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Archive for September, 2010

Coping with Shorter Days and Bad Weather

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

You don’t have to go south for the winter to thrive. A lot of what it takes is a matter of what you are telling yourself and what you do with your time.

It’s that time of year again.  The days are getting short enough that it’s dark when I have dinner.   I need to put on a jacket–or take an umbrella–when I leave the house.  It’s just a matter of weeks and the gloom of winter will be all around us for anyone living in the Northern Hemisphere.

One of the sweetest pieces of being able to leave the workforce and “retire” is that you don’t have to stay where you are when the weather gets bad.  But do you really need to run away?  A lot of what makes winter unbearable is in your strategy rather than the weather report.   So before you start packing the shorts and swimsuit for a stay at an RV park in Palm Springs, give your attitude a good tune-up:

  • Are you seeing yourself as a”victim” of your climate? You cast yourself as an aggrieved party when you operate from the idea that “This is wrong; I shouldn’t have to put up with this.”   Come on.  You put up with a lot worse weather than this over the years and have great stories to tell because of it.  Bad weather is an inconvenience, yes.  But a crime?  Nah.
  • What are you doing with your time?   Much of what we blame on the weather we may as well blame on ourselves.  If you plan “fair weather” activities for “foul weather’ times of the year, you’re asking for it.  Identify projects, activities, new learning experiences that work with the weather instead of in spite of it.  If you are a creative, this is the time of year to work on something especially bright.  If you need to get the photo files organized and culled, this is the time of year to do it.  You get a job that’s been on your mind done, but you also get to re-experience the sunny days and fun adventures that you captured with the camera.  Look for projects that will be antidotes for the dark. Even better, look for projects that require this weather.  It’s hard to learn to snowshoe in the summer.
  • How’s your sense of purpose?  Focus on the everyday contrariness of life–like a downpour as you head out the door for a lunch appointment–is usually part of a meager life plan.  Since you aren’t thinking about much else, you fret about the weather (or what the neighbor’s dog is doing in your yard).  This is the stuff from which unhappy old people grow.  Do you really want to do that?  To be that?

When you are working on something bigger than your comfort–that you believe in and want to make happen–you lose track of the weather just like you lose track of time.   You work in the middle of the night and have no idea of whether it’s 4 AM or 6PM.  Finding your purpose beats a month long trip to the Bahamas for being able to deal with the weather.  Before you sign on with a realtor to look for a second home “somewhere warm” get serious about defining your purpose and then get on with honoring it.  You’ll be amazed at how much “better” your local weather is.

Yes, it’s nice to “get away.”   If there’s money for it and somewhere you really want to see, go.  But don’t go “to get away from the weather.”  No place on earth has perfect weather.  You can be perfectly content regardless of the weather if you pay attention to what you need to make your life fulfilling in bigger ways.


Questions to Ask if You’re Thinking about Working after You Retire

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Is it looking like you might have to work for your entire life?  That may be better than you can imagine. The trick is to stop thinking that the current rat race is your only option.

If you do it right, including some amount of paid work as part of your retirement lifestyle is likely to result in a more satisfying retired life overall.  The key is figuring out how you can do what you love for money.  And how you can do it for as much of the time as you choose instead of letting your work life blot out the rest of your life as it often does in prime career years.

