Jane is 65 and was about to retire from a professional career with a public sector organisation. She is divorced and has two grown up children. Planning for retirement had seemed daunting and she made sure she was always too busy to think about it. When the time finally came she realised she needed help to create a new life and identity.
“The received wisdom is, of course, that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. The defining moment of this story happened just before the middle – a sudden, and very welcome realization that I could actually do anything that I liked. That may not seem particularly life-changing as realizations go, but it was for me. I’ll tell you why.”
I had met Judith from Time of your life, just as I took the decision to retire from work. I was fretting about what I would do and who I would be without my status as a working person. Judith introduced me to her life planning programme: a suite of three one-to-one sessions, quite a lot of homework and a personalized report identifying your ‘feel good factors’.
My head was full of what I might do, where I might live, and whether I could afford to stop paid employment completely. I’d spent my life considering the needs of everyone else, and I didn’t have a clue how to make sensible decisions that were purely based on what would be best for me.
The first thing Judith asked me to do was a mind map depicting my life as it is today and what is important to me. That threw up some interesting elements I wasn’t necessarily expecting and made me realise there were things I really valued that I was not paying attention or giving time to.
Next I created a timeline of my past life journey , trying to identify the experiences I’d had and whether they’d been helpful, awful, done to me or orchestrated by me. That was really difficult – I had to have three attempts before I felt it was a representative picture but it helped me decide what I wanted to leave behind and what I wanted to change.
The third element of this first step of the programme was what Judith terms Dare to dream – designed to get you thinking about what you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t been able to make happen. I reflected on what I see other people doing, what my interests are and where the opportunities might occur.
When I met with Judith for our first session it was enormously helpful to review my reflections – her questioning soon helped me to explore some of the sticking points and see a number of possibilities.
At the second step I was given a set of skill cards to identify what I was good at. I dragooned one of my daughters into working through this with me to give a different perspective. That was both interesting and reassuring – she homed in on most of the things where I thought I was strong, and laughed out loud at the card that read Keeping fit. It was a fair cop.
It was around this time, just before Judith and I met again, that I had my lightbulb moment. As I said, I’ve always been about what other people needed – my parents, my friends, my husbands (why do you think that timeline was tricky?!), and latterly my two daughters. Suddenly it’s all about me and I was floundering.
Judith’s thoughtful and skillful exercises and coaching had led me to the crystal clear, and totally revolutionary certainty that I could, in fact, do whatever I wanted to do.
My second meeting with Judith was about getting to know myself better. The skills cards and personal profile enabled me to identify the skills and talents that I enjoy using, the type of environment that brings out the best in me, and the things that help me to feel good and feel empowered. Conversely, I was able to establish what I don’t enjoy, and the type of situations I should avoid because they clash with my value system. This was particularly useful as I’d always imagined I would set myself up in a small business after retirement, and everything I discovered about my strengths and areas for improvement mitigated against that plan of action!
At the third and final step my task was to consider the findings so far, to start to choose the direction of my future travel and to look at who and what would help me to achieve my goals. Judith and I talked about how to manage change, what would work and what might not.
I’m still action planning and see that I am now on a new path. I want to capture all that I’ve learned, and make sure I capitalize on all those valuable insights.
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