August 7, 2015

Plan-less versus Clue-less

A comment left on the blog sometime last year included a phrase I liked: "being plan-less versus being clue-less." After my decision to make a dramatic change in our summer plans, the time seemed right to expand on this phrase.

Retirement, and the Satisfying Journey that can come from it, requires planning...it doesn't just happen. Financial considerations, maintaining your health to the best of your ability, strengthening meaningful relationships, and developing your interests and passions are part of a successful retirement plan. 

But, as I have learned time and time again, plans made during this phase of life will change, sometimes dramatically. Where you live, what you think you may be doing with your time, how well your investments and financial decisions are working-all of these are going to need adjustment. That means you must be continuously flexible. What made sense last week may need to be discarded today.

As these periods of adjustment become reality, our natural tendency is to rush to put together a new plan, a new calendar, a new approach to "fix" the problem. Being without a clear-cut way forward can make us uneasy. So, before we have taken the time to really decide what would be best for us at this point in our journey, we cobble together something so we are not plan-less.

I think the person who left the comment that prompted this post had a different thought: being plan-less for awhile is OK, in fact, preferable to a plan that isn't best for us. Being plan-less is a necessary break in our relentless march forward that gives us breathing space. Maybe what we really need is time to simply be alive, to be with loved ones, to be quiet. Maybe we can't look forward with any accuracy until we look around first.

So, how is that different from being clue-less? If we don't really have answers to the questions that we have, are we lost? Have we fallen into the retirement trap of just drifting through a day with no direction and no goals? 

I suggest there is a very important difference. Being clue-less means your life is left to the control of external events and the actions of others. You drift from good to bad, happy to sad, satisfied to frustrated with little or no control. Your financial well-being is left to chance: "Oh, it will all work out. They will figure something out." Your relationships are "good enough. After all, all marriages hit rough patches." Your feelings of self worth and productivity are no big deal: "retirement is my time to do nothing if I feel like it. I proved myself at work. Now, I just want to sit and be left alone."

To me, being plan-less means you are between things. Even if you don't plan to the degree that things are written down on a to-do list, and have goals that stretch into infinity, you have things you want to accomplish. You are not content to spend this phase of your life  drifting which ever way the wind decides to blow you. Right now you are reassessing. You are exploring your options. You are deciding where you would like to go next.

In that sense being plan-less is healthy and necessary. Being clue-less is neither. It is turning over this part of your life to chance and the will of others. And, that is not the recipe for a satisfying journey.




20 comments:

  1. excellent post. perfect timing. thank you. i needed to hear this today. glad you are back writing again.

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    1. Thanks Cindi. I am enjoying the process again after a few months of reassessing what I wanted to write about.

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  2. Hi Bob, Yeah I too have found that too many plans are more of a hinderance than a help. Sometimes we must just let life happen without particularly planning it. You might call that clue-less but not me. My wife recently had another major surgery that changed some of our plans. She is doing well but a mid summer vacation is now off the burner.

    Thanks for the post. It got me to thinking.

    BTW... if you haven't noticed my re-formatted RJsCorner is now up and running. All my other blogs automatically go there but I am back to RJsCorner.net as the primary pointer.

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    1. I am on vacation in cool Portland. When I return I will adjust the Blog link. Glad RJ is back!

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  3. A perfect example is your blog. Your intention was to stop, you reassessed and took a different tack. With or without a plan, remaining flexible is a challenge for the best of us.

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    1. I have some readers who probably disagree. They note with some regularity that I am clue-less on many subjects. I believe I prefer your analysis. Thanks Jane.

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  4. I enjoyed reading this. To me what you wrote brings up notions of structure and flow or openness, and having a balance. I have a friend who is in just the first week or so of retirement and she seems intent on quickly structuring her life to the max t so she doesn't slip into being a "sloth" as she says. I keep telling her to let herself unwind or unfold a bit and not sign on for too much too quickly. I tell her that because some of the things I thought I'd want to do in retirement, I now find I really don't have a huge interest in. For example, I wanted to "cook more," but I think that was because when I worked, I never had time to do that, and so it seemed like an "ideal" to be able to cook more. Now I find I'm really not into it, or just occasionally enough to be satisfying.

