Transforming Your Retirement: Forgiveness and Taking Responsibility

Without exception, people will disappoint us and hurt us. It’s impossible to avoid it. Holding onto anger and grudges because of that, however, is something we have control over. In the process of transforming your retirement into a joyous journey, you will find more freedom if you deal with this baggage. Maybe your anger goes back to childhood; maybe to yesterday. Regardless of the length of time, it is a negative pull from the past that can alter our potential future.

Perhaps you can identify and feel deep hurt and/or anger toward a parent or other person that goes back as far as childhood. Perhaps it is more recent. Whenever it was, you owe it to yourself to put it to rest. In some cases, seeking professional help would be most advantageous. Another option is to do some work yourself that can alleviate the damaging emotions. These steps can be used regardless of when the situation occurred.

First consider what you are gaining or what the ‘payoff’ is for you to hang onto this hurt or anger. This may require some deep thinking; so don’t rush through this first step. Here are a couple of possibilities; they may spur other thoughts. Perhaps someone else’s actions and the impact on you gives you a reason or excuse that things didn’t go as you wished for you after that. You may think, I would have done much better in my life if that hadn’t happened. Or perhaps you feel betrayed by someone for whom you gave so much. You may think, if I had given all I gave to you to someone else, my life would have been so much better. Find the ‘payoff’ for you.

Now ask yourself how you would feel if you could release your negative feelings related to this person or this situation?

And how would your relationship with (or memories of) this parent or other person change if you moved beyond these feelings? Take some time to imagine this.

Now make a choice: will you keep the benefits or ‘payoffs’ of hanging on or gain the benefits of forgiving and moving on?

A helpful way of choosing the benefits of forgiving and moving on is to write a letter to the person(s) involved. It may either be actually delivered or for your own use. The writing will be beneficial for you either way. Start out by describing the source of your anger and hurt. Be as specific as possible; get into the feelings and describe them. Then describe the impact that has had over the subsequent years. End with a statement something like, “I now choose to forgive you for that and forgive myself for not finding a way to resolve this earlier. I can’t change the past but I can choose to let it go and release the claim of that past situation on my future.”

If the person is alive and you feel it could be freeing to discuss this with them, do it. If you can’t or choose not to do this, either read it aloud as if you are speaking to that person. Claim that resolution and let go. Feel the freedom it provides as you continue the process of transforming your retirement into a joyous time of life.

Sticky: Transforming Your Life After 50: Welcome!

Transformation“Transforming Your Life After 50” is a process to which I am personally committed. My purpose here is to provide ideas, inspiration and tools so others can also engage in a life-affirming process that enriches and energizes their lives in our years after 50.  That process is based on our dedication to delighting in the gift of life, using that gift the best way we can, and being grateful.                                                          

“Transform” is to change in form, appearance or structure, or change in condition, nature or character; to turn around. 

People considered Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are now in their mid-fifties to about seventy years old. This stage of life is different in many ways from our parents’ and grandparents’ experiences: life expectancy, health, resources, technology, and the wide array of options have changed. With the pace of our lives, many of us do not take the time or energy to take responsibility for making these years the best they can be – except perhaps in terms of finances.

For many of us, these years are ones of transition from very intense career development, child rearing, and community involvement to ones where there is some time and space available. This can be a time of new experiences and of reinventing our lives for a “third act” that includes “retirement” as we chose to define it.  It can be a time of transformation.

I invite you into an exploration of what you bring into this new phase of life and of tools that help you anticipate and design a “third act” that is satisfying, joyful and contributes to the well-being of others.  I look forward to sharing and to communicating with you as we travel this path of exploration and discovery.

PLEASE NOTE: Click on one of the categories in the list in the right sidebar to view posts related to that topic.

Transforming Your Retirement: Mining the Gold In Your Life

Often in the rush of life we lose track of our accomplishments and some of our strengths. As we close out our career or employment life, it can be very helpful to reflect upon and celebrate some of the unique milestones, achievements, and strengths that have brought us to where we are today. This reflection can be a way to take inventory of what we carry into the new future we are designing for ourselves as we move into this next phase of life.  Transforming your retirement gets a jumpstart when you begin from a place of confidence and celebration.

First, celebrate accomplishments. Include job or career success and advancements, family joys, particular skills you have developed, contributions you have made to your community and beyond. Write a list of those accomplishments, read it, add more things that you think of and allow yourself to celebrate and appreciate.

