Transforming Your Retirement: What if You Created a Legacy Notebook?

“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy’. The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”  –Stephen R. Covey

Part of transforming your retirement into one of satisfaction can be this legacy work. You can start by creating a very simple tool, a Legacy Notebook.
Section 1 of your notebook can be writing down the kind of legacy you want to leave in each of the areas:
1) how you are remembered as a person – your personality, the way you treated others, what people saw in you and learned from you;
2) the work you did and the impact it had on others,
3) the family you left behind,
4) contributions of time, energy, creativity and finances that enriched others, and more.

There are a variety of ways to draw forth great thoughts, memories, etc. Some people suggest you write the obituary you would like to have written about you, or the eulogy you would like someone to deliver at your funeral or memorial service. If that appeals to you, do that.

Section 2 of your notebook can be journaling about the things in Section 1 not yet accomplished, but desired. These questions may be a guide in that process:

1. What might you do to bring this legacy into reality?
2. What will need to change for that to be possible?
3. How can you start moving in that direction?
4. Start writing your responses to these questions and let them be your guide to designing your coming months and years.

Section 3 of your notebook can be a place to list documents, recognitions, plaques, etc. that record or recognize specific parts of your legacy. For example, you may have received a plaque for “outstanding service to the citizens of your neighborhood” for a particular project. You might also collect any actual items into a “legacy box.”

Section 4 of your notebook can be a place to record your ideas of ways to communicate your legacy. You may write a book, compile a scrapbook, record an audio or video, or all of the above. As you continue to gather content and add to your legacy with new accomplishments, you may decide on additional ways.

Transforming your retirement from a foundation of clarity about your legacy – aspects that are already accomplished and those that you are still working on – can be an amazing experience.

Transforming Your Retirement: What if I left a stunning legacy to my family and others?

Most of us want to make a difference in the world; we want to leave a legacy behind. As you move toward or into this period of transforming your retirement, it is an ideal time to take time to both reflect on your life so far and look forward to what you want to add to your legacy in the years ahead.

There are different kinds of legacies, including:
1) how you are remembered as a person – your personality, the way you treated others, what people saw in you and learned from you;
2) the work you did and the impact it had on others,
3) the family you left behind,
4) contributions of time, energy, creativity and finances that enriched others, and more.

Perhaps you think it’s too late at this stage of your life to do anything about it. “Que sera, sera; whatever will be, will be.” That’s simply not true. Although you can’t go back and do things over, you do have the ability to interpret and draw meaning from your life so far and to add to your legacy. That can benefit both you and those who view you and your life now and in the future.

Perhaps you are thinking now that this seems self-centered and presumptuous. But consider this. We live in times where celebrities of various kinds have become the primary role models for many people. Our electronic media of all kinds have become the purveyors of values and significance. Too much information, much of it trivial, has blocked out the truly meaningful messages about life, contribution, family and legacy.

You have the ability and, dare I say, the responsibility to make your contribution to changing this sad state of affairs! Too many of our younger people seem to have little interest in what has happened in the past, either in the society and the world or in their own families. This should not stop us from doing our part. Each of us has a unique experience that is given to us as a gift and can be given as a gift to others.

It may be of immediate interest to your family; it may not. It may take years – even decades or centuries – for someone to sincerely look for who you were and what your life was about. If you haven’t documented that in a way that can be saved and accessed, it is lost.

I suggest that you do some legacy work, first of all for yourself – to look at this precious journey and what it has meant to you – and secondly, to influence and communicate the legacies you leave behind. It can be a significant part of transforming your retirement into a time of joy and fulfillment.

Transforming Your Retirement: What If the Next Phase of Your Spiritual/Faith Journey is Invigorating and Joyful?

It’s my belief that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. Although we may experience it differently, we are all on some kind of spiritual/faith journey during our life on earth. That journey can be a key part of transforming our retirement.

