Author Archives: Barbara Pagano

About Barbara Pagano

Barbara Pagano,Ed.S., author and speaker, influenced over 3,500 executives in organizations to achieve higher performance. She is now on a mission to help individuals extend their career arcs and craft lifestyles of productive longevity.

“One Year to Live” – My Class in San Miguel de Allende

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Two months ago when the waters of Santa Rosa Sound were choppy and the day so grey I could barely see the boat house at the end of the dock I was taken back in time and place.

Today reminds me of a time when my daughter, Elizabeth, and I were making our way southward on a 42-foot sailboat in mid-December.

Trapped by weather in Frazer’s Hog Cay, a small anchorage in the Berry Islands in the Bahamas, our early rise and assessment of the radio weather broadcast brings a realization that we aren’t going anywhere again this day – Day 3.

Simple pleasures of sitting outside in the cockpit or a walk on the near small island were not possible. With slanted, hard-driving rain we can’t even see that island. The dinghy tied at the stern fills with water and bobs furiously. Ugh.

So, what to do? Grab another cup of coffee at 7:15AM and decide how to live your best life in 42-feet of space below decks.

The engine drones to keep the faulty battery system powered. The fresh water supply diminishes as does our fuel. And our food? Well we have a lot of good olives I sneaked on board so we’ll be fine.

No television; no means of calling friends and family. With the hatches closed, the air is stale.

Let’s be miserable. This seems a good choice.

“What will make you happy today?”

I singsong the question to Elizabeth in her bunk face down in a pillow overwhelmed with disappointment. She doesn’t answer. I try a couple more times.

Then I ask myself, “What will make me happy today?”

Okay.

I can lay in my bunk and finish my book and then start another. Clean the stove. Clean the head. Listen to music (with an eye on the power.) Think how wonderfully stress free it is not to be in high preparation mode for Christmas. (Turns out we missed everything about that holiday including the stress.) Fold my clothes which are in major disarray tumbling out of the shelves. Re-arrange the olives.

What will I do to be happy today?

Our fate unfolds. We would arise early, dissect weather reports and be stuck for three more days.

We learn to ask and answer that question, “What will make me happy today?” with as much enthusiasm and positivity as we could muster.

Elizabeth knew I would sing the question over and over until she answered so she might as well get her head out from under that pillow.

Soon we would scrap our boat’s bottom on the rocks as we navigated the narrow, shallow passage only good at high tide and be on our way to Nassau. On our way!

This was an experiment in living each day – making choices given what you’ve got – and I haven’t forgotten how hard we struggled to make each day count. (Elizabeth made a pie one day. Miracle!)

But what if instead of one day to decide how to live, I had to consider a longer time.

A year perhaps …and then not be on my way.

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One Year to Live

Before I came to San Miguel de Allende three weeks ago to stay for a while, I sign up for a book discussion group led by Val Ward, teacher of Sociology and Psychology in England.

From 11-1pm for four Wednesdays at St. Paul’s Church on Calzada Del Cardo anyone interested was invited to gather to discuss Stephen Levine’s book, A Year to Live published in 1997. The author shares his insights in a year-long experiment living each day as if it were your last.

I figured, I’m new in town. Why not give this a try? I’ll leave if I don’t like it.

Last Wednesday I walk into a room of fifty people – more men than women. I wasn’t the youngest one or the oldest. Emma Jean, 90, is the oldest. She’s decided to look at her life one year at a time.

We laugh when she quips, “I have a short bucket list and most days I can’t remember it so it’s good that I live in the moment.”

From places including Latvia, Panama, NYC, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida and Colorado, some people had been in San Miguel de Allende for as much as 24 years. I was the newbie at one week. Some stay for 6-month increments; others are here “forever.” Some work while others make art or do what they choose.

Why did they come to a class on ‘One Year to Live?’

  • I want to live an “informed life.”
  • I would like to make my mind “shut up” telling me what to do and let me be in charge.
  • I would like to learn something.
  • I would like to start a new life.

The guy with a scraggly pony tail is here because he doesn’t want to leave a mess behind. A woman in her early 60s says she has  lived a life of busyness and frustration. She wants to change everything about it.

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What if You Had One Year Left?

The author, Stephen Levine, has accompanied the dying to the threshold over the last twenty years. In their last year, he says, many people feel as if they have a second chance at growth and healing. This renewal often occurs because they have been given a terminal diagnosis but can also occur because their natural wisdom inspires them to open more profoundly to life.

No one in our discussion group shared a terminal illness diagnosis. All appeared to be inspired by the concept of considering how to live life better.

In the book, the author presents his findings about how individuals feel and what they would do if facing death:

  • Many feel overwhelmed by a sense of failure with a closet full of regrets.
  • Some express remorse about neglecting spiritual growth.
  • Many felt they had little authentic joy.
  • Some would change their work situation or quit.
  • Most would study some long-admired skill even without the promise of making money.
  • Many acknowledged a love of nature that they allowed to go dormant.

