When Life Calls

planning3

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

When Death Calls was the title of her last Saturday presentation. An expert in the field of planning for death and subsequent life celebrations, she shared some statistics that gave me pause – one of which is that slightly more than 70 percent of Americans do no planning specific to their own or other family members demise. Most leave the matter unaddressed simply assuming others will take care of things. And that can be an unfair burden.

Thinking later about her message, I acknowledged this as a serious topic, one truly worth talking about and planning for.

Then my mind pivoted.

planning7

Are you prepared for when life calls? Not necessarily for death (though it warrants attention) but for how you find meaning and significance in your remaining years?

Many people simply go through the motions, allowing life to determine outcomes rather than each of us having a measurable say in what’s next. Yes, there is tremendous satisfaction, often fulfillment, in going with flow – just as there can be in letting go and lessening the need or desire to control. However, I’m talking about how you can proactively determine the extent to which you want to be engaged with your life; what is important to you.

Without doubt, planning for and making life decisions can be made more helpful when one has a sense of and comfort with their financial plans and security. They’re definitely interwoven.

planning2

Yet when and as life calls, I invite you to ask yourself…

  • How often do I deliberately pause to consider what really matters to me? Deliberately?
  • What is it that can make me a better person?
  • How clear am I on who I want to be in “x” years?
  • What causes are worthy of my active involvement?
  • What have I missed?
  • What stirs my soul?
  • How can I give back?

planning6

Embracing this as a process and creating time to intentionally plan, what unfolds could be renewed clarity about what to do When Life Calls (as well as when death calls).

For your consideration, three thoughts as you explore this theme:

  1. Create space. Don’t cram your life with too many things to do. Give yourself room and permission to enjoy each experience. Give yourself space to find your joy.
  2. Spend time with loved ones. If you want to know how to live an even more meaningful life, spend more time with the people you love. Quality relationships truly matter.
  3. Think “aloha.” This Hawaiian term does not simply mean hello or goodbye but in the truest sense stands for “the process of passing a blessing from one person to another.”

Credit: Light at the end of the tunnel / iStock by Getty Images photo ID 35839548

Walking Your Talk

 8882107966_41854f939f_m

“Well done is better than well said.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“There is no magic wand, my dear. In this world if you want to accomplish more, you need to do more.” Wise counsel from a mentor some 20 years ago. Her advice was good across the board, whether starting up a business, changing jobs or simply checking a few things off your bucket list.

I was somewhat of a talker then. Reasonably accomplished, I talked a lot about what I wanted to do. Yet, I found myself challenged when it came to fulfilling personal chores, completing deliverables, and planning for what I wanted to do. I was bluffing myself and others. And at some point I acknowledged I wasn’t a doer.

9009193846_6746867cf2_m

These days I’m on the other side of that fence. I collaborate with people who choose to plan for their personal development; people who have specific, realistic, small, and manageable goals. In hindsight, what I now see clearly is that an individual’s success is often attributable to designing a living (meaning: breathing/flexible) working plan versus simply thinking and talking about their goals.

Early on I figured out that plans and outcomes are not built on good intentions alone. Positive perspectives help yet intentions lapse when the distractions and demands of the real world present. What I remind people about is that the real work is in making things happen. And for plans and intentions to bear fruit, they require diligence, hard work, vision, application, self-belief, energy and consistency. Plain and simple. Perseverance is essential even if you lapse or come up short on your plan.

4940578936_a84a33b811_m

If being successful is an outcome to which you aspire, fairy dust and wishful thinking might make you feel good, but they’re not going to deliver results. I used be a great thinker. A dreamer, too. I am, still. What has changed though, is now seeing these matters through a time, experience and knowledge lens. And we all have this vantage! We simply need to recognize what is practical and applicable in our own frame.

Walking your talk is undeniably doable. In doing so consider these three foci, each which can strengthen and empower your walk:

  1. Banish distractions. Getting past distractions is one of the biggest obstacles to taking more action. It may not be challenging for people with enough willpower but for many, stopping procrastination and focusing requires a lot more effort. Turn off things like your TV and phone more regularly and scale back your usage of social media sites and Netflix. I know I am far more productive absent distractions. Perhaps you, too?
  2. Be a doer. Practice doing things rather than thinking about them. The longer an idea rests without being acted upon, the weaker it becomes. After a few days, details get hazy. After a week, ideas get relegated to a back burner. As a doer you get more done while stimulating new ideas in the process.
  3. Visualize success. This is a tried and true technique. People know the benefits of visualizing their goals. Elite athletes do this all the time. In a similar way, create an image of the outcomes you want and use that for inspiration.

