Breaking through the Barriers

When was the last time you truly changed a life pattern? Stopped a long-term habit?   Started a new habit, formed a new relationship, or learned a new skill?   Changing patterns is not easy – and even a huge change like retirement transition doesn’t make creating new habits a simple task.   You do not wake up the day after you retired and become someone else overnight!  You will have the same “habit-formation barriers” that you always had.  By understanding what is stopping you – your own personal hurdles and fantasy fears – you can take small steps to break through or leap over them.

To identify my own personal barriers, I needed to listen to what my inner critic was saying.  And think about what has stopped me from making a change in the past.   What prevents/prevented me from trying something new, or stopping some old, non-positive habits?

I struggle with “activation energy”! Instead of being a self-starter with a love of spontaneity (free time, yeah!), I am an inertia-based personality who tends to procrastinate.  I looked into my past to see what helped me to take action previously.  When I did take action, it was about making a real commitment to do it.  Some tools I am using:

  • Beyond having a to-do-list, I schedule activities on my calendar. This becomes a personal commitment to myself, and I use it even for the small items. Yes, I have put time on my calendar to “find the class on-line and book it”, “draft the blog post”, and “arrange 5 networking conversations for this month”.
  • Sign up for courses, which I view as a commitment to the teacher to show up.  I also buy the 5 or 10 session card for exercise classes versus being a drop-in.  If I pay for it, I am more likely to do it.
  • Giving myself permission to start small. I am setting daily/weekly goals that move towards the bigger life goals.   And using my to-do list check off as positive reinforcement.  Movement breeds movement.
  • Link it to another activity. This helps with forming a new habit. So I linked my morning journal writing to my morning cup of coffee habit. And my walk the dog (a mile) to before I feed the dog (her dinner). (And when a dog gets into a habit, she looks for it – she will look at the door & back at me with a when-are-we going look!)
  • Find a buddy or a support system (not just the dog).  I found a walking companion and a got a foodie club started with a few acquaintances.  We are in it together now. Blogging has given me a circle of support folks I connect with about various topics!  And even my husband has become a support system for some of my new activities (you’re going to Zumba tonight, right?).
  • Verbalize it and allow serendipity to work for you. By talking to others about my journey or what they found interesting/helpful on their journey, I learned about a local cooking school boot-camp and linked with a past colleague who wants to partner on some white-papers. I also have friends now asking me about my goals (how’s that class you told me about?) and I want to be able to answer in a positive way.

My “fear of failure” voice is quite vocal and socially judgmental. “Why try that when you know you will fail and everyone will see you fail?” Or even worse the “You are too stupid, not competent enough, to do that. Why are you even thinking of trying it?” And then there is the social judgment of “Nobody in their right mind does that”.   Silencing the voice is tough so I have found that:

  • Finding a cheerleader When I recently told a friend that I didn’t think I could do one of my possibilities, she just squashed my negativity, “Of course you can do that. I can see you totally doing that.”
  • Have a conversation with that voice and do a reality check. OK, it sounds a little weird, but the “voice of failure” is usually not based on the reality of your life. Sometimes a look back at your past accomplishments can get that voice to be quiet.
  • Follow the voice’s path and answer the question, so what if I fail? What really will happen? Ok, now bring some logic in – what really will happen? As my husband said when I was scared about learning to stand-up paddle board, “you’ll get wet, so what?”
  • Start small.   Convince the voice that you are only exploring the possibility or taking a single class “just to see”. And then allow the momentum to start.

I “expect to be expert” immediately, which is really setting goals too high. After being the expert at work for years, it is really hard to be a beginner. I needed to redefine success or restate failure – So what if I fail? What is the worst thing that can happen if I try something and it doesn’t work out?   While Mark Twain’s quote is ubiquitous in retirement books (“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.” ), I needed to really internalize it – I will be more disappointed by the things I did NOT try than the things I did try! Some other tools:

  • Explore the concept of “good enough” in goal setting on something new. Why not do something just for the fun of it?
  • Give myself permission to try – pick a few new things to just explore. This is not about making a lifetime commitment! Remember, doing something well takes patience, determination, and follow through. If the excitement in the activity is igniting, then you can think about putting in the 10,000 hours to become the expert.   And, it is OK to stop something if I don’t like it, if it is not making me happy.   Nurture the activity to see if it grows… if not, move onto something else on the list.
  • I started first trying things just slightly out of my comfort zone and then used that success (I did it!) to decrease my fear of trying something further out of my comfort zone.