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    1. Your friend is following the normal script of retirement: sudden freedom is intoxicating and seems to demand action.

      Keep reminding her this phase of life is different. It is all about balance and pacing. You are being a good friend.

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  5. "...time to be alive, to be with loved ones, to be quiet..." That says it all for me as I try to balance my retirement life. I'm reminded of a sage work mate when I was a newbie nurse. She said, "When you don't know what to do, do nothing. Stop and think. There are always only so many things to be done; then do them." I will always remember those words. We do need to stop so the answers and the peace can infiltrate us. I'm also reminded of Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book "Women Who Run With the Wolves" - sometimes we just need to sit back and pant.

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    1. Betty and and I just spent a glorious day with a dear friend in Portland. It was a time to share laughter and love and just being together for the first time in 2 years. We let the day and time just flow. A very special experience that wasn't completely planned...it just was.

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  6. Glad you decided to go to Portland. Good to see you writing again.

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    1. We love this area, especially at this time of year. Hope you and Art are going well.

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  7. I seem to be in a clueless stage- and am enjoying it for right now ;)
    Enjoy Portland. Have a coffee for the rest of us. You might run into my nephew at Powell's.

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    1. Powells is heaven on earth for book lovers.

      We are meeting a couple for Voodoo donuts and coffee in a few hours, then winery tours, snd dinner. Should be a great day.

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  8. I just clicked on your website and realized you are writing again...what a nice surprise!

    While I'm not retired, I'm considering it seriously now that I am 62. My father-in-law always said you'll know when it's time to retire. And working for yet another know-it-all 38 year old has just about pushed me over the edge. There is a limit to my patience. So I'm running numbers, we're looking at our budget, and I'm thinking it's time.

    This post is perfect for me right now. One of the things that scares me is the "what will I do" question. I've been busy for so many years, I can't imagine how I'll fill my time. I like the idea of being plan-less, and I certainly don't consider myself clueless. If anything, I overthink it all. My (retired) husband says I'm still sure I'll end up a bag lady.

    I'm ready to pick a date and jump off the dock on this one.

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    1. In 14 years I have never regretted my choice though there was a period of a few years before it all started to fit together. Jump!

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  9. And, that is a good plan!! I am still working my way through how best to "do" retirement. I like this approach as I am trying new ways to keep growing, stay healthy, live fully and enjoy these days. I feel more in control of my time and more responsible for the outcome than ever before. The excuse of having no time is kind of mute now. I realize that if I am not choosing well I am at a turning point and need a plan - soon. But, having the luxury to wait for a bit to see what that is going to look like - priceless! Thanks for clarifying this even more for me today!

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    1. I am happy the timing of this post fit your needs, Eileen. Things do seem to happen when and how they are supposed to.

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  10. I am in the phase leading up to retirement. A few months ago, I found that I was feeling quite stressed about making the retirement decision. As I reflected about why that was so, I realized that I had been trying to plan every aspect of retirement as if it were one big complex event that had to all happen at once and be fully thought out. In addition to working out future finances and the process of actually arranging the steps at work needed to retire, I also was trying to plan the sequence of things we would do for the first couple of years after I retired, make a decision about where we would move to, and considering how I would arrange the opportunity for some ongoing limited pastime work in my profession. The planning was all just too much and too complicated. I have realized that because my workplace offers the possibility to transition out in stages, I don't have to make all the decisions all at once. That is a relief. So your comments about the benefits of being "plan-less" at times really spoke to me.

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    1. Let me add that trying to plan all aspects of retirement ahead of time isn't necessary because virtually every part of the process turns out somewhat differently than you thought it would. Financial planning, working on relationships, and thinking about what you'd like to do are all important. But, don't stress over any of it, because it will change. That is just the nature of the beast.

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