So Many Possibilities, Not Enough Time – How to choose?

At this point in my retirement transition, it’s about intentionally choosing the activities that will lead me down the path towards my vision. I need to become my own Life Curator.

When you consider all the potential things I can do on my Life Possibilities list – from experiences to try, classes to take, places to visit – the abundance of possibilities can actually lead to paralysis! Assessment and choice is hard work. And as I was advised: Only you can do the work to make choices because no-one knows your foundational elements and life vision better than you.

Much of my life-before-retirement was dictated by other’s demands and schedules, from parents to teachers to bosses. Now I can choose the kind of days I want to live.  Oh, the freedom…. and the stress!

“The way to simplicity lies through complexity.” –Chinese proverb

As I talked in my previous blog Happiness By Design, you want to choose activities that will match the life vision you created – which is linked to your core values, building on your strengths and matching your interests. Recall, activities that are linked to interests provide enjoyment, fun, and comfort. Activities that are linked to interest and strengths/skills provided challenge, engagement and feelings of accomplishment. Activities that are linked to core values as well as interests and strengths/skills provide a higher level of satisfaction and meaning.

 

Here is a tool I have found useful in assessing different possible activities/pursuits versus Life Vision Statement and Life Domains.  It attempts to bring simplicity to the complex!   Activities can impact multiple life domains, some positively and some negatively.  As a Life Curator, I want to have a mix of activities that are overall positively impacting across my life domains.  Here is an example looking at my Life Domains and a few ideas from my Life Possibilities list:

  Activity Idea: Zumba Class Activity Idea: Foodie Dinner Club Activity Idea: Writing a book Activity Idea:

RoadScholar Travel

Fits Vision Statement ++ ++ + +
Improve Physical Well Being – Be Active (Core Value; Interest) ++ ?
Connections with Friends (Core Value) + ++    
Work – Share Synthesizer Expertise (Core Value; Strength) ++ +
Leisure – Release the Artist Within (Interest)   + ++  

In reality (among other activities I evaluated that are not on the above example) I am doing Zumba weekly, I took creative writing classes, and I formed a mid-week dining out club.   This is about linking your day-to-day activities to your life vision and life domains. A friend of mine commented at her 4 month post-retirement mark: “Today my life is 30% volunteer stuff, 30% learning, and 30% family. And I am happy with that!”

 

A few other suggestions about choosing activities/pursuits:

  • Focus energy on the important few instead of the insignificant many. This is more than creating a full calendar (filling up time); it is about engaging in things that can bring life satisfaction.   Busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness was a habit I had to break. In today’s culture, busy-ness is the key sign of a workaholic and is also a signal of high performance. To say that you are “not busy” is a negative statement – a sign of laziness or even a signal that you need help – someone will definitely try and solve your non-busy problem with suggestions on things to do! But, busy can also mean being stressed and not being mindful, not doing what is really important to you, and not having time to think or watch for serendipity. I learned that a balance of the few scheduled, structured activities and some un-structured time allows me to feel not stressed, and not bored.
  • Definitely pick a couple of new things to just explore!  What about trying 1 new thing per season? You will be more disappointed by the things you did NOT try than the things you did!  This is not about making a lifetime commitment. Try it on and if you don’t like it (after giving it a real chance, don’t be too discomforted with non-proficiency) move on and try something else. If the interest in the new thing is igniting, keep doing it. My writing class turned into a blog!
  • Talk with people about your plans. When I mentioned plans to be more active with walking, I found a couple of walking companions (physical well-being AND connections to friends!). A friend recently asked me if I had done a “walk-about”. He said to explore new possibilities by creating a list of people to talk to, organizations to connect with, classes to take, and places to visit for inspiration – I was encouraged to visit museums, talk to directors of arts organizations, link into volunteer boards on start-ups. All of this puts you “out-there” to allow for serendipity to happen…almost planned serendipity.
  • As you look at big activity areas or big life domains, think about breaking them down.   Writing a book (big activity) started with taking creative writing classes and starting to write with a blog. Improve physical well-being (big domain) started with goals of doing weekly Zumba and weekly walking.

