Medium 9781609949327

Life Reimagined

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Winner of the 2014 Silver Nautilus Award

Are You Ready for Your Life Reimagined Moment?

Are you at a point in your life where you're asking, “What's next?” You've finished one chapter and you have yet to write the next one. Many of us face these transitions at midlife, but they can happen at any point. It's a time full of enormous potential, and it defines a whole new phase of life. It's called Life Reimagined.

Here is your map to guide you in this new life phase. You can use the powerful practices and insights—enhanced with online tools and exercises at AARP's website—to help you uncover your own special gifts, connect with people who can support you, and explore new directions.

You'll be inspired by meeting ordinary people who have reimagined their lives in extraordinary ways. You'll also read the stories of pioneers of the Life Reimagined movement such as Jane Pauley, James Brown, and Emilio Estefan. They show us that this journey of discovery can help us find fulfillment in surprising new places.

One of the profound truths that underlies this book is the liberating notion that each of us is “an experiment of one,” free to find our own path in this new phase of our lives. No old rules, no outdated societal norms, no boundaries of convention or expectation. Let Life Reimagined help you discover your new life possibilities!

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15 Chapters

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Chapter 1 This Isn’t What I Was Expecting!


“This isn’t what I was expecting!”

You constantly hear that refrain as people describe their response to a set of experiences in a world that is rapidly changing, a world that doesn’t match the way things used to be. At the start of any conversation about what it’s like to move into this new phase of life, you’ll hear a long and varied list of things that people didn’t expect:

I didn’t expect to be divorced at my age—or to be beginning a new relationship.

I didn’t expect to be unemployed—or to have the opportunity to start my own business.

I didn’t expect my grown-up son to come back and live with me—or for me to have to go and live with my grown-up son.

I didn’t expect my 401k to be worthless—or to have enough money to take the trip I’d always dreamed of.

What people seem to have expected is that by the time they’d reached this point in their lives, they’d have everything under control. That at a certain age, they’d have enough money, enough status, enough experience, enough stuff, that they’d have things the way they wanted them.


Chapter 2 Get Real


Before we go any farther into the Life Reimagined journey, it’s time to take a hard look at reality. Or at least what some people believe is the way their reality has to be.

This chapter is for anyone reading this book who is a skeptic. Or a cynic. Anyone who believes that Life Reimagined isn’t for them or can’t be for them. Anyone who dismisses it as hopelessly idealistic or impossibly romantic without bothering to give it a try. Or anyone reading this book who knows someone who matches that description.

We know people like that. In doing the research to write this book, we met them in almost every meeting. They’ve been in every audience and every workshop.

You know them, too.

They’re the people who listen to your story about the things you’re eager to try in your life and roll their eyes.

They tell you what they’d like to do—someday—and then immediately explain why they can’t possibly do it today. Or ever.

They’re people who respond to every opportunity, every possibility, by crossing their arms over their chest and saying, “Yes, but.”


Chapter 3 What Works?


Here’s what doesn’t work: fear.

In the process of reimagining your life, fear is the enemy.

Fear of the past and fear of the future.

Fear of losing what you’ve worked so hard to gain and fear of failing to gain new things.

Fear of failing and fear of failing to try.

Fear of what people are thinking of you, or fear of people not thinking of you at all.

Fear of not knowing the right answer and fear of having too many answers.

The list of possible fears is endless—and living with fear can become a habitual way of going through life.

When you’re afraid, the first reaction is to shut down your mind: avoid, evade, deny. You become closed and unimaginative.

When it comes to reimagining your life, choice, curiosity, and courage are your allies in dispelling fear.

Reimagining is a form of self-permission: you give yourself the freedom to roam in new territories. Sometimes you’re exploring within the private space of your mind, turning things over, seeing how they feel; sometimes you’re stepping out into the public space of the real world, trying things out, seeing what works.


Chapter 4 Reflect—What’s Real for You?


If you talk with people in the latter part of their lives and ask them to look back on how they’ve lived, you’ll hear a consistent refrain: “If I were to live my life over, I’d be more reflective.” Dig a little deeper, and they usually add, “Happiness is a choice, not a result of how life treats you.”

What they’re really saying is, reflection is all about choice.

What is reflection?

First, let’s dispel some misconceptions. Start with what it isn’t—and what it doesn’t require you to do.

Reflection doesn’t require you to go off to a monastery. You don’t have to light candles and learn to sit in the lotus position. Soothing music isn’t necessary; you don’t have to practice chanting or learn a mantra. (To be fair, these may be helpful practices for some people; they’re just not required.) The point is, it’s not an esoteric experience designed to make you self-conscious—at least not in an uncomfortable way.

