Career Change | Retirement Transition | Life Balance

Oh, Life! A Simple Tool for Chronicling Life Transitions

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 @ 10:04 AM
Oh Life LogoIf you’re like me, you have probably started to keep a journal on at least several occasions, thinking that it would be nice to have a record of what you were doing and what you were thinking at different points in your life.  But if you’re like me, it's probably also the case that those efforts fizzled out and left you with a handful of notebooks stuck in drawers with barely 10% of the pages filled.  For some reason, it just seems hard to develop a daily routine that includes making entries in a diary or journal.
But like so many areas of our lives that are being streamlined and simplified by digital media and the web, the process of keeping of a journal to track your daily thoughts and activities has been transformed by a simple and elegant online solution called “OhLife.”

OhLife is impressive on several scores -- its simplicity, its design, and its effectiveness.   Here’s how it works…

When you go to the OhLife website you can register by simply giving your email address and establishing a password.  Then, every day thereafter, you get a message in your email inbox from OhLife that asks, “How did your day go?”

To make a journal entry, all you do is hit “Reply,” write as much or as little as you want to record about the previous day’s events or your inner-most observations on life, and hit “Send.”   OhLife automatically takes your email response and creates an entry in your journal for that day.  When you go to review your journal, your entries are nicely formatted and presented as though they were professionally typeset.  The look and feel of the online journal is simple and elegant and highly readable. If you want to add a picture to your journal entry, it is very simple to access the site and download a picture to go with that day’s entry.

An interesting feature of the daily OhLife emails that arrive in your inbox is that they include a random selection from your earlier entries at the bottom of each email, so you always have the opportunity to be reminded of what you were doing or thinking a month ago, or a week ago, or a year ago.  It’s a great involvement device, and it reinforces the desire to continue making daily entries.

So, how is it that something so simple works so well?  I think there are several reasons…

  • It's just intrusive enough -- without being obnoxious.  In a culture where so many people conduct a large percent of their daily business on line, using email is the perfect way to get someone’s attention without disrupting the flow of their workday.  
  • It’s easy to respond.  You’re already at your keyboard.  All you have to do is jot a few notes.  (Or more, if the spirit moves you.) 
  • There is positive reinforcement.  The good feeling you get from reading what you wrote in previous entries makes you feel like you're not wasting your time. 
  • It’s private.  If you tend to write things that you want to keep private, you have no fear of having your spouse or kids or other snooping eyes stumble across your most personal thoughts. (Just make sure you have a good password.)  Or if you feel you’d like your family to have access to your journal someday, you can stick a note in the file with your will that gives the details on how to access the journal if you get hit by a bus.
  • It looks terrific.  As I’ve said before, the choice of typeface and the way the pages are laid out makes your journal look like an elegant privately published book.

I have never successfully kept a journal before, but I have been making entries into OhLife for 18 months now, averaging 4-5 entries per week.  I’ve recommended the service to several of my friends and most have had a similarly positive experience. 

OhLife was founded by two web developers named Reman Child and Shawn Gupta.  There is not much about them or the company on the website, but from what I gather they created OhLife as a side project without any great ambitions for turning it into a business.  As there does not appear to be a revenue model, I can only assume it was a labor of love.  And one for which I am most grateful.

To start your own online journal, just go to

Tags: personal fulfillment, life values, life balance

One Man's Definition of Happiness

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 @ 04:16 PM

The founder of the Center for Well-Being offers a prescription for individual happiness, proposes an index of national well-being, and lays out a policy agenda for enlightened nations.

The Happiness ManifestoWhat if we measured the success of a nation on how happy its citizens are and the degree to which it is working to ensure the happiness of future generations?  Would that be a better measurement than GDP?  That’s the argument made by Nic Marks, the founder of London’s Center for Well-Being.  Marks has spent the better part of his career thinking hard about happiness -- on an individual level, on a national level, and now on a global level -- and he has strong feelings on the subject. 