Levine states that most all those individuals he has worked with or interviewed would adopt a gentler pace of life, change their surroundings and be less preoccupied with social ambitions. “They would move to the country; another country; the city; build new homes; tear down old ones.”

Sitting in the St. Paul pews in this discussion group were individuals who had not been selfish with their lives. Many spent much of their time and energy and often resources making other people happy or doing what they were supposed to do.

Some express pain and anger at themselves for a lifetime of diminishing their own needs.

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Now What Would They Do?

This morning one year to live or less is a reality for many. By the end of the week, many more.

In my group, individuals participate freely, take notes, smile, listen intently and do their homework.

“I have just given you the sad news that you have only one year to live,” said Val at the end of Session 1. The homework was to spend time to really think hard about what you would do if you had only one year.

Here are some of their answers:

  1. Pack bags and travel. (Popular idea. Two would get on a cruise ship immediately.)
  2. Write letter to friends and family telling them what they had meant to them.
  3. Get resources together to fund a grand-daughter’s college education.
  4. Have a big, big party. (More than one of these!)
  5. Go back to England to see the trees.
  6. In the African tradition, spend 24 hours mourning.
  7. Get my wills ready to roll. (This gentleman paid double to ensure he would be cremated in whatever country he died. If the country prohibited cremation, he was to be taken to the nearest country that would allow it. He wanted to double check it all.)

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 What Would I Do?

It is Saturday afternoon 3 days after class. I sit outside in a lush green outdoor space far away from family and friends. The sun shines, butterflies flit, the beautiful fountain gurgles and the firecrackers explode (typical Mexican afternoon sound.)

I have chosen this as a geography of place to stir my soul, invite newness to my days, finish writing a book and learn more about me as well as others.

I haven’t thought about having only one year to live ever. My current excellent health masks this idea.

But here goes:

  • First, I would be mad. Why did I only get one lifetime? Where did this lifetime go? I’m not ready yet.
  • Second, I would gather two grandchildren closer. I would do some 4-year-old things and 5-year-old things.
  • Third, I would ask for twelve days with my daughter to go on some outlandish adventure that stretched our physical capabilities. Something new that presented great challenge. We have rafted Chile’s Futaleufu River, one of the premier whitewater rivers in the world and hiked ‘The W’ in Patagonia. Perhaps she’d bicycle with me across Iowa.
  • Fourth, I will bring my husband to a lovely home I rented here in San Miguel for a while, not to make him love it here. But to help him understand why I do.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t get to do all these things. My life would not be more deeply lived if I did them. But to imagine having only a year is to create depth – to find a kind of self-expression – that we should not waste our time.

The irony of the question –what if I only had one year to live? – is that I very well may.

Possibly, if I just do more of what I did on the boat in the Berry Islands I will continue to create my one lifetime as I want it.

What can I do today to make me happy?

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What Would You Do?

Dear readers. Did you think I would end this post without asking?

You can make it a slow thought to ponder. You can shout from the rooftops that it’s a hypothetical question. You can use the question to create urgency and awareness.  You can be joyful that the moment is yours to contemplate.

You have one year left to live. How will you live it?

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I invite you to make a comment and join me on Facebook. Special thanks to all of you who continue to forward posts. I appreciate that!

All Photos by B. Pagano

 

 

 

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Posted in Living Your Best 3rd Third of Life, Productive Longevity, Productivity, Self-Management | 2 Comments

Still Living in the Moment? Wishing on a Star Can Bring You Much More Joy and Happiness.

Last month I pulled off a surprise celebration for my husband’s 80th birthday. My remarks to a crowd of over 80 well-wishers (actually it was more like a TEDtalk and I had a great time giving it) were a retrospective of his life’s accomplishments and a tribute to the values he lives.

Afterwards, the crowd was definitely in-the-moment. The time together made us all happy.

The past and the present worked together to make this occasion a success. Nothing was missing. Nothing more was needed.

At the threshold of the last third of life we often view our lives in this combination – the past and the present.

We know there is a future to unfold. But we feel we have time to deal with that. We’ll figure out how to be thrilled with the last part of life soon.

But not now. Now we need to perform our Downward Dogs, take another trip to Newfoundland, lean in to a still demanding career, take a nap, get the kid through college, digitize 1800 photos or volunteer to teach math to an eighth grader who appears to care less.

Ahead, however, is a transition that involves role change, redefinition and activity shifts. It’s a biggie. Maybe the hardest you ever experienced.

Thumbing through your college year book marveling at how far you’ve come isn’t going to light the way.

Neither is living in the moment. What will light the way?

The clarity and fever pitch energy needed to live out your best life begins upon a star.

So grab your cork mat and zoom toward the night sky. From this panorama gaze at life and the possibilities before you.

Wish your possible futures. Hold it for as long as you can.

Ho Hum for Mindfulness

When it comes to higher levels of well-being and a better ability to navigate the future, the past and the present may not be nearly as important as putting your brain in a future-state.

