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 Retirement: Dreaming New Dreams

What if….you could be, do, and have anything you wanted to during the next 20, 30 even 40 years of your life? Having those dreams is an important part of transforming our retirement. Sometimes it is difficult to do that kind of dreaming from the viewpoint of today. How about reversing direction to look  back at the coming years rather than forward?

Imagine being at the end of your earthly life. Look back from that perspective and think about what you hope to see. Perhaps these questions will open up some possibilities:

1) What memories do you hope those you love have of you?
2) What will your legacy be among a wider circle of friends, co-workers and acquaintances?
3) What are the things about which you will say: “I’m glad I did that”?
4) If you were composing a newsletter/newspaper about your life, what would the titles of the articles be?
5) What would want included if you were the subject of an article titled, “Local (wo)man celebrates 90th birthday and accomplishments of the past 30 years”?
What would it look like, sound like, feel like?

As I am transforming my retirement, I have these new dreams: to relocate to be near my daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren and develop a successful online business that will allow me to live comfortably, travel a great deal, and contribute to some of the causes and movements that I strongly support.

Part of the vision for my business is to build a network of incredible people who share how they’ve invented their lives after age 60, and who have a specific commitment to contributing to their community & the world. Can you imagine what a difference we can make? This isn’t a dream I could have had early in my life. It’s a result of being a teenager and young adult in the 60s and 70s, of living and working through the succeeding decades with expectations that each of us can make a difference. It’s possible because of technology that allows us to connect in ways we never dreamed of earlier in our lives.

Dreams, visions and goals are powerful. May they be a driving force as we are transforming our retirement into a joyous, significant part of our lives.

Transforming Your Retirement: Role Models Along the Way

We all have role models that influence us in each time period of our lives. We can learn from those people again as we are transforming our retirement. Before we look at the ones that are influencing us now and for the future, let’s start back in our childhood. The earliest recollection of stating that I wanted to be like a particular adult was saying that I wanted to be fat like Grandma Smith! I was about 6 at the time, and I succeeded in following that role model up until I started high school!

Perhaps your choices were less conscious and declared. They may have been positive or negative role models. Whatever they were, travel back mentally and pull out those childhood and teenage role models and make a list of them. What was it that attracted you to them? How did their examples affect your dreams and decisions as you grew up?

Who were your role models as a young adult, and what areas of your life did they impact? For instance, you might have had role models for job or career, relationship and parenting, spiritual matters, and others. Think about what you admired about them and wanted to emulate. Did you indeed follow their example?

You can do the same process with role models in the middle years of your life – later in your working years and family development. Some of these people may have drawn you away from the first set of role models as your life changed and you went in different directions.

Are they any of the role models from early or middle adult years still people you look to as guides? As you move into this next exciting phase of transforming your retirement, are there people who have something to teach you? Decide whose example you want to carry with you. For the other positive role models, bid them a fond farewell and express your gratitude for what they provided for you in the past! This can be a private thing for you, or you may choose to contact one or more of them who are still available. A message of gratitude from the past can be a treasure beyond measure to give to another person.

In addition to the gifts you find in past and current role models, I encourage you to look for some additional people who can inspire you in this new phase of life. As you continue the process of transforming your retirement by deciding what directions you want to go, you will be identifying those people.

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.

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.