It’s so easy to get overly relaxed when you are in Hawaii as I have been these last few weeks. These relaxing days do allow me to reach some major mental breakthroughs and really think through the ideas that come to me. This trip out, I was really struck by how lost I can feel, even during these relaxing days and it got me thinking about how common this feeling can be for people in mid and later life. You’ve worked so hard for years, looking forward to retirement, and then once you get there, you start having these days where you simply have no direction. And you start to realize, the carefree retirement life isn’t quite what you expected.
I see this all the time in people around me and many times inside myself. When one retires or semi-retires it becomes like one long string of Sundays. For most people in America, Sunday is the lazy day, the day when you don’t have any particular plans, a day to unwind and not answer to the clock. But when you do this every day, it actually can get depressing.
As it turns out, Sunday morning has been found to be the most depressing time of the week. Seems very odd that this can be true but the reason is pretty simple. It’s because we don’t usually have any particular goals, plans or structure for that time of the week, unlike the work week and the often busy, errand and play day on Saturday. Likewise, when a person retires, the constant structure of their life is gone and without those goals and deadlines, they begin to feel lost.
Retirement is not a bad thing. I can certainly attest to its advantages. But even in retirement, there should be goals and plans. It’s just that this time, you don’t have an employer to please, or a family to provide for so you can determine just what you want to do without those concerns. The key is having the structure, the challenges, and the hopes that made you get up every day before retirement. You don’t stop having dreams when you get older, so there is no reason to stop making plans.
The last couple posts I talked about some of the essential components to success including taking action and writing out your goal. Without them you can’t even get started. But what will keep you going once you do get started? All the best intentions are not going to help you when things get really challenging.
Take dieting, as an example. You go out to eat and you’re sitting there with your Caesar salad while your companions chow down prime rib and pizza and your mouth is salivating nonstop. You begin to wonder why in the world are you are dieting when you could just be enjoying yourself. But, the next day, a glance at yourself in the mirror makes you smile or you end up out playing ball with the kids for an hour instead of just ten minutes. That’s when it’s easy to remember why you’re changing the way you eat and, in those moments, you can honestly say you don’t miss those Grande mochas with whipped cream in the morning. Until your co-worker walks in with one and, again, you forget why you’re dieting. It’s then that you need a true will power tool.
That tool is something I call B-RAM. You can read about it in Chapter 7 of my book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living. B-RAM stands for Benefits, Reasons, and Motivations. It’s a list of the real end goals you’re after. Losing weight isn’t just about looking good—it’s about feeling better, getting off medication, reducing your risk of disease, and increasing your energy so you can do more for yourself and your family. You know this is why you do it but in those really trying moments, they are just hard to remember.
With a B-RAM list though, all you do is pull the list out and read it over. You keep that list as handy as possible. Maybe you put it on your phone, on an index card in your wallet, or on sticky notes posted on your glove compartment and bathroom mirror. The important thing about your B-RAM list is that it must list every single benefit, reason, and motivation that will make this goal worth working so hard for. The longer the list, the easier it will be to keep on track. And if you can do that, just keep yourself going, soon you won’t have to wonder why you work so hard. Because you’ll be living with those benefits, not just reading about them.
Success. I talk a lot about it. But as they say, talk is cheap. Writing, however can be gold! If you want to be successful you need to have your intentions down in writing. Even if you are the only one to see it, putting down what you’re going to do, and WHEN you’re going to accomplish it, will be a major motivator. It’s as if all the thoughts in your head have become real and concrete, something that you can’t ignore or put off.
Putting your goal in writing forces you to really consider what it is you want because now you have to put it down in black and white, in a form that is concise and easily understood. When you write out your goal, answer all the basics: Who, What, Where, Why, How, and, most importantly, When:
–Who’s involved in this project?
–What is the end goal?
–Where will you work on this goal or where do you need to go to move it along?
–Why do you want this?
–How will you achieve it?
–And when will you achieve it?
Your actual questions might be a little different but put the answer to those questions down on paper and your ideas become more than just words, they become a contract. And that’s exactly how you should treat it. Write out your goal and sign it! Then post it where you can see it every day. Put your deadline (or deadlines if it will be done in stages) on your calendar, your day timer, and/or your phone. Make this goal as real and as much a priority as anything else you deem important in your life.
Your written goal will really be key to your success. It will be the starting point for your actions and determine the direction you will take. And as the journey to achieve your goal progresses, don’t forget the power of your written word. You can use it to define all the steps in between and keep you on course. After that, it’s just one step and then another. Just keep on writing it down.
Here we are in the first week of another new year and so many of us are making plans, renewing commitments and generally trying to figure out what we want to accomplish this year. I know I have a few things that I’m ready to get to work on including training to defend my tennis gold, bringing more passion into people’s live by booking more interviews, organizing a big gather of old friends and colleagues and, yes, I have renewed my longevity goals, continuing the tough CR (calorie restriction) diet–the only scientifically way to extend your maximum healthy life span. But regardless of what any of us plan to do, there is one thing we all have in common. We MUST take action, real solid action, for any plan, goal, or dream to become reality.
That first step, the one that shows true action and commitment, is more important than any other step you take because it will be the impetus and motivation for every step afterwards. But don’t fool yourself about what a first step is. Reading a book, looking stuff up on the internet, or asking your friends’ opinions are usually part of the planning, not the actual steps to making things happen. The first real step occurs when you invest something valuable or take a real risk with your money, time, or ego.
• Throwing out all the junk food in your house is a true first step to dieting.
• Paying a lawyer to draw up your business organization papers shows a true commitment to starting on your entrepreneurial path.
• Joining a writer’s group that requires you to write 10 pages a week makes you accountable and shows yourself and other how serious you are about writing that novel.
So what is that first important step you’ll need to take to get your plans rolling?
If you feel like you still need a little push to take that step, or need some additional inspiration, try reading my book again, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living. If you haven’t read it, then definitely get a copy and do so. Then get to work. Let’s see what wonderful things we can make happen in 2011.