By Joanne Waldman
Jane contacted me after she read an article that I had written for the local newspaper about finding work in retirement. At fifty-five, she had recently retired from teaching for twenty-eight years and was thinking about finding some part-time work. However, Jane was having trouble figuring out what she wanted to do since she was experiencing many transitions at the same time. In addition to retiring from her role as a teacher, Jane had recently divorced at her initiative and her children were grown and on their own. Her role as a wife had ended and she was now a mother to adults. Jane was looking to go on the reinvention tour and not quite sure where it would lead. This was the first time she had ever lived alone and she felt this was a crossroads in her life. She hoped she could define her new identity and change her perspective to see this as an opportunity for growth.
Jane agreed as part of the coaching that she would complete some exercises to help her discover her authentic self. The first homework that Jane completed was a values exercise. This proved to be quite interesting for Jane and helped her build her personal foundation by connecting to that which was most important in her life. Inner peace was identified as her top value. For Jane, this meant being at peace with herself, her choices and at the end of the day, making sure that she was doing what she wanted to do. Next came the value of health. Although Jane was a breast cancer survivor, she did not like to refer to herself in that manner. She preferred to think of herself as free of disease and fully able to function in the world. The next three of her top five values were affection, self respect and integrity. One of the positive aspects of Jane’s circumstances was that she had economic security and money was not a significant issue in making decisions for her retirement lifestyle. From this values exercise, Jane realized that she wanted to put herself first, a relatively new concept for her. She felt excited that she could take any potential retirement decision, put it through her values test, and see how it measured up to what was important in her life.
Ultimately, Jane wanted to find a meaningful way to use her time, energy and talents in a position that would allow flexible scheduling. From the work we did together, one of the recurring themes was travel. It brought Jane great joy and she wanted to be able to leave town frequently. Her love of travel was dormant while she raised her children. Now one of her children was living overseas and Jane wanted to visit her as well as travel with her on a regular basis. In fact, Jane did start to travel and found the benefits quite exhilarating. She decided through the coaching process that one way to help her step out of her comfort zone was to take a trip alone to a foreign country. This was a dramatic departure for her and led to some insight that was life changing. By taking on new and more challenging goals like travelling alone, Jane realized she could be quite independent and enjoy herself. She realized that she could play more and worry less! This awakened possibilities for her and gave her the courage to start stepping out in other areas of her life.
Her liberation gained from travelling also sparked an adventurous side in Jane. She decided to sell her suburban home and move to a loft in the city. This was a huge lifestyle change but one that Jane felt would make her stretch and grow. She believed that the move would enable her to reduce the amount of time she spent maintaining a yard, a large home and all her “stuff”. This risk would literally and figuratively “move” her forward.
Another important piece of Jane’s puzzle was to give back in some regard. Although it was becoming clearer to Jane that she may not want to go back to work, she still wanted to find some meaningful activities. She did this by working through Junior Achievement, helping care for a sick friend, getting involved in some local groups of like-minded individuals, and expanding her role in her church. In addition, she enrolled in some college courses so she could continue her love of learning new things.
Ultimately, Jane felt that the coaching had provided a means for her to be better at living in the moment, feeling more relaxed, and having fun be a priority in her life. She was growing, exploring and learning to trust her instincts and transforming from a cautious person to a risk taker. With travel, relocation, new ways of giving back, and an expanded self concept, Jane truly seemed to find the inner peace she valued.
By Joanne Waldman