Now let’s dig a little deeper to find and identify those threads of gold that run through your life. You will be looking for attitudes, skills and qualities that were demonstrated in some of your experiences. These are ‘gold’ that you bring into your next phase of life and cause for celebration as you are transforming your retirement. Here are three areas to look at; you may think of others as you do this.

1) Surviving hard times – Look at each period of your life – childhood, teen years and adulthood divided into 10 year segments up to the present. Identify hard times/challenges during each period. For each challenge you identify, think about the attitudes, skills, and qualities came into play as you went through that period.

2) Contributing to others, to your community and beyond – Look at the ways in which you have contributed through the years and again identify the attitudes, skills and qualities contributed to these accomplishments.

3) Having the courage to follow our highest aspirations/your “true” self, your heart. Usually these are significant turning points in our life history, so approach it chronologically by time periods in your life to identify them. You might call these your “courage mileposts”. It can be very enlightening to explore these times – what made you aware of that calling or aspiration, what conflicts arose when you moved in the new direction and how you resolved them, and what you learned by having the courage to follow your heart.

These strands of gold are precious elements that can help you move through the transitions of retirement and beyond. If you mine them and use them, you can enhance your coming years immensely as you are transforming your retirement.

Transforming Your Retirement: Dropping the Baggage You Drag Around

If you are approaching, beginning or in the midst of retirement, there is a great likelihood that you have some baggage that you could let go of. Few of us get to age 55 or more without some things that are weighing us down. Transforming your retirement into a joyful, productive time of life is much easier without the baggage. Taking some time now to think about that and make some decisions can greatly impact the quality of your days ahead.

REGRETS can be a powerful category of baggage. It’s nearly inevitable that we’ve missed opportunities (didn’t invest in that Microsoft stock when it was first offered?), had misplaced priorities (was work really more important than going to your kid’s graduation?), or made rash statements (how could you know it would be the last time you spoke to her?). Some things we may brush off, some we may remember them and learn from, some we may obsess about.

If there’s a nagging regret with guilt feelings that can bubble up with certain trigger thoughts or experiences, it’s worth spending the time to dig into that a bit deeper. If you ignore these regrets, they can hinder your journey of transforming your retirement. Here are some questions to help you come to peace with regrets and be less likely to create regrets that become obsessions in the future. These could be specific situations or incidents, or a pattern of behavior or activity or time.

Think about the situation, who was involved, what you specifically regret, and the choices you made or actions you took. Did you have other alternatives and what were they? And perhaps most important, what meaning are you giving to the impact of your words, actions or choices in this situation?

Now that you have a clearer picture, you can decide to let it go. Here are a couple of ways to do that. You might write a letter to the person(s) involved explaining what happened, why you did what you did (or didn’t do) and express what you regret. End with a statement of apology or whatever you want to express. You may feel moved to send or give it to those involved if it is possible. Or you may choose to take a symbolic action such as burning it or discarding it to end the power of these regrets in your life.

You can also write yourself a letter in which you forgive yourself and give yourself permission to let go of the pain and regret. You might include a statement of what you learned from this and what will be different because of it.

This process can free up energy and creativity for being and doing more of what you most want to do in these years in the process of transforming your retirement into a joyful time of life.


Transforming Your Retirement: Three Steps to Life-Giving Habits and Relationships in Retirement

Perhaps you do a lot of reflection and introspection routinely through journaling. If so, you may have looked at ruts, habits and routines that you have developed or fallen into. Perhaps as you are moving into a new phase of life, it will be helpful to reflect again. And for everyone else, this time of life is a very good opportunity to assess who we are, what we do and why, and to look to the future.

I invite you to think about 3 areas in which routines/habits/ruts may be impacting your life positively or negatively. Then you can determine if you want to continue in those directions, or if you would like to make some changes.

1) Looking at general ruts and habits. What’s totally predictable about your life?
– in daily routines
– in interactions with others
– in reactions to people and occurrences
– in choices of how to spend my time and money, what you eat and wear
Which of those do you want to continue and which would you like to change as you move into retirement?

2) Looking at family relationship ruts and habits.
You can start by identifying which family relationships you want to look at. The circle may be small – parents if they are still alive, siblings and their families, and children/grandchildren. You might include cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, even second cousins if they are meaningful relationships now. Then think about whether each of those relationships is static or changing. Why is that – by choice or default? If things continue as they are, what will that relationship be like in 5 years or 10 years? Is that okay or do you want to make some changes?

