In this Blog edition we will focus on the second step of the Charting Your Personal Future retirement planning model, Dream. Other words for dream are envision or imagine.
We encourage prospective retirees to dream about what their future might be in retirement, without being constrained by the nuts and bolts of reality. It is a right-brain activity, heavy on the creative end. More fuzzy than precise. Allowing oneself to "future gaze," unrestrained by the conventions of linear thinking is what dreaming is all about. By the way, those important conventions are central to the following step of the Charting Your Personal Future model, Planning.
Let's take a closer look at this step of Dreaming through a fun approach. I call it the "Draw-Sketch-Write Dream Exercise."
To get ready, take out a blank piece of paper. Yes, this is "old school!" If you have crayons, great, get them. If not, then a pencil or pen will do just fine.
See if you can follow these 5 steps:
As you may have surmised, I’m going to invite you to draw or sketch or write—whatever mode fits you best—about your possible retirement. No pressure, this is intended as a creative and fun exercise.
1. Before you start, I first invite you to close your eyes, settle in, breathe deeply in and out 3 times. Hold each segment for a count of 4: In(4)-Out(4), In(4)-Out(4), In(4)-Out(4).
2. Now that you are relaxing some, allow your mind to wander, to let go. Try to focus on absolutely nothing at all. If you have not made a habit of doing something like this (which is probably most of us), just try without any criticism, if it does not come easily. Any small gain will be perfect. Allow this for 30 seconds.
3. Now, bring into your awareness the topic of "My Retirement." Visualize the words, create a large billboard sign in your mind containing those two words. Then permit yourself to imagine, to dream about this topic. No checklists here, no numbered lists. Dream about what “My Retirement” could possibly be like for you. Capture any big images, shapes, colors, energy. Tune into your affect, note what positive or maybe negative feelings bubble up. See if any clearer directions begin to emerge. Some people may conjure scenes containing friends, nature, sitting alone, helping someone else, playing games, traveling somewhere, feeling happy, feeling empty, words, concepts…Try this kind of dreaming for about 1 minute.
4. Now comes the drawing-sketching-writing. Nothing elaborate or particularly skillful is expected. Simply take whatever tool(s) you have available and, for up to 5 minutes, draw, sketch, or write the dream elements that appeared to you.
5. When you’ve finished, pause and take a closer look. Try describing what’s on the paper. Try putting into words what it might mean. Try imagining if there may be anything to follow up on, to explore more closely, or to talk with another person about. Write down whatever you may have come up with.
Maybe seeing an example by someone else to this exercise might be interesting. Here, just words and circles appear, using just a pen.
When asked to provide some sense of meaning to this product, this is what emerged:
“I don’t know. It’s just a bunch of stuff that I guess I enjoy and, thinking about it, maybe I’d like to be part of my retirement. Doesn’t seem very creative. Or is it? I notice now I put three circles around the word, “Freedom”. Looks that that is maybe most important. Hey, I believe that. Now I am a bit amazed. I think freedom is no doubt really central to what I am thinking about retirement for me. Freedom from what, freedom for what, though? Hmmm, need to do some more dreaming about that. And how the various pieces here could possibly fit together, or somehow be included.”
It seems the Dream exercise may have had some value for this person. In some ways, it connected, even providing some avenues for further exploration. That’s the kind of thing, ideally, that we are looking for here.
And now, more important, how about your work? What did YOU find?
Try summarizing what you found in 3 sentences: What did you produce, as far as you can tell, and what might it mean for your retirement?