With the myriad demands of day-to-day life, most of us neglect long-term planning for ourselves. We focus on getting through the days, the weeks, the months, and the years managing the requirements of our jobs, our families, our health… maybe :-), and our financial obligations.
We often find ourselves wondering where the time goes. Over our lifetimes, we add the responsibilities of college tuition for the kids, caring for aging parents, and saving for retirement… if we don’t get sidetracked with unexpected illnesses and difficult circumstances like losing a job, struggling through divorce, or the death of a loved one. Few of us escape the curve balls of life that seem unfair at the moment, but often build resiliency, emotional intelligence, and the “grit” of pushing through to success.
The opportunity we all have in the midst of dealing with life is to proactively plan to end well, to finish strong, to “live the life” while looking our challenges straight in the eye along the way. I’ve heard it said that good and bad travel on parallel paths in life. Those of us who pause long enough to live beyond the gravitational pull of living in “default” can find ourselves planning more and coping less. Figuring out how to turn lemons into lemonade. Learning from problems and mistakes and doing things better the next time. Developing a longer time horizon for assessing success or failure. Actually pausing from time to time to assess who we want to become as we live life to the fullest rather than going from goal to goal, sometimes accomplishing things that may turn out to be less meaningful than we would prefer as we eventually look in the rearview mirror.
Over the twenty plus years that I have been an executive coach, I have chosen to be on a growth trajectory myself. I have been learning the principles of coaching and investing in coaching for myself, and, as a result, I have learned how to “self-coach.” I am learning the habit of approaching my day-to-day life from the screen of determining how to plan a future of personal purpose.
Who Do I Want to Be? How Do I Get There?
I ask myself, “Who do I truly want to be?” as I think about life beyond my working years. As I have been reading the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear, I have been applying the principles of making small changes in my habits over time to live out my potential. This is truly a resource that is wasted if it is just read for information. It is a treasure trove if it is read for application. Applying the principles entails setting identity statements that precede systematic small changes that can lead to a life we can be proud of in the end.
So, how exactly do we “finish strong” in our later years? You may have heard that it is important to reflect on what has worked, and what has not worked over your lifetime. Typically, the only personal reflection or planning people do is financial planning, if that. Finishing strong is far beyond financial planning for retirement. It involves an up-front analysis of yourself. You may want to think about what you’re good at, what people comment that you do really well (and often feels effortless to you). Or, what breaks your heart… and motivates you to help others (and feel great about it afterwards)? What do you value and how do you do more of that? What makes your heart sing when you’re doing it? Basically, analyze what is unique about you so you can do more of it and make your life more meaningful to yourself and others.
Just like most of us do everyday in our professional lives, we need to plan and evaluate ourselves to make sure we are living out our best lives. Have you thought about an annual strategy meeting about what you will feel good about at the end of life with yourself (and/or your partner)? Do you choose to have monthly plans to cultivate important relationships with your parents, your grown children, your grandchildren…even your friends? I once was told you can assess the success of a life by the number of contacts they have in their phone.
Are you paying attention to your health? If you want to travel, you need to be agile and energetic to be able to enjoy the rigors of getting to and from places that interest you. Do you devote the time and energy to change bad habits that are embarrassing you or frustrating you and your loved ones? All these things lead to a higher quality of life, a sense of well-being and pride in yourself, and a desire to focus on a life after retirement that is fulfilling and satisfying to anticipate… making the sacrifices and changes you might make now worthwhile.
So, what does “finishing strong” mean to you? You may be surprised how little effort it takes to apply the principles of small, incremental changes over time to build your desired life. Take the time to define a few statements that you want to be said about you, and go about becoming the you you want to be. It will be worth the effort.
To learn more about how executive coaching can help you assess your strengths and challenges, create a long-term life plan, and “finish strong,” schedule a consultation with Fran.