As we age, we often have more questions about this journey and where it is leading. It may be that you are happily settled where you are, or you may be apathetic or bored, or you may be actively looking for something more, or you are in an expansive stage in relation to your faith/spirituality.

The first step is to get a sense of where you are and what you are thinking and feeling. Describe your spiritual/faith journey over the past 3-5 years. Consider these to help you put it together:
+ level of participation in an organized faith community, if any
+ any change in your beliefs or participation
+ any exploration of practice or beliefs outside of your particular faith community
+ any significant events, positive or negative
+ any new revelations or new questions that are significant to you                              + Gaps, emptiness or needs you are feeling spiritually

When you’ve completed the snapshot, rate your level of satisfaction with where you are in your spiritual/faith journey right now. Use a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “bored or dissatisfied,” 8 being “extremely satisfied” and 10 being “joyful and growing.”

If your ratings are between 8 and 10, congratulations! You are in a good place on your journey. And you can always expand your options and involvement if you want to be even more joyful and growing!

If you have ratings that are less than 8, I suggest that you take three additional steps:
1) Write down anything with which you are not satisfied and what’s missing that lowered your rating. This may take some reflection; take your time and perhaps come back to it later to allow some thoughts and feelings to surface.

2) Next, take some time to write down exactly what you would find satisfying and meaningful in the coming years of your spiritual/faith journey. Use the “What if….” format to create statements like, “What if I found/created a faith or spiritual community where I experienced genuine love and community?” or “What if could find ways to heal my church/religion-caused wounds from the past?”

3) After creating your list, choose the one about which you feel most strongly. Come up with some possibilities of how to make that happen, beginning now. As time goes on, do the same with the rest of your list. Enjoy some new exploration and excitement as your faith journey continues – which can be a major part of transforming your retirement.

Transforming Your Retirement: What if You Made Significant Contributions of Many Kinds to Family, Community and the World?

Most of us wish we had been able to do more for our family and friends than our time and resources allowed in our working years. Perhaps you have experienced, as I have, an interest and desire to get involved in and make contributions to community projects and organizations and respond to needs and issues in other parts of the world.

The first step is to look at what you really would like to contribute so that your creativity can get to work on the “how.” Let’s start with a “blue sky” step.

Write down what you would like to contribute, if there were no limitation of resources, to each of the following categories. Think in terms of time, money, expertise, and anything else you might offer:
+ to your family and close friends
+ to causes that are dear to you (specify your priority causes)
+ to your community
+ to the world

Now separate these desired contributions into two categories:
1) things you can at least begin to do with the resources currently at your disposal, and
2) items requiring additional resources.

As you look at the lists, see what excites you the most in each. Write each of them down, leaving space to brainstorm and record ideas of how to begin making that contribution as soon as possible. This is another bridge into retirement that gives you purpose and enjoyment. Think of the joy and satisfaction to be gained from your contributions in areas that you feel strongly about. This is a powerful means of transforming your retirement into a time of giving and satisfaction.

As time goes on, work more with this list – thinking of creative ways to accomplish items on your list, exploring how to secure or leverage needed resources and finding others with similar interests. One of the by-products of reaching out and making a difference is meeting new people and gaining new friends.

Transforming Your Retirement: What If You Were a Person of Extreme Health, Wellness and Energy Throughout Your Retirement?

Isn’t that what we all wish for? Wishing and hoping – but also, far too often worrying and fretting and fearing that it won’t be so. In spite of increased life expectancy, we are also aware of increased incidence of certain chronic conditions as we get older. The prospect of depending on multiple prescriptions and procedures to maintain a level of health, and affording their cost is a concern for most of us.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to explore and implement ways to maintain a level of wellness and vitality. Wellness is defined as ”the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind especially as the result of a deliberate effort.” There are several dimensions of wellness: physical, mental, emotional, wellness of the spirit and social. Wellness then is all about making choices in support of your overall well-being. As we do this, we create a strong foundation from which we are transforming our retirement.

