I recently came across a wonderful TedTalk, Rethinking the Bucket List" by Kathleen Taylor at TedxTampaBay. She's a mental health counselor who works with end-of-life patients. What she's learned from those at the end of their lives is how to live life now. It's powerful, instructive, and insightful. Take a look.
I cherish her insights because I believe that the gift of the "second half of life" is the opportunity to uncover new ways of being in the world, to find new understandings, and to discover new energy and power in the second half of life in ways that were not possible in the first half of life. With a shift in thinking such as that Kathleen talks about, you can create a life with more meaning, happiness, and joy.
Do you want to take time to think about your life? Come join my Midlife through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change class in winter quarter at North Seattle College.
The "second half of life" -- midlife and beyond -- has unique qualities. We're in midst of our life, and yet we start to sense that something is changing or has already changed. We may begin to feel differently inside, and it stirs a need or a longing to regroup in order to move forward and onward in a more personally meaningful way. People come to my class for different reasons. Some may be seeing an empty nest, reconsidering career or employment choices, pondering how and when to retire, or what to do as we feel ourselves getting older.
The goal of the Midlife class is to be able to better understand and appreciate the life transitions that often happen around midlife through retirement. We look at life transitions -- what we're moving away from (or leaving behind) and what we're moving towards in the next stage of our life, and how to create a meaningful path forward. Class will be a combination of lecture, discussions, and exercises. I'll be sharing different approaches, tools, and ideas that I hope will show the great opportunity that this time in life presents. This 6-week class will draw on various ideas to look at life, moving from our past to present to future. Much more than the bucket list, it's looking at the bucket.
The bucket list
“If you teach the course in the fall, I will absolutely be telling at least three people that they need to take your class.”
That was one of the best compliments I received after my spring quarter class, “Something Has to Change” at North Seattle College.
Personal change is hard and not your typical conversation topic, so it’s delightful when a participant would want to enthusiastically recommend a class on change to others.
My invitation for my spring quarter class was this: Is there something you’d like to change about yourself? Perhaps a persistent problem or pattern of behavior that’s negatively impacting you? Perhaps you simply want to improve on something, but you find that your determination and willpower is not enough? The class starts quite simply with just one desired change goal (a “change challenge”), but from there it unfolds into a personalized way of understanding your own change challenges and how you can unlock the blocks you experience.
The class applies the Immunity to Change™ (ITC) approach to change developed by Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. The tool is simple, but when done right, what you learn can be fascinating and possibly liberating. I use ITC with individual coaching clients, but last spring was the first time I tried it as a small group class. I know that ITC is highly effective, as supported by research data, but I was curious to see how it would work in a small group format.
For those who deeply wanted to change and did the work outside of class, the change and personal growth over the course of the class was profound. Others weren’t able to spend sufficient time outside of class (minimally half hour per week) for “homework”, but I believe they all gained new understandings and made progress relative to their efforts.
So, I am offering the class again in autumn quarter. If you’re interested in creating change in your life, please join me. I will guide you through the ITC approach to change. There are three ways to try it:
And there was this much appreciated comment...
“I truly cannot say enough how happy I am to have taken your class. The material works, but having an instructor/guide feels absolutely necessary to dig deeper.” Thank you! : )
Today I want to recommend a book for those who might be thinking about downsizing to smaller quarters or to a simpler life (could that be you?), to those who eventually will (but are afraid of thinking about it), and to the cadre of helpers and adult children who want to help (but have no idea how to support them in that transition and may be blind to the actual help and support they might most need.).
The book,'The Upside of Downsizing: Getting to Enough", by Dr. Sara Hart, captures the emotional journey of one of the most significant life transitions people will make, that of downsizing perhaps from one's own home to a smaller place or a retirement home.
Sara, in her characteristic way, is honest, funny, wise, and totally unvarnished about her ordeal. I recognize her voice in her writing because she's my friend. She's the owner and president of Hartcom, a consulting/training firm in the Bay Area, and a vivant and dynamic women engaged in so many things... but when I first met Sara a year or so ago, she was going through the trauma of downsizing to a new place. She said passionately then that she was going to write a book -- that the experience was that important -- that she had to be the voice for those who would go through this. I didn't realize until I saw it on Amazon last month that she really did it.
I'm not even thinking about downsizing yet, but when I read the book, I found her experience, advice, and insights helpful to me in identifying and articulating the challenges I was experiencing elsewhere in my life. It was as if she was speaking to me through the metaphor of the house as "self", and the downsizing experience as metaphor for shedding away worldly matters so that we can better know who we are at our core.