In The Happiness Manifesto (available as a Kindle Single for $2.99), Marks lays out a case that GDP is a highly flawed measurement of national accomplishment because it misses so many non-financial aspects of human well-being.  Instead he presents a case for measuring national happiness as a function of individual well-being, life expectancy, and sustainability -- which ensures that future generations will have access to a safe and healthy environment.

Interestingly, when looked at this way, many of the most successful countries in the world are in Latin America and Asia, where life expectancy is long, indicators of personal well-being are high, and uses of national resources are relatively low.  Western nations suffer in this analysis because their high use of natural resources reduces their index.  Citizens of these countries may be living well now, but their lifestyle comes at least in part at the expense of future generations.  Not surprisingly, African nations come out at the bottom of the list because their life-expectancy and personal well-being are low.  Using Marks’ formula, Costa Rica comes out at the top of the list; the UK is number 74; the US comes in at 114.  It’s an interesting and thought provoking way of looking at the world, even if you don’t fully buy into the final results.

But the most interesting parts of this essay come at the end, when Marks shares his research on the key elements of personal happiness and lays out a set of priorities for how governments can foster happier, healthier nations.

After a review of the considerable body of research done on the question of what makes people happy, the Center for Well-Being has identified five key elements of personal happiness.  While this is no foolproof prescription for eternal happiness, all five items are actions that anyone can take to achieve a greater sense of well-being and personal fulfillment.  


Five Ways to Personal Well-Being

Connect: The evidence that social relationships are the foundation of happiness is irrefutable.  So to improve your sense of well-being, build connections with the people around you – at home, at work, at school, or in your local community.   

Be Active:  Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and a higher sense of well-being across all age groups.  Exercising makes you feel good – so go for a walk or run; cycle or dance; get outside.

Take Notice:  Research shows that paying attention to our sensations, thoughts, and feelings enhances our lives.  So be curious.  Savor the moment.  Notice the world around you.  Take time to reflect on your experiences.

Keep Learning:  Learning benefits self-confidence and sense of purpose, as well as building competencies.  In addition, setting goals and seeking to accomplish them improves one's sense of well-being.  So try something new; rediscover an old interest; sign up for an adult education course; learn how to fix a bike or how to play an instrument.

Give:  Studies show that volunteering is associated with enhanced sense of meaning in life and that seeing yourself as part of a wider community provides powerful psychic rewards.  So volunteer your time; join a community group; or just do something nice for a friend.


* * *

If one can prescribe some simple steps for individuals, what are the implications for governments?  Marks asserts that it is not the role of government to attempt directly to make people happy, but to create an environment in which people have the greatest opportunity to achieve happiness on their own.  To serve this purpose, he lays out an agenda that covers the economy, the provision of public services, and the places we live in.

Seven Strategies for National Well-Being

Create Good Work A central focus of governments should be on ensuring high levels of meaningful, secure employment for their citizens.

Reform Financial Systems:  Financial systems should integrate social and environmental values and be designed to support the public interest in addition to creating private profits.

Develop Flourishing Schools:  Educational institutions should recognize that children have different needs and abilities and should be designed to allow every child to develop to his or her greatest potential.

Promote Complete Health:  Health systems need to broaden their focus to promote complete health – including physical, mental, and social well-being – not just the absence of disease an infirmity.

Engage with Citizens:  Governments should promote a variety of forms of community engagement, allowing citizens to play an active role in the democratic process as well as participating in the delivery of government services.

Build Good Foundations:  National infrastructure needs to work for the people who use it today as well as for future generations.  Social, economic, and environmental considerations should be balanced with financial return.

Measure What Matters:  Governments should directly measure and be accountable for their citizens’ well-being and should actively monitor the impact of society on the shared environment that will be passed on to future generations.


The Happiness Manifesto is available as a Kindle "Single" and can be purchased in eBook format for just $2.99.  You can also see a video of Nic Marks’ excellent presentation at the TED conference below.