We are extraordinarily fortunate to live at a time when there are a variety of approaches and techniques that enable us to be healthier longer. We have access to a wide range of things that will help us maintain and enhance our health, not just help us after we are already ill. If we focus on prevention and wellness and take advantage of what’s available, we can avoid much suffering and illness in our later years.

The key concept here is that we have access to possibilities of extreme health, wellness and energy that past generations did not have. Many of them begin with having a mindset and attitude that aging can be different than the stereotypes and even from what our parents and grandparents experienced. It means going outside the traditional wisdom and resources to explore the multiple types of practices and approaches that are available.

Some of what we have access to is being adapted from Eastern health practices & medicine; other things are based on new understandings from research. You will greatly enhance your life by finding and using tools that will increase your wellness rather than worrying about and waiting to treat illness.

In addition, many alternative approaches to healing are becoming available. Some traditional medical practitioners are including some of these into their repertoires;and of course, there are alternative practitioners for each specialty.

Huge amounts of information available on energy medicine, hands-on and other forms of healing, yoga, nutritional and herbal supplements, particular diets or food choices, types of meditation, various exercise techniques, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping), Spring Forest Qigong, Reiki, various forms of massage, breathing, hypnosis, acupuncture, acupressure….the list could go on and on. I urge you to explore them so that you expand the ways in which you are a person of extreme health, wellness and energy as you are transforming your retirement into a joyous time of life!

Transforming Your Retirement: What If You Could Learn and Do Many Things That Bring You Joy?

What a wonderful opportunity the retirement years to learn and do things we never had the time for! I am always amazed when I hear people say they don’t know what they will do with their time once they are retired. Or when retired people say they are bored!

I encourage you to develop or augment your personal “Bucket List” to expand your vision of the possibilities as you are transforming your retirement. The 2008 movie “The Bucket List” with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson inspired many people; if you would like to see it again, it is available here: The Bucket List.

I recommend a 3-part Bucket list: 1) “Things I Want to Learn About” 2) “Things I Want to Learn to Do” 3) “Things I Want to Do.” You may find some overlap between them, but that’s okay.

The “learn about” list will probably have things about which you’ve been curious: the history of your town or neighborhood, your ancestors and family history, the newest knowledge about outer space, etc.

The “learn to do” list might include things like quilting, deep sea fishing, online marketing, golfing, playing an instrument, learning a language, etc.

The “do” list can include simple things like “read one book per week” or “have a home vegetable garden.” You may do something as a result of learning about or learning to do things from the other two lists. For example, you want to “learn to do excellent digital photography.” On this list you could include “take great photos on 3 continents.” Or you intend to “learn about where my grandparents came from in Norway” and on this list you will include “travel to the family homestead in Norway and meet distant relatives.”

You will think of additional items for all of the lists as the days and months pass. Be sure to write them down. Having and continuing to add to the lists is powerful as you are transforming your retirement. The next steps will begin to move the dreams into reality.

Resources/Conditions Needed. Look at your lists and separate them into 1) things you can do relatively easily, with minimum or no cost, any time you choose, and 2) things that require significant planning, effort and/or resources. If you lack something, jot down what those things are and begin thinking how to get them. It could mean purchasing something, but often you can use resources without purchase, for example by bartering. If you want to learn to do woodworking, you could sign up for a community education class, or find a woodworker who needs a paid or volunteer assistant/apprentice, or find a woodworker who will teach you in return for you teaching him/her a skill you have mastered. Think creatively!

Prioritize. Now that you have some exciting possibilities, prioritize them to get started: according to what you want to do first, second, etc. or by time periods – within 3 months, within 6 months, this year, etc.

Then take one more step and choose the one item on each list that you can and will start now. There’s great value in having some ongoing projects at the time you retire. They give you something to focus on as you transition, and later when there are empty times. This is an important piece of transforming your retirement.

Transforming Your Retirement: What if Your Positive Expectations Created a Positive Retirement?