Her book is not about the "how to" - the mechanics of sorting, cleaning, and decluttering. It's an honest look at the emotional upheaval of downsizing and parting with a lifetime of accumulated things that represent so much and mean so much as we work to downsize and simplify life - and coming out knowing ourselves better..
As Sara says,"So, no matter how long we’ve been someplace or what kind of impact we’ve made, our “wake” will close fairly quickly, and those left behind will get on with whatever happens in that place next. That may feel sad, and it’s just the way it is. What that realization underscores for me is how important how we live each day is. And that is just as true in our new place as it was in our old one."
That is what I believe. Wherever you are, how you live today matters... that's timeless.
On occasion, I’ll get unexpected news that really cheers me up. One came recently in the way of an email from someone who had been working to make a midlife transition to a more meaningful job.
“Landed! ” - the email subject line declared.
“Hi, Mariko,” she wrote. “I wanted to let you know that my long search for a challenging alternative (to my previous line of work) has successfully ended. It's ideal for giving me the opportunity to contribute meaningfully and strategically to an organization that's going through some notable growing pains.” She loves the mission of the organization, and the causes it supports aligns with personal values while offering her professional challenges and growth opportunities for the future.
“I couldn't have asked for a better fit or better timing!” and she adds, “For what it's worth (for anecdotes for your protégés), I turned down two job offers, and declined to pursue a few positions, after the first in person interview. It is really hard to trust your gut when you're unemployed and flailing in and out of insecurity that the right thing will come along. I'm also lucky that three places I interviewed did not make me an offer. Two of those that I would have taken would not have been nearly this rewarding."
“I appreciate you sticking with me while I was uncertain where to turn, and your keen observations of what is meaningful to me. I hope that your ventures in helping other mid-life folk continue to reward you. You're doing good work!”
On the day that this note came, I was to meet with a client who is also seeking to make that midlife transition and career change, but he had told me he was struggling at this time. That’s normal and understandable. The pursuit of a significant midlife adjustment, like a career change, can feel overwhelming and daunting at times -- but also hopeful and liberating. And how sweet it is when you find yourself having landed in that better place.
Whether driven by a need to change jobs to something more sustainable and/or a deep desire to do something different, something more personally meaningful, many people -- like you and me -- are diligently engaged in creating an intentional life, actually seeking out change. One day, we'll find ourselves on the other side of the transition, having arrived at a new place. For now, we just have to keep doing the work that moves us forward.
Best wishes to you and all of us in transition. (To make transitions easier, seek out the support of your friends and supporters, and ask for help. If I can help, contact me.)
“Answers come from moving forward.” -MN
It's already late April and a third of the year has passed!
I've been away from my blog for the last several months as many other things have taken precedence: urgent eldercare issues, teaching the "Midlife Through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change" class in winter quarter, and preparing for and teaching my new spring quarter class, "Something Has to Change." I had intended to announce and publicize this new course offered through North Seattle College Continuing Education program, but it filled up so quickly that there was no purpose in advertising it further.
So, the new class... what's that about? Change challenges. Some call them "sticky" problems...
They may be the change goals that surface year as after year as your New Year's resolutions (such as, "This year, I'm going to start improving my health by exercising more."). They might be patterns of behavior that you've wanted to change for years.
Do you sometimes ask yourself, “Why is it so hard to make the changes I want to make?” You have tried, but determination and willpower don't seem to work. That’s because we possess a hidden, internal dynamic that insists on “protecting” us from change, even when those changes are those that we deeply desire and would help improve our lives.
The "Something Has To Change" course departs from the traditional approaches to change and instead applies an approach called Immunity to Change™ (ITC). Developed by Harvard faculty Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey based on decades-long work in adult development and learning, ITC is now considered one of the most innovative and powerful approaches to creating transformative change and is supported by rigorous empirical research that span decades and across different cultures and populations. (Since I have followed Kegan's work since 1987 when I was in graduate school, it was a personal joy to meet and train with Kegan and Lahey and other faculty at Minds At Work, where I completed my Coach Development training and became a licensed ITC facilitator in 2017).
ITC is quite an experience for those who have had the opportunity to benefit from it. It is often described as powerful, insightful, and transformative. The interesting thing about my new "Something Has to Change" class is that it's an experiment for me as well in that I am offering ITC in a small group coaching format instead of in the one-on-one individualized format that I would normally use with clients. I'm happy to report that ITC coaching works in both formats! (although the one-on-one format can yield more powerful results more quickly as it is customizable and paced to the individual client.)
As 2017 draws to a close, I want to wish you the best of the holiday season and a wonderful New Year!