I have a strong need for “accomplishment recognition”.  My need for bouncing ideas off others at work was actually a need of recognition of my (great) work/thinking. Where am I getting my accomplishment recognition need met now  – with trying new things where I am not the expert and the internal fear of failure voice, there is a significant risk of disappointment as I put my heart and soul into this activity and nobody thinks it’s any good?

  • I am changing my sense of accomplishment to “I did it”, versus a critique on the quality of the output. I have written down specific goals and keep a success journal – from daily triumphs and completed to-do lists to monthly goals, this tracking gives me a personal sense of accomplishment.
  • Realize, so what if you fail at it, or are not perfect at it… more people will be impressed that you TRIED it!   Yes, they will be!   They will be totally impressed you went as a single to a Food & Wine event (we were when we met a young man at one last Saturday night). They will be totally impressed you are taking drawing classes (one blogger “friend” is and it’s amazing) or writing a blog (OK, some people will be and yes, they will tell you!).   Build on the positive “impressed” feedback and try something else.

While I am OK with “making choices”, there are so many possibilities on my list, this could have been a downfall in starting to do anything.  Some tools I continue to use:

  • I make choices between possibilities based on the activity’s fit with my personal vision.
  • I am also being careful to not take on too many activities – consciously putting things on-hold (like finding a local yoga class) as I try-on something else (writing class and coaching class).
  • And, I am really trying to choose things because they are my choices and not following others expectations.   Any time I hear the word “should” (You should be working part time in retirement… 3 days a week is the goal.), it puts up a warning sign for me!

I “feel guilty not working!” Yes, I never realized how strong my Puritan Work Ethic is! And the worry of do we have enough money builds the guilt higher. So I found myself procrastinating things that were not work-related, but pure fun. I had to realize that play/leisure is not just “goofing off” and I really did not need to work anymore. And create a mantra – there is nothing wrong with a life full of fun!

So, now is the time to “let it go” of the fantasy fears,  jump over those personal hurdles, and break through the habit-formation barriers.  As Nike says, “Just Do It”.   You ARE a smart, competent woman.   Mistakes are just a way to learn to be better.  Have fun.  And yes, you will be happier to have tried new things…. and others will be so impressed you did as well!

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Location, Location….Lifestyle!

While the mantra for purchasing a home seems to be “location, location, location”, I have found that in Retirement Transition, the decision on where to live it is more “location, location….lifestyle!”.

There are as many assumptions about retirement ”where to live” as there are people. Some assume they will move to Florida or Arizona or some other “retirement mecca”.  I received the Where to Retire magazine for a few years that was built of this premise.   Some assume they will move to where their kids live (and then follow their kids’ career moves?).   Some assume they will stay in current location, but downsize, maybe into a condo or retirement community.  I know a few folks who resized bigger to accommodate grandkids visits!  Some assume they will simply stay in place.  So what were our assumptions?  Were we going to downsize?  Stay in place? Relocate? Resize?

When we started this conversation, hubby assumed we were moving to Florida upon retirement.  (Yes, a surprise to me!)    As we got into it, we found there were quite a few considerations for making the where-to-live decision for this next stage of life.  It started, as many of these things do, with a case of really “knowing yourself” (as well as knowing your significant other).  Some of the things we thought about:

  •  Big consideration – connection to family and friends.  There is a big difference between someone who has lived in one place for 25+ years (me; and hubby has always lived here!) and someone who has moved every 5-7 years for their job.  Do I have the skill set to move and easily make new friends?  I find “military kids” have that skill well developed.  Me, not so much.  I have spoken to a few retirees who moved to another state and then really struggled with establishing a new set of friends.  What about family?  Do we want to be close(r) to relatives/ aging parents?  How do we see our connections to friends and family in the future?
  • Another consideration – What lifestyle to we want to live?  Does the location provide us access to activities of interest and/or job opportunities for that lifestyle?  Do we want to be closer to the urban core for our activities or closer to nature and the outdoors?
  • If we are relocating, what about access to health care?  Access to transportation – airport for travel or local infrastructure as we age?  What climate do we love or hate?
  • Are there financial considerations on cost of living, taxes, capital tied up in real estate?  If you are looking into 2 locations (like we are), does one become an income producer and how does that fit into your lifestyle vision?  One retiree I spoke with has a beach condo, but needs to rent it in-season to help pay for it, so she is never there in the “good months”.  Another couple worries because they have heard stories about renting and the place getting “trashed”.
  • Is this a 10 year plan or the final move plan?  This was a big mindset shift for us as early-retirees.  Our next where-to-live did not need to address possible physical limitations of aging (i.e. stairs).
  • This final one was a mind-opener!  What really does your home “mean to you”? Is it:
    —> your job?  You are the caretaker, housekeeper and/or groundskeeper and that is personally rewarding.  —> your project?  Home improvement and renovation is personally rewarding. —> your storage facility (warehouse for your toys)?  Or your display cabinet (showcase your collections)?  —> your community center (need entertainment spaces for food and conversation) or your bunkhouse (beds for visitors)? —>your base camp from which to explore the world?   Or your private retreat for privacy and serenity?    We have friends who view their retirement home as a base camp – just someplace to rest their heads between their travels and activities.