 

I relook at my activities/pursuits on a quarterly basis to see if they continue to stay aligned with my Life Vision, if overall I remain in balance (more play than work, not too much structured), if I need to stop doing something (not bringing me satisfaction), and if there is space for trying something new from my Life Possibilities list.

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Healthy Living as Part of my Transition Plan

Health & Wellness is one of the key “Life Domains” that I needed to explore as I worked through my retirement transition.   It was interesting how many retirement books and blogs mentioned this area, although I didn’t find any that addressed it in depth. (Please let me know if you have found one!)

 

I found lots of references to the commonly held healthy living guidelines – 7-8 hours of sleep, 8 glasses of water every day, 10,000 steps a day, 5 fruits & veggies a day, regular check-ups with your doctor(s), the appropriate screening diagnostics/shots for your age, management of your innate health condition(s), etc.   But I also found some references to other aspects of health & wellness like the spiritual side of wellness including connections to others. And the mental (brain) stimulation side of wellness, especially as you age and leave behind the highly mind-stimulating work environment.

 

So given my researcher/ synthesizer nature, below is my model to explore the Health & Wellness Domain in this next life stage.  For me it is holistic and captures wellness of the mind, body and soul.  It addresses not only the physical changes that are coming with aging, but the loss of social and mental aspects that can come when leaving a traditional work environment.   And yes, many aspects of this Health & Wellness model are not independent of other Life Domains – Relationships, Community/Volunteerism, Hobbies.

 

  Domain Sub-Areas My Action Spaces
MIND – Mental Wellness ·    Mental stimulation & Lifelong learning

·    Stress management

·    Social connection/ interactions & intimacy

·       Brain Stimulation

·       Play Often, Have Fun

·       Connect with Others

BODY – Physical Wellness ·    Movement/ Physical fitness

·    Nutrition/Hydration

·    Relaxation/Sleep

 

·       Move It

·       Eat Well

·       Sleep Soundly

SOUL – Spiritual Wellness ·    Personal Purpose & Positivity

·    Community connection/ volunteerism

·    Spirituality/religious beliefs

 

·       Be Mindfull, Laugh Often

 

 

Here’s a bit more on a few of my personal plan action spaces

Move it – It’s about activity & physical movement, but also about strength and flexibility. Essentially, less time sitting!   Even if I like to read & write, I need to balance this with being out in nature, doing yard word, or taking a walk. And yes, it’s both aerobic/cardio as well as strength training – something I am still trying to add into my weekly routine.  I am exploring matching “move it” activities to my personality.  As a mostly introverted personality, I am exploring solo activities like walking, biking, swimming, and weight circuits (while watching TV).  Or group exercises that still allow me to be in a quiet, centered place like yoga or maybe Pilates. My slightly extrovert side however finds some interest in group sports (tennis), fitness classes (Zumba, NIA), and Meet-ups (hiking, paddle-boarding and dancing). Lots of options that I still need to build into my weekly schedule.

 

Eat Well – The benefits of healthy eating habits are huge – managing weight, boosting energy, reducing risk of disease.  And there are so many guidelines.  But, unfortunately, knowing the “rules” doesn’t make following them any easier!   Here’s some I am trying:

