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by Donna Bennett
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January 2011 Archives

The phase of life most commonly known as retirement carries with it a number of questions. Primarily, "What are my options?" Some options can be determined by answering questions such as: How much money do I have? How much will I need? What type of health insurance will I need? Others are harder to define. Pragmatically, we want realistic answers. Emotionally, we are bewildered by what we don't know.

After living out the expectations of a society that offered lock-step answers for each phase of life (i.e., college, jobs, careers, home investment, raising families, etc.), baby boomers especially feel ill equipped to make choices for a future that is less definitive.

It may help to take a step back, and pose a different question. That is: "What is my intention?" Try writing (rather than speaking) the answer quickly without a lot of thought and analysis. This way, you are more likely to answer from your emotions, the basis for most human actions. When your emotions speak first, you are likely to get to the heart of what is most important.

For example, I tried this exercise on myself and discovered that, while I have a strong desire to spend a large part of my life writing and coaching others, I was surprised to find that the first words I wrote were: "To keep my financial pump primed." Financial solvency came first, and a way to get it done - through writing and coaching - was second. Both are important to me, but until I did this exercise, I didn't realize that one holds more weight, and therefore, requires the greater focus. It gives me the key criteria for prioritizing my actions toward continuing the work that I love to do! Rather than having a "build it and they will come" attitude, the wisdom of having a plan is reinforced in me.

Declaring your intention can help you get to the next step: identifying your options. Once you determine your key criteria for your next phase of life, you have more information from which to seek options. It can also be a way to narrow options you are already considering. Depending on the individual, and the life of the individual who writes it, each person's intention and follow-on actions will be distinctive.

This method will be easy for some, difficult for others. One idea would be to quickly write your intention, then share it with a trusted friend or colleague, and ask for feedback. If you find it difficult to put pen to paper, again a friend or colleague may help, or you may turn to a coach, depending on what you have at stake.

Having too many options, or not knowing what options you have, can act as barriers to taking action. Quickly writing the answer to "What is my intention?" is one way to help you get to the heart of your options, and may help you make informed choices.