Recently, Cathy came to me perplexed about the next step in her career. She felt she had hit a fork in the road and needed to make a decision. On the surface, it sounded like an exciting step to take, but Cathy felt frozen, unsure of what the next step looked like. She knew a big change was ahead, but she was unable to get clarity on what that change looked like. Cathy also feared regret and making a mistake. What if she didn’t like the direction she decided to take? What if it meant a step backward? Or worse, what if she failed?
When asked to envision her future, Cathy would freeze and often answer, “I don’t know” to questions such as, “Describe the work you’d love to do,” and “What does your ideal work week look like?”
Instead of working too hard to uncover the blocks in her way, Cathy and I decided to flip the script and write her future by revisiting it from the past. As homework for our next coaching session, I asked Cathy to write her retirement speech.
Here are 7 reasons why this approach can work for you:
1. It allows you to acknowledge what you’ve already accomplished
Why wait 40-50 years to celebrate your career triumphs? Make the list now, raise your glass and toast yourself now.
2. You realize how far you’ve come
You already have an amazing collection of career experiences under your belt. Take the time to dust off some memories, examine themes, and think about the hurdles you’ve already cleared to get where you are now.
3. You’ll be reminded of the people who have most inspired you
Memories of teachers, colleagues, and bosses who have played pivotal roles in your career will come flooding back to you. How did they help you grow? Who pushed you to take risks? Who do you admire most? Maybe there’s a person or two on the list you should connect with again.
(P.S. Now is a great time to call your high school math teacher to say thank you!)
4. You begin to realize sooner than later what’s most important to you
In a world where it’s all work and no play, we can easily lose sight of what and who is most important. Writing your retirement speech requires you to get clear, and ideally, bring you back in balance with the people and things you love.
5. You crystallize your career and life vision
When I asked Cathy, “What is your vision for your career and life?” she’d often respond, “I’m not exactly sure.” When I asked, “What do you want to achieve by the time you retire?” Cathy’s list grew quickly and included things like global travel, starting a non-profit, becoming a swim coach, and being asked to join a board. There was no end to Cathy’s ideas about her future! Give yourself a chance to crystallize your own vision by talking about it as if you’ve checked it all off your list.
7. You can break through the fear of taking that next step by putting it in the past
It’s so much easier to say, “I did it! I achieved [fill in the blank]!” than it is to say, “I want to take a big chance and achieve [fill in the blank].” Why? In the second scenario, there’s risk involved and it can be scary to take the first step. There’s really no end to the risks we would take if we were guaranteed the desired outcome. By shifting your perspective to think about a goal from the perspective that you’ve already achieved it, it’s easier to put a plan together and take the next step toward it.
8. You can share your speech with friends and family
Your friends and family will love to share in your vision, hear how important they are to you, and hold you accountable to what you want to achieve.
Take a chance this week and write your retirement speech. How would you write your career and life? I’d love to hear from you!
– Jackie Simon