About Us · Contact Us   

Archive for January, 2012

Live the Good Life Your WHOLE Life

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Why do we think we have to wait until we stop working for everything to be wonderful?  This idea that you slave away in the workforce for decades and then get a free pass to Wonderland for the rest of your life is silly.

There’s no free pass.  Ever.  Not even if you’re buying in on that “Golden Years” model and riding around in your motor home.  The truth about “the Good Life” is that it’s up to you to create it.  If you don’t have it, it’s not somebody else’s fault.

So before you start blaming your boss, your kids, or your spouse, see what you are doing about the following:

  • Are you doing anything that honors your deepest sense of purpose?  You don’t have to spend your entire day focused on what you’re passionate about.  You can get away without doing anything about it some days, if that’s unavoidable.  But you do have to keep it in the mix.  Life happens.  Deal with it–but come from your own sense of why you are here in how you do whenever you can.
  • Are you making bad assumptions about how much time you need to do something for yourself?  Yes, it’s nice to grab an entire afternoon, or even a full day, to do whatever it is that you enjoy.  But not giving yourself anything when you can have some makes about as much sense as not eating what’s in the fridge when you’re hungry because it’s not a five course dinner.  Give yourself the “little” treats when you can’t afford a day at the spa–or the golf course–on your current time budget.  Read a short story instead of a novel.  Take a “three minute vacation” by meditating about a setting you find particularly soothing.
  • Are you using solutions that meet more than one need?  A friend was concerned that she wasn’t getting enough exercise.  She was also looking for ways she could do some financial belt tightening.  One of her solutions to the second problem helped with the first.  She decided to do her own gardening instead of hiring it done.  Walking is a great way to lose weight, but it’s also an important resource for problem solving.  (There’s something about putting one foot in front of the other again and again that helps you sort things out.)  Looking for solutions that give you what you want along with what’s needed to deal with the obvious problem can make life a lot more pleasant.
  • Are you assuming that this stage of your life is just hard work? A lot of what we blame on others actually comes from what we are telling ourselves.  Of course, much of what we tell ourselves comes from what we learned from others, but still…  The Protestant Work Ethic has helped us thrive as a country, but use it in moderation!  You aren’t going to win a prize for going in early, staying late, bringing work home and having a heart attack because you were so focused on your job.  Yes, you need to do the work.  No, you do not need to do it 24/7.  You’re not effective that way and it is definitely not any fun.  Take timeouts as you can.  When you go on vacation, let go of everything you possibly can about work.

It’s easy to get sucked into external demands.  The job.  Your house.  The kids…or grandkids.  Your spouse.  That fact that you don’t have a spouse but want one.  All of that stuff is part of life.  How you knit it together is your call though.  You can make some really gorgeous tapestries with ordinary thread.





Balance….Noun or Verb?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Is balance something you possess or that you pursue? Are you assuming someone else decides whether you have it?  Or do you see it more as an ongoing effort on your part?

Back in graduate school, I was delighted to discover work by Martin Seligman that talked about “learned helplessness.”  The term was used to describe the mindset of individuals who assume that they’re at the mercy of “powerful others”–God, the Establishment, whatever–who decide what happens in their lives.  Their assumption that someone else holds all the winning cards keeps them from even seeing what they can do to help themselves.

Life balance is vulnerable to that kind of thinking, even if you don’t go in that direction on everything else.  It’s really easy to assume that your life is out of balance because of  the load at work, the phase your child is going through or a favor for a friend that’s gotten far more complicated than you expected.  Life should just flow smoothly and balance should be a given, right?

Nope. Assuming that is just one more way to be a “victim.”

Seeing balance as an ongoing process rather than entitlement to Nirvana keeps you in the game.  And brings you closer to it even when you can’t get the “full meal deal.” Why?  Because seeing balance as an on-going process puts you in control. You can do things to move toward that version of emotional symmetry you prefer.

The good life isn’t about always being in balance.  It’s about getting good at recovering that balance when it goes away, which it will.  Often.