But you do, actually, want to become more conscious of yourself—in a good way.

Reflection is about pausing to look at life from the inside out. It goes back to the Life Reimagined Spiral. In trigger moments we tend to do two things: we go higher, and we go deeper.


Chapter 5 Connect—Who’s There for You?


Throughout life, community is important. In this new phase of life creating a sense of community is essential. It’s the expression of connection.

It’s so self-evident that most of the time we take it for granted: humans are social animals. It’s in our DNA—literally. We’ve survived and evolved because of our innate capacity and need to connect with our fellow human beings. We’re not meant to live solitary lives. Talking, listening, touching, and relating are hardwired into what it means to be human. Connecting creates a sense of well-being for all of us in every phase of life. We need to depend on one another for all kinds of things, from specific lessons that teach us how to do something better to more general emotional support in dealing with the triggers that are always a part of life.

But here’s what happens to community and connections over time: they tend to fray. Think about it.

In the early phases of adulthood, we often make connections and form communities around two spheres: family and work. It’s a common experience for many people who have children: the children become the reason for community and connections. The friends you make, the associations you join, the school games or performances you attend, all derive from your children and their interests and development. That’s a powerful connection, one that brings people together around a shared commitment to their families. Your friends are the parents of your children’s friends.


Chapter 6 Explore—What’s Possible for You?


It is by many accounts the greatest advertising campaign in business history—certainly the most iconic.

If you don’t remember it or never saw it, it starts quietly with a few subdued notes from a piano and a black-and-white video image of Albert Einstein.

Then we hear a voice, simple, honest, direct, authentic: “Here’s to the crazy ones,” it says. “The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.”

The images on the screen advance with strength and elegance: Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Richard Branson, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Richard Feynman.

“The round pegs in the square holes,” the voice says evenly. “The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them,” the voice calmly tells us as the parade of iconic faces continues.

Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock.

“About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.”


Chapter 7 Take a Break—Whew!


Time to take a deep breath. Stretch. Relax for a minute.

If you’ve ever gone backpacking, you know that it’s a good idea to pause by the side of the path when you’re roughly at the midpoint of your adventure. Put down what you’re carrying; check what’s in your bag; test the weight of the load; make sure you’ve got the right supplies with you—and that you’ve gotten rid of things you don’t really need.

It’s a chance to look back and see the ground you’ve already covered. You get to assess the choices you’ve made: do you still want to make the journey? You can test your curiosity: does this path seem interesting? And you can evaluate your courage: are you committed to keeping on this path?

That’s what this brief chapter is about.

If you sense that the first three practices—Reflect, Connect, Explore—on the Life Reimagined map go together, you’re right. There’s no requirement that you travel in a straight line; you can zigzag and choose your own way of moving around the map. But if you did do them all, you should be in a position now to consider where you’ve been and what you’ve done. You should have notes in your journal that track your progress, capture your experiences, and trace your thinking. And you should be well prepared for the next three practices that lie ahead.


Chapter 8 Choose—What’s Next?


Life Reimagined says we make better choices—and find fulfillment—when we live from the inside out.

Think about it this way: at its core, life consists of choices that involve having, doing, and being.

The way the old story encouraged people to “pursue happiness” followed this logic: If I have enough—usually money—then I’ll be able to do what I want—but have delayed choosing—and then I’ll finally be happy.

The new story flips that process: you start with being yourself, with who you are authentically. That leads to doing things that are in alignment with who you are. Finally, as a consequence, you have a fulfilling life—one that is both successful outwardly and feels authentic inwardly.

In the new phase of life, getting this process right is an urgent task.

Go back to the Life Reimagined stories, the people you’ve met in earlier chapters. One of the most striking points is what these explorers and pioneers didn’t say.

No one mentioned making money to buy more things.

No one mentioned a life of leisure or luxury, a life of taking it easy.


Chapter 9 Repack—What To Lose, What To Take?


Everyday experience tell us that we’re going through a time of unprecedented changes: changes in the economy that make life harder; changes in medicine that make life longer; changes in lifestyles that make life more interesting.

Life Reimagined responds to those external changes. And it goes beyond them to something deeper and different.

Life Reimagined is about more than changes. It’s about transitions. And while we often use those two words interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing to us or demand the same thing from us.

Think about it this way: change is often situational, factual, external. You change your job and move from one line of work to another. You change your address and move from one town to another. You change your status in life and move from single to married or back again. These are the kinds of changes that can show up on a tax form, a driver’s license, a résumé.

Transitions are personal in a way that can’t be captured on a government form or job application. Transitions, compared to changes, have a deeper resonance, a more elemental quality: they’re not about what’s out there, they’re about who’s in here.


