Having to endure something awful usually has a least one positive outcome--you get honest with yourself about what's really important. An economic downturn can be the psychological two-by-four that makes you pause and take stock. We need to find actions we can personally take to deal with this frightening economy. One of the best is using it to reflect on what you really need in your life and what you don't.
When times are good, the focus of any given moment is on what's happening or needs to be happening, on what we have planned. But when things start to slow down--or stop--because of economic concerns, the first thing to look at is whether you really needed to be doing it in the first place.
Some of us are learning what it's like to not be working because of this downturn. What do you miss? The paycheck? That seems like a no-brainer, but maybe not. There are two ways to deal with a sharp reduction in income. Find a way to replace it or find a way to live on significantly less. Each has its benefits. Only you know which is the more authentic strategy for you.
How about plans we made for fun, either as vacation or as a retirement lifestyle? How authentic were those plans in the first place? More critically, have you grown beyond them in what you've learned about yourself since you made them? Are you assuming you HAVE to follow through on them because you've told other people? How important is that in the grand scheme of your life?
The tool that's absolutely essential to doing a good job of this is understanding what you value. When a downturn--or something more life-threatening like a heart attack--gives you the chance to reconsider the direction of your life, your values are the bedrock on which you can confidently rebuild.
So what do you believe? WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU?
This isn't about owning a specific model of car or even about getting a certain candidate elected. Go beyond the immediate in how you look at this. Also go beyond what's fashionable. Right now, fashionable means "going green." A laudable value and worth including, but not the sum total of what makes you a unique human.
The consequences of living from your values are highly beneficial. Knowing what's important for you makes it easier to find work that suits you. (Work is not always for pay. We may be talking about a volunteer effort or creative endeavor with this.) Knowing your values helps you avoid being directed by the mass media. (Just because cute little dogs are currently the rage doesn't mean you need one.) Knowing your values is the first step to acting on them. And acting on them is what makes life meaningful.
In retirement, knowing your values is critical. Values provide direction you need to thrive. When you leave work, the only direction that's defined is "out." Once you're past the door, it's up to you to figure out what to do with your time, your energy, and your money.
Perhaps you'll want to sit around for a while or take some time to clean the garage and redecorate the living room. You can do that. In fact they have a name for it now--"transitional sabbatical." But eventually, you will need something to do that makes each day valuable. Something that makes you feel connected and relevant. Something that honors your values.
What IS important to you? How do you even start to figure that out? Ask yourself these questions and be patient with the silence that comes at first. Sit without an answer for a few minutes--or days or weeks. When the answers start to come, respect them rather than editing them so others might be more impressed. These are YOURS. Claim them.
- What would you attend to if you had just one week to live?
- Who would you talk to if you could make just one phone call before life ended?
- What are you doing now because someone else thought it was important? What would happen if you stopped doing it? Is having that not happen important to you?
- If you had to continue in the direction you take next for the rest of your life, what direction would you choose?
- What one word do you want to describe your life?
It's important to know what's important. It's also hard to do when life is moving forward at full speed. Use the slow down to be sure you have the right stuff at the middle of your life. It's the best benefit of all in living through a sluggish economy.
Mary Lloyd is the author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. She offers seminars on how you can create a meaningful retirement for yourself and consults to help your business attract and use retired talent well. She is also available as a speaker.http://www.mining-silver.com .