I say this at the risk of insulting many readers participating in the soaring popularity of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when one pays purposeful attention to the present moment. It can be achieved through meditation or simply by observing your surroundings without judgment.

What does Mindfulness get you? What doesn’t it get you?

Among its theorized benefits are self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion.

From politicians to CEOs to engineers, Mindfulness is big business. Corporations are investing and building cultures on mindfulness at Nike, Target, Genentech, Google, Facebook, eBay, Twitter, General Mills, Ford Motor Company, Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, Cargill, Plantronics, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Hearst Publications, to name just a few.

In addition to courses, Google has also built a labyrinth for walking meditation. Evan Williams, one of Twitter’s founders, has built a new venture, the Obvious Corporation, a start-up incubator and investment vehicle based on mindfulness. Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio tries hard to inspire the political arena toward mindfulness. Good Luck Tim!

If you are a fan of being-in-the-moment, I’m with you. But not all the way, all the time.

Because purposely spending time in the future reigns absolute as the better way to begin your 3rd third of life.

Think Prospectively

I’ve done my share of leader-led dream-binging in various settings where the woo factor was high. I mostly hate the dream-it-do-it thing so my mind wanders to my store list or when I’ll find time to get my oil changed. When it came time to share, I’d make something up.

What did it matter what I wished for? The belief in the laws of attraction have always been lost on me.

How does thinking about the future shape your present and future behavior?

According to Martin Seligman, a leading authority in the field of Positive Psychology, we have been underestimating the impact of the future. Humans are, by nature, “prospective,” he says. “It is anticipating and evaluating future possibilities for the guidance of thought and action that is the cornerstone of human success.”

Prospective psychology refers broadly to the mental representation and evaluation of possible futures. This ability shapes emotion which in turn shapes motivation.

Let’s try to make this real for us lay people. Using prospection we generate positive ideas that lead to anticipation that triggers emotions that will guide us toward the future.

Got it? Hang in and you will. I promise!

What makes prospective theory revolutionary is not the idea that human behavior is guided by emotions, but the idea that human behavior is guided by “anticipated emotions.”

Catching, crystalizing your simpler clearer vision of life…that you must always keep working to grasp. -Georgia O’Keeffe

‘What’s Next?’ The Brain Loves This. 

Looking into the future consciously and unconsciously is a central function of our brain. For the past century most psychologist and neuroscientists assumed the brain liked to peruse the past or ruminate the present.

Turns out our mind is mainly drawn to the future, not driven by the past.

Research on our orientation toward the future is fascinating:

  • In Chicago researchers pinged nearly 500 adults during the day to record their immediate thoughts and moods. But they actually thought about the future three times more often than the past. And the few thoughts about a past event involved consideration of its future implication.
  • When making plans, they reported higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress than at other times.
  • Although they sometimes feared what might go wrong, on average there were twice as many thoughts of what they hoped would happen
  • In addition, a research study done at the University of London by A.K. McLeod, and Conway in 2005 concluded that subjects with expectations of future positive experiences were more likely to measure higher on a scale of subjective well-being.

In last month’s New York Times article, “We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment,” Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, affirms that prospection– our contemplation of the future – is what makes us wise.

“When we consider our prospects,” he states, “We thrive.”

Shall we conclude then that staying in the moment is being oversold? That the past can guide you but the future can guide you better? M-m-m-m-m.

Still bearing fruit in old age, still remaining fresh and green. -Psalms 92:14

Future Time Perspective

One approach to leaving mid-life is to think of the future as loss and diminishment. That’s pretty understandable from my point of view.

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On a recent visit, Liam, my grandson eyed a charcoal portrait of me in my early thirties. He looks back and forth from me to the picture with five-year-old eyes.

Is that you?

Yes.

When did you change faces?

Okay, it’s a fact. I don’t look like once did. Chances are you don’t look you’re your high school graduation picture either.

(And we certainly won’t get into the fact that the charcoal is of me in the nude.)

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At the threshold of leaving midlife, “loss and diminishment” blaze a true trail not only of our physical being, but of our emotional lives. Adult development requires us to adjust to the ‘empty nest,’ re-enter the workforce, get kicked out of the workforce, become caretakers for parents, and experience the death of partners and friends.

When those experiences happen as the amount of time left to live recedes, individuals can shift away from a focus on future-oriented goals according to developmental psychologists, Carol Magai and Beth Halpern.

In case you don’t already know but I bet you do, the growing-older experience brings time with limits and horizons that include our deaths; it can all get a little complex. Living in the moment is a known place – a safe place – to rest our weary souls.

But staying in the present could be at the expense of generating an enthusiastic embrace of the paramount goals of productivity and enthusiasm in later life.

Yep, There’s Endorphins Involved

Prospection offers a different approach. At the core of prospection is the act of anticipating.

Remember anticipation? Most people anticipate happy experiences.

Just thinking about the future and positive things gets us all – well super excited and happy. Prospection sends endorphins to our brain and motivates us. Perhaps you are hard pressed to think of any grown-up anticipation possibilities.