  • Don’t skip breakfast. And “coffee only” is skipping breakfast.   This was a habit I got into while working since so often morning work meetings had food associated with them and I have no willpower when faced with fresh bagels.  And I’m not a morning person to get up and make a real breakfast. But still, I am trying to have a morning meal everyday.
  • Be more plant-based with lots of fruits and veggies and whole grains. I have a friend who swears by her 5 colorful servings of veggies a day.  Yes, having carrot sticks in the fridge, apples on the counter, and freshly roasted pumpkin seeds available do help when the munchies occur!
  • Minimize fats, sugars, fried foods, processed food, and carbs.  Notice I said minimize versus eliminate!  I love bread, french fries, pasta and a great charcuterie board.  Those are food groups unto themselves, right?  But I am trying to eat them more in moderation – and only really good bread, really good fries and really good pasta. Because if you’re gonna have a bad food group, have a really good bad food group!  Preferably with wine, also in moderation.
  • Watch portion size. Stay hydrated. I put these 2 together because to me they are both about limiting intake. When I stay hydrated and eat good food, it is easier to watch portion size. When the food is good, I want to savor it, which slows my eating and my tummy has time to tell my brain “you are full”.   And I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s not that I’m hungry, but that I’m thirsty!

 

Brain Stimulating activities are so important as I no longer have the “daily problems to solve” activity of the workplace.  I also don’t have the daily stresses and hassles of the work place, so this is not a bad trade-off. It’s been a joy to find mind-stimulating things that are fun, too.   Reading, writing, and crosswords have all found their way into my regular routine.   I’ve seen reference to playing music as a great mind stimulator as well, but long ago piano lessons and guitar lessons were more frustrating than joyful.   I am thinking about trying chess or jewelry making. What brain stimulating things have you found?

 

Finding Fun – The quote “fly while you still have wings – go places, do things” really hit home for me as I spoke with some retirees that, similar to my own dad, had debilitating health issues arise quite soon after retirement, causing them to re-think their retirement years quite significantly. I know I am blessed with wings right now and I need to run & play, laugh and have fun.   I’m creating the lists of places to go (both locally and globally), things to experience (events, foods, theater), hobbies to try, and areas to explore (learning), and then doing a quarterly plan. My Imagine Possibilities (see previous blog) has been useful in this aspect. And I am reaching out to others to see if they want to play with me.

 

Connect with Others – I knew, rationally, that many of my work-based connections would slowly disappear in retirement.   Most social connections are based on convenience, whether it is school or work or where you live. And since work dominated my life, my work-based connections dominated. But the reality of the void leaving work created was bigger than anticipated.  I am consciously adding in relationship generator activities (see “reach out – will you play with me” above) to establish a new “convenience” space, which I hope will lead to new connections, from support networks to friendships.

 

Be Mindful – As a Type A action-focused workaholic, it has been a learning experience to be more mindful, slow down, and allow the days to unfold.  To me mindfulness has been to consciously take time for personal reflection with reading & journaling, becoming a learner taking classes, finding joy in a hobby where I have no mastery, and spending time in nature.

 

A friend who knows I’ve been looking deeply into retirement transition asked me about Aging & Health Care. And, once again, I could not point her to an in-depth review on this!  I guess it comes down to know the signs/symptoms of, and get the screenings for, the common aging issues (heart health, osteoporosis, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, skin cancer, other cancers, depression, etc.).   I have put “personal health check-ups” on the life maintenance plan, along with the house AC service, quarterly financial review, and car oil changes.  Keep everything running smoothly.

 

Health & Wellness is an important domain in my Life Plan so I am being intentional in all three of its aspects (mind, body and soul) in my action plan.  What is your intentional action plan in this domain?

 

 

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Re-establishing a Relationship Profile

All the books & blogs on retirement agree: active healthy relationships are critical for healthy aging. There are four major relationship areas in a person’s life, and the transition to retirement can stress, change, or eliminate your “relationship profile” overnight.  As with all my transitioning, understanding how my relationship profile was changing and then addressing the changes required personal reflection, exploring options, and moving to action.

Professional Relationships – When I retired, I lost almost all my daily “conversational connections”.   I knew it would happen. Everyone says they will stay in touch, but it really doesn’t happen with most co-workers.   You don’t want to be the living ghost coming back to haunt the halls.  But what I failed to realize was what those daily conversations provided: they gave me idea builders, cheerleaders, devil’s advocates, and validation of my actions and thinking.  How would I replace not only the mind-stimulating technical debates but even the daily what’s-up conversations?  What would I do with all those (now silent) hours of the day?