Tags: personal fulfillment, life values, life balance

A New Self-Assessment Tool for Ranking Life Values and Priorities

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 @ 02:54 PM

Life Values Self-Assessment Test The Life Values Self-Assessment Test Provides Valuable Insight and Data recently launched a free online tool called the Life Values Self-Assessment Test (LVAT), a new instrument designed to help people get insight into how to order their life priorities.  The test has been extremely well received, with over 1,000 people completing the exercise in just a matter of weeks.  The feedback from the life and career coaching community has also been very positive, with several coaches writing to say they intend to use the LVAT with their clients as a tool in the personal coaching process.  The LVAT is a free service available to anyone who visits the site and completes a simple registration.  (To access the LVAT now, click on Life Values Self-Assessment Test.)

The engine of the Life Values Self-Assessment Test is a well established decision-making protocol for rank ordering preferences, which is applied to a list of eleven core values chosen explicitly for their relevance to individuals in mid-life transition.  The tool works by presenting the participant with a series of paired comparisons in which each value is individually matched against each other value in a randomized sequence.  Participants are asked to choose which of the two values presented is more important for them to focus on at this particular point in time in their lives.  By analyzing the results of the resulting 55 paired comparisons, the tool calculates a rank order of the eleven values from most important to least important, and the results are then presented back to the participant.  

Of course, individuals could rank order their values on a purely intuitive basis.  However, the strength of the the LVAT is the systematic comparison of each value to each other value, which creates an engaging and intellectually stimulating experience for the participant while also producing a more objectively determined outcome.

The ranking of values and priorities that results from the LVAT provides a thought-provoking focal point for individuals who are dealing with the challenges of midlife career change or retirement transition.  The ranking can also be used by coaches as a starting point for discussing life priorities with clients.

Patterns Revealed From Initial Test Results

While the LVAT is specifically designed as a tool to be used on an individual level, it is nonetheless interesting to look at the test results in aggregate and the window that those results provide into the priorities of men and women who are in the process of midlife transition.  

Overall Rankings

  • An analysis of the results of tests taken to date reveal that Financial Resources, Family, and Work Satisfaction are the top priorities for those individuals who have taken the test, while Leisure Activities, Leadership, and Public Service are at the bottom.


Rank Order of Priorities*
 Overall Rank    Value/Priority   Avg. Rank
          1 Financial Resources       3.47
          2 Work Satisfaction       4.27
          3 Family       4.44
          4 Personal Growth       4.90
          5 Home and Place       5.34
          6 Health and Fitness       6.01
          7 Friends       6.30
          8 Leisure Pursuits       6.83
          9 Leadership       7.06
        10 Spirituality       8.01
        11 Public Service       9.36
Average age:                50.8 years
Percent male:               42.4%
Percent female:            57.6%

Analyzing the test results by demographic segment reveals some interesting patterns:**

Test Results by Age
  • Overall, participants over 55 years old put a higher emphasis on Health/Fitness and Friends, while those under 55 put more importance on Family, Work Satisfaction, and Leadership.  
  • Looking only at women, those over 55 place relatively more importance on Personal Growth and Leisure Activities, while younger women place more importance on Family.  Among men, those over 55 place a higher priority on Health/Fitness and Friends, while those under 55 feel the need to focus more on Work Satisfaction and Home & Place.

Test Results by Gender
  • Men and women rank order priorities similarly, with the exception that men overall feel a greater need to focus attention on  Personal Growth and women feel the need to focus more attention on Spirituality.   
  • When looking within age categories, women under 55 place a higher priority on Health/Fitness, Home & Place, and Spirituality than men in the same age group, whereas men place more importance on Leisure Activities.  Interestingly, there were no significant differences in the way men and women rank order their priorities among the over 55 group.

Other Comments
  • It is worth noting that while most values shifted rank between the various demographic sub-segments, Financial Resources was consistently the top priority on average for every segment measured.  On an individual basis over 53% of test participants ranked Financial Resources in their top three priorities, while fewer than 3% ranked this value at the bottom of their list.  This tells us that both men and women, regardless of age, see the need to maintain financial security as one of their top priorities.