I know two little people who don’t know any better than to think future-happy thoughts.

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In a recent week-long visit, my two grandchildren, Liam and Lucy, received presents each day. (Yes, I’m indulgent.)

When you bring a colorfully wrapped package into the room (ostensibly to share), no matter what these children are doing they stop as if on the invisible dime. They race across the room, come as close as they can to their GG (me) who holds the pretty box and look up with big bright dancing eyes!

Excitement exudes from their pores; they jump up and down; they squeal with delight.

What’s in there? Is it for me?

 We’re over-the-moon happy even though we don’t know what’s in the box.

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Are Liam and Lucy delighted with their presents? Does the joy last?

Sometimes it actually does, but not all the time. (They still love the Magna-Tiles; glitter play dough was a bomb.)

But to witness those moments of high desire – just the thought of what could be – and the emotion that ensues is a wow and made me ask myself when was last time I felt like that?

When’s the last time you felt that? Close to that? Somewhat close to that?

To stay open to dreams and possibilities is one of the most important skills for living your 3rd third.

But Prospective Psychology suggests that it’s more than just staying open to dreams and possibilities. This is about creating an emotional climate of positive, joyful, curious, exciting feelings as you stand at the threshold of the last part of your lifetime.

  

Forecasting Your Life

My friend, Susan, faced dying of ovarian cancer by participating in treatments and experiments around the globe. Susan would never talk about her imminent death even with her family. The subject was off limits.

But she would talk about the team of experts she had tracked down that offered a different procedure with possibilities for extending her life.

Nothing worked.

Finally, she changed her approach. Within days of landing in Atlanta after her last failed treatment in Germany, she sold her house in one upscale neighborhood and bought another in a more upscale neighborhood. It was a grand, big house but not decorated in her style.

From then on her designer skipped along side the gurney at Emory Hospital flipping Susan fabric samples and paint chips as she was wheeled into the operating room for this or that. The conversation was animated and focused on the task of decoration.

Later coming out of the anesthesia, Susan would see the selected fabric samples and paint colors spread out on before her on the white hospital sheet. The decorator showed up and they started in again making final selections.

This happened over and over for each room of the house. Many friends, me included, thought it was a little odd and unusual to spend time in the future tense with so little present time remaining.

I found the courage to ask. “Susan, why are you doing this?”

She looked at me as clear eyed as the day I first met her making a keynote presentation to C-suite leaders. Her response reflected conviction and it was obvious she was well-thought through.

“Barbara, this house is my future and decorating it makes me happy.” Then she softly added, “And it gives me hope.”

Susan moved into that house and lived three months.

Though her chances of ever living there were slim, she chose to see it as a possibility. From that perspective, she flourished.

Seeing yourself in a future possibility can move the spirit, gather emotional well-being and create hope. I learned from Susan that the dream never is as important as the anticipation of the dream.

The emotions of anticipation are powerful, not powerful enough to cure a disease perhaps, but powerful.

The idea of prospection may never become a best practice or assume the popularity of “living in the moment.” But in my work the vast majority of individuals facing the last third of life give their future short shrift … and are sorry about it later.

Most feel they are doing okay figuring out life after retirement. But they are not doing as well as they would like.

If they had it all to do over again, they would have thought less about what they would do and more about what life could be.

Gong.

The Wishbone

One of the highlights at Thanksgiving in my family was the breaking of the turkey wishbone. My mother hid the wishbone in the gravy and dumplings. Whoever got the wishbone selected his or her partner in this wishing tradition.

Everyone, adults and children, – this large gathering of kinfolk  – wanted that wishbone.

Each person pulls on the wishbone while making a wish. The one who gets the larger piece will get his or her wish.

At the conclusion of the meal, the competitive and often body twisting event began. Shouts of encouragement! Coaching from the sidelines! It’s hard to imagine all the fuss over a small turkey bone.

But it was about wishing – an opportunity to express a desire or hope for something to happen.

“If you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

We need tools for the transition ahead. Forecasting your future could be one of the most effective tools yet for making your best effort toward living your best last third of life.

I believe there is more joy and happiness to be found in the future than anywhere else.

My fervent wish is that you believe this too.

Gong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Living Your Best 3rd Third of Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Not This Life . . . That Life

Nothing is forever, it was true. - from Miss Jane, A Novel by Brad Watson
Nothing is forever, it was true. – from Miss Jane, A Novel by Brad Watson

I have not posted in a while. I couldn’t.

I lost my endeavor.  I didn’t feel like it.

Besieged is how I have felt. Priorities I carefully chose suddenly began to compete for my energy. The necessities of participating in life (and moments of trying to figure it out what was happening) made even the creative possibilities I set in motion impossible.

I was deprived of clarity.

It happens all of us. Life is like that.

So I began days not with a to-do list but no list at all.

The space that allowed was not my undoing but my deep privilege. It’s been 7 months.

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Ambushed by Desire

What hit me was an intense longing.