Some things to consider as you work at it:

Not all efforts to achieve balance work.  If getting up an extra half hour in the morning to exercise makes you cranky for the rest of the day, forget it.  Look for a another way.

Not all options are total improvements.  Okay, you want more time with your kids.  That doesn’t mean they want to shovel snow with you.  But when they are part of getting the work done, you feel less like poorly paid hired help, right?

Sometimes your balance is on a different dimension than you planned.  So that snow shoveling wasn’t the fun “quality time” you were hoping for with whoever  you drafted to help.  You still had more time to get everything else done, right?

Balance isn’t always intentional.  Perhaps you got the surprise of your life when you insisted on help in cleaning up that snow.  Sometimes working together really is, fun.  Yes!  A nudge from a different direction.

Balance is as much about assumptions as it is about reality.  Quite often, what’s out of balance is what you are telling yourself about what should be happening.  A classic definition of stress is “the difference between what’s happening and what you think should be happening.”  Getting a solid handle on what’s reasonable under the circumstances can take you a lot closer to balance than a major overhaul.  Accept reality.  Then change as it changes.

Balance changes moment to moment.  Even if you do get into perfect balance, you’re not going to stay there.  At least not if you’re human.  The key is whether you elect to stay out of balance or put effort into moving back toward equilibrium.   As life changes, make your own changes.

A good life is balanced but it’s up to you.



Work After 60

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Retiring early isn’t on most people’s radar anymore. But what about not retiring at all?  There are things to do to forge a great life for yourself in your 60’s and beyond that take work in a direction you can thrive with.

This retirement thing doesn’t have to be a yes/no one-shot deal.  A friend retired three times before he decided he really meant it.  And we all know about Bret Favre.  But even those examples are becoming simple, almost timid versions of the decision.  The new pioneers are finding ways to stay in the workforce  for the long haul instead of ever retiring.  Success at that depends on finding ways to incorporate much of what retirement would have meant to them in the work they continue to do.

Money  The first set of questions, if you are looking at whether this is the truer path for you, are financial.  How much do you need the money?  Is what you’re doing now going to provide the level of income you want?  If you just got riffed because the job you do is no longer key, you  might want to expand the range of options for what you do next.  Or if the whole industry is going away.  (Think video stores.) Is there a defined end to when you you will need this much cash?  (e.g. Paying off consumer debt or getting a kid or grandkid through college).   Get a good handle on what you will have coming in, too.  If you wait to take Social Security until you’re 70, the check will be bigger every month.  It’s your job to know how much bigger.

Please don’t tell yourself  “I’m too old to start over.” You’re never too old if you enjoy what you’re getting good at.

Meaning  After 60, you have to think about more than the money though.  Working at something you hate as a huge part of your life is hard on your physical health as well as your emotional wellbeing.  Choosing solely on how much money you can make will take you to Misery City, at least if you live long enough.  What gives your life spark?  How can you make that part of what you do for a living?

If you are totally clueless about this, make a list of what you believe in strongly.  These don’t have to be huge “save the world” kinds of effort–just stuff you value.  Maybe, “getting the county to go green” could be on the list.  but so could “arranging flowers with dynamic color combinations.”  It can be something you personally savor (cooking a great cheese omlet) or something that you want for the world (better nutrition for latch key kids).  Try to get at least 5 items on your list; 10 is even better.

Then make a list of what you’re good at.  Can you organize absolutely anything?  Repair what others are ready to send to the landfill?  Talk to anyone comfortably?  This list reminds you of what you’ve already achieved, which is great.  But it also provides important clues on how you might best make a difference with what you do next.

Mesh the two lists to come up with things you could do about what’s important to you.  Don’t stop to evaluate the ideas, just write down everything that comes to mind.  Once  you finally run out of ideas, take a break (important).  When you come back, go through the list.  Which one (or ones) make you smile, get your heartrate up, or have you wanting to get started right now?  Those are the things that are going to be fun to do at this point in your life.  Now start thinking about how can you make a job out of them.