The images, beliefs and expectations you have of this “3rd Act” of life will greatly influence the outcomes. What you expect the coming years to be is a powerful factor in determining how it will go. Expectations are both conscious and subconscious. Our conscious expectations can be sabotaged by what is firmly planted in our subconscious as we are transforming our retirement.

By identifying attitudes and beliefs that may contradict and undermine our positive expectations, we can address them. Negative expectations can come from memories, past experiences, messages in advertising, characterizations from television or movies, etc. It is very valuable to unearth some of these, and writing will help in that process.

Take 3-5 minutes to write down responses to the following questions: + What did you think when others retired? + What memories do you have of your parents’ or other relatives’ retirements and the impact on their lives? + What do people say in whispers at retirement parties? + What advice or warnings have people given you about retirement?  + What are the messages on retirement cards? + What older characters from television or movies do you recall? What image of retirement and aging do they provide?

Look at what you have written. Are they mostly positive or negative? The positive messages and images are ones to hang onto, repeat, and develop into specific intentions and plans.

Negative messages and images are pervasive beyond our conscious awareness. What you have written in just a few minutes is an indication of that. The negatives at the conscious level can be changed with your action. As you identify the negatives at the subconscious level on an ongoing basis, you can address them also.

Become hyper-aware of the negatives and resist them, whether they are within you or from external influences. Be aware of the attitudes of the people you spend time with. Be aware of what you expose yourself to in reading, listening and viewing information.

Decide how you are going to deal with the negative people in your life. Often this means figuring out ways to limit your time in close proximity of them. A direct approach is sometimes best: tell them you have decided to be positive and look for the best in everything and invite them to join you in this. Maybe they would like to live more positively and just need the opportunity..

Decide how much negative news, commentary and entertainment you want flowing into your mind and change some listening and viewing habits.

Consistently take these steps, and your attitude and expectations will help you in transforming your retirement into a joyous and fulfilling time of life.

Transforming Your Years After 50: What if Gratitude Were the Overriding Tone of Your Life?

Daily Gratitude Practice
If you are not already doing this, start a daily practice of writing a Gratitude List and really monitor how it changes your attitude. It’s very simple and most effective it you use a journal (a simple notebook is fine, or a folder in your computer) rather than scattered pieces of paper. That’s because looking back over a month, or a quarter, or a year can take you to a whole new level of gratitude. And if you don’t make it easy for yourself to do it, guess what? It likely won’t be done.

Write down 5-10 things every day for which you are grateful. If you’re not used to doing this, you may start with 5 per day; expand from there to 10 as you get into the rhythm of it. They don’t have to be huge things; in fact if you get into the habit of expressing gratitude for small things, it’s even more powerful.

Include things that you are grateful about in yourself. They may be attributes or attitudes; they may be things you did or didn’t do. As you make the change from employed to retired, measures of accomplishment and self-worth inevitably change. This is a way to acknowledge yourself in this new stage of transforming your years after 50.

Writing these down at the end of the day is most beneficial as you more easily remember the day. It puts you in a positive state of mind that will lead to sleep. It just wraps up the day in a lovely package.

Gratitude as a Tool for Specific Situations

What I’ve just described is a Daily Gratitude Practice. You can also use the technique any time you are facing a situation about which you are ambivalent or conflicted. For example, list all of the things for which you’re grateful related to the change in this new state of life: I have time for myself and my interests; I can do things more spontaneously; I can explore new hobbies and interests; and so on. You will note that these are all stated as positive statements, not the lack of the negative (I don’t have to be available for taxiing kids around all the time). This can change your feelings about a situation, or perhaps identify an aspect of it that you do want to change in some way.