I wasn’t unhappy. In fact, life was good. (more…)

Posted in Living Your Best 3rd Third of Life, Productive Longevity, Self-Management | 19 Comments

Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death (and Life)

Cowboys in the streets of Deloris Hildalgo, Mexico, on way to a wedding around the corner.
Cowboys in the streets of Deloris Hildalgo, Mexico, on way to a wedding around the corner.

There’s nothing I like better than good conversation at my dining table. Good conversation is rich, and rewarding. Good conversation means you learn something that makes your life better.

But while the grilled swordfish is the best ever, what’s said or not said around the dinner table can’t be predicted.

It’s a rarity. But once is a while, I pray for any talk to be exchanged.

We have relatives who eat an entire meal – a really good one cooked lovingly by me – in silence. They never look up from their plates even as my husband and I struggle to ignite the smallest of small talk.

Herb and I lock eyeballs from the ends of the table to signal, “Your turn.” Sometimes my husband declines his turn which prompts me to glare and mouth, “Don’t you dare.”

We survive. It’s exhausting.

With different people around the table, talk happens easily. Everyone participates.

But honestly chatter about your Budapest vacation ten years ago or your son’s newest job doesn’t make me a better person or help me navigate my life.

Am I the only one keen on deep, insightful conversation? 

Not on your sweet purpose driven life, dear readers.

IMG_5130Deathoverdinner.org

Gatherings over dinner to talk about death are part of an international movement called “Death Over Dinner.” The goal is to talk about important end-or life questions before it’s too late.

Since the Death Over Dinner project was founded two years ago, more than 70,000 people in over 20 countries have gathered to dine and discuss their views on a “good” death, and the issues that will matter to them in their senior years.

Death Over Dinner was originally designed in the U.S. by Michael Hebb and Angel Grant to encourage people to have conversations about end of life and End of Life Care at the kitchen table rather than in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), when it’s too late.

DOD is an interactive website that encourages conversation to start with family and friends while breaking bread with a range of tools, reading and support materials, as well as tips to get the conversation started.

Am I enthused to host an interactive dinner on the difficult conversation about death?

Not really.

But I am inspired that people are transforming important issues into conversation of deep engagement and insight because we just don’t do a lot of that at dinner parties.

When was the last time you learned something that made your life better?

When was the last time someone’s experience inspired you to make a change?

When’s the last time an individual’s way of thinking caused you to think differently? IMG_4895

 The Funeral Plan You Don’t Have and I Do

Interesting don’t you think? Being invited to a dinner party with a theme to engage us in topics we’d like to avoid or don’t often talk about openly.

Picture guests moving green beans around on their plate while an individual shares she has full instructions for her funeral tucked away in an electronic folder appropriately titled, “When I’m Gone.” 

That would be my folder.

Wouldn’t you like to hear why I might choose Roy Orbison’s In Dreams to be sung at my funeral over The Old Rugged Cross?

Or how I made the list of who gets what and why I keep changing it? (Bet the kids will text me on this.)

Part of me is kidding here. Not about the funeral plan folder. I really do have this.

But no Death Over Dinner will happen at my house.

Instead you might find yourself at my table encouraged to participate in topics slightly less uncomfortable.

amsterdam 329From the Arc of Life

With each passing day in midlife the past grows longer, our futures shorter. We’re all essentially just as interested in learning the meaning of life as say, the latest spoils of the upcoming November election. (Say this is true. Please.)

We could make our lives better if we talked about it. We can learn, discuss and engage with one another.

So what could we talk about?

What are you hoping from life ahead?

What part of your life has been neglected?

What saddens you about being the age you are?

What regrets have a chance to be fixed?

What has almost broken you in your lifetime so far and what did you learn?

What do you believe about your life ahead?

What’s a turning point or future challenge?

How have your children disappointed you and what are you doing about it?

What advice would you give your younger self?

What’s your take on aging?

Many of us have our rich and rewarding conversations with one other person. I love when I take away a nugget to clarify and navigate my own life better.

That’s happened to you. I know it has. I hope it has.

But a group conversation has a much different component and impact.

Imagine hearing from the journeys of six or seven people

who lay down their story lines

to allow you to soak in their experiences and wisdom?

What an incredible evening. I’ll bring dessert.

A candy-colored clown they call the sandman tiptoes to my room every night. Just to sprinkle star dust and to whisper, "Go to sleep, everything is alright." -In Dreams, written and sung by Roy Orbison
A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
tiptoes to my room every night.
Just to sprinkle star dust and to whisper, “Go to sleep, everything is alright.”
-In Dreams, written and sung by Roy Orbison
Posted in Self-Management | Tagged | 1 Comment

Just Selfish Enough: Fighting for the Life You Want

IMG_1565Liam, my four-year-old grandson, is curious about the planets, overturns rocks to pick up any bugs that don’t move fast and chooses to release his highly prized lightening bug from the jar – “because he is lonely.”