  1. As you consider how this might look for you, there are six important questions to ask:What do I love to do?  Quite often we end up in our life’s work by default.  Some of us come to love it and some of us just keep doing it because it’s easier than starting in a new direction.  If what you are doing now (assuming you aren’t yet retired), doesn’t make you smile anymore, it’s wise to start figuring out what will before you retire.  Maybe it’s a hobby you are already pursuing.  Maybe it’s something entirely new.  The only way you are going to find out is to start thinking about it.
  2. How can I make money doing what I love?  There are ways, regardless of what it is.  If you love golf, work at a course…or a golf megastore…or write freelance articles about golf.  If you love to shop, find a slot in retail that’s fun or offer your services as a personal shopper.  If you love making sausage in the middle of the night, there’s probably a way to parlay that into an income. An essential piece of getting this to work is to stop thinking that everything has to be done between 8 and 5 on weekdays.  You may want to keep that time for other things and work nights and weekends to keep the checkbook fat.
  3. Is there only one thing that I love to do?  If you’ve done a lot of different things while you were working full time, expect to do so for retirement income as well.  A retired elementary school teacher I know makes great money as a Santa in November and December but is also a tour guide for a travel company in the summer.
  4. How much do I want to work?  Half time?  A third of the year on specific projects?  Only with customers X, Y, and Z?  A piece of that answer is going to be about how much money you need to continue to make, but an even bigger piece is what else you want to have time for.  (Hint:  Don’t worry about lying on some tropical beach with a cold drink in your hand.  That’s called vacation, and it doesn’t work as a longterm lifestyle in retirement.)
  5. What shape do I want my work to take?  When you love what you do, you find ways to get to do it.  The most traditional would be regularly scheduled work—full- or part-time–but there’s a long list of other options.  You can work on a contract basis for a limited period.  You can work piece rate.  You can work project by project.  You can work in a “performance only” company where you can do your work whenever you want as long as it’s done on time.
  6. How can I get to do what I love the way I’d like to do it?  It takes time to get to where you can pull this off.  No one is going to see that as a wise move unless you are really good enough at what you want to do and the world knows it.  You need to build your reputation.  A guy I met recently drives a high-performance dune buggy for tourists as a retirement job.  He worked for the utility company for decades, but he’s been driving dune buggies since he was nine.  His driving skills were so well known that a total stranger approached him in line at the grocery store about working for him as a sand rail driver.

His story is the magic we’d all like to rely on–where what we need just comes to us.  He wasn’t even thinking about working, but the offer was too much fun to pass up.  On the surface, it looks like it “just happened.”  But that isn’t the case.  He had a longstanding reputation for doing that work well.

Figure out what you want to do.  Get involved with others who are doing it.  Achieve a reputation for doing it well.  The more of that you can do before you retire, the easier it will be to walk into your dream retirement job when you get that far.


Forgiveness as a Stress Reduction Strategy

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Even if you aren’t interested in the religious implications, learning how to forgive is worth doing.

We all get the advice: “Forgive and forget… Turn the other cheek.”  But when your blood is boiling over what happened and the injustice is over the top, it’s the last thing you’re going to think to do.  You want, with every fiber of your being, for that other s-o-b to realize how wrong he or she was.


That’s the time when  you need to know how to forgive the most.  Why?  Because that furious attitude is a source of massive stress.   The major religions of the world advocate forgiveness as a key to leading a holy life.  That’s not where I’m coming from on this.  Nope, I’m suggesting something far more mundane and selfish than that:

Forgivenss  is a key piece of keeping the stress out of your life.

Whether you adhere to a particular religion or not, forgiving is something you need to do.  Not because of your great love for all mankind (which is great if you can pull it off, but….).  Forgive for your own sanity.  Forgiving means you let go and move on.  Failing to forgive means you carry all that toxic emotion around with your for days….weeks….months.


But forgiving is a duet, right?  The other person also have to let it go.

Nope.  Forgiveness is about accepting what is and just letting it be what it is.  If it takes him (or her) longer to thaw, I still need to stay with forgiveness.  Not because of my feelings for him–those just make it even more important.  No, I need to stick with forgiveness because that’s where my own peace resides.

Forgiveness is not about “being right” or letting the other person “be right.”  Forgiveness is letting go of what happened for the sake of what you want to happen.  It’s about ignoring the whole idea that one or the other of you has to be “right.”

I want my life to be happy and calm.  I value contentment.  The most effective way to get back to that is to forgive whoever or whatever got me upset.

It doesn’t have to be about God.  It doesn’t have to be about being a good Catholic…Mormon…Presbyterian…Buddhist…or Muslim.  All it has to be is the acceptance of the uselessness of carrying around the garbage emotions of a grudge.

Forgive.  Life is so much better for you when you do.