3)  Looking at relationships with friends.
You can ask the same questions about your circle(s) of friends. Especially as you move from employed to retired, work relationships will automatically change. This is a good time to look at which ones you want to continue and how that can happen. Will losing some of those work relationships leave a vacuum? If so, think about how you might find new relationships that will be satisfying in the future.

Transforming Your Retirement: Comfort Zones and Ruts

As we look toward or enter retirement, our expected life span gives us the possibility of another about 20 years once we reach 65 years of age.  Most of us have fairly good health, or are able to manage what health issues we have with various medical and nutritional advances .  Whether we think of ourselves as moving into these years with negativity and fear, or as entering a potentially satisfying and energizing time of life has a huge impact on how the coming years will unfold.

When ending a full time job, we may have joyful  thoughts of just settling in and relaxing.  We will do as much or as little as we choose and take it easy. That does sound great….for awhile.  We may look forward to doing the things we never had time to do while working full time – spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading the stack of books that have continued to accumulate, engaging in our favorite hobbies extensively.

We may settle into a comfort zone – a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.  Comfort zones can quite easily slip into ruts – repeated life patterns and habits that are worn deep and guide us almost automatically through days, weeks and months. I can speak from experience that what once was new and intentional can slip to a pattern of activity that is automatic. Ruts aren’t necessarily bad, but they warrant examination and our conscious choice to stay in them or change or get out of them.

How do you determine if you are in ruts and whether they are in your best interest? Are they ones you chose at one time, or have they been imposed by family, friends, social expectations, etc.? And if they were imposed, do you still choose to be there? These are all questions that can be enlightening when asked by you about your life as you move into this new landscape of life.

It can take just some reflection on what is totally predictable about your life – like daily routines, interactions/commitments with others, and choices of how to spend time and money.  Identify which of them you value and wish to continue and which you want to change or abandon.


Transforming Your Retirement: The Power of Expectations

As any of us approach a major change in life, there are many questions rumbling around in our minds. Approaching retirement  certainly can raise a bevy of negative questions, concerns, and worries – the tragic “what ifs” and “how will I be able tos” and more. Most of us tend to be very adept at seeing the worst possibilities and worrying about them. I know people in their seventies who are not retiring because they can’t imagine what they would do with their time.  Others are concerned about finances or health.

“Questions provide the key to unlocking our unlimited potential. Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
–Tony Robbins

I love the above quote from Tony Robbins!  Questions can truly open up possibilities in a variety of ways.  Let’s do a quick experiment.  By asking two questions of yourself, you may unearth some thoughts or beliefs you were not aware of.  These thoughts or beliefs may be leading you in a positive or a negative direction as you look forward into a new part of your life.

Take 2 pieces of paper (it has much more impact if you can look at it in black and white) and answer these questions without lots of deep thinking:
(Note: If you think too much about your answers before you write them down, you probably will allow your inner editor to block some of the things that are there but you don’t want to acknowledge and to add some things you’d like to be true. So just let the responses flow out quickly and write them down.)

1) What words and images come to mind when you hear these words?
“retirement” “65 years old and older” “Social Security” “elders”
“seniors” “senior citizens” “Medicare”

2) What questions come to mind when you think of those same words?

Now really look at what you have written. If someone asked you, “Are you looking forward to retirement?” and you had to base your response on what has just poured out of your head, what would your answer be? Write that down also.

So what does this mean? These associations and questions reveal your expectations, some of which you were quite unaware because they are in your subconscious mind. They’ve been stored there from past experiences and observations, and they are likely to be the blueprint for your reality in the coming years. Nearly all of us have some negatives about retirement years boxed up inside ourselves, even if on the surface we seem positive.

If the majority of your answers to one or both of the questions were negative or full of fears, worries and concerns, you are on your way to a stressful time. If you have a mix of negative and positive words, images and questions, note the negative areas so that you can work with them later. If all of your responses are positive, upbeat and anticipatory, congratulations! You’re on your way to a great stage of life.

Identifying your beliefs, attitudes and expectations for your retirement years is a great first step. It gives you an idea of what is already stored inside of you from the past. The great news is that you can choose to change those beliefs, attitudes and expectations! We will talk more about that in the next post.