Encouraging Creativity

Shaping Your Retirement-- Creating Structure to Live out Your Dreams

Retirement from work isn’t at the top of everybody’s mind, but one way or another, it will happen.  But when?  Under what circumstances?  And then what?  Are you retiring from one career path in mid-life and starting another?  Or are you older and considering ending your paid career in order to live in a very different way-- one that perhaps more fully realizes the dreams you have and the person you’ve become at this stage in your life?

This month I’ve worked with two people going through the process of retirement at the traditional time in their mid-60‘s.  Both of these people-- a man, George, and a woman, Pat-- have gone through their financial and insurance planning in preparation for the next step.  They recognize, though, that more is at stake than finances.  For them, this is a major life transition encompassing life purpose questions, concerns around aging and energy, and at the most basic level, the shape of one’s social and personal lives when an outer job structure is gone.

For George, the process of giving up his secure government job became easier as he spent some months in our coaching exploring his “artist and performer” self-- the part of him that was vibrant, colorful, and alive to the beauty of painting and photography.  He developed and led walking tours to highlight the art and architecture of city neighborhoods, photographing the tours, and creating a website to advertise them.  As his calling became clearer, he envisioned a way of life and a weekly structure to his time in retirement that gave 50% of the energy he’d put into his job into being the artist and performer he’d always longed to be.

Pat, on the other hand, had developed no particular vision of how she wanted to live in retirement.  She was ready to leave her corporate management position and felt she wanted time to explore cultural and volunteer possibilities in her community.  Within three months of leaving her job, Pat felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities she’d assumed in taking on two volunteer positions.  As an experienced manager, she’d naturally gravitated towards management positions, even as a volunteer, but with them came the claims on her time from which she had just decided to retire!

Exploring her feelings of overwhelm in coaching, she began to understand that she really needed some time and space to experience what it was like to have freedom from over-scheduling her life.  In order to do that, however, Pat realized that she needed to pull back on her volunteer time commitments, even if she felt insecure for awhile without the sense of structure they provided.  Paradoxically, her new structure needed to be more flexible and more open to feeling what was important to her before she could make new choices about what to do.

At any age and stage, retirement is a process, with new considerations about the quality and direction of life.  If you’re older (or very fortunate), and making money is no longer a criteria determining your choices, what would you want to do with your life? How would you like to feel during the day?  How much time, space, and energy do you need?  How will you claim that?

Freeing Time for Living the Way You Really Want!

I’ve been meditating about time for the past couple of days since I gave a coaching consultation to a woman in her 50’s concerned about how to have time for her high-level professional career, her marriage and teenage kids, and stay healthy.  As usual, the big question was, “How do I find enough time?”

In my mind musing, I recalled that as a child, my personal life was divided into family time (meals, chores, holidays, travel), school time (classes, homework) and “free time.”  I loved free time, especially the summer holidays when the hours seemed to stretch out endlessly as I played with friends, lay on the grass watching clouds, biked, and swam.  My father also contributed to my feel for the value of free time, since he firmly believed that a day off from school or work each week (Wednesdays) was a useful break from routines that could stifle creativity.

No, I didn’t get to stay home from school every Wednesday (my full-time working mom had a different point of view), but this rather novel perspective from a parent has helped me learn to prioritize intuitively what’s really important to me through my life.  By doing so, I’ve found that there’s almost always been enough time to live the way I wish, even when that seemed like quite a challenge.  What a paradox!  But such is the power of intention.

There are many excellent systems for learning to manage time incrementally, saving 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there by eliminating wasteful habits and so on.  However, the vital starting place is becoming aware of what’s already in your life and what you want to bring into your life that really matter to you (family, career, friends, creative projects, fitness, time just for you, travel, etc.).  This will help you clarify how you really want your life to be and ultimately, the time you’ll need to make this happen.

The next big question is “How do I create a beginning?”  I suggest you start by giving yourself the gift of some free time.  Sit or walk comfortably in a serene environment and breathe so that you feel the easy movement of your body from within.  Feel that time is endlessly extending itself within you, that you have all the time you need.  From this place, allow yourself to envision the shape, look, and feel of the life you long to be living.  What are you doing?  Who is there with you?  What are you creating?  How strong is your energy?  If you feel anything blocking your experience, continue breathing and just notice any fears, concerns, or images that arise.  Be aware of them, then let them go (you can always come back to them later).  Return to your inner place of spaciousness and be with the vision of your life as would like itWhen you come back from your time out, write down what you wish to remember. 

As the rock and soul group, The Chambers Brothers, sing in their shimmering song, “Time”:  “Now the time has come/ There are things to realize/ The time has come today.”  My question to you is, “What is the work you long to do and the way you want to live that’s worth freeing time for now?”  Once you’re clear about your intention, you can learn how, and get support for, making the time you need to realize your dream.

Claiming Your Authentic Voice-- & Finding Friendship and Connection!

