When Does Work Become Play?
I work an average of ten hours a day and it occurred to me the other day that I am retired. Sounds paradoxical, however, it's true. My definition of retirement is the time in a person's life when she has the opportunity to do exactly what she wants to do all day. So, I'm retired. Are you?
There is another thing I truly like about my definition: it changes my attitude towards my work. Knowing that I am consciously choosing to do what I do makes all the difference.
Of course, each one of us at some level is choosing what we are doing every moment. It's the 'consciously' part we may be missing. It's possible that we spend time complaining bitterly about our lives without ever actually admitting that we've created our perception of it and our reaction to it.
Sure, difficulties arise and, with it, stress. What we do then is also a choice. There is just no escaping that 'choice' thing even though we have hundreds of well-rehearsed reasons and excuses to justify and maintain our discomfort.
Yesterday, I was coaching a young woman of forty who recently had her first child. She had returned to work after only nine weeks with her baby. Her husband works out of town all week and they live on the outskirts of a major city to make life more affordable. As we chatted, her tears flowed. Why?
Because she is running as fast as she can, multi-tasking all the way, justifying every decision on behalf of finances. She is exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And, for five and half days a week, she is alone.
She is definitely not retired by my definition. We spent our session reviewing her choices. One of the greatest travesties of our current culture is that we are constantly being bombarded with advertising and information to suggest we 'should' be able to do it all without pain, stress or loss IF we really had it all together.
Unfortunately that often translates to if we cannot manage every aspect of our lives every minute of our lives without distress, we're simply not good enough. Have you ever felt that?
The world works hard to keep us believing its true, but, it's not!
We have to take back our lives. Review our position. Reflect on our choices. Re-consider our values. Re-define success. Re-construct our plan. Re-design our use of time. As you read this, are you noticing that you are feeling something like disappointment, a sinking feeling, or a desire to cry?
This will tell you right away that you need to step back and do the following:
Steps for Taking Back Your Life:
Take a weekend just for yourself. Wear only comfortable clothes. Turn off the computer, the phone, the cell phone. Have a brand new journal and pen ready. This is your time. Spend the first twelve hours sleeping because most folks are chronically over-tired yet another symptom of our 'be-everything, do-everything, have-everything myth'. When you wake up, luxuriate in the knowledge that this time is just for you. Nowhere to go, no one to please, nothing that has to be done. When is the last time you could say that? Notice that, too.
Eat good food that nourishes your body, eyes and soul. Eat leisurely and just eat. Don't think about anything except enjoying the food, your surroundings and the leisure. Then, relax. Sleep if you need to. When your body and mind have rested, take whatever time you need to fully consider these three questions and write your answers in your new journal:
A. What is most important, most valuable and most significant to me in life?
These may be character traits, relationships, habits, aspirations, events and possessions. There are no right answers, only your answers. Do not evaluate your list on the basis of what others may think. Start with a clean page. The first change in your thinking will be to find only the things that honestly reflect what you value. No 'shoulds, ought-tos, or musts'. Not what anyone has told you is right. Just what is important to you.
B. If I based my life choices squarely on my answers above, how would I spend my time, my energy and my money?
One good way of developing this answer is to create an ideal week for yourself. As you do that, beware of the 'should' gremlins looking over your shoulder. It is your week in your life. Your responsibility is to have it reflect what you say you value. Notice what fits and what does not fit. You may have to prioritize. Stick with the project until you have a week that is so appealing you can hardly wait to begin.
OK, let's stop for a reality check. Have you designed a week's vacation or a week that truly reflects what you want your life to be all about? Your optimal design will be for a week that you could repeat forever, one that you would feel very good about in every way.
C. What are the first five things you can do to begin matching your current life with your ideal life?
Take this in small steps. In fact, take it in what I call TTDC's, Teeny, Tiny, DoAble Chunks. Choose five small things you can accomplish or change this week.
Whether you are changing your physical surroundings, your relationship, your attitude or your behavior, start small. Celebrate often. Progress is cumulative. Just keep going forward.
Stop regularly to review your progress, re-commit to your values, and choose the next five things to do. Once this becomes a habit, you're on your way to your ideal life. You are on your way to being 'retired'!
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, speaks and conducts seminars for entrepreneurs and professionals who want the motivation, strategies and inspiration to optimize life now and live richly. For further articles, upcoming teleclasses & booking information , visit www.OptimizeLifeNow.com today.
Rhoberta Shaler's article was originally featured in Affinity Consulting's Strategy in Action newsletter and is reprinted with permission. (ed.)
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