Monday, May 7, 2012

Keeping It Real While Living Your Dream

Malibu rush hour
"Enough already.  I'm done with traffic congestion, crowded waves, surf nazis and I'm moving to Hawaii" declared my old college buddy.  In my head I envied him.  He was making the bold move to Paradise.

After protesting on the front lines at UC Berkeley, we'd  been running partners for over forty years throughout the behemoth megalopolis of L.A.  His declaration was not surprising, he had maxed out on his hometown.   A lifelong surfer then in his mid-fifties, O'ahu seemed perfect with its mellow population and traffic jams that would be considered free flowing in the City of the Hard Angles.  Relocating there would be a dream fulfilled; year round waves, no congestion, and cheaper house prices.  

The patron saint of surfers, Duke Kahanmoku
For a variety of reasons he struggled with building a new life in Honolulu and found paradise to be more hell than heaven.  Unfortunately, he had not considered the main factors in a satisfying relocation and/ or retirement; community, purpose, and structure.  He was stuck with an expensive house to sell in a down market and facing another relocation.  As the old saying goes, ‘have your head in the clouds but keep your feet on the ground.’

Dreams are crucial elements in building a satisfying new life.  The Bible says, 'a people without vision will perish.' Living my whole life in the proverbial La La land, I have known many great dreamers.  Some are home grown dreamers but the greatest seem to be expatriates from their homelands where stodgy pragmatism ruled the day.  Coming to Hollywood's epicenter, freed them to pursue dreams that may have attracted ridicule and scorn in Providence, RI or Ann Arbor, MI or Jamaica.  Feels great for a while, no collection of old friends and family to remind you of who you have been.  You shake the Etch a Sketch and fill it with new friends and neighborhoods and sometimes even a brand new name.  It is liberating to start over.

Like the recent college grad who escapes a stifling, tradition bound hometown to become an actress/ writer/ musician/ waiter in L.A., for the post job Boomer reinventing by living out old dreams can be exhilaratingWhen I left a highly structured career and stepped into the freedom of non-job life, long dormant fantasies became my focus.  If not now, when?  Basking in that glow of total freedom was intoxicating (“I can do whatever I want, go wherever I want, with whomever I want.”)   Bouncing around with false starts for a few years, I finally found and read Ernie Zelinski’s book, ‘How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.’  It was like he was in my head reading my thoughts.  I was not alone.   Zelinski asserts that newly retired persons need to address three unexpected issues to have a ‘Happy, Wild, & Free Retirement.'

  1. Community:  Whether you choose to stay in your old home and renew your life there or move to a new place, it is important to build a community of like minded souls, a tribe.  People that you can relate to and enjoy.    For example, someone who has always lived in a homogeneous suburban setting may find the characters in Santa Fe either refreshing or weird.  
  2. Structure:  Identify the key activities and skills you want to pursue and set up a personal schedule.  No boss at the counter checking on your arrival time, it is up to you to monitor your program and make it a habit.   A successful reinventor I know said:  “I set up a schedule with goals everyday but it is loose and always changes.”
  3. Purpose:  What is your life about?  Where you live, who you spend time with, and what you do are all informed by your reason for living.  Whatever is your north star, keep your ship in that direction.  If it is travel, then plan your trips.  If it is starting a new career, then set up an outline of the necessary components.  If it is service, then find some practical venue to do it.   Then take action steps.
Clarity of Intent Shaman
Building a clear vision and dream is a crucial first step in living a rewarding post work life.  Taking the time to explore, to plan, and to experiment.  From that effort, the intentions of a new life emerge.  At a recent mens retreat, shaman Fu Ding Cheng said “The difference between desire and intent is clarity.”  Big dividends in satisfaction and fulfillment result. Besides how will you know you have arrived, if you don’t know where you are going?

Invest the time necessary to hone clarity of the three foundations of a successful post job life.  Meld inner awareness, external information, and practical applications into clarity around community, structure, and purpose.   Then through mastery of intent and attention, inner and outer energies coalesce and dreams manifest.  You'll be keeping it real AND living your dream.

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