I just saw a phenomenal movie last night, The King’s Voice-- an incredibly acted vision of a man in public life with a stammer whose overwhelming desire is to speak clearly and authentically.  That he is the second son in the royal family of England who becomes its unlikely king just before the outbreak of World War II makes the achievement of his goal all the more remarkable.  The story of how he does so is the story of his evolving relationship with his speech therapist, Lionel-- an undauntable coach who challenges Bertie to sing, dance, shout, and ultimately repair the traumatic disconnections of his earlier life by creating a healing bond of friendship.  

            So when the historic moment arrives, Bertie (now King George V)-- looking only at Lionel’s encouraging face and prompts, speaks to all the people in the British Commonwealth by radio, and is able to say what he needs and wants to say to hearten them for the perils and trials ahead. 

            In my blog post of December 9th, I shared my insight that a key ingredient in creating successful relationships is active engagement.  In a healing relationship, one person-- the teacher, the therapist, the coach-- will usually need to take the lead initially in positively engaging the other.  As The Art of Possibility expresses it, “The practice of giving an A allows the teacher to line up with her students in their efforts to produce the outcome, rather than lining up with the standards against these students.”   

            In this way, Lionel aligns himself with Bertie as a friend who fully believes in Bertie’s ability to speak clearly and express himself as the person he truly is.  No one else fully understood the forces of custom and history that crippled Bertie’s voice.  No one else was willing to stand with him against these forces and champion his speaking his own truth.  In standing up for his client, his king, and his friend, Lionel came forth as the new force of truth who allowed Bertie to shine (and smile). 

            In wishing you all a Very Happy Holiday Season, I’d like to wish you a new year filled with joy, confidence in your own voice, warm relationships, and success defined in your own terms! 


              Join in the Discussion! 

  • What has made you hold back from speaking your truth?
  • Who has helped you speak clearly or find your own voice?  How did they do so?  
  • What is the quality of your relationship with these people?
  • What is it to be a friend to someone?

You Can Always Change Your Mind

Most of the people I see for coaching want to make changes that seem enormous to them, and therefore almost impossible to imagine accomplishing.  And yet, there is a drive, a dream, a desire inside them pushing to be heard and acknowledged.  So they come for the support coaching offers in opening the dream.

            Which is great!  But one of the big, often-unacknowledged steps in manifesting new, large desires, is exploring your attitudes towards how you live your life-- the habits you acquired that keep you stuck and unable to move forward. 

            The coaching exercise, “Perspectives,” is often used to help people explore different choices or options they can make.  However, I also use it to support clients in investigating the nature of certain attitudes or habits. 

            For example, Matt, a soft-spoken man in his 40’s who wants to set up a family-run business after years feeling stultified as a corporate manager, wanted to explore his attitude towards “working outside the box.”  The perspectives he chose to “inhabit” were “The Critic,” “Mountain Climber,” “10-Year-Old,” and “Dolphin.”  As I guided him through each perspective, I encouraged him to stand in different places, close his eyes, breathe, feel the sensations in his body, and visualize his internal energy level and “environment.” 

            Exploring each perspective in this way guided him to choose the perspective of “Dolphin” for its playful feeling combined with a purposeful way of interaction with its pod or family for the good of all.  He was amazed at how he could really feel the contracted body sensations of his internal “critical” attitude about working outside a corporate structure-- as well as the expansive sensation in his breathing and belly with “Dolphin.” 

            He realized that his new “Dolphin” attitude gave him energy for taking action on his dream, though he was scared of working outside the relative haven of the corporate “box.”  The “Dolphin” perspective supported both the purposefulness he feels in his commitment to his family, and felt good, physically and emotionally-- excellent intuitive reasons for his new choice!

                              JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION!

What’s your attitude towards making a change you really want in your work or lifestyle?

Does this attitude support your going forward and making this change?

What’s an image that helps you get unstuck from an attitude that’s no longer helpful to you?

Going for the Unknown in Weimar, Germany

 I’m not there yet, but Weimar has been a place of mystery and enticement to me ever since a German architect friend of mine, Carsten, told me I should go there.  So far, what I know is that it was home to two of the best-known German poets, Goethe and Schiller, who were also great friends.  So this will touch the poet in me! 

    Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary just to go for a dream, to follow a longing for opening and wonder, without worrying about how it will fit into your career plans or search for a good mate.  Sometimes, you have to do something for your soul that may not matter to anyone else.  As Thomas Moore writes in his book, Care of the Soul:  “‘Soul’ is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance.”   

    This depth and heart-quality of living life are what gives life its richness and meaning.  The search for a place with a magical name or a work path that is different from anything you’ve done before or a taking out a moment of your busy time to read a poem or listen to a bird sing-- all of these add to the quality of our lives.  This “soul” in our lives is the zest that gives our lives the delight worth living. 

       What are some “soul” moments in your life?  How have they helped you in your career and life transitions?