After reading many different approaches to planning for retirement, I created a process to work through and create a Life Plan for this next life stage. Why a plan? One of my favorite quotes is a Japanese proverb: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare”. So my process builds from creating a vision (dream) to taking action.
Creating the next half of my life required transitioning from a work-focused persona to a blend of life and work activities. This was Not about the finances in retirement (will I have enough money?). This was about all the other stuff – the identity I wanted (who do you want to be when you grow up?), the activities I wanted (heavy on the life, light on the work), and even some of how was I going to accomplish it (goal setting, new habit formation). This process took personal reflection and some persistence (hard work), but it has helped me work through some of the letting go of the past as well as creating a vision of my future that I am actively pursuing. As George Bernard Shaw says: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”. I am creating a new (non-work) me.
Here are the 5 phases of the process. I re-looped a few times as I worked through activities in each phase and learned new things about myself. I also found it helpful to keep a journal of the outcomes of the activities and tools I used. (In future blogs I hope to detail some of the better tools I found in each phase.)
1. REFLECT: self-discovery, know thyself. This is deep introspection to become the foundational insights for creating a “life vision” statement, and later providing the basis for assessing activities to be included in an action plan.
What it is: Reflecting on who you are and who you want to be so you can decide what stays, what goes, what’s added to life so you can live and love the new life you are living. It starts with understanding the identity that is you and not just your work.
Taking the time to really do the deep introspection was helpful. As Carl Jung says: “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart”. It was helpful to clearly articulate my values (enduring and situational), personal drivers and motivators, skills/strengths, roles, and interests.
Coming out of Reflect was a vision statement for my future. As I’ve written in a previous blog, linking life activities to interests, strengths and values brings higher happiness (Happiness By Design). So these 3 elements became the foundation for my life vision statement.
I also used a 7 Domains of Life model to craft my holistic vision: Location/Lifestyle, Relationships/Connections, Community/Volunteerism, Health/Wellbeing, Work/Career, Hobby/Leisure, Finances/Prosperity. (OK, finances did sneak in – if only to make sure the vision was fundable!). My vision was in words, since I love words.
2. IMAGINE: all the possibilities. Creating a Potentials for Life list as output.
This was more than just a task list of “honey-do” projects or a bucket list of all those places I want to visit (although those things are on it as well). This was creating a list of all future life possibilities, from passions to dreams to inklings – in work, leisure, volunteering, relationships, lifestyle. It’s about skills/talents I want to use and ones to learn or develop. Yes, writing a blog was on my list!
I used a series of brainstorming activities to create my Personal Possibilities List, which has over 150 ideas on it.
3. ASSESS: Compare possibilities back to foundational insights and life vision to make choices in creating my Life Portfolio Plan.
It’s actually been proven that too many options can cause stress in the selection and in-fact lack of choice. Analysis paralysis! This phase was about choosing activities that best matched the vision of life I created, which was based on my values, strengths and interests.
By making choices, I can focus energy on the important few instead of the insignificant many. It also helped me avoid busyness for the sake of busyness and have a inner conviction to say “no” to things that were not right for me (even though others thought I should do them). I chose a starting set of activities that fit my vision statement, focusing on a few Life Domains that I felt were more important at this moment – Relationships/Connections, Leisure/Hobby and Health/Wellbeing.
4. ACTIVATE: Exploring new activities; setting goals & changing habits
By design or by default, the next life stage will happen. Life goes on. By making choices and setting goals, I am designing the Life I want to live and the Who I want to be. I set clear on goals & measures for each of the specific activities chosen in Assess – what I am trying to achieve and how will I know that I’ve gotten there?
Yes, it is balance of scheduled planning and keeping time open for spontaneity and relaxation. I have found that if I don’t actively plan/schedule, time just escapes. I also found that it’s about considering both me-time and we-time with my husband.
It was also about understanding my personal barriers to change and how to break thru them. One of mine is “activation energy” on new activities! So I have signed up for classes (paid the fees), scheduled activities with others (they are not happy if you’re a no-show), and made verbal commitments to friends (who check back with me on them).
5. REFINE: Continual renewal – refresh, rejuvenate, revise
I find day-by-day plans, as well as week-by-week goals, give me a calendar filled with activities than inspire, energize and satisfy me. I am reviewing it regularly. My review process: if time is flying by and I have plenty of energy, if I look forward to starting every day, if I feel happy and fulfilled – then I keep going! Every couple of months I am reviewing my goals and measures and revising my plans. I am re-looking at my Possibilities List for new things to add onto the calendar as others drop off, like completing many of the honey-do projects.
But if I am not feeling fulfilled, am finding it a struggle to get up off the couch, or that “life happens”, then I will change it – pick new Life Domains or even modify the vision statement. This is My plan for My future vision. As Thoreau said “Let go of the past and go for the future. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.”