*Click here for a list of definitions of life values
**Click here to access detailed results by demographic segment.

Tags: life planning, career change advice, self-assessment tools, life values, life balance

How To Plan for a Fulfilling Retirement: Resources for Volunteering At Home and Abroad

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 @ 02:57 PM
Karl Wallullis is a guest blogger.

You've worked your whole adult life and have finally saved enough to retire comfortably. The children are grown up and have (hopefully) moved out of the house, and you're beginning to think about what the next stage of your life will bring. Rest assured that you're definitely not alone--as the baby boomer generation approaches retiring age, the idea of a future without the responsibilities and demands of work and child rearing is appealing to some, but the sometimes daunting prospect of so much free time has inspired many retirees to consider volunteering opportunities in hopes of making the post-professional stage of their lives as active and fulfilling as their professional years.

The following list provides profiles of websites that offer valuable resources and information about volunteering opportunities after retirement, whether you want to teach English in a Nicaraguan village school or help refugees transition to life in the United States. If you have the time and the passion, these organizations will help you find the job of your dreams.

volunteer in CambodiaVolunteer Projects Abroad has resources for prospective volunteers of all ages, but their Older Volunteers section is highly informative, with links to volunteer projects in teaching, care, medicine, conservation, language, and many other areas. Volunteer Projects Abroad offers programs in countries around the globe, and has programs for volunteering as a family if you don't want to go it alone.

Volunteer match has listings of volunteer opportunities for over 13,000 non-profit organizations, with a special section for "disaster volunteering" that has frequently updated listings. You can sign up for a free newsletter with information for volunteers looking for the right job match, or enter in keywords and times if you already know what you want. There's even a "Boomer Volunteer Engagement" guidebook available for download.

Boomers Abroad is a volunteer database that lets you search by country or keyword to find the ideal volunteer position to match your skills and goals. The site also hosts an online community that can answer your questions about living abroad on topics such as foreign health care, travel concerns, and immediately available jobs.

Senior Corps is one of the largest seniors programs in the country, providing a wealth of resources and information about volunteer opportunites. Their RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) specifically provides volunteering opportunities within the local community. Senior Corps primarily hires volunteers over the age of 55, enlisting them in programs such as the Foster Grandparent Program, which assists children in youth facilities.

Network for Living Abroad offers a list of resources for expats living and working abroad. You can join a global volunteer network or search a database for opportunities in different fields and locations. NFLA also has a message board with discussions regarding living situations abroad and other important topics for volunteer expats.

Volunteer Costa Rica Volunteer 94Cross-Cultural Solutions has been connecting volunteers and non-profit organizations for 15 years. They offer programs in twelve countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. CCS programs are short-term, varying in length from 2 to 12 weeks, so if you don't find the perfect match the first time you'll have another opportunity in no time.

uVolunteer offers shortterm volunteering programs in all major continents, in areas ranging from teaching English to women's empowerment to community development. Programs usually cost between $500 and $1500 and include room and board for several weeks, with opportunities for weekend trips. is one of the largest sites for volunteer and non-profit jobs and internships. Their Volunteer Opportunities database has over 17,000 positions in cities all over the world. You can search by skills/languages needed and beginning/end dates to help narrow your search.


Karl Wallullis is a guest blogger from Pounding the Pavement, an up-and-coming blog about employment topics. In his spare time, he enjoys writing career college articles for Guide to Career Education.

Tags: life planning, volunteering

12 Steps to Work Sanity -- And Improved Life Balance

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Mon, Aug 16, 2010 @ 06:06 PM

sheryl spanier 2Guest blog by Sheryl Spanier, author and executive coach

We are all encouraged to find work about which we are passionate.  This is the ideal:  to work at something you “love” and get paid, too!  Those of us who achieve this lofty ideal, often find ourselves work-aholocs!  We live to work rather than working to live.

