This idea of “retire with purpose” has two important parts: defining retirement and discovering your purpose?
Retirement as defined in the dictionary is “the period of one’s life after leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”. That doesn’t quite do it for me. Retirement is a period of life where new time choices are possible, you may choose to work but are not burdened with the requirement to work. For me, it also implies that we have left our life-long job or career.
What are your time choices? We each have 168 hours per week and they will be filled. Why not do that purposefully, deliberately and with intention. The model above suggests that our time will be split across work, hobbies, volunteering or leisure. We can choose tasks or relationships to fill our time or both.
Purpose is (re)discovering who you are and Mission is what you choose to do. You answer questions such as “who am I”, “what do I want my legacy to be” or “how am I going to make the world a better place”. Purpose will feel meaningful and joyful. You feel called to something because that’s who you are. It’s something you can’t stop yourself from doing.
Research shows that people with purpose live longer. It is an important element of well-being. Retirement is a significant shift in time choices. You heart, mind, body and soul must be nurtured but only you know the right balance.
Passion is a funny thing; it’s important but my informal survey indicates that it is elusive. I’ll ask some questions to get at this:
- What gives you a thrill in life?
- What activities make you say, “I can’t stop myself from doing it”?
- What makes you cry or angry or laugh?
- What makes today a great day?
Are the answers obvious to you? I believe we owe it to ourselves to know or find our passions. Passion might be related to a special cause or it may simply be using our gifts of talent. At the level of “cause” it might be kids, education, politics, the environment, poverty, addictions or hundreds of other things.
I don’t think the entire day has to be perfect to make it great nor does it have to be stress-free. Here are some examples of using your talents:
- You close a deal on an important transaction that you worked hard at.
- You solved a big problem (for yourself or another).
- You share an important insight with a friend.
- You offer comfort to another.
- You finally get comfortable with making a big life decision.
- You make a difference in someone’s life.
Being “in the zone” or “in the flow” occur. We lose track of time and we are entirely focused. We feel the energy. We deserve these feelings. They are characteristics of Purpose. Pay attention. Once you find this “magic” in your life, you owe it to yourself to live it deeply.
We need to manage our career plans strategically and tactically…guided by our purpose. If you don’t your purpose yet, then start with “know yourself deeply”. Salary and potential earnings are important, but these must be balanced with capability, passion, meaning and enjoyment. All are possible with the courage to make personal change. Only you know the right balance.
The strategic part is planning for (or allowing) new roles, assignments, projects or tasks. It is choosing the big things such as career objective, career field, company and work location. It is the long-term accumulation of capabilities that add personal value, energy and joy, sometimes with unexpected results.
The strategic part is something you think about deliberately once or twice per year. You ask questions such as: Am I working for the right company? Do my company’s values match my own? Do I use my talents to add value and meaning to people’s lives? Am I working to my potential? Know the “why” behind each of your answers.
The tactical part is job shaping. This simply means that we make routine choices to optimize our tasks and responsibilities within our assigned job. You change tasks or relationships or simply make a context change. For example, a cashier at the grocery store could reframe his or her work from “checking out” to “putting a smile on everyone’s face”.
A written career plan is an essential part of a life plan. It is a skill best done with a career mentor.
We each have a uniqueness and specialness to our lives. I am convinced that we are born with some (all?) of it and that it is even God-given. Knowing it is part of the purpose journey because there is power and energy from seeing life-long patterns. Specialness includes ways of thinking, talents, nationality and more. The “world” (parents, school, work, society) causes us to lose it because it doesn’t want us to be too “different”. The world doesn’t seem to like people who live outside of a framework…and so we conform (or get bullied). Specialness must be (re)discovered.
When we are very young there are less boundaries on behavior. But then we go to school and immediately we “must be quiet in class” or study specific topics in certain ways. Socialization starts with our parents but becomes more obvious in a big school system or at work. We conform and lose a little bit of ourselves, sometimes reluctantly and sometime unknowingly. As we progress through life we assume other life roles. Our company culture, society’s expectations for men and women and our religion are all working on us. What is the cost to our soul?
I presume that socialization is unstoppable and even necessary. When we are young we are not equipped to challenge these forces. As adults we can rediscover our uniqueness. Do you know and embrace your specialness? Can you think of the earliest time in your life when it first became evident?
There is something energizing about being a “senior”, that time of life beyond 60 years old. The kids have grown up and you may be an “empty nester”. You have accumulated incredible life skills. Your maturity and experience cause you to see life differently…with wisdom, patience and even a bit more humor.
Seniors are a valuable commodity to family and community. This talent and capacity must be nurtured individually and systemically. Individually, we must define a “retirement” in our own way. We must know that we are each priceless and not let our past be our only identity. Each of our 168 hours per week is lived uniquely, balancing time and attention choices across work, leisure, family and service. Do it deliberately by being clear on Purpose, Vision and Goals. Systemically, we need organizations to create meaningful roles that encourage use of all our talents and continue to develop them. Organizations also need to implement flexible schedules.
Express your creativity…in projects of any type. Keep learning and live to your full potential. Have courage to try new things. Form deeper or new relationships with family and friends. See the world and people with a new perspective. Remember the “good times” but provide future-focused leadership in your passion.
Choosing purposeful activities has been shown to enhance the quality and longevity of life. Our minds and bodies both need to be exercised to stay vibrant. Everybody deserves their day/week/month “on the beach” but I hope you also choose contribution and impact.
Affirmation (noun): the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed; emotional support or encouragement.
Like smiling, giving another person a positive affirmation is a simple yet significant gift. It goes something like this… I see this special talent/strength/value in you. It shows up in what you do and makes you a unique and wonderful person. The way you use this “specialness” is making a difference.
We all need affirmation at some time. People who are hurting regularly need it. All too often, they do not have caring people in their lives who nurture them. Strong positive words offer support and encouragement and they have a lasting effect. It’s a way to show we care and build a relationship.
Be specific; rather than saying “you are amazing”, try “your talent for cooking combined your ability to select food ingredients helps you bring people together in harmony over a special meal”. Emphasize behaviors and skills. An affirmation is an important mentoring skill. It is especially important because it helps another to “know themselves deeply”.
We Zapp when we give “positivity; we Sapp when we take away energy. Choose to say positive things to others 10x more than you criticize. It’s much more effective (and fun) in influencing behavior.
Affirmations can be personal as well (but is not my focus today). It’s the things we say or think to ourselves over and over. The idea is simply to change our beliefs.
Time management is an important skill but I’ve come to believe that attention management is the bigger opportunity (and challenge). We are blasted with attention options and choices all day long. We sometimes try multi-tasking but this is not effective in a human relationship. We need to be available attentively. How do we do this?
- Choose the relationships that are important and invest in them. Make time for the important people of our lives. Call rather than text, schedule a time for coffee, lunch or a beer or just drop by. Simply show up; this is how we demonstrate to them that they are important (rather than just thinking they are).
- Put away or turn off the distractions. Find a quiet place to be together. Turn off the TV or put away the cell phone. Find a babysitter for the kids.
- Suspend your own problems, just for a short while. Focus on the other person and look them in the eye. Choose empathy and love.
- Practice active listening. Focus on hearing the meaning of their words rather than the words themselves. Nod, paraphrase and ask questions to insure they know we heard their words and meaning.
Choose to intentionally single-task. Use your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your mind to think and your heart to feel. With all senses tuned-in we become focused at a new, deeper level. Be mindful of attention shifts and bring yourself back to your intended focus. Being available attentively requires practice.