Having a set structure is something many people struggle with after leaving full-time work for a life of their own making. Because I had basically created my own schedule at work for the past several years, I was surprised that dealing with a lack of a workplace structure would be a problem for me.
At first, I over-organized my life. I created a fairly rigid weekly schedule with certain days/times to do certain things. I was determined not to feel like I was drifting through my days with no sense of accountability. But with all the structure I’d created, I felt like I was wearing my great-grandmother’s corset and couldn’t breathe. I quickly shed that garment and freed myself of structure for a while. That wasn’t good either; I would start one project and then get distracted and mindlessly shift to something else.
After a few weeks, I had to rethink how much structure I was going to need and why I needed it.
Developing Structure to Support Values
I want to intentionally live my best life. To do so, I have to stay anchored to my values: growth, investment in and connection with others, and responsibility.
For me, this means I want to keep learning throughout my life and I strive to grow through reflection and gratitude. I try to keep learning new information almost every day. I also value collaborative learning opportunities.
I want to invest in others in ways that can encourage them to live their best lives; I can help do this through relationship-building, sharing information, and working with others. When I think of investing in others, I also want to keep speaking up for human rights and social justice.
I also value being responsible. This means I try to take care of myself, my immediate environment. I also feel that part of my responsibility is to take some action related to the global environment – whether that is through speaking, writing, or engaging in environmentally friendly activities.
Each morning I read alongside my husband. I do spend some time reading the news. I read articles each day related to boomer issues and aging. I’ve been stretching myself to learn more about technology and am slowly making strides in that area. So much to learn in so many areas – where do I even begin?
I use a journal for reflection at least once a week. I also try to express gratitude for at least five things each day, though I haven’t always been consistent. Including gratitude as part of my daily plan helps remind me that it is important.
I can’t help but feel gratitude when I slow down enough to watch the sparrows pecking at the bird seed feeder or listening to a pair of doves calling to each other. I really am free to enjoy each moment without feeling like I have to rush out the door or watch the clock so I don’t lose track of time.
Investment in and Connection with Others
For years, I felt like I was having to squeeze what really mattered into short segments in-between my work schedule and other responsibilities. I now sit at the table most mornings with my husband to enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit and coffee. I make sure that most every day I am reaching out to other people in some form – face-to-face, texting, phone conversations, FB connections, or by other means.
I am making more time for spontaneous opportunities and for following up with people when I think about them or know that they have a need. My schedule is now flexible enough so I can keep connected and engaged with others.
I started Boomer Best U as one way to invest in others. I believe that we have an opportunity to collectively change how we view aging and ‘retirement.’ I post weekly articles on this website, on FB, and produce short video clips once a week.
I believe taking care of myself is part of my responsibility as a person. I do exercise every day (with only a few exceptions). I usually go to the gym or go for a jog during the first part of the day. A couple of times a week, I also take a walk with a neighbor in the afternoons. I do try to adhere to a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. I need to drink more water and am monitoring how much I drink each day until I build a new, healthy habit.
I don’t want to get consumed with busy work around the house, but I do want to be responsible to take care of our home. I have committed to doing a small home project once a week. I started this commitment by cleaning out a linen closet that hadn’t been reorganized for several years. I felt giddy once I had cleaned up years of accumulation. This week I spent a total of 2 hours tiling a window sill. After placing plants in the window for years, parts of the sill had become warped from water spills.
When I started Boomer Best U, LLC, I started it as a business entity that would allow me to invest in others while developing something that I could build. Because it is a business, I have a responsibility to manage pieces that I may not naturally want to do such as marketing and accounting. Having a day set aside for necessary business activities has been very important for me so that I can be responsible in these areas.
As a global citizen, I feel responsible to speak up for social justice and human rights. I primarily do this through another FB page I manage called Strong Women, Past and Present. I also feel responsible for helping to protect the environment. I make efforts to recycle garbage each week and do make efforts to pick up garbage I see along side the road when out walking.
I still need to do some work to create the right amount of structure in my life. I am realizing it take time to adjust to life after leaving the workplace. Nonetheless, I’m learning and I really am starting to love my new life.