Each afternoon on the playground when his name is called for pick up, Liam runs to his two best friends, Isaiah and Anna Noelle, to give each one a hug goodbye.

The child is curious, affectionate, loving and kind.

Liam is also selfish. Supremely so.

He is intent and purposefully fights like hell to get what he wants, when he wants it and how he wants it.

How glorious to watch an individual strive to arrange the world to meet his expectations and revel in happiness when it all goes his way!

After a five-day visit last week what’s obvious is that my drive and skills to live the life I want pale in comparison to Liam’s passion. This is a big surprise because I don’t shy away from identifying and acting on my needs and wants. (You can look forward to details on this.)

Liam will lose his lust and urges for putting himself first in the next few years. Teachers, parents, the system, culture – all will tell him bad things about selfishness. The stigma of putting himself front and center in his life will inhibit his zest for fighting for what he wants.

That’s happened to millions of people who now tell me they look forward to life after retirement so they can “do what they want when they want” or “finally live the life they want.”

Well what do you know? A last ditch effort to get a life we want. Like bookends on a life, selfishness emerges.

But after all the years living without putting ourselves first, perhaps we can use Liam for inspiration and even skill building.

Ready to learn from someone who just hopped out of toddlerhood?

Here we go. (more…)

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How to Render the Desires of Your Grown-Up Heart into Life Ahead

Every time I start a picture...I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts...and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me. --Federico Fellini
Every time I start a picture…I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts…and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me. –Federico Fellini

In the blue distance your life will unfurl.

I wish people spent more time contemplating that blue distance and less time on Facebook.

There is so much more to life unseen by the eye. Brazen of me to say as Instagram revels in double-digit growth. Selfies are now one of the most popular activities in our culture. Don’t tell me you haven’t done this.

Obviously social media has proven we are obsessed with ourselves.

Good news for those of us with a long future to map out. As well as a look at our lives as it unfolds, perhaps we can start a conversation to discover dormant aspirations, wants, longings and requests for a life ahead.

To unlock an idea or two on how to make our lives more of what we want, I advocate you listen don’t look.

Where to start our listening?

Well, your book club probably has ideas about how you could live your life better. Your daughter, husband, partner, ex-husband, your mother, therapist, and even your BFF may enlighten you.

There’s more.

If you could eavesdrop last week in the kitchen of that couple cleaning up in their kitchen after you left the dinner party, their conversation might explain your better life to you.

These are all voices worthy of consideration – modest and minor perhaps – but, you get the point. Contributions on how your life could be better abound.

Being busy and all, let’s cut to the chase. There’s one person who knows us best.

You got it! And you talk to yourself about your life all the time.

But mostly that’s a voice from your head which is good, just not reliable enough for all the important decisions for all of life’s twists and turns.

Another voice that can guide you to even smarter options for your future life waits quietly to help you. This voice knows you just as well as your head voice, but in different ways.

It’s a small voice deep inside your gut that waits for years between invites.

Nevertheless, it’s always there.amsterdam 288

Getting Tough

If you expect me to jump right in with soupy quotes about how you should start journaling to unlock your deep heart desires or how listening to your heart will power up your authentic self, I anticipate disappointment because this isn’t going to happen. Check out Oprah for the soul approach.

First let’s get real and start with firm footing.

When it comes to creating a better life or making a transition, your rational mind and all that you’ve learned are invaluable.

Life lessons help us know how to create a better future path; improved decision making doesn’t hurt.

By middle age, you’ve weathered some serious setbacks. You’ve lost at love, not been chosen more than a couple of times, and experienced career frustrations, drawbacks and defeats.

Friend and sibling dis-enchantments stack right alongside children who were pains in the ass, proved to be disappointing and may still be on the payroll and/or live at home. Serious illness, parents gone.

When it felt like the end of the world, you kept going.

You survived. You are strong.

I started feeling strong in mid-life. I still feel it.

I lost a lot of my fragility when I was 25 in a Master’s Program intent on building my psychological core (lots of Esalen stuff). At 30 (divorce) came financial and parental responsibility (single-working mom -7.5 years), at 41 came entrepreneurial challenges (a career pivot), and in my mid-fifties I set sail with my daughter for a 6-month not-knowing-much-but-doing-it-anyway stint. At 60 I drew strength to carve out a new life using a work a little, play a little model.

So many people feel that strength is in their youth. That’s not really spot-on.

It takes time to get a notion of your strength.  You don’t really know what you have inside until you are faced with drawing upon it.  I’ve learned this is the great inspiration of life.

But even as I’m strong, at times I’m lost and I don’t know why.

On days when my future is unclear, I can get hesitant or doubtful. I can even be skeptical about putting forth the effort to be in charge of my life. (I’m turning it over to God. Whatever. I’ll figure this out later. Just let it happen.)

It may seem puzzling to feel strong alongside feelings with names like – uncertain, ambiguous, tentative and lost. All it really means is you need more information.

Input perhaps from … yes,that small voice inside … the voice of your heart to tell you first-hand ways to find your way.