Mix  The most important thing about work after 60 is setting it up so it’s not the only thing in your life on an ongoing basis.  After 60, the  “career arc” should be starting back down.  (I know, that’s heresy but it’s also true.)  You might still be on fire with what you’ve been doing for 50 years, but you’re likely to be looking for a way to do a bit less of it.    Figuring out this piece is highly personal.

Some of us want to be able to move through each day changing plans as we go.   Some of us are fine with the same routine every day as long as we have the month of  February off  to meditate in Bali.  Take the time to figure out what kind of lifestyle is best for you.  (The exercises in Supercharged Retirement can help with this, whether you are going to retire or not.)

Life after 60 is better if you have a clear focus and broad set of challenges.  Getting paid for addressubg them is a bonus.  If you need it, you can make it happen.  But be forewarned.  This idea that everything should happen in a nanosecond because we are “getting older” is wrong.  It’s going to take time.  Believe it or not, you still have it.


New Years Resolutions…Yes or No?

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

A brand new year. What a great time to renew our vows to do all the things we were going to do to make our lives better last year…and the year before…and …

The turning of the year is the perfect time to take stock of where you are trying to go. That part of the old “new year’s resolutions” idea is definitely worth keeping. But the resolutions themselves? Well, maybe we need to take a closer look at that.

It’s easy to make a list of how you want to be better. But is it going to motivate you to do anything more than writing it? A list concentrates all that stuff you think you need to “fix” into one massive dose of self-improvement. That’s a good way to feel pretty inadequate in a hurry.

There’s room to question the whole negative motivation thing, too. Negative motivation is only as strong as the negative consequence. So if you aren’t feeling any real pain because you haven’t gotten to it, committing anew to getting it done is pretty likely to give you more of the same.

Still, it would be nice to get on with some of this stuff—all of this stuff, actually. What’s a good way to use the new year to motivate yourself?

Figure out what usually makes you get things done. If making a list and checking off completed tasks works for you, then that list is a fine idea. But if you get things done by someone else’s deadline, committing to a buddy, or dealing with one change at a time, something other than a list as your New Year’s plan might be wiser.

Be clear about what you can change. It’s so tempting to “want it all” but that can ruin the whole effort. Choose things you value that you truly want to make happen. And be realistic. You are not going to overhaul your personality, your financial situation, and your love life in one twelve month period. In fact some things are never going to change.

Accept that change often comes from messy beginnings. There are times when the change you need to make arrives as an ill-defined, disconcerting restlessness. We’ve all been encouraged to write those measurable, achievable goals. But we don’t always evolve as humans in that orderly, concise manner. If what you need to do is muck around, get on with it instead of trying to jump over the messy part by setting a bunch of easy-to-assess but irrelevant goals.

When you don’t know where you are going, writing a bunch of instructions for getting there (i.e. “New Year’s resolutions”) is a waste of time. In that situation, trying to do one thing every day that addresses what you believe in or want more of in your life might work better. Make it small, doable, and something that you can get done in the time you have each day. It might be as small as spending two minutes (literally) thinking about where you want to take your life. But do something.

New Year’s resolutions too easily become “big deals” that are impossible to accomplish in the crush of everyday life. Then they are de-motivators instead of positive tools for helping yourself change. Using this time of year to assess what you’re doing with your life is a great idea. Limiting yourself to a list of “resolutions” as the outcome? Not so much.

Go beyond the tradition and incorporate an awareness of what it takes to help yourself succeed in how you go about it and what you choose. Maybe this year, see what happens if you make the commitment more flexible. When you get off track–and we all do, just pick up the process again once you notice you’re not doing it. (If it’s important enough to want to change in the first place, you will notice.)

That which isn’t growing is dying. Working toward creating something more than what you currently have in your life is wise and good. But don’t set yourself up to fail—and feel like a failure–by making an impressive list of things you don’t really need to do, want to do, or know how to do.

Yeah, baby! We’re looking at a brand new year again. What do you want to do with it?