Work is a positive addiction…and it can build up and sneak up on you.  First, you gain a sense of purpose and meaning.  Then you find yourself connected to the people and place in which you work. Eventually, your identity is tied up with the organization and you begin to plan for your successful contributions and advancement in responsibilities, stature and pay.

The irony is that work addiction can actually lead to a career advancement plateau or even failure.  When we allow work to dominate, relationships and health can suffer.  And often, our moods and behaviors at work are compromised by a focus on technical expertise, aggressive results, efficient execution, heroic and self-sacrificing schedules.  You see, we are constantly reinforced for the transaction and only reminded about the importance of interaction after there is a problem with staff feedback, politics or observable behavior that indicates burnout, poor self-care, or a blow up/burn out situation.

If you find yourself in this circumstance, take a hint from well established addiction programs.

12 Steps To Work Sanity and Improved Life Balance

  1. Recognize and admit to the problem
  2. Get feedback from trusted others
  3. Assess what is working and not working in your work
  4. Make a list of changes you will commit to make in your work and life
  5. Find a partner/buddy to help you plan and stay on course
  6. Make realistic commitments to your co-workers, friends, and family
  7. Make space in your schedule for non-work related activities
  8. Create opportunities for respite, fun, recreation
  9. Look for other ways to gain meaning beyond work
  10. Show compassion in place of competition
  11. Spend time getting to know the needs of others around you
  12. Realistically manage your ambitious work demands to open space for self-awareness, self-care, self management

Tags: life values, life balance, career management

Discover the benefits of a Career Change to a Lifestyle Business

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Thu, Jun 03, 2010 @ 03:48 PM

The Hard Times Guide to Retirement SecurityMy friend Mark Miller, who is also a regular contributor to, recently published a book entitled "The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security."  It is a terrific book, and I recommend it to anyone who is wrestling with plans for transitioning into retirement -- or semi-retirement -- or whatever it is we call the stage of life between our primary careers and the time when we stop working altogether.

One of the most interesting sections of the book is the chapter in which he talks about the growing trend among baby boomer of launching what he calls "lifestyle businesses."   Lifestyle businesses are ventures that provide a steady (if modest) income stream, but which also allow their owners to mix work, play and other pursuits in a way that creates a more balanced and satisfying life than the typical corporate grind.  Not a bad option if you can pull it off.

Trend watchers expect that lifestyle businesses are going to explode in numbers in the coming years.   58 million boomers intend to work well into their sixties, and with many employers cutting back staffing levels, there is no question that a lot of displaced corporate workers are going to be reinventing themselves by becoming entrepreneurs and by launching small businesses.  Some will do this out of financial necessity, but many will do it out of choice - motivated by a desire to finally be their own boss or to pursue some passionate interest - while at the same time generating an income stream to supplement or build their retirement savings.

According to Miller, this trend has already started.  In fact, Americans aged 55 to 65 are forming new businesses at the highest rate of any age group - 28% higher than the average for all age groups combined.  And the business formation rate among people aged 45-54 is also above average.

While some lifestyle startups involve opening businesses in fields entirely different from the one where the owner spent the bulk of his/her career, many of these small startups are in the same industry that the owner came from, and in many cases serve their former employer in some way.  Although they range in size, the typical lifestyle business is home-based enterprise with no fixed payroll, supported primarily with freelance and part-time help.  And while some are funding with angel capital, most are bootstrapped into existence or self-funded with very modest investment - often less than $10,000.

Despite the fact that he calls these ventures "lifestyle businesses," Miller also points out that like any startup, they can require a willingness to work long hours with relatively little initial compensation, and are not without risk.  But he also makes an interesting point by suggesting that establishing such a venture can be a hedge against the risk of being caught in a corporate layoff.  The notion is that it can be better to be your own boss with your own diversified customer base than to be vulnerable to an unexpected corporate downsizing.  And of course, the upside in terms personal satisfaction can be considerable if you are in fact able to make your own lifestyle business work.