What will the New Year look like for you? What might it hold? What do you hope for?
Will it be another year that flies past? Or can you plant a seed of change so that you can grow happier, healthier, stronger, kinder, more free to pursue your dreams?
All it takes is a little imagination and the courage to dream, and the spirit to try things. But how to start on your new path? Good friends and wise counsel help.
My friend and executive coach Walt Sutton often talks about"adjacent possibles." Look for what you can do, what's possible now. Start there.
In my late 40's, in midst of a crazy busy time juggling demanding work, family life, childcare, and eldercare, I decided that the second half of my life was going to be different. I had to change. Welcome: My life reimagined moment. There was much that I could not change at that time, but I did commit to taking care of myself and started to change in the tiniest increments. I started meditating, and exercising, and eating well, and over a decade later, I have a new life because I changed.
Yup, I know... it happens all the time to all of us... by choice or by circumstance, in big ways or small ways, we change and adapt... but sometimes, we do so with great intention and purpose.
If you want to learn more about the idea of your life reimagined, here are a few resources:
Life Reimagined: Discovering your New Life Possibilities, by Richard Leider and Alan Webber (2013). This book provides an overview of the concepts, tools, and process for discovering new possibilities in life. There is also a corresponding AARP website with resources, tools, and additional information.
Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty (2016). The former NPR correspondent uses her life experience through various midlife transitions and challenges to highlight changes in and for the second half of life.
Designing Your Life, by Stanford professor Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (2017). This is a quick and easy read that can be helpful for people of any age trying to create the life they seek..
Whatever you age or circumstance, you can improve your life in a way that you find important to you. Just explore your possibilities! It's a matter of identifying what's important now, and pursuing it with intention. Re-envision a new way to live, with a sense of purpose, and you might find an unexpected sense of fulfillment.
One great way to get started on reimagining your life is to join me in the winter quarter offering of my "Midlife Through Retirement: Catalyst for Change" class at North Seattle College. Classes run January 24 through February 28, Wednesday nights from 6:30-8:30pm. Please join me!
Oceans (by Juan Ramon Jimenez)
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
--Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
Midlife creeps up on us through the busy-ness of our days, from the demands of our daily lives and of our material pursuits. It’s no wonder that at some point we look up from the tasks and challenges that drive us, and -- to our own surprise -- four, five, six decades of our lives have passed. It’s no wonder that we might find ourselves wondering, Is this my life? Is this what I signed up for? What happened to what I wanted to do? What’s important to me now?
Sometimes, midlife feels like stuckness - like something has to change so that you can move forward. Sometimes, it feels like facing a void - going ahead into unknown, uncharted waters. Sometimes, it feels like you’ve finally shed a layer of your old self, as a snake sheds its own skin - freeing yourself to be a new version of yourself.
Need a little help at midlife to think and work through your next steps? Midlife presents a unique opportunity to create a meaningful change in your life. Even a small adjustment at this point can create a greater sense of purpose and meaning and open possibilities for greater pleasures and fulfillment in the remaining years of your life.
So what is midlife? Some people who come to my class, “Midlife through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change,” are surprised to learn that, according to current definitions of aging, midlife can extend from late-forties up to mid-sixties. In fact, the Baby Boomers, in their sheer numbers, are redefining our very notions of aging, so much so that demographers have now established new subcategories of the concept of “older” people. In this scheme, midlife extends from age 55 to 64. “Young old” are those aged 65-74, “old” are those aged 74-84, and it is above 85 that’s considered “oldest old.” And an even greater surprise? What is the fastest growing segment of the US population? Given the Baby Boomers mentioned above, yes, those 65 and above -- but specifically, according to the US Census, the fastest growing population today is those at 85 and above. In general terms, a woman aged 65 in the U.S. today can expect to live to around 87 on average and for a man it would be about 84. (Life expectancy in the 1980s were round 75 and 67, respectively.) These extra years, unprecedented in past generations, are often referred to as the “bonus years” by those who study aging.
So why talk about the years ahead? Because how you approach it, shapes it. Being conscious of today matters.
What lies ahead for you? What’s important? What do you want to do, and what will you create in and of your life? Don’t just get old… get older learning and growing at every stage.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” - Mahatma Gandi
Registration for the winter quarter “Midlife through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change" at North Seattle College is now open. Please join me. It'll be fun, engaging, and provide you with food for thought for shaping your future.
"Only that day dawns to which we are awake."
