photo by Dominik QN
It seems like we Boomers just don’t want to retire.
Even if we wanted to, most of us can’t.
With pensions a thing of the past, meager 401Ks, college expenses for our kids and job loss (need I say more?) the retirement our parents enjoyed is something we’ll never know.
As someone who is a “glass half full” kind of gal, I can appreciate what this blogger had to say in this article from Business News Daily.
“I continue to work because I don’t have a pension, but honestly, I’m almost glad I don’t,” Susan Harris told Business News Daily. Harris, soon to turn 62, was a court reporter in Washington, D.C. She chucked the courtroom for full-time blogging in 2006 and today writes GardenRant and Boomer Turn Ons.
“Having to earn an income is the great motivator that led me to my second career as a writer — the first career for me that’s been remotely creative or fulfilling,” Harris said. “So for me, the combination of needing money but no longer being able to stomach mind-numbing work has been magic.”
Luckily for most of us, the Second Act is inevitable. So how can we plan to make it great? I don’t have all the answers but I can tell you what works for me.
Five Steps To Take Now To Get Ready For Your Second Act.
1. Self Examination.
“Know Thyself” has been one of life’s themes from ancient Greek times at the oracle at Delphi to the present with its appearance in The Matrix where its Latin version (temet nosce) showed up as an inscription over the Oracle’s door.
As we begin to sift through our life experiences we start to uncover key events that will help us understand how we got to where we are today. We recognize what worked and what didn’t work. We remember what brought us joy and ease. As we start to see patterns we will often be led to discover our second act calling.
You might gain insight through meditation or just talking to friends. Personally, I find that getting things down on paper works best. Incidentally, according to social psychologist James Pennebaker, author of Writing To Heal, writing has been proven to help relieve stress, process trauma, and gain insight.
The easiest way to get started writing is a prompt. For example “I feel most energized when…” or “I really wish others knew this about me…” (check the worksheets for more ideas.)
When planning for your Second Act it’s good to key in on figuring out what we do best. Ask yourself – what is my core competency? what is my superpower?
For me it’s teaching. Once I learn something, my first thought is “How can I teach it to someone else?” Others may be leaders, delegating in the workforce. There are those who shy away from that spotlight, but work best as the “behind the scenes” person. Still others work best alone, creating, writing, or as artists. Others are number ninjas.
Combine your superpower with something that interests you and you’re on your way to your Second Act career. I avoid using the word “passion” because sometimes passions die out when we work at them day in and day out. But if something interests us, we’re more apt to stick to it and dig in deeper.
Don’t know your superpower? Write some more. Try writing your autobiography. Write about what you used to play with as a kid. What stories did you tell? What did you love to do before you were put on the college/career/marriage track?
Go to the bookstore or the library and notice where you spend the most time. I usually make the rounds between “writing,” “marketing” “metaphysical” and “crafts.” I rarely look at fiction. At the library I head for the “new non-fiction” and the “first person memoirs.”
What section do you gravitate to?
Reading about a topic I enjoy always makes me crave more. For example I have a collection of over 20 books on screenwriting and nearly as many on metaphysical topics. My kindle is full of marketing, branding and business books.
Read inspirational stories about others who have made major shifts in their lives. Start with 50 Ordinary Women, a collection of interviews with women who have designed their Second Acts. Some have overcome personal obstacles. Others have taken a more circuitous route to make positive shifts in their lives.
As much as I love reading, for me there’s no better confidence booster than learning a new skill. Recently I’ve taking a marketing class at Coursera, a business class at CreativeLive and a short WordPress class from WP-BFF. Each of these classes were free and I was able to complete them on my own schedule.
Start exploring. Find a class that works for you. The energy and confidence we get from learning a new skill and then putting it into practice is what we need to create new opportunities for ourselves.
Once we zero in on our interests and our superpowers, we can brainstorm our options for finding the best way to combine the two. For example, you’re fascinated by rock climbers but at age 62, the closest you’ll get to actually scaling a rock face is scrambling over a few boulders in a creek bed. But, your superpower is writing. So then combine your interest with your superpower and write a book about rock climbing, or interview a rock climber for a magazine article, or team up with a photographer for a photo essay.
Clarity comes when we decide on a goal and we start moving toward it. Clarity is decision. Clarity is a clear written goal, not a vague and fuzzy idea.
Jack Canfield suggests that to keep your subconscious mind focused on what you want, you should write down three goals in the area of life you are committed to working on. Read your list of goals every day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. And for an even more powerful approach, close your eyes and focus on each goal and ask yourself, “What is one thing I could do today to move toward the achievement of this goal?” Write down your answers and take those actions.
The more we reinforce our goals though writing and visualization the clearer our path will become. As you start down that new path, whether it’s a career change, writing a book, starting a new business, traveling or blogging — you’ve got to set a goal and map out a plan. When we put our goals that at the bottom of our to-do list, we’re putting ourselves last.
For one week, let’s try putting ourselves first. Let’s start by saying ‘no’ to those obligations that aren’t aligned with our goals. Sometimes this means saying no to social invitations, or committee meetings, or volunteer organizations. Anything that takes time and energy away from a goal, particularly in its beginning stages, dilutes clarity.
If you’re working to get your Second Act career off the ground while you’re still at a full-time job (as I am), every minute of the day is precious. Although it’s not set in stone, for most of us the best time for creative work is early in the morning. If it means you start getting up at 5AM then so be it. Use that morning time to read, study, write, draw or plan. Set your intention the night before. Write it down. And then get to work first thing in the morning.
5. Value and Service.
For many, a Second Act means giving back to the community by volunteering for a cause or finding a job in the non-profit sector.
But those of us taking the path of the freelance creative look to deliver value in other ways. Once we realize that it’s only by delivering value to others that value flows back to us, we start to think of ways we can over-deliver.
And when we’ve done the self-examination work, the reading and learning for inspiration — when we’ve gained clarity — the idea of over-delivering is second nature. We begin to produce our best work in a field that fascinates us by using our own personal superpower — and it’s all backed up by a lifetime of experience.
Click below to download the free worksheets to go along with this post. I love feedback so feel free to comment below.