13384326634_e53108b530_m

Myths, Facts and Reminders

 

“Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.” ~ D. L. Moody

Retirement myths; they abound. As people plan for and approach life’s Third Act, many think they’ll be spending more time with family and friends. It’s true that you will likely have plenty of discretionary time. And though you may want to spend more time with family and friends, will they have the time to spend with you? Many of them many still be on a hectic treadmill. Consider whether your adult children and their family really want you to come over for dinner every Sunday night?

Perhaps you envision walking hand-in-hand along an exotic beach somewhere. While traveling to romantic destinations is on many people’s short list, be real. For most, those trips will likely be few and far between. Your focus will be better spent on what you’ll be doing on those days in between trips. Costs for those trips add up. Not surprisingly, an Allianz study found that 82 percent of respondents ages 44 to 49 with dependents, feared outliving their money more than death. That doesn’t sound like a crowd spending much time at all-inclusive resorts in Phuket, does it?

Fact: More and more people are working in retirement. Why? To stay mentally active. In a recent survey, money was reason #4 after “to stay physically active,” “social connections,” and “sense of identity/self-worth.” Presently, 80 percent of working retirees said they work because they “want to;” 20 percent said because they “have to.”

In work and research what I continue to find amazing and somewhat alarming, is that many boomers focus largely on the financial planning aspect of life’s Third Act and little else. Here’s where an apt adage applies: “Failure to plan is a plan for failure.” Maybe that’s a bit drastic but it seems fair to think that significant planning, well in advance, is probably going to better your odds of enjoyable retirement living.

Intentionally sidestepping financial planning (because it’s obvious), here are three things to keep in mind for life’s Third Act. You could probably come up with 30 more on the back of an envelope.

  1. Be mindful of how you think. Certain thinking styles can stress people out. Things like perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking, and negative thinking. As you plan for or help others plan for retirement, be mindful of how you think. Consider lowering your expectations and instead, think in “anticipation” terms. Learn to accept and become comfortable with the fact that reality may not always match your ‘vision.’ Frame problems or potential challenges as opportunities. This is about mindset shifts.
  2. Know what makes you happy (and what makes your partner happy!). Life gets so busy while we are building our careers that we often end up in a rut. We may not have the time or energy to do the things we love. Prior to and once you transition into retirement, choose activities that will make time fly for you!
  3. Get good teeth. You do not want to look into a mirror and see a gnarly smile, even if minor. Dental care can be very expensive, so it’s prudent to get your teeth fixed while you’re still under a dental health plan. The longer you wait, the worse the fate. Dentures are a last-ditch effort and many who have them, hate how they feel and are not happy about limiting their food options. On a related note, healthy gums versus periodontal disease can also help with cardiovascular health.

Anticipating Risks

“Perhaps extreme danger strips us of all pretenses, all ambitions, all confusions, focusing us more intensely than we are otherwise ever focused, so that we remember what we otherwise spend most of our lives forgetting: that our nature and purpose is, more than anything else, to love and to make love, to take joy from the beauty of the world, to live with an awareness that the future is not as real a place for any of us as are the present and the past.” ~ Dean Koontz

It doesn’t seem that 11 years have past since Aron Ralston amputated his arm, five days after he was trapped by a boulder in the beauty of a remote Utah Canyon. Alone with no one knowing his whereabouts, he was literally at life’s brink. The sheer will to experience his future while in extreme danger, now makes for an inspiring life story. A story that could have had a different outcome.

Many of us make (conscious and unconscious) choices about how we want to experience wellness, financial freedom, relationships, adventure, and professional success. And there are people (guides, actuaries, underwriters and extreme sports participants) who meticulously plan and model events and possible outcomes. They prudently assess risk.

Aron Ralston didn’t expect what he encountered. Yes, it was a freak accident yet he planned for his outing poorly. And he nearly lost his life. Aron is an extreme example. In your everyday life, do you adequately (if not thoroughly) consider risks? Do you rethink activities to recognize dependent events that could lead to an extreme event? Do you plan for and anticipate the unexpected?

There are countless ways in which to plan for the unanticipated. It simply takes intentional time and effort. Whether you want to mitigate your fears or fulfill your dreams (a pretty broad range, right?), here are three considerations when planning potentially risky endeavors:

  1. Have conversations with people who have ‘traveled the path you’re considering.’ Learn what their experiences yielded. Factor for unlikely events happening. And plan for risky scenarios, even if they have low probabilities. It’s not always the obvious or likely that manifests.
  2. Prioritize hypothetical situations and gauge how you would logically and emotionally react and respond (there is a difference between the two). Understand how you deal with stress and anxiety. Even after losing 40 pounds in five days and drifting in and out of delirium, Aron Ralston summoned the strength and determination to focus.
  3. Share your well-developed plans with others. As attractive and exciting as ‘soloing’ might be, consider the advantages of partnering with someone. Shared experiences are valuable and memorable, too!

