Monthly Archives: May 2013

Making Lists in the Shower

My father used to tell me that one of the happiest days in his life was the day he stopped caring what others thought of him and focused instead of just being the best he could be so as to keep his family happy and safe. These comments were made during his boomer equivalent years (aged 50-60); at that point, he had already proven his ability to provide well for his family and to live a lifestyle that suited the personalities of both him and my mother. “How could you not care what others think of you?” I would say. “That’s bulls…t!”

As I approach another birthday in the decade of the “big 50”, I am finally starting to see the logic in these words. As a boomer with a successful career history who is going through a transitional journey, I am re-thinking the need for me to accomplish some of the goals that I set out for myself when I was 24 years old and a freshly minted MBA. Achievement of tough goals remains exciting…they just need to take form in a new way that blends in with my life today, society today and the economy today!

A recent More Magazine article shares similar advice as to the role that our experience plays in our ability to be more realistic. “You get to a point where you realize that a lot of your dreams haven’t come true….and that’s fine. You stop thinking that you have to be the leader in your company.  Or you realize you don’t have the perfect family, but you know what? The kids are OK” ….. If you accept that….…you can shake off a lot of stress and angst. Then go outside and admire the stars”

Which would bring us to the next challenge:  Being vs. Doing.  There are a lot of articles published on this subject recently. So I started to track my calendar, with an eye to uncovering what was actually keeping me busy and likewise, what were the activities that were productive events directly tied in with my personal and transitional goals.

You know as well as I do that the activities were not rightly balanced! Perhaps after reading this, you will join me in making small changes toward a more productive being.

First, I thought about what it will take to allow myself to say that “it is okay to slow down.”  The fact that I no longer make lists in the shower with a waterproof marker already proves that I can do this! LOL Yes, I can do 18 things at once; can I ace all eighteen things simultaneously? Is anyone reading this feeling the same way? Let’s drop the guilt on allocating time for thinking. Instead, figure out how best to thrive on the act of being intentional and prioritizing our energies.

When our son was a toddler and I was working full time (read 60 hours weeks in banking),  I would express my guilt by baking his favorite cookies …… usually at 11pm at night. When my BFF, Eva, asked me if this was preferable to sleeping or preferable to being awake and in bed with my husband practicing the act of making our next child …… I resolved to change my baking schedule.

However this commitment to slowing down so that I can think smarter still leaves me needing some “quick hits or opportunities for instant gratification”.  How do I simplify my life so that I can get more out of it?  Bingo : the to – do list.  It took me about two hours to consolidate my lists of lists of my lists to be done. In forcing myself to thoughtfully go through the lists, I realized that there was a major opportunity to rework my approach to listing:  I differentiated the  to do list of tactical day to day programming  from the to do list of strategies needed to be formulated. This was empowering.  Recognizing that the tactical list can never be completed in a day, I spread the items out over time. This gave me a sense of control as I now felt easier blocking the time needed to do the critical thinking work that relates to the objectives of Being.

Doing or Being.  Busy or Productive. The choice is ours. Breathe deep. Small steps lead to big impacts.

Self: Allow yourself to slow down!  The cookies will taste better.

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Bring Out Your Superhero!

As a founding member of the AARP Volunteer Leadership Institute (VLI), I had the opportunity to learn about the background research that went into developing the Life Re-imagined and Work Re-imagined programs. Time and again, the research revealed that Life Re-imagined is not about being 40 or 50 or 60 or any other age. Discovering “what’s next” and creating a new stage for oneself is a “frame of mind”.  It involves being open to suggestion. It involves recognizing that yesterday’s activities do not necessarily have to be the activities of tomorrow. And, perhaps most difficult, it involves considering the unexpected as a possible path to greatness.

Serendipitous events often play a key role in these unexpected connections. For example, it is time for me to start a new exercise routine and swimming was to be the sport of choice; Aqua-aerobics to be exact. I went onto Yelp to find swimming pools in my geography. Between the Equinox Clubs and the local Community Centers was an ad for an aquatic program targeting pregnant and postpartum women. Although I am no longer looking to make more babies,   I was open to doing a good aqua-aerobics class with this special group of people. And, so, this innocent phone call led me to Andrea; a 30-somethng year old woman who has already created numerous chapters in her life. As Andrea shared her story with me, she credited much of her journey to situations which simply fell into her lap. I agree that situations do come about when we least expect them to appear, however, even when something falls into our lap, we have to be ready to see it, to consider it and to do it. In other words, to create a Life Reimagined, we have to be open to receiving new experiences.

Let me share part of Andrea’s story with you. Through a series of fall in her lap situations, Andrea found herself becoming a go to person for pregnant women wanting a personal trainer. Andrea has never been pregnant herself. Schmoozing with a few of her pregnant clients, they started talking about doing new things. They spoke about doing new things that are difficult or challenging. Pregnancy is an example of something that is new (the first time for sure), as well as difficult and often challenging (“Oh, my aching back”).  

As the conversation with the group continued, Andrea shared her discomfort with running and jogging activities. From the way she told me the story, this led to a conversation comparing pregnancy to the Marathon des Sables.  Ranked as the hardest footrace on earth, by the Discovery Channel, the Marathon is a six day adventure through the Sahara desert. Rules require the participants to be self-sufficient; everything that you will need to survive –except for water and a tent to sleep in–must be carried on your back. Whoa! And, before you know it, Andrea, the non-runner is making arrangements to participate in the Marathon des Sables. She ran. In fact, she was the only woman from the US who finished the Marathon that year! The Superhero came out; Yesterday’s activities were no longer the norm.

I asked Andrea if I could include her story in one of my blogs for AARP.  “What is AARP?” Andrea asked me. Remember, Andrea is 30-something. I explained that AARP is a member association of approximately 37 million people. While seniors play a significant role in the AARP agenda, the organization has programs that can help ALL people, at any age, to see the Real Possibilities that life offers.   The philosophy, I said, is Life Re-imagined. “Sure, you can share our conversation”, said Andrea.

“However”— we both said almost simultaneously—-“this story has nothing to do with age and everything to do with frame of mind”.

Thank you Andrea for providing me with such a great story — better yet, is the great visual! Your motivational story found me; I did not go looking for it. Or did I…. by changing my own frame of mind?

So, where is my own Superhero hiding? Within my one original piece of artwork (that I felt was good enough to put into an expensive frame)?  Within the six moves that I arranged for my family – each of which brought us to new neighborhoods in new geographies with  new schools, new jobs, new friends, new doctors, and more!  Or maybe my Superhero is waiting inside of the blogs that I will weave into a storyline of thoughtful anecdotes. Stay tuned.

Follow @SharonLewisNYC on Twitter or @AARNY

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