- Henry David Thoreau
It's fall again, and I am once again teaching the "Midlife Through Retirement: A Catalyst for Change" course at North Seattle College. If you are going through life transitions, or looking at "what's next" in your life, please join me on Wednesdays, from 6:30pm–8:30pm, October 11 through November 8, 2017. The course is set up as a series of interactive workshops to highlight the unique opportunities for change and growth in the second half of life (while recognizing new challenges), and to pave the way for what you want in the next stage of your life. You might pursue this class because you want to "wake up" to your life, to live it more intentionally and fully, and to strive to create what's important and necessary in your life, or as Peter Drucker said, "to make a meaningful life out of an ordinary life."
Who's at "midlife"? Anyone who has begun to sense that they are. Typically, demographers identify "midlife" as occurring around 45 to 65. I suppose people identify as "young" as long as they can -- until they realize that the years are passing and this is life! Some have described it as an inflection point... a point where one's attention turns from matters that preoccupied and directed earlier periods of their lives and starts to consider how best to live the second half of this precious life.
I've been busy the last several months reading, training, and trying innovative approaches to change and growth. Whatever your personal needs and desires, you will find support in a community of people in pursuit of change, you will learn new things, and you will find new approaches to address "what's next" in your life, and you will create change.
I hope to see you in my class in the fall! If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's been a couple of months already since I last wrote. I'll be back again. Soon.
Sometimes life plays its big cards... death, loss, suffering. Sometimes all that is left to do is to stay present to the moment and see what happens. Even in these circumstances, life presents unexpected openings to new people, new experiences, and higher levels of thoughts melded with complex emotions. Sometimes, it grounds you more in what's important in life and in your life. Sometimes, it leads you there.
The Way It Is (by William Stafford)
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
I spent the last days of March sitting long hours in a hospital, tending to my 88-year old father who was recovering from a major operation. Nurses came to give instructions on post-surgery care, and physical and occupational therapists came daily to teach him techniques and exercises to help him regain, at least to the best of his ability, the maximum level of functioning that he might have. They pressed upon him the importance of taking the necessary steps and deliberate action -- practicing movement techniques, exercises, and changes in behavior -- that would be essential if he was to retain the functions he still had. In fact, if he did not do this, his health would deteriorate and his quality of life would be even more diminished.
As I watched him answer sincerely each time - yes - he would take the appropriate measures and follow instructions, I knew it would be a challenge. In addition to the pain and fatigue, and despite his good intentions, sustained change can be hard even under normal conditions.
When faced with a challenge, it's easy to accept instructions and technical solutions. It's quite another thing to find yourself not doing what you should be doing, or doing what you know you shouldn't, or simply not accepting the need for change at all. Real change requires a change in mindset, a shift in thinking, feeling, and behavior. This is what Harvard researchers Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey have been studying for decades from an adult development and learning perspective. They wanted to understand the mechanism by which people fail to change despite of an expressed desire to change and to devise a way to overcome it.
What they came up with is a remarkably insightful theory Immunity to Change (ITC), a simple diagnostic tool, and an impressively effective way to help people identify and overcome their systems of immunity to change.
After a recent ITC workshop I ran, one participant said, "I'm still a little shocked, to tell you honestly (at what he learned through the diagnostic exercise) ... There is little doubt in my mind that this awareness is key to achieving long term changes. The ITC method is deceptively simple and yet profound. I had read up on it prior to yesterday's class, and I had understood the concept on an analytical level. However, your teaching of ITC went much deeper. I really got it."
What we did in class -- the process of uncovering one's "immune system" to change -- was the diagnostic part and unveils our personal Big Assumptions (BA) that has us in its grips.
The second part of the ITC process involves implementing a series of intentional actions to test the Big Assumptions and to systematically review and address Big assumptions until a "shift" (or adaptive change) occurs. You come to feel that something has shifted inside of you, and perhaps you feel less constrained, more free, perhaps more enabled to grow.
Like many people, my father's health conditions started when he was still in his fifties. The doctors had emphasized necessary changes in lifestyle and behavior then and in each successive medical incident or crisis. He probably knew at some point that something had to change, but perhaps like many people, he found it simply hard to change or to sustain desired change (despite his best intentions), or perhaps it was a mystery to him what fundamentally needed to change in him.
The Immunity to Change approach helps cuts through our complex nature to reveal the invisible systems that affect us, and this allows us create adaptive changes along with technical solutions to support our growth.
Kegan and Lahey say, "Our Conviction is that there is no expiration date on your ability to grow. No matter how old you are, the story of your own development -- and the stories of those around you -- can continue to unfold." My hope is that we all start sooner than later.
Thoughts for creating success in the second half of life.