Miller knows whereof he speaks.  After spending most of his professional career working at large media companies, he went out on his own to start 50+Digital, LLC, a content and consulting company specializing in the 50-plus market. 

To read more about lifestyle businesses, including several case studies and some very practical advice on how to start one, you can download Miller's chapter on lifestyle businesses: Fifty-Plus Entrepreneurs - Launching a Lifestyle Business, as well as the table of contents to his new book.


Tags: career change advice, business start-ups

Consider A Midlife Career Change to Teaching

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Mon, May 10, 2010 @ 07:01 PM

The rewards of teaching are enormous, and so is the need for excellent teachers. In the next decade, there will be 1.5 million teaching vacancies in the United States, according to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Millions of baby boomers are retiring from the profession, and a staggering 50 percent of new teachers leave the field within their first five years --the equivalent of nearly a thousand teachers, both novice and seasoned, calling it quits every day. All the vacancies won't be filled, because of funding issues. Still, it will be a major challenge to recruit and retain enough educators, never mind top talent.

In fact, it already is a challenge. We face a stunning shortage of teachers for elementary school, math, science (especially physics and chemistry), special education, bilingual and English as a Second Language, vocational subjects, and foreign languages-particularly in disadvantaged middle and high schools in urban areas. However, this crisis also is creating opportunities for those seeking second-or "encore"-careers that combine socially meaningful work with a salary.

Former scientists, engineers, accountants, architects, and high-tech and finance professionals are becoming classroom teachers. And they're not the only ones. In a recent Civic Ventures/MetLife Foundation study, teaching was the most popular field for college-educated 44- to 70-year-olds who had changed careers, while 50 percent of people who haven't yet changed careers reported they could envision a future in education, health care, government or nonprofit work.

Teaching can be appealing for people ready to retire from a first career or who've lost their job and still need a steady income and health insurance, those who find retirement or their regular routine dreary -- and, of course, those who like to be around children. Making a difference in a child's life or, as Bernie Alidor, a Florida inner-city kindergarten teacher, puts it, "being the only male role model most of my students have" -- can be enormously gratifying. So can imparting knowledge, feeling valued, and forming close relationships between generations. "I'm madly in love with this profession," says Alidor, who served in the Navy on the flight deck of a Navy ship launching aircraft off ship decks. "If I could afford it, I'd tell them to keep their paycheck!"

It's that paycheck, though, that deters many would-be second-career teachers. The average annual salary among all U.S. teachers in 2004-05 (the latest figures) was $31,753; for teachers in public schools only, the average was $47,602. (Teachers can boost their earnings by being a mentor to colleagues, or teaching summer school or at an after-school program. Also, for many, the attractive benefits can offset the low pay. Thanks to union collective-bargaining agreements, many teachers pay far less to be enrolled in generous medical and dental plans than employees in the private sector.)

Needless to say, going into education may mean a hefty pay cut for anyone coming from the world of business. An additional barrier: Earning a teaching degree can take years and as much as $15,000-although innovative teaching initiatives in some places are speeding up the certification process. Certificate programs, for instance, cost a few thousand dollars and enable participants to begin teaching in a matter of months, rather than years, typically in high-needs schools; some large companies and even the federal and state government and local school districts often help pay the tuition.

Is teaching for you?  You need to do your research to find out.  Sorting through all the information and options can seem overwhelming; teaching requirements vary from state to state, and sometimes from one school district to another. Notes Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future ( "There is nothing that says, ‘If I'm in my 50s and I want to leave my job and become a teacher, here's the program and how to do it.' The reality is that each person will have to find his or her own pathway into teaching." recently published a detailed, 40-page guide on what's involved in becoming a teacher in midlife.  To find out more about this useful guide, click on How to Become a Teacher.


