Activating the best of you!

Dear Readers,

Retirement is not a period. Retirement is a comma! Many people go into retirement planning for up until the day they retire. They put a lot of time reviewing the financial aspects of retiring, carefully considering where they will live, and they might make some travel plans.

What’s missing?

What’s missing is that often when people retire, especially this generation of baby boomers, they still have a lot of energy and good health. That translates into possibly decades ahead of that valuable commodity called TIME! They have time to spend. Time to give. Time to use.

They need to put time into planning wisely for how to best use that  important phase of life.

Many people look forward to spending time on the golf course, time with the grandkids, and perhaps some special travels they’ve been looking forward to doing.

But I’d like to suggest that there is a new way for those who are fortunate enough to have good enough health, good enough wealth and perhaps decades ahead to plan and use wisely.

I call it, Great in 8: 8 Steps for a purposeful and vital retirement.

It is a process that extends from early in your life, forward, and from the inside out. It requires some reflection and some deep thinking.

Here’s the 8-Step way I suggest you use in considering your retirement.

  1. Let’s Start at the Beginning: Think back to some of ways you enjoyed your time as a child. That will often give you insights into your essential preferences. One retirement focused client remembered the joy of the shows she and her sibling performed in their yard for neighbors and decided to re-ignite that passion by getting involved in community theater. Her community theater involvement has opened up an exciting new dimension of her life and added new friends with common interests.
  2. You are only given one body: As we age we need to put more intention and care into our physical wellbeing to sustain good health. Consider ways to improve your eating habits, sleeping and exercising. Research to find ways to join others in exercise and healthy lifestyle changes and practices.
  3. Extract from your career life: Even though you might be relieved to be done with work, there might be aspects of it you want to continue doing. Some business people enjoy working with a senior organization that provides business advice to young entrepreneurs. Some who have worked for decades in the healthcare profession enjoy doing volunteer work in that area.
  4. Your life force never retires: By this I mean your inner psychology. Maybe this is the time to work on the long buried issues you had with your mother or father. This might be the time to invest in working with a psychologist or counselor to unburden some lifelong conflicts. You can also improve your quality of life by reducing or eliminating nagging inner problems.
  5. Give Back: Often we feel drawn toward making a difference in our world once we have the time to do so. Explore how you can volunteer and help others now that you are no long burdened with full-time work. By creating a legacy of giving back you will be both empowering yourself and improving our world!
  6. Let’s look at your family relationships: Maybe there’s a sister or brother you’d like to reconnect with. Perhaps you want to get closer to one of your children you had a tough time with earlier in life. This is the time to really examine and perhaps improve your  family relations.
  7. Ya gotta have friends! Make sure to socialize. It is one of the key dimensions of a full and happy life. In retirement you have time to develop your hobbies and interests, and you just might meet up with new people with similar interests and have a great time together! Also, this is the time to seek out old friends who you’ve lost touch with who you really enjoyed!
  8. The NEW! Yes, you finally have time to develop new interests and hobbies. Travel to new places. Read new books. Take classes. Expand yourself (though try not to expand your waistline!)

Onward to that next and important career phase  — Retirement! Remember, retirement is not a period. It is a comma!


Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

The wide range of human behavior never ceases to amaze me!


Yesterday I was talking to a someone who works for a large Santa Rosa organization that was severely impacted by the fires.

He was complaining about his manager, the new executive director.  The executive director was a fairly new hire who had  moved to the community three months back for this position.

His style of management was authoritative, task oriented and demanding. The hiring team was not looking for a touch-feely type as they believed the staff needed more discipline.

He was hired to replace someone that was looked at as lax, friendly and well-liked,  but not what the organization thought it needed to move to a new, professional level.

When the fire destroyed much of the organization’s valuable property, this boss demanded that all employees come to work full time and overtime, regardless of their personal losses and demands. He wanted everyone to be 150% committed to the team and to the organizations, no questions asked.

He demanded that everyone participate in cleaning up and rebuilding asap. Two employees who had approved and scheduled vacations were told to change plans.

In fact, when he gathered the staff, this boss told the group to put personal feelings aside, it was time to focus exclusively on bringing all their energies to work! Listening and responding empathetically was not his style and he wanted to see results, not share feelings.

One person told me it was shocking to him that this man was actually  gleeful;  sharing with the group that now he had an opportunity to rebuild in his own vision. He seemed to have no regard or interest in the losses, fears and even anguish of some of his employees. In fact,  he was disappointed when his employees showed any pushback or need to express negative, sad emotions. Just a week after the fire he told the group that “Grieving is now officially over.” And this is in sharp contrast to the input  I  got from the psychologist (see last posting) that processing this trauma could take 6-24 months and needs to be recognized. Since the fire, this boss has lost half a dozen key employees who were so upset by his leadership style that they felt they could no longer work there. Whatever gains he made in working the remaining staff to the bone, he lost in the resignation of excellent, long term employees and group morale. This is not a good example to follow.