I invite you to reflect on these as you plan business decisions, personal ambitions, and all that is important to you.

Acting Too Quickly

“A man who sees action in inaction and inaction in action has understanding among men and discipline in all action he performs.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

On occasion, I have been known to take a contrarian viewpoint. I will challenge the status quo and frequently seek uniquely different ways of accomplishing and achieving. Credit my innate curiosity and exploratory nature. It’s simply part of how I process. 🙂

Such is the case with me and action, the latter a meaningful part of existence. Action clearly serves a purpose and can gently inspire, as well as actively incite us. Generally, people are encouraged to take decisive action. And often, too quickly. It’s people less inclined to impulsive action who keep a comfortable grip on the action reins.

Acting too quickly can be the cause of many problems. Having been impatient for a good chunk of my life, I know this well. A lot of personal mistakes result from a combination of exuberance and an eagerness to please – to get the job done. Many of us have experienced moving too quickly without taking time for adequate, even thorough, consideration. And then wondered about the outcome.

I have been surprised to find how many times situations will resolve themselves if they are allowed to. I have also been discouraged at how complex some situations have become when I took action quickly to bring something to a resolution before truly understanding what the problem or goal was in the first place.

And then there are those people who will choose inaction simply because it allows them to stay in their comfort zone, to do only what they’re familiar with, even if it oddly yields desired results. But the comfort zone is equivalent to a safe, relatively unproductive state.

We know that a clear vision, flexible plan, and realistic schedule will take you a long way towards successful achievement. But without action, visions are unlikely to materialize. Thoughtful action is prudent. And while some people may argue ‘time is money,’ it is important to assess the need for expedited action.

“Measure twice, cut once” is an old craftsman’s saying. It’s a good idea for life in general. Restated for action, we could say “think twice, act once.” Because premature action can be much more damaging than a measured approach to most any situation.

Consider your actions as carefully as you do your valuables.

Go Grandma Moses!

“Musicians don’t retire, they stop when there’s no more music in them.” ~ Louis Armstrong

In a recent post (The Third Age), I referenced five distinct stages that people experience before and during retirement. I shared that I’d further elaborate on the fourth stage, Reorientation, in a subsequent post. Welcome to the continuation.

The previously referenced study uncovered four distinct experiences within the Reorientation (covering two to 15 years after retirement) stage of the journey:

Empowered Reinventors (19%): This is a time of adventure, new challenges and fulfillment.

Carefree Contents (19%): This group is a time of adjusting to a less frantic lifestyle without the stress of work and other responsibilities. Eight out of 10 said they weren’t working at all.

Uncertain Searchers (22%): This segment is one of mixed feelings – they’re still trying to figure out what to do with this time of their lives, and may not be on track financially for retirement.

Worried Strugglers (40%): This cohort has the most difficulty due to a lack of planning and preparation. Most have not given much thought to what they want to do with their retirement years.

Among pre-retirees and retirees with retirement experience, one of the main discoveries was that both groups found that retirement is liberation from the daily grind, which gives them more control over their lives.

Enter this legend…

When Anna Mary Robertson Moses died in 1961 at age 101, then-president Kennedy released a statement praising her paintings for inspiring a nation. This amazing lady was better known as Grandma Moses, a woman who didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76, when her hands became too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle. She found herself unable to sit around and do nothing, even after a long life spent working on farms.

Grandma Moses never had any formal art training – indeed, she’d had very little formal education – but she painted every day, turning out more than 1,000 paintings in 25 years. When an art collector passing through her town saw the paintings selling for a few dollars in a drug store, he bought them all and arranged for them to be shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Even with her newfound fame, her topics remained the same: nostalgic scenes of farm life, such as the first snow or a maple sugaring. By the time of her death, she had paintings in museums as far away as Vienna and Paris.

Take what you will from the above, perhaps the obvious: 1) It’s a good idea to begin planning for retirement (or whatever you choose to call your later years lifestyle) well before you get to that stage and; 2) Who says you need to quietly drift off to the sidelines once you enter the third chapter in your life? If Grandma Moses discovered a new, enjoyable niche, you certainly can (or will).