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Four Steps to Finding Your Dreams

Written by Marianne Heron with Paul Britton

Rewirement is about realising your dreams and your shared retirement plan for this new life stage. But how do you go about imagining what those dreams might be and before you initiate them, making sure that you have found those that are right for you? It’s a bit like that song from South Pacific. ‘You gotta have a dream, if you haven’t gotta dream, how you goin’ to make that dream come true?’
One way is to start thinking about things that really float your boat. Or, as the song  puts it: ‘Talk about things you like to do’. Let’s face it, there is no sense in going against the grain and spending time doing things you don’t enjoy, for if dreams are going to work they need to be congruent (in tune) with who you are, your skills, values and motivation style. This fun four stage exercise is designed to help you find answers.

Find your passion

So think about experiences where you felt most alive and really  in tune with yourself, things that you have done where time really flew, and things that you really enjoyed and haven’t had the chance to repeat. They are the things that feel right, that come naturally, where you are in the zone, peak experiences that really tap into your strengths and answer your needs. If you are stuck try answering questions like: if I had a week off work I would spend my time doing…I am the go to person when friends need help with …I always dreamed about being a… sometimes looking at things that other people have done may be an inspiration. Just let your mind drift and jot down the experiences as they come to you.

What are your strengths and skills?

Now have a look at which of your strengths and skills your preferred option involved. Too often we tend to think of the things that we get wrong, our faults or the things that we ought to be doing. You    want to work with your best and chuck out the rest. To add to the picture or if you have difficulty listing your own strong points, ask a friend or partner to list a few of the qualities they value about you or list the things you value about yourself. We are talking about things like kindness, spontaneity, determination to see things through, intelligence, ability to empathise, being organised, fair and liberal. Then get your friend or partner to think up a short story involving your passion and strengths. For instance ‘You really love nature, you are friendly, a natural teacher and good organiser, so why not start a nature tour business’. This may not sound right, you don’t like the risk involved in business, so keep amending the story until it feels good.

What are your wants?

The next step is to compile a wants list. Wants are about the amount of time and commitment you are prepared to give your project, how much money you might invest and the basis on which you want to undertake it. Should it be part time, involve a partner, be a consultancy, something for social contact, something home based? How will what you want dovetail with your partner’s ideas, which plans will involve you both and so on. Your wants will also be informed by the things that you hate about your job or current lifestyle. So a want may be that daily travel is out of the question.

Brainstorm or have an ideas party

Make a list of your dreams and check that these fit with your wants list. This could involve voluntary work, expanding a hobby, starting  a small business, offering a service, consultancy. Like John, who after a career in insurance turned his passion for painting into a small business and absorbing hobby. He gives art classes in the garage he converted, joined the local artists’ group and sells the paintings which he does on his travels.

What have you done where time went quickly? Why was it so absorbing? Is there something you have always wanted to do but never got around to? If you could do that thing, what would it be?

There are people out there who have hit on a fulfilling approach to this stage of life, something that is not necessarily about filling their pockets, but about filling their souls. Take the language teachers from Germany who loved travel and wine. When they retired, they bought a large camper van had the suspension specially reinforced and travelled to France and Italy buying wine for private customers. They were welcomed with opened arms wherever they went and had an absolute ball.

Then go through the ideas, look at them through different lenses to check how many boxes they tick, what really appeals, how good a fit is the idea with your requirements, skills and values. There are things that you might do, things that you really can do. Thinking things through thoroughly at this stage helps to avoid mistakes.

Now you are ready to throw an ideas party tapping into the resources of friends. It’s surprising how many networks, contacts and helpful suggestions can be thrown up by a group. As part of the exercise write down the objections to ideas that will spring readily to mind, (this is a natural self-protective mechanism), list them separately from your dreams and use your friends to help you demolish all those ‘buts’ or to find alternative approaches. Or if working with a group doesn’t suit your personality, at a minimum you need to discuss your wishes with your spouse, a sibling or a close friend.

Sometimes it may take a while for an idea to develop and you may amend your list after you are retired. Also once you research or get started, new opportunities may develop as you go along.

When you have an idea try imagining it in detail, visualize it, imagine how you would turn it into a film. A good idea is to link each wish to a picture. Simply cutting pictures out of a magazine or making a simple drawing will also help. You may want to sort ideas out into those that you can realistically achieve in a set time frame and go back to the others later. Now you have a list of dreams – group the most important of these into purposeful activity, fun and recreation and personal growth. Now you have the Rewirement core of your plan. You will need to add the other elements of Relationships, Health care, Sorting your stuff, Move or stay put and of course a budget to make it all work.

Here is an example: Seamus and Maureen each had busy careers, he as a product designer, she as a journalist. They list their passions, strengths and weaknesses, their wants and dreams. They have an ideas party and get friends to write them each a life story.

This excerpt was taken from Rewire Don’t Retire, sponsored by Irish Life and Active Retirement Ireland. You can download the full guide HERE