Another large employer in Santa Rosa had a leader who represents a good way to lead after a community disaster. This leader understands the complexity and pressures that a community wide devastation brings about and that the human dimension needs to be considered in managing through devastation.

From the top, he let all managers and employees know that they would be a KIND and SMART company. They would be KIND in providing time, money and any and all kinds of resources to their employees as much as they could. Employees who lost their homes were given money to bridge the time before their insurance money kicked in, a place to go for warmth, shelter and companionship and community resources that would connect them to new housing options. Conversely, employees who were safe with homes spared and energy to help were given opportunities to collect clothing, household items and gather to sort and offer these things to the less fortunate in their company. Their energies were activated appropriately and wisely. They were told to take good care of themselves, their families and their friends and colleagues. They were told they matter and their emotional lives, too, were important. Counselors where brought in to explain and help people cope with the disaster. These employees are proud to work for this company. This wise and kind leadership will pay off in the long run with deeper bonds of loyalty to their management, to the company, and to one another.

Which boss are you and which boss do you work for?

Let’s make this a learning community that only gets better after it is challenged.

Let’s learn from the GOOD and let’s see the BAD ways pass on as ill-fated mistakes.

Onward in good leadership,

Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

Everywhere I turn, from family to friends, to colleagues and acquaintances, I hear the following complaints and concerns:

   * exhaustion  * headaches  * distraction * irritability  * anxiety and fears  * memory problems

*  disorientation        * sleeping issues  * eating issues * depression

Not surprising that our county’s mental health director, Michael Kennedy, reports that his division is seeing a doubling in its normal volume of calls from residents experiencing anxiety and depression. These are calls from people who have lost homes in the fire and those who still have homes, but are sensitive to being in a community impacted by loss. For all of us, our community is different than it was before. There is devastation around us; and things that we thought were safe and permanent are no longer there. This is deep stuff.

And does this relate to our careers and our work lives?

You bet it does. It impacts each one of us, and it impacts the work place because we bring our full selves to work.

To help me understand the situation more deeply, I met with friend who is a local psychologist with 25+ years experience. She generously gave me information and suggestions.

The first thing she said that that everyone responds to this disaster, though we don’t necessarily respond the same way. Often, men and women respond differently, and people of different temperments and life experiences respond differently. If you’ve ever been in a disaster before, you will most probably be ‘triggered’ and at some level you will be coping with this disaster and the memories and feelings from the past.

“Although some people go headlong into working extra hard, that is only a short term distraction. It is not a good long-term solution as there is no substitute for what is really needed now: very good self-care.” She explained that self-care translates into: slow down, sleep more, eat wisely and try to lighten your load. You need to deal with your feelings about your experience with the fire. She said this is not the time to be stoic, that if you don’t take care of yourself now, and acknowledge your feelings, the stress can catch up with you in form of physical sickness and or depression.

She went on to say: “Be watchful of your own response. Try to notice if your behavior, thoughts or feelings are out of the norm for you.”

Also, managers who carried on in the immediate aftermath are possibly having delayed responses. Employees who recently moved to Sonoma County right before the fire are vulnerable as they were already dealing with major life changes.

Be gentle and patient with yourself and your co-workers. However, if you begin to feel unusually anxious, overwhelmed or even resentful toward co-workers, then speak with your manager.

Notice if you’re feeling uncharacteristically overwhelmed or distracted at work, and see if your employer has a confidential counseling program or look to community resources.

Additionally, she added, realize that the holidays are approaching and they bring their own stresses as well.

When I mentioned that I was having some uncharacteristic fatigue, she suggested I find ways to tune into my feelings so I could deal with them and express them. So I turned to photographing our community. By taking pictures of both the beauty of our natural world in Sonoma County and contrasting that with images of devastated and burned down homes and buildings, in some way I am carrying and integrating these two separate realities. I noticed I was sighing and taking deep breathes as I photographed the images of devastation. I realized that the emotions it was bringing up were exhausting, so I went to sleep very early that night. I did experience a deeper sleep than usual, and awoke the following morning with more energy.

In conclusion, here is a list of self-care strategies:

  1. Slow down
  2. Take on less.
  3. Try to sleep and rest more.
  4. Be conscious of eating healthfully and not over-eating.
  5. Stay hydrated.
  6. Stay sensitive to your moods and pause before responding in an irritable or mean way. Be gentle with yourself and others.
  7. Ask for help if you need it; often talking out your feelings to a trusted partner or friend can relieve stress.
  8. If you are aware of feeling anxious or depressed over time, talk to your manager or supervisor at work to see if you can have more breaks, a short term reduction in work, more resources to help you through or even see if there are counseling services offered through your employer.

Onward to integrating and responding to our community’s devastation.

Let’s bring our healthy selves to work!

Coach Joan.

Below are some of the images I took today, less than .5 mile from my home. Pictures of destruction, then some hope. Lastly, a perfect yellow rose from our garden.