An approach to life which does not identify personal ambitions or which focuses on wrong ambitions can lead to missed opportunities. Ambitions keep me focused on the big picture while the goals I set and pursue serve as my compass to direct the steps of the journey. The desire to accomplish something is not the same as taking steps to make it a reality.
How do I uncover and identify my ambitions?
God brought me into this world for His purposes.
Believers love to cling tightly to the security of Ephesians 2:8-9, but Paul continues in verse 10 and sheds light on why God saved us by grace through faith.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.Ephesians 2:10 NASB
In his first letter to Timothy Paul assured his protégé that God had purpose in Timothy’s call and preparation for ministry.
(God) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,2 Timothy 1:9 NASB
I should pray and seek God’s guidance in discovering the path I should follow. He is most qualified to identify my ambitions and promises to give direction in many passages of Scripture though one may be most familiar:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
Figure out what fuels my zeal.
Can you list the top three to five passions in your life? I describe passion in my book, Small Group or Sunday School?, “Have you watched hobby enthusiasts at work? Hours pass as those giddy souls toil away tying tiny fishing flies, painting pictures, carving those little animals, or sewing together the latest quilting masterpiece. It doesn’t seem like work—ask them. You may hear them comment that their time is being invested, not wasted. And the joy of creating is evident on their faces. I want to hang a tag on the drive which moves these artisans to design and create. Let’s call it passion.”
As I plan for retirement I should review my past and ask:
- What tasks and assignments did I enjoy the most in my career?
- What came easy to me?
- In what areas did others seek my input?
- What have I accomplished that brought satisfaction?
- During what activities did I lose all track of time?
- What subject can I talk about for hours?
- How did I invest my free time?
Capture your answers in writing or type them into a file. Date the list and assign a version number. Revisit and update often. As we contemplate our personal make-up we will no doubt uncover something we missed during the initial accounting.
My engineering career included myriad opportunities to create training manuals, test instructions, and product descriptions