blah-ness or uncertainty, my new tools were helpful in creating more positive emotions.

During the past few weeks, my morning emotional check-in has been full of words like overwhelmed, adrift, uncertain, discontent, resentment, guilty, aggravated, discouraged, isolated, dejected, and dread. A blah day felt like an improvement.

My regular tools did not seem to be working – I did the networking lunches, dinner dates with friends, regular exercise (yoga and zumba), and journaling with gratitude and affirmations. And still the emotions remained negative.

I’m (still) chronically overthinking on “the issue” that derailed me in January – lots of what-if scenario thinking, creating multiple to-do lists.   And my strong need external validation is making me feel bad – I want someone to acknowledge my efforts in all this detailed planning (and no-one is).

I’m doing the comparative inferiority again – recent retirees I’m connected with (those networking lunches!) are traveling (one couple did 15 trips last year including regular from weekend jaunts), re-designing their houses (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom renovations), doing regular volunteer work, taking classes, having fun hanging with their grandkids, and digitizing old family photos/movies. Why is my calendar so empty? What am I not activating my own action plan?

A part of me wants more things “to do” and another part of me worries about overdoing and feeling even more overwhelmed/overworked. A part of me wants more activities and projects on the calendar and a part of me is just so tired of planning.

I’m becoming the Queen of Wasting Time – iPad gaming, FB-ing (Pantsuit Nation & local version suck me in for hours), trash novel reading – because that gives me a sense of numbness.

I will keep working the tools – gratitude, affirmations, planning fun things, checking things off the lists. There is a new plan on “the issue”.

I’m hopeful (a positive emotion!) that in a few weeks there will be more contentment and positivity in my life.  My words the last two days have been “cautiously optimistic” …. Maybe my tools are working?


Picture Credit: Pixabay

Learning to Live

I have had a lot to learn about daily living as part of retirement transition.   I was a workaholic; my work defined my daily and weekly living. Work/life balance was solidly on the work side of things.  When the work went away, I needed to figure out how to live life. I’m still a beginner but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Every day life is ordinary.   While I don’t have the stricture of working – the living by the clock, the frustration of a daily commute, and the banality of meetings – retirement days are not a nirvana of extraordinary adventures. If I expect that, I’ll be disappointed.   I am learning to enjoy the ordinary.
  2. I need to plan my everyday. Yes, I have discovered I really do need to have a plan.   A new life in retirement does not magically appear; time does not fill itself with engaging activities. I need to intentionally schedule things – from meet-ups with friends to time to write. Otherwise the days fritter away and negative feelings spiral.
  3. Consciously using the new tools in my toolbox makes the everyday days feel a bit closer to nirvana with a more peaceful, positive rhythm.   Using my new tools (morning journaling, affirmations, practice gratitude, practice yoga) takes effort, (dare I say ”work”?) but they do make living every day more enjoyable.
  4. When looking to how others are living life (friends, bloggers, random people you meet), focus on inspiration and not comparison. The comparison is so much easier, but too often lends to a sense of inferiority.   Everyone is different, with different strengths, different interests and desires. I need to define my own daily living.
  5. It’s the journey, not the destination.   A quote this Type-A recovering-workaholic, goal-setting achiever continues to remind herself daily! Embracing the journey means doing things I enjoy every day, giving new activities my best shot, and being OK with being a beginner. And focusing on activities that really interest me, not ones I think I “should be” doing.
  6. There is a huge gap between purpose in every moment of every day and completely wasted time. Some people find that singular passion that becomes their life purpose. Stop the comparison… many people do not.  Having the freedom to craft every week with a multitude of enjoyable activities, including time to just stop and be, is fine. Someday a larger purpose might present itself, but enjoying living is OK for right now.
  7. The options are limitless and the choices can be overwhelming. Just do something. Take a class. Read up on a topic. I have the freedom now to explore… so I am exploring! I can become a 21st Century Renaissance Woman – a blogging, spiritualism-exploring, yogi; a theater-going foodie who takes exotic mini-adventures; and an innovation-gig consultant. Why not!

For me, retirement transition has been about learning how to live, not work.   Yes, I am a beginner at it, but am finding joy in the learning.

Living a 21st Century Retirement

It continues to surprise me how often hear people are “afraid to retire” because they still have the old mental vision of retirement – old age and restricted mobility, limited activities and isolationism, daily boredom.

When you consider that many of us will have 25-30 years of retirement, transition into a 21st Century Retirement is about defining a new lifestyle. It is not a permanent vacation leading towards decline and death, but rather learning a new, long-term lifestyle for the next stage of life… and for me that is one that is life-focused, not work-focused.

As a Type-A, goal-achieving workaholic, I never figured out the life half of “work-life balance”.   So now in retirement, that is my focus – life.

While I often will exaggerate to say I went from all work-no play to all play-no work, neither is completely accurate.   In-depth self-discovery allowed me to admit, I did have some limited life elements while I was working – from reading to theater-going to walking/hiking to dining with friends.   And retirement is allowing me to expand on them; life-based things I loved while working continue to be part of my life in retirement. And I am still working, though it is very part-time as an innovation consultant.   So, what has changed is the work/life ratio. In fact, I am “working” to move it from 90/10 to 10/90!

My 21st Century Retirement is having a well-curated life.   Daily living is more than just how to fill the hours. It is how to fill the hours with elements that are important to me. It is recognizing that life is a combination of leisurely pursuits and daily mundane tasks, interspersed with big life-vision elements. I continue to use my Life Domains Model to review my weekly plans – with four domains being my current focal points:

  • Health/ Wellbeing – What am I doing daily/weekly for Activity/Movement (walking, Zumba, yoga) and Practicing Positivity (journaling & emotional monitoring; practice gratitude; choose and do; regular hugs/touch)?
  • Hobbies & Leisure – Are the balance of activities fitting my personal interests of: Playing with Words, Foodie Fun, and Releasing my Latent Adventurer & the Artist Within?
  • Connections/Relationship – Do my Out & About plans (10 activities per month!) support my Time with Tim, Fun with Friends, and Camaraderie of Compatible Couples vision?
  • Work/Career – Am I NOT overdoing here (work-alcoholic tendencies!) but do I have good amount of Career Continuation Networking conversations (10 meetings per quarter) and Compensated Consulting Gigs (5 projects per year)?

You can see my loving to play with words throughout my vision!   I continue to refine my vision of my retirement, and it is definitely not restricted, limited, isolated or boring. I am living a 21st Century Retirement!