Why is it that the voice from your heart is so important?

Because your heart is never lost.

For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" and whenever the answer has been "no" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. --Steve Jobs
For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” and whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. –Steve Jobs

The Heart Knows Your Reality

While being strong is about surviving, being strong is also about being as honest as possible about yourself with yourself.

Why listen to your heart now when you haven’t done so well doing it before?

Why listen to your heart when you doubt you can do what it asks of you?

Why listen as your health falters or future finances are gloomy?

Why listen now when you already listened a decade ago and made decisions about your life then?

Because listening to your heart creates awareness of your current reality and gives you perspective of your impending life.

The heart knows that things that matter in the time ahead will be different than what mattered in the past. Fore sure, we’ll take life lessons with us into the future. But life lesson are from the past and the past is another country.

You’re headed out of that country.

The heart is easy to talk to. You don’t have to fill the heart in on your past, prepare lists or even ask too many questions.

In mid-life the heart already knows your reality – that you are staring down the dwindling of time, busy as hell, don’t have all the time in the world and are not in the mood for reflective bullshit.

You need important truths. The heart will tell you those because the heart knows you are strong.

Best of all, the heart wants you to get your life right.

IMG_4934

Listen to My Heart? Oh Please. So Woo.

When my heart talks to me, it says crazy things.

Some days my heart tells me I need pack up and move to San Miguel de Allende.  Immediately, my head chimes in with a litany of responsibilities, roles and commitments that would make this very, very difficult. (I kept editing out that second ‘very’ but each time my head made me put it back.)

Some days my heart tells me to lock myself in a room and finish writing the damn book. My head wants to know who will water my flower pots, make morning tea for my husband, bike with Marny, laugh with friends, travel with Dee Dee, play chase with my grandson, sit on the beach and read, or watch my grown child grow – all priorities that compete with every second of my life.

The contest between heart and head is a battleground.

Some people listen to their heart and don’t do a damn thing differently. Other people listen to their hearts and change their lives.

While the simple act of listening is important and powerful, there is no sense asking anything of your heart if you will not accept what the heart will say.

Will you immediately dismiss an idea, become overwhelmed, slip into doubt or succumb to defeat?

In other words, will you allow your head to interrupt the message and sabotage the process? Smart people do this all the time.

We must be clear on this: why listen at all?

To listen to your heart is to build strength through the honest conversation about yourself with yourself.

I’ve said this already but this is truly important. What you gain from being honest with yourself is just as great as any changes, if any, you make.

You will be stronger just because you listened.

IMG_3286 Mental Fitness Before Listening to One’s Heart

If you think you can pull up a chair and start talking to your heart, you are right. You can. But you’ll end up doing most of the talking since your heart voice can’t cut you off in the middle of a sentence or talk over you.

Ask your heart voice a question and you won’t get a lecture. You’ll get something more like a soundless tweet. You’ll have to listen hard.

The best conditions for listening to the voices in your heart are met when you seek and accept the gift and responsibility you are given – to live your one life as best you can.

Meet each of these 9 criteria before you ask anything of your heart.

  1. Believe You Are Responsible – Give yourself permission to life the life you want.

  2. Enhance the Perception of Control – You won’t control everything in your future. But you can control more than you think.

  3. Believe What You Do Matters – It matters to live in the present. It also matters to create the future.

  4.  See Positive Challenge– Try, try, try…then generously give yourself to failure if that’s how it works out.

  5. Enhance the Goal Value – Savor and Imagine your life at the end of an achievement…before you plan it.

  6. Devalue Competing Goals – Re prioritize everything all the time. Make your future in the top 3.

  7. Be Conscientious on One Thing – Forget lists. Be selective and accountable for one important thing.

  8. Fight Difficulties – There is no age when life stays on easy street for a long time. Fight.

  9. Regulate Your Emotions – Keep negative emotions – self-doubt, guilt, regret- at bay. Stuff them in an invisible suitcase. Do not pick that suit case up.IMG_4835

Last Call

The ‘rider’s up’ call given at the Kentucky Derby signals the horses to head to the track for the final race. Everyone anticipating the race listens for that call.

In late mid-life, there’s a ‘listen up’ call that alerts the transition to take you to your future.

Anticipate it. Prepare for it. Don’t miss it.

 

 

If this content leads to a bit of fresh thinking, new perspective or resonates with you, please “Like” this post. Thank you in advance.

I invite you to make a comment, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Special thanks to all of you who continue to forward posts. I appreciate that!

All Photos by B. Pagano.

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Self-Management | 1 Comment

Why It Matters to Know When You Leave Midlife Behind

iphone 2016 349“Let’s pretend for a moment that I am 73.”

That’s what I said to the audience an hour into my presentation, The New New Rules of Retirement. They knew immediately this was make-believe because I don’t look 73.

At least I don’t think I look 73. Anyway I am not 73…yet.

“If I am 73, am I old?”

The crowd is reluctant to answer. They murmur. Finally a brave soul shouts, “Yes, you are old.”