Tags: career change advice, teaching careers

Discovering What Matters -- A Powerful Self-Assessment Tool

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Mon, May 03, 2010 @ 05:40 PM

Midlife Career Change -- One of my goals in this blog is to make my readers aware of resources available in the market that can help to build self-awareness and plan a midlife career change or retirement transition.  I recently came across a workbook that provides an excellent roadmap for planning just such a major life event.

The Discovering What Matters Workbook was created by The Metlife Mature Market Institute in conjunction with the highly regarded life coach, Richard Leider.  Leider, who has written several best-sellers related to midlife transition, is founder and chairman of The Inventure Group, a coaching and consulting firm near Minneapolis. As a consultant and lecturer, he has worked with over 100,000 executives from 50 corporations worldwide. His most well known book, "Repacking Your Bags," has become something of a classic in the field and provides the groundwork for much of the material found in the Discovering What Matters Workbook.

Richard LeiderThe exercises included in Discovering What Matters were created to provide a self-guided process that would ultimately allow individuals to get greater clarity into their own personal priorities and bring their goals into a closer alignment with their individual vision of what represents "the good life."

Throughout the workbook, Leider uses the metaphor of "repacking," or realigning yourself with your true sense of purpose.  The exercises are designed to be thought-provoking and to stimulate self-reflection.  In essence, they are all designed to ask the question:  What would you like to bring along with you on this next phase of your life journey? What would you like to leave behind?

Here's a quick rundown of the individual exercises in the process:

  • The Life Spiral: Charting your life on an upward spiral. Gauging where you are in your life today and where you would like to be by the end of it so that you will consider your life to have been well lived.
  • Trigger Sheet:  Identifying 'trigger' experiences that have shaped your life story. These may include births, deaths, break-ups, emotional breakdowns, and career shifts. The aim is to identify and focus on the key life lessons from these events. 
  • The Good Life Inventory: An exploration of how your current lifestyle reflects your own personal vision of what makes up a good life.
  • The Repacking Place:  Here the focus shifts to physical location and the degree to which the place you live supports -- or detracts from -- the achievement of your life goals.
  • How Much Is Enough: A practical scorecard that explores how much you need financially to live the lifestyle you aspire to, how much longer you will need to work, and whether you should consult a financial advisor to determine your financial needs.
  • The Repacking Sounding Board:  Here Leider discusses the importance of assembling a group of supportive friends and colleagues who can act as a wise counsel for you -- and what you should be looking for from them.
  • What's Next: A prescription for how to follow through with the process to make sure that you apply the lessons from these exercised to achieving your goals.

Leider's set of exercises provides is one of the best tools I have seen for a self-guided process of personal discovery and life planning.  It provides a structure for clarifying your life goals into concise, do-able actions, allowing you to see in simple terms what types of behaviors or situations demand realignment so that you can achieve your own personal hopes and dreams. 

You can download this workbook free at Discovering What Matters at the MetLife Mature Market Institute's website.

Tags: life planning, self-assessment tools, life values, Richard Leider

Four Strategies for Charting a Midlife Career Change

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 @ 06:01 PM

What's Next Career ChangeIt's common for people in midlife to feel a strong urge to change careers in search of something more meaningful or fulfilling. But while the need for a change may be abundantly clear, the question of what that change should actually involve is often murky and undefined.  With that in mind, here are several well established strategies for gaining clarity and direction when considering a major career transition:

Tell Your Story: Looking Back to Find a Way Forward

Mining your past for clues is a time-tested way for career changers to find a road map to their future.  Writing an autobiography highlighting critical events, influential relationships, and significant achievements can often lead to surprising revelations. What were the high points in your career that gave you a jolt of energy and pride? What makes you happy? What do you want more or less of in your life?  These questions might seem simplistic, but the answers can be quite profound, often providing that much needed insight into your new journey.