Chapter 10 Act—What To Do Now?


In the end—actually, for there to be a beginning—you have to act. It all starts when you do something.

It’s that basic: to reimagine your life, you have to do something. And then you do it again. Or you do something else based on the feedback you got from what you did. Or how it felt to you when you did it.

Start where you are. Use the preparation you’ve done and the practices you’ve worked on as guidance, input, creative juice. And then take a first step in a new direction. After that, adapt as you go.

It’s really that simple. Take action.

The only thing worse than doing something that might be wrong is doing nothing at all—which can’t be right.

Let’s get this issue out of the way right away.

Here are some voices we all have in our heads:

What if I make a mistake?

What if I look foolish?

What if I do the wrong thing, and it doesn’t work out the way I want it to?

What if my friends criticize me?

What if my family doesn’t approve?

Here’s the truth: Fear is the enemy of action. Fear robs you of your choices, saps your curiosity, short-circuits your courage.


Chapter 11 Take a Break—Is It Over Yet?


You’ve gone through each of the six practices that make up the Life Reimagined map. So this must be the journey’s end! Right?

Actually no.

In fact, the journey is never over. Remember Yogi Berra’s famous dictum, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”?

When it comes to the Life Reimagined journey, good old Yogi had it wrong. The truth is, it’s never over.

When you reach Act, the sixth guidepost on the map, you haven’t arrived at your destination. You’ve actually just started. Because after you Act, your next step is to Reflect. You pause and see how your action feels to you: Does it sit well? Is it uncomfortable in an uncomfortable way? Or is it uncomfortable in a satisfying way, like the first day at a gym doing a new exercise regime? You know that workout might make your muscles sore—and you also know you’ll feel a little proud of yourself for having made the effort.

After you’ve gone around the Life Reimagined map for the first time, you’ll want to check in with the members of your Sounding Board. You’ll want to report in on how your journey is going. You’ll want to invite their feedback, to add their insights to your own experiences.


Chapter 12 Is This Your Life Reimagined Moment?


Something is happening, and it affects us all. Life Reimagined—the new phase of life—is changing the entire life course.

At first you might not notice the subtle but powerful changes that are under way. But once you start looking for it, listening for it—simply noticing it—you’ll discover that Life Reimagined is on everyone’s mind.

It’s everywhere around you. It’s covered in newspaper reports and written up in magazine stories that shape conversations. It’s embedded in political discussions of how we’re living and where we’re going. It’s what we talk about over the dinner table and in emails and phone calls with family and friends. It’s what comes up in sermons and commencement talks. It’s the topic of discussions that range from everyday friends sharing their experiences in coffee shops to leaders trying to make sense of the way the world is changing.

Because it’s everyone’s story.

It’s the shape of life today, the contour of the new territory. It is the defining spirit of our age, a movement. We are learning about it at the same time that we create it. It is everyone’s moment.


Chapter 13 It’s Your Move


Let’s end this book where we started.

In the end it’s up to you.

Will you choose to take your Life Reimagined journey?

Will you choose to add your story to the thousands—the millions—of stories of curious, courageous pioneers of Life Reimagined?

Will you choose to join the Life Reimagined movement?

Here’s why it matters—why what we all do matters.

We’re at the beginning of something powerful and important: the Life Reimagined movement.

It’s a movement that is personal in its touch and widespread in its reach.

It’s a movement that is reimagining more than 50 years of accepted practice and conventional wisdom about the trajectory and purpose of our lives.

This movement does away with outdated boundaries, irrelevant conventions, and unproductive expectations. It challenges a system that has emerged to tell us how society expects us to live our lives.

Because of this movement we are shifting from an old story of a single, predictable trajectory prescribed by social convention to a new story of Life Reimagined and a new way of living that enables each of us to decide our own path, our own journey.


Life Reimagined Conversations


Life Reimagined takes on a whole new dimension when you use the book as the basis for conversations—with partners, friends, family, colleagues.

But before you get a group together for a Life Reimagined conversation, take the following steps:

1. Read this book.

2. Begin your Possibilities Journal.

3. Highlight the book and make notes; list your own questions in your journal.

Getting a group together to talk about Life Reimagined is a good way to generate even more energy around the Life Re-imagined journey, both for yourself and others. In a variety of ways we feed off one another’s ideas, stories and insights. The result benefits everyone.

Here are 10 questions to help you start conversations at home, at work, in your book group, at your place of worship, or in your social circle.

1. Do you agree that there is a new phase of life between middle age and old age, with unique characteristics and possibilities? If yes, what are some examples of Life Reimagined that you know of?

2. Is reimagining really necessary? When is it not necessary?



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