Social Friends – Most social connections are based on convenience, whether it is school or work or where you live.  And since work dominated my life, my work-based connections dominated my social life.  Most people I called “friends” were actually work colleagues and really professional relationships. And since our convenience was gone, many of those relationships just didn’t have common ground anymore.  Could I salvage any of those relationships into true friendships?  Where would I find new friends?  How would I use my new free time to reconnect with old friends and strengthen the friendships I did have?

Family – I know many women who enter retirement only to become primary caregiver – to grandkids or aging parents/parents-in-law.  Even with no kids and only one parent still living, how would having more time available change family relationships for me?

Spouse – We both retired on the same timing.  How would more time with both of us at home change dynamics and house routines?  When time apart is no longer structured as we go to our separate work environments, how do we think about time together and time apart?

My solution: an intentional Relationship Action Plan.  Part of the relationship plan was identifying where I would re-create the support network that I naturally had at work – who was going to be my cheerleader, my great idea person, my positive critic?  Part of the plan was also to identify other relationship needs I had – who could be my accountability buddy, my “partner in crime”, my reality checker?  And yes, this is an intentional plan that has weekly/monthly goals that I monitor.  Sounds like work?  Maybe. But I come back to the statement I started with – active healthy relationships are critical for healthy aging.  And I as I transitioned into retirement, I noted that I did not have many active healthy relationships.
1. Creating a coupledom vision. I am quite fortunate that my marriage was one of the healthy relationships I did have.  We did need to come to a shared vision on many of the Life Domains like where would we live, relationships besides our own (friends & family connections), pleasure plans (travel, toys), and work or not. But one of the most challenging aspects, and one we are continually working, is the time together/time apart balance.  Regular conversation helps. Some of those conversations were about exploring some new things together and re-evaluating household task distribution.

2. Active networking. Let me remind you, I am an introvert, so the concept of active networking is really difficult.  But it is necessary for achieving my future life vision. I plan 10 networking meetings a month – everything from coffee, lunch or happy hour with an “old” colleague to going to full-on networking meetings with lots of people.  I have a few work-based relationships that I hope can survive the transition and thrive into real friendships.  Networking takes scheduling and sometimes thinking through what to talk about, especially as I reach out to colleagues I didn’t know that well but are doing things now that I find intriguing. But it has also been a case of planned serendipity. I’ve gotten ideas for blogs, classes, and travel. And it does keep my mind stimulated as we often talk about the corporate world or I get to do some mentoring and advising on things they are working on.

3. Fun with Friends – old and new. This started out as Food & Friends since being a “foodie” is in my life vision.  I love a good meal with friends – new foods to explore and great conversation is my ideal connection.  But this turned into too many eating out moments.  So I am working to have shared communal actives that are beyond meals – walks in the park, going to events, taking a class. I am not giving up on food & friends, just thinking about finding more shared activities that both rekindle “old” friendships and allow the formation of new relationships that can be nurtured into friendships.  Again, this requires active scheduling and watching for opportunities.  One area I have struggled with here is reciprocity. I feel like I am always the initiator with so many of the acquaintances. But perseverance is one of my strengths, so I will continue on this path, trying to understand each relationship and cultivate it.

4. Embrace technology – For years I was a “Facebook stalker”, merely reading what’s up with family and friends. Now I try to comment and post – interact and feel more connected.  I entered the world of blogging similarly – not just reading but actively commenting. Both of these social media connections are creating a outer-circle of connections for me – people around the world with whom I converse and share ideas.  And in the continually learning mode, I am trying Instagram and Twitter, but am a total beginner (i.e. clueless) on both of these formats!

These 4 areas of focus are helping me to create the active, healthy (non-work-related) relationships that are both necessary for healthy aging and just bring joy into my life every day.  As you move through your retirement transition, what are your focus areas in the Relationship/Connection Life Domain?

