Last week I had dinner with a friend I’ve known for over thirty years. When we met, we both had young children, I had a career and she didn’t at the time. I remember those long ago conversations when she talked about the pros and cons of working full time with a young family. Times were different and women in her set weren’t as likely (or as encouraged) to have careers as men.
She made the leap though, and being the smart conscientious person she is, became over time, the department head of a successful organization. She was committed and hard working. By her own admission, she ate lunch at her desk everyday for twenty-five years.
She has just retired. I asked her, “What are you doing?”
She replied, “Well I’ve certainly increased my exercise! I go to the Y everyday now.“ Then she hesitated, thoughtful for a minute, “I’m not sure what I want to do.”
I made up so many feelings I would be having in her shoes:
Relief – My time is my own!
Surprise – Wow the time has flown.
Anxiety – How will I use my time?
Fear – What is my identity?
There are many reasons we hit a “pause” in our lives – retirement, termination, death in the family, loss of a role, end of a lifelong project, or something entirely different (winning the lottery). When the usual rhythm of our lives are interrupted we can fret or we can pause, but the question will remain. And to feel fulfilled we must find an answer.
I have worked with many people who have more money than they will need in this lifetime and beyond. Believe it or not, they face the same question my friend faced – I’m not sure what I want to do.
One place to start is by asking yourself the following questions:
- What do I care about?
- What situation or conditions would I like to see changed? Safer women and children, improved literacy, more arts in schools, more parks.
- Why is that important to me? Why does it connect to my emotions, my heart?
- In my work or in my life, what roles have I found most rewarding? Planner, organizer, advocate, recruiter, process developer, implementer, cheerleader, coordinator, visionary, motivator, teacher, mediator and so on.
Most of us have a few roles we consistently find that fit us like a glove. You can discover this by looking at your old roles and noting the ones you found most satisfying or energizing.
- Now ask what is the role Ican play in creating a positive change in the world?
- Who else is working on this and when will I make contact? Then… put it on your calendar.
Let me know what you discover.
Until next Tuesday.