Five years ago, if you had asked me what my life was going to look like in ten or fifteen years I would have said that it would be full of family, of travel with my husband, of grandchildren and maybe of a vacation home so we could all be together more often. I looked forward to a life that was full of love and family. I still look forward to that life, but as I start my life over in my sixties, while I still want all of that, the picture is much different. And, I realize that in order for me to live a happy healthy life on my own, I have to change the focus.
I think and write about focus often. When I was a wife and mother and employee and volunteer, focus was the last thing on my mind. That kind of buckshot way of managing my life did not serve me well then and does not serve me well now. I can now focus on the goals that will make me happy, and more content with my life on my own. Here is what I do to stay focused. If you like it, use it. If you like it, but it doesn’t suit your life, make the changes that will this system to work for you. I call this my Five Fingers of Focus (that is the only way I can remember it!).
I want to learn something new every week, I really do. That’s the goal and it can be anything, but it has to be a conscious decision. Right now I am reading a book on organization. Next, I want to learn something IT related so I plan to use Lynda (an online learning site) and find a course that interests me. While it may sound like kind of a loose goal, it isn’t. It’s very intentional. It makes me feel good when I complete something and I am able to use some of the knowledge. We all feel pride when we “master” something new.
This is a never ending saga for me. Here is the difference in my new approach: I am intentional about my body and I think it is showing. I am not crash dieting or binge eating (OK, that is a lie). I am just being more mindful about my health and I have no size or number goals. My trainer today used the word consistent and I think he is exactly right. When I was younger and in the tornado of everyday life in a bad marriage, I had no consistency: I was grasping at anything that I thought would make me happy, eating nothing then eating everything then washing it down with a cocktail. I am crossing my fingers that my new found consistency continues, but if I fall off here and there, so be it. I am getting right back on the consistency train.
This sounds like fluff doesn’t it? Let’s say Starting Over at Sixty is my project right now. I am fully focused on it and learning how I can make it better (feel free to chime in). That means I have joined more than one organization that is related to this new world. It means I am learning how to increase my readers and better my writing. And, it means getting help in the areas in which I know nothing. Focusing on this project also incorporates the learning piece of the fingers.
Here are the things I like to do: read, knit, sew, watch TV, sing, go to movies, crochet, ride my bike, go to comedy shows, travel, needlepoint, go to concerts. I am not the only one who has a million interests, I know. But, I have tried to focus on a few at a time so I don’t have piles everywhere around me of yarn or fabric or five books with bookmarks at the end of the first chapter, never to see the light of day again. For instance, right now, because my children all have friends in their later twenties and early thirties having babies at an alarming rate, I am a baby hat knitting machine! I took some time off knitting though, to make some pillows for my son and daughter-in-law’s condo, and now I am back on hat duty. It ‘s so rewarding for me to make something for my children or their friends, but I have to keep the amount that I can do under control or it will end up being a nightmare rather than a joy. So what has changed for me is that I am very deliberate about what I am working on. If not, I have too many unfinished projects around me and that, in itself, weighs me down.
How many times have you said yes to too many requests and found yourself miserable because you were doing tasks or attending meetings and your heart just wasn’t in it? I used to do it all the time. I was married to a man who seemed to like me better when he thought I was popular (I kid you not). So I said yes to the opening of a garage door if I was invited! Not anymore. I have two organizations to which I give my time: one is a citywide choir (Harmony Project that you see in the photo) that allows me to work with a choir in a women’s prison facility and one is a group that helps older adults age in place and remain in their homes and neighborhoods. Those are where my time and energy goes. I do change up my financial support but those two charities are at the top of the list.
So, here is the take away from the Five Fingers approach that I use: it covers the most important areas of life so you can make room for the fun, without sacrificing fulfillment, contentment and happiness. That’s it. You will be amazed at how much you accomplish and how much time you have for other activities. Easy, Peasy.