Picture credit: Pixabay

Words of Wisdom to Myself

As I have been working through my retirement transition, a series of mantras have helped me along the journey.  I repeatedly go back to these statements when I hit some of the lows or stumble on this path forward.
1) Keep a positive attitude. This isn’t rocket science. Many, many people have successfully navigated the retirement transition. Don’t stress the ups and downs of the roller-coaster ride. Yes, some days will feel overwhelming, some will feel like you are rudderless, and some will be good ones with feelings of accomplishment. No one embarks on a path not taken before and knows all the challenges, pitfalls, barriers that lie ahead. But through it all, choose positive, proactive, affirming articulations! I am. I can. I will.
2) Be patient. This is a major life transition, and transition takes time. As I learned working on the Pantene brand in my previous life, “it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”. Take the time needed to deal with the losses you are experiencing and say good bye to the past – to “let it go.” Take the time needed to understand what is important to you, what you need to be satisfied in life. You can’t delegate or outsource this work… you need to do it and know it. Give yourself permission to relax a bit, allow your body and mind to decompress and find a slower rhythm of life. Take the time to get a good night’s rest, exercise regularly, eat well, connect with people, talk it out, enjoy nature, reflect – time to just “let it be”. This isn’t a race.
3) Know thyself – Define My Vision.  One of life’s most difficult things is to truly discover what we really want for ourselves… and not just what we’ve been told to want (the “shoulds”) or to do what everybody else does and expects you to also do. It took deep introspection to really understand myself so I could create the vision of what I wanted my next life stage to look like. Even even though I had known me for 50+ years, it took time to really delve into and articulate things in real language and not just MegaCorp speak. I needed to really understand the destination I wanted, and then work with my significant other to find some common vision elements for creation of the “she/he/we” vision.
4) “Do I really need to work?” There is a lot of reporting on the Baby Boomer retirement bubble and its potential socio-economic impact. The reality of Social Security and pension/retiree programs with less going in, leaving both the government and private companies under a huge financial drain to maintain the aging Boomers. In the healthy longevity conversation, there are many studies about why keeping both physically and mentally active (which many define as a working life) is so important as we age. So of course, you will work in retirement, every Baby Boomer does. But when it comes down to the INDIVIDUAL, the “yes, you should work” assumptive answer needs to be a bit more detailed. Do I really need to work? Do I need to work to generate income (a critical financial reason)? Do I need to work for a psychological or social reason (mental stimulation, social connections) and other activities can provide those needs? What if work takes over life and does not allow time for healthy life activity? What if work is “just a job” and not meaningful or fulfilling? This was another case of know thyself, and not jumping to the “should” expectations of others.
5) Plan for serendipity. Be open to possibilities. As I thought through knowing yourself, creating my vision statement and thinking about possibilities, the acts of capturing my thoughts by writing things down (journaling!) and then sharing aspects with others were both amazingly helpful. Inspiration came from reading books & blogs and talking to others who are going through the transition or have been through it. You never know where great ideas or connections will come from – they did come and will continue to come.
6) It’s OK to not be the expert. I loved being the go-to (expert) person at work. Now I’m a beginner making mistakes and realizing new habits are hard to form and new skills take repetition to establish. Practice makes perfect. Does knowing this make it any easier? Not so much, but I am using the tools & skills I have, gathering new ones along the way, asking for guides to help, finding supporters to encourage me, and working to establish new habits. Try it. Explore it. Do it. (Yes, it took me 12 months to start my blog…. but I did it.)
7) Be Not Afraid. Try it. Yes, you will feel the conflict of holding on to the old (comfortable, even if not satisfactory) and moving towards the new (possibly scary, untested waters, maybe even voids). What is the worst thing that could happen if you try something new and it doesn’t work out?  Everyone says you will regret it so much more if you didn’t try it. So what if you fail at it, or are not perfect at it… more people will be impressed that you TRIED it!  So, try it!

What affirmations do you find helpful in your transition?