Refining my How

My own retirement transition process (developed based on Design Thinking approach and outlined in my book Retirement Transition – Amazon link here) has 5 main steps:

  1. REFLECT: Self-discovery, know thyself. Deep introspection becomes the core foundation for creating your “Life Vision” statement (and for later assessing activities in action plan.)
  2. IMAGINE: All the possibilities. Lots of ways to think about life options; work/ leisure, active/ passive.  Your own Life Possibilities List as an output.
  3. ASSESS: Compare top options from Possibilities List back to Life Vision to make choices in crafting your individual Life Portfolio; consider “he/she/we” visions/choices
  4. ACTIVATE: Explore restructuring life, experiment with new activities, set goals, change habits.
  5. REFINE: Continual renewal – what’s working, what’s not?  Refresh, rejuvenate, revise; 90 day plans, annual plans.  

I’ve personally refined my retirement lifestyle vision statement 3 times since my retirement day. In this time of self-isolation, I wondered if I needed to refine it yet again. I took a course to aid in exploring this: “Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life” on Coursera (link here).

In the course, I found an interesting build to my thinking – the instructor’s Why-What-How approach dovetails well with my own approach.   My big aha through this refining was that my Why and What, which I’ve articulated as my retirement lifestyle vision, were still right for me. My How’s need to be changed, even if only short-term, to deal with the new reality of continued social distancing. So it’s time to relook at my Possibilities List and assess some new options.

Looking at the Why-What-How in a little more depth:

  • First, figure out your WHY – this is defined as a person’s theme (who I am or possibly who do I want to be) and motivation (what do I value, what talents/strengths do I want to utilize). 
  • Second, what behaviors are needed to become the Who you want to be? The What’s are more action focused verbs and characteristic to be’s. For example: To be an inspiring leader (who – based on values and strengths), I need to be connected to others & to be energetic. To be an active, healthy individual, I need to be physically strong & flexible and be eating healthy.  This to-be is my retirement lifestyle vision statement. 
  • Finally, the How are your specific action steps, goals to accomplish the to-be behaviors.   Where are you intentionally investing your energy – physical energy and emotional energy. For example: To be energetic, I will sleep 8 hours a day by going to bed and waking up at consistent times, I will do cardio exercise 3 times a week, and I will do strength training 2 times a week.

So summing it up:

WHY – “Who do I want to be”; descriptive roles/nouns based on clarifying your values and strengths

WHAT – “Be goals” that are action focused/verbs – broad behaviors and characteristics

HOW – Specific steps/plans to implement for each “to be” goal.

So now, I’m looking into my How’s. It’s not easy as I am still mourning the loss of many How’s I intentionally put into place in my retirement, and truly enjoyed. I also know that just like finding those activities took time and exploration (and quite a few things that did not pan out), new how’s will again take time and exploration.  

Have you taken time during self-isolation to reflect on where you are and where you are heading?


15 thoughts on “Refining my How

  1. I am in awe of your self-exploration and reflection as you have entered retirement. I retired early as a choice but really had not plans to do so until the moment I signed those papers at HR. And I have been flying by the seat of my pants since!! Ha! I would like to be this and do that and go here and there but it seems life has other plans for me. I am tethered to being a responsible daughter for my mom, and a responsible mom to my daughters, leaving little time to ponder who I am and where I want to be.
    Hoping that life falls into place before long and I can get back to doing the things I want to do, the things that define me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leslie – I am an over-thinker (and a planner). I need so much structure to feel secure, and reflection is my way of creating life structure. I envy folks who can fly-by-the-seat-of-their pants and make so much happen. You’re so creative and do so many creative things…you constantly amaze me. Do not sell yourself short! You have so much great going on.

      I was also struck by your use of the word “tether”. Check out my next post where I talk about the symbolism of being a kite. I personally need that tethering. For me, a tether is not constricting, but allows me to soar.

      I wish you could totally embrace the daughter, mother, and grandmother roles not as a restriction but as aspects that all define who you are.


  2. I’m impressed with your continued self-reflection, Pat. For awhile, I felt like I was in survival mode and just went with the flow. I have been working still (from home) and we closed on our new house, so we have a lot to do getting that set up. I’ve kind of bounced between being super busy (mentally and physically) and vegging on the couch. More recently, I have felt the need to reflect and course-correct. Your post came at a good time for me. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christie, I like your comment about “course correcting”. It’s exactly how I am feeling. This is not a short term thing we are living in…. the more I read, the more I realize it’ll be a full year before things are shifting again, especially when you’re in a “high risk household” like I am. It’s hard to find new “how’s”…but I’m working on it!


    1. Denyse, I never really considered that I’m documenting my journey…but you are completely correct! Documenting and hoping that my learning will help others is exactly what my blog is all a bout. Thanks for helping me be more aware of that.


  3. Yes! I resonate with the changes too. Before I retired I thought I wanted to teach, preferably teach something in a seminary. Those choices would be limited because I have a DMin (Doctor of Ministry) not a PhD. But I also realized I wasn’t finished being a pastor. Now after 2 years and very little time off beyond standard vacations, I am looking at things differently. I let go of the goal of teaching, with no sense of loss. This feels like looking in a 3 sided dressing room mirror, or maybe more sides. I know increasingly through the pandemic that I want to spend more time writing. I have something that could be a book, things I have already written and much different from my blog writing. I just need to make the commitment to edit and pursue publication. So long answer, but yes. And thank you for this post that offers so much clarity. Blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michele, Having gone down the writing and self-publishing path, please let me know if you have any questions I might be able to answer (we can link directly if you want). I did blog about my process … here’s a link : A few other bloggers are published as well, so I can link you to them if interested in other perspectives as well. Writing more has consistently come up on my Possibilities for New Hows, so it is something I will be exploring as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Pat – I always enjoy following along with your thought processes! I think the Hows have changed for all of us in these covid times. I know I’m doing a lot of re-evaluating atm and have written a post for next week on the things I’m working through as far as what to keep and what to discard as the restrictions lift and life returns to “normal”. It’s been an interesting time to say the least!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leanne, Years ago (work mode) we had a tool called Stop, Start, Continue. What do I need to stop doing? What do I need to start doing? What do I need to continue doing? Right now, I think the first question is more “what has stopped”, but as I started thinking about my new how’s (what to start), I did add in a “continue” column. I look forward to you post next week for additional inspiration.


  5. Hi Pat, as you know, I think about things like this a LOT! I am always reassessing my life plans and seeing where I am and examining if I have different goals. Like you, I am usually pretty consistent with the why and the what. I get lost in the “hows”. Or I can see the “Hows” but don’t always do them. I tend to get off track but new things that come up. I still like this formula though. I think it is a good working plan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michele, Yes, a fellow over-thinker! I found the simplicity of the why-what-how intriguing. As I lost all my hows, I wondered if I needed to change my what. Finding new how’s isn’t a simple thing, but at least I have a focus.


  6. I’m not sure how much reflection I’ve done, but I have taken up a couple of hobbies… watercolor and I’m writing a short story, Both of these things could have been done any time but, for some reason, it just felt like the right time now. I’m not headed towards perfection in either of these endeavors, but they are stretching my comfort zone and are a lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janis, Additional writing is one of the possibilities I’m considering. I’m also committing myself to one new recipe a week. I keep telling myself to scroll through course listings (watercolor, hmm) … and maybe I will do that before I write a summer action plan!

      Liked by 1 person

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