Can you feel the shifts going on in the world? Can you predict the shifts that will happen in your life? As a Southwest flight attendant said, "Be careful when opening the overhead bins, because…. shift happens. "One thing is certain, change is underway and will continue. Some will surprise us. Some are predictable.
Interviewed Marc Freedman last week for LiveTalksLA. Marc is the founder of Civic Ventures and the Purpose Prize. He has been working tirelessly to engage "older" Americans in meaningful work and to help us as a society see that value in those contributions.
His book the Big Shift is about the demographic and economic change of how Boomers will become an enormous untapped resource when they retire. That's right the 78 million American Boomers are beginning to turn 65. And most developed countries will see their populations turn grey by mid century. Hallmark sold 85,000 birthday cards for 100 year olds last year in the US!
We all are witnessing our parents living longer, many of whom are unprepared for the time they have on their hands. People planning their retirements in their sixties, not realizing that they will be retired longer than they have worked. Still others going through massive disruption in their lives through the recession forcing them to consider radically new career paths.
Marc's book is a treatise on the size and scope of this change and the great need to understand it and harness it. It is a great read. Filled with anecdotes, research and humor. It is not a how-to shift. It is what we need to do as a country to utilize the great talent, wisdom, and creativity of this growing population. But after you read it you think about how unprepared we are for all of the shifts that are occuring to us.
He discusses our obsession with youth which us gives us disdain for age and the elderly. He says we have to understand that fifty is NOT the new thirty but the NEW fifty!
The questions he raises are thought provoking and should give every reader pause, no matter how old he/she is. In fact, I believe that shift prep is applicable to everyone. We all have to think about "retirement", but we also all have to think about the next unpredictable chapter.
The future is already here– it just isn't evenly distributed. –William Gibson
We can delude ourselves into preparing for retirement by thinking almost solely about the financial aspects. After all, if we have money the rest will follow. Wrong! Like most things we don't think it through. Most of us have envisioned a Norman Rockwell retirement, where we live in leisure and pursue our hobbies.
Back at the beginning of the 20th century when we were lucky to live to 50 and that was an attractive goal. But Freedman argues we can not afford to waste the talent and expertise of the Boomers to shuffleboard and Leisure World.
While many Americans who "retire", continue to work and engage in civic life, many do not. They search for meaning again like they were new undergrads who can't declare a major.
As in any change or new chapter, good questions will guide our choices? Here is a sampling of the questions we must ask ourselves to find fulfilling and impactful opportunities in our lives today and as we prepare to "retire".
- How do we live a legacy in addition to leaving one?
- How do I take risks at this stage in my life?
- How can I live a life with greater significance?
- How can I continue to make a difference?
Regardless of the age and stage you are in, there are numerous opportunities to work, volunteer, and contribute to the causes, issues and organizations you care about. If you are a few years from retirement or decades from it, you have to find things that are much bigger than hobbies. You need activities that allow you to invest yourself to improve the world, community or neighborhood. Retirement is another life chapter, like all chapters will depend on your preparation and how you listen to your heart.
If you don't stand for something, then you will fall for anything. —anonymous
Shift happens and is happening. The more your life is defined by ideas and issues, the more durable your life will be to shifts. The more you procrastinate the pursuit of your passions the harder shifts are. And the most foolish mindset is —"I'll wait until then."
Thanks for shifting. John