The audience grumbles at his truth. The age label isn’t playing well. Frankly, some look sorry for me when they are not looking at the floor.

The room turns quiet. Finally and firmly, one late-fifties executive states, “Naw, she’s not old.”

“Then, what am I? Am I middle aged?” I asked.

An audience member raises her hand. She needs clarification.

“Are you asking if you are middle aged at 73?”

“Yes.”

Clearly, I am messing with them but for a very good reason.

iphone 2016 317Life’s Morning, Afternoon and Night

In your late 50s, 60s and 70s, life requires a new identity – one that combines elements of the past with today’s realities. Self-concepts are perplexing enough without bamboozling age labels to confuse us.

And we are confused. What is old? What is middle aged? Am I old? And what about you there approaching the backside of 50? How long before you’re old?

The developmental stages we once relied on to gauge our passages through life are no longer reliable.

–Adolescence – Adulthood – Old

This defunct model is much too contained for life as we know it and utterly useless in forming a new identity.

Still somewhere in your life is the middle and within the middle, a mid-point. There is beauty in symmetry but when the midpoint is passed, the proportion of your time on earth lessens.

Life forever more is asymmetrical.

We’re so busy we hardly notice. (more…)

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The Working Retirement: 7 Things To Do Within 5 Years of Leaving Your Job

IMG_0547It’s no joke. You intend to create a different kind of life in the future.

In this imagined life, you cease responding to texts and emails that waste your time. You’ll never again endure a narcissist’s rant.

No long commutes, improbable targets and boring, stupid meetings.

No way.

In this new life, the day unfolds just the way you’d like. You’ll ditch every person who really doesn’t matter to you because that’s what people do when time is precious.

Imagine that.

Ahead is travel, moments to stare at a river running, tea on the porch with old Aunt Phoebe and sharing gourmet strawberry-blueberry popsicles with a four-year-old grandchild who makes you swoon.

You’ll work.  Oh yeah.

This work beams enthusiasm and engagement into your life because you choose it. Best of all, you’ll make some money and avoid the #1 reported worry of running out of money in retirement.

Life will be grand, believe me.

IMG_0691Lights, Camera … Now What?

If you are mid-50s, 60s or 70s and don’t think this way, you should.

Just ahead is a big chunk of freedom, time and more than enough choices to create a life doing more what you want. It’s the last shot at getting it right which makes it different than other times in life.

This new life that heads straight for us but seems far away gets little of our bandwidth.

We make no firm plans. We prepare nothing in advance, put nothing in order nor concoct even one hair brain scheme to test the premise that the last third of life could be our very best.

It’s pure madness. (more…)

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Productive Longevity, Reconstuct Retirement, Self-Management | Leave a comment

Ten Ways to Transition into Paid Work Instead of Retirement

2014-10-04 15.37.08Yesterday outside Publix, I ran into an old friend. We talked, caught up and then he asked about my work.

“I’m helping people uncover possibilities for being productive in work until they want to retire at 85!”

He smiled. Gene is in his mid-sixties and lost his administrative job for a successful land developer when the economy sunk the business several years ago.

“Barbara,” he said, “I’m pretty much wasting away in front of the TV and doing social stuff. I would give anything short of bagging groceries to have work for 2-3 days a week.”

Gene isn’t depressed or unhappy with his life. But he could be happier if he were involved in work that utilized his talents.

If you are unemployed, already retired or looking ahead, the journey to discover work you want to do can confuse and overwhelm even the smartest, creative and most successful individual.

We are in the midst of a cultural shift – creating new paths for work and careers in this age of longevity – where many of us will have an addition 25-30 years of potential productive living ahead.

The good news is the world of work is opening up many possibilities for a late-in-life work-groove that fits the lifestyle you want to create.

This post is for you, Gene. (more…)

Posted in Craft a Post50 Lifestyle, Endless Careers, Productive Longevity, Reconstuct Retirement, Self-Management | Leave a comment

My Life, My Art: How to Make 2016 Your Kick-Ass Year

Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes and easy smile is your museum. - Steven Pressfield
Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes and easy smile is your museum. – Steven Pressfield

We live our lives. We don’t make our lives. Isn’t that right?

Of course not. I know you know this.

We make the lives we live – step by step, plunge by plunge. We construct, formulate and compose a production using our energies and spirit along with whatever else is thrown our way.

Currently our life’s play is stimulating, wonderful, dissatisfying, miserable, boring or downright dull. Yours may be infused with drama, a mishmash of responsibilities and consequences, just plain messy or ho-hum.

Unable to put your finger on what you don’t like about the scene in progress is bad enough. But now here comes an unwelcome interruption from a backstage voice booming a line that makes me cringe:

“You made your bed, now go lie in it.”

This is a punitive way of saying that we create the conditions of our condition.

Perhaps. But I don’t buy you have to stay in that bed.

Life as you know it can be better.

(more…)

Posted in Productive Longevity, Productivity, Self-Management | Tagged , | Leave a comment