Transforming Your Years After 50: 10 Questions to Shift Your Thoughts

“We live in the world our questions create.”      —David Cooperrider

Humans are estimated to have about 60,000 thoughts per day and 95% of those thoughts are the same from the previous day – which leaves us with only 5% new and creative thoughts. In addition, the majority of those thoughts are negative. (See Simple

Take a few moments to think about the quote by David Cooperrider. What kinds of questions are most common in your mind? For many of us they are negative questions: What if this happens? What if that doesn’t happen? What if I don’t make it? LOTS of negative ‘what if’ questions swirl around our minds, especially in times of transition and change – like retirement! Transforming your years after 50 into a fulfilling time of life can be enhanced by changing this typical pattern.

Mendhi Audlin has written a book, What If It All Goes Right?: Creating a New World of Peace, Prosperity & Possibility, which gives us a tool for changing our questions.

She encourages us to ask ourselves What If UP questions. Basically, the idea is to flip or reframe our negative thoughts or ‘what if’ questions into positive questions. Instead of ‘What if it’s all downhill from here?’ say ‘What if I had a fabulous final segment of my life, filled with joy, contribution and fulfillment?’ If that kind of question dominates our thoughts, we are creating a very different reality.

Here are 10 positive ‘What If’ questions. They can provide a positive framework for your anticipation and planning for transforming your years after 50. I will list them here and address each one in future posts.

1) What if gratitude were the over-riding tone of your life?                                                                                                                                                        2) What if your positive expectations created a positive retirement?
3) What if you could learn about, learn to do, and do many things that bring you joy?
4) What if you were a person of extreme health, wellness and energy throughout your retirement years?
5) What if you made significant contributions of many kinds to family, community and the world in the coming years?
6) What if the next phase of your spiritual/faith journey was invigorating and joyful beyond imagination?
7) What if you left a stunning legacy to your family and others?
8) What if you generated any needed money in creative, fulfilling ways?
9) What if your current relationships became better and better and you created new fulfilling relationships regularly?
10) What if you had a fabulous final segment of life, filled with joy, contribution and fulfillment?

There is a separate blog post addressing each of these questions; Click on “10 Questions to Ask Yourself to Open Possibilities” in the sub-heading below the title of this blog post.


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Transforming Your Years After 50: Recapture Dreams that Still Excite You

Dreaming new dreams as you are transforming your years after 50 is an invigorating process. (See Dreaming New Dreams)

There are other dreams from other parts of our lives that may be worth rediscovering. Perhaps this is the time to make them come true. They may be ideas or possibilities that are big or small. They may be skills, hobbies or experiences or just things about which you want to learn.

What were your talents and interests as a child? What did you want to do and be when you grew up? Think back to childhood and see what you find, first in your elementary school years. Where was it? Imagine being there again – that will help you recall those things that may be so deep in your memory. For me, I attended a one-room school house in southern Wisconsin. There were around 30 students in 8 grades, all in one large classroom. I lived with my parents and two younger brothers in a large house on an acre of land just outside a small town. In that place and time, what you were interested in, what did you excel in, what hobbies or activities did you spend time doing? Do you remember wishing you could do something that wasn’t possible then but might be now? Jot down what comes to mind.

Move on into your high school and young adult years. Think about the same questions and jot down your answers. Are there any patterns? Is there anything that stirs up old emotions that you’d forgotten about? Particularly look for things that make you think, “I wish I had done that” or “I’d still like to do something with that.”

Now take a quick scan of your adult years and look for the discarded or submerged dreams and hopes. Make a list of things you had wanted or intended to do or be that didn’t happen. Alongside each item, write down one or more reasons that it didn’t happen. It could be a choice you made, or that someone else made for you. It could be that it just dropped lower on your priority list when you moved, or got married, or had children. Perhaps the resources to make it happen just weren’t available. Then look back and identify which ones still have appeal and pull at you.

As you look back at all of the items from the different parts of your life, are there some that still stir up a desire? What would it look like if you chose one or more of those interests, talents and dreams from earlier in your life and did something with it NOW? Perhaps you want to pursue them as you transform your 3rd Act into a time of life you really enjoy.