Create a Personal Board of Advisors

It can also be helpful to seek the counsel of friends and colleagues. After all, it's just human nature to miss things about ourselves that are apparent to others.  You can't see your own eyes light up or hear your voice change when you talk about the volunteer job at the local elementary school, or that environmental vacation spent cleaning up Mexican beaches. For that reason, career coaches and counselors often advise their clients to assemble a team of trusted advisers who can help one recall childhood aspirations and career high points. The team might include former bosses, professors, coaches, and high school friends.  Noted career coach Richard Leider recommends that you look for variety in your advisory group.  In particular, he suggests including members who can play the following roles: 

    • Committed Listener: Someone who can listen and ask good questions. "Look for someone who ‘gets you' and doesn't just agree with you," says Leider.
    • Catalyst: Choose someone who pushes you to act, who can say, "Pick up the phone, hire a coach, read this book, make some moves."
    • The Wise Elder: This might be a clergy member or community leader.  As an alternative, you could also read biographies of prominent figures like Nelson Mandela, whose words and life inspire and provide perspective.

Other members of the group might include a career coach or counselor, a financial planner, even a doctor if health conditions are a factor.

Establish a Support Group

Another effective career exploration method is to form a small brainstorming group of supportive, creative people whose aim is to help each other, not just a single individual. During recent hard economic times, coach Caroline Adams Miller created a "mastermind group" for six to eight professional women in the Washington, D.C., area. "You run it like a business meeting, with ground rules," she suggests. "No alcohol. No whining or complaining. Use a timer and give everybody six minutes to share their challenges or their dreams, then another six to ask questions. It's amazing how group members energize each other."

Friends, family, and colleagues can play a support role in a midlife career quest, but they don't have the specialized training to listen deeply, ask probing questions, and help you find the right path. For that you may need to call in the pros.

Building Team "Me:" Call in the Pros

A major career transition -- be it a full makeover or just a tweak -- may require expert help.  Career coaches and counselors can help clients identify skills, set goals, and draw up action plans, as well as provide support during the process. Certified financial planners can help crunch the numbers to make sure the plan is affordable and that retirement is secure. And increasing numbers of planners are adding life-planning skills to their portfolios, so they can help clients with the non-financial aspects of life. With the right help, you can travel down the road to reinvention faster, with fewer bumps along the way.

For additional information and advice about midlife career change, download our free guide, Career Change & Life Balance


Tags: life planning, career change advice

3 Questions That Could Change Your Life

Posted by Jeremy Koch on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 @ 03:10 PM

At a certain age, many of us start to grapple with some tough questions about our future, and we start to focus more attention on the issue of what is truly important to us and what we want to accomplish with the rest of our lives.  A few years ago I read a book by Lee Eisenberg called "The Number," in which he focused on the issue of what it means to be financially independent. As he explored this issue from various angles, Eisenberg devoted a section of the book to a man named George Kinder, who developed the concept of "Life Planning" and established an institute to train others in the discipline. In simple terms, Life Planning is a more holistic approach to conventional financial planning and is designed to help people create a life plan that addresses not only their financial needs, but their personal, emotional and spiritual needs as well.

As a warm-up exercise for getting his clients prepared to discuss their personal life goals, Kinder asks his clients to consider three questions, which are striking in their simplicity and for the thought process that they stimulate.

Here are Kinder's three questions:

Question 1.  Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of yourself and your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything?

Question 2. Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only five to 10 years to live. You won't ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life-and how will you do it?

Question 3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. What feelings arise as you confront your mortality? Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

Kinder's questions can be a very useful touchstone when facing major life decisions.  By revisiting your personal priorities in the context of your answers to these questions, it is hard not to develop a more thoughtful and holistic perspective on the challenges you are confronted with. 

Since establishing the Kinder Institute, George Kinder has trained almost 1,000 financial advisors to broaden the scope of their work to include to the concept of life planning. These planners now operate in four continents around the world and carry the credential RLP (Registered Life Planner) in addition to being CFPs (Certified Financial Planner). If you are interested in working with an RLP, several are listed in What's Next Directory of Financial Planners. Additional listings can be found at the website of the Kinder Institute.

Jeremy Koch, Founder



Tags: life planning, financial planning, Kinder Institute