So having looked at all these considerations and talking together, we do have a 10-year location plan that meets both our needs.  “What is Home” for us as a couple?  I want a home that is a community center, while he wants a storage facility.  So our vision for our next home has become a “resize” from our current one with its small kitchen and garage.  And we are not moving full-time to Florida, but will become part-time snow birds, avoiding the cold, snowy mid-west winters (where we never leave the house anyway), but retain our (wonderful) mid-west friendship connections.   And that part-time in Florida will focus on creating friendships there as well.

Now just to action this plan, which starts with some house hunting and serious decluttering!

Life Domains

As I have read through many retirement books and blogs, seven core domains of life were repeatedly discussed as critical elements in creating this next life-stage. Many books about retirement focus heavily of the financial element, but I have found that the six others were as important (if not more important) to think about when creating my new life vision.

While each domain is written below as a stand-alone, many are inter-connected.  I found that each domain has a whole set of critical questions that can help craft a life vision. And if you are part of a couple (as I am), comparing answers to these questions can raise areas that need discussion and compromise.

Some of the critical questions of each life domain are captured here:

Finances/Prosperity: Do I/we have a strong awareness of financial plans and money matters – from monthly budget/cash flow to retirement drawdown strategy (including Social Security) to insurance needs?  This is critical to understand everything from “do I need to work?” (need for supplemental retirement income) to “can I travel without worry?” But this also comes into play for questions like – can we afford to buy a second home/condo (location) or can he fund the adult toys he wants (hobbies)?

Work/Career: Whether work is needed for income or personal satisfaction, understanding the path forward here is challenging. What is right – Career Continuation or Encore Career or Bridge Job? (see my previous blog on To Work or Not to Work) And then what is the plan to work through a job search/new career training if that is the path forward?  I also found for me (a Type A workaholic) that I needed to intentionally limit this domain thinking to allow space for the other domains in my life vision.

Hobby/Leisure: What fun stuff do I/we want to do – from expanding current hobbies to identifying new ones? Fun things that use strengths/knowledge and/or build new skills?  This is a broad topic (see my previous blog on Imagining Possibilities) but it’s a great area to make sure is part of your life vision – from learning (OLLI, Roadscholar, Community College) to travel plans (bucket list destinations) to creative outlets (writing a blog!).

Relationships/Connections: This domain covers spouse to children to aging parents, other relatives, extended family and friends. Retirement significantly changes connection dynamics as you lose touch with work “friends”.   It can also change family dynamics. Are there unspoken expectations within the extended family for where time will be spent?  What connections do I/we need to maintain, improve, build, eliminate?  What support networks are there or need to be there (need to be created)?

Health/Wellbeing: This domain includes physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual well being.  What is the going forward plan for relaxation (meditation/prayer/spirituality exploration, sleep, yoga), nutrition (eating healthy, cooking healthy), activity (physically fit, regular exercise programs, daily movement)?

Location/Lifestyle: Choice of location and community can have so many implications – closeness to others, access to work opportunities, support of health & wellness. What lifestyle do we want to live? Are we more interested in rural/connected to nature or urban/close to the hub of activity? What does a home mean to us?  Do we downsize, resize, relocate, stay in place?

Community/Volunteerism: How do I/we want to share time, talents and/or treasures? With the local community? To a broader cause? For me, having no strong basis of volunteerism, in my first phase of retirement I am exploring various organizations that might fit my values & interests and looking at what types of volunteer activities there are.  I know others who are merely increasing the volunteering they currently do – taking on larger roles and/or devoting more time.

Reviewing each of the 7 core domains (with my husband’s perspective built is as well) has been extremely helpful in creating a broad Life Vision.

Have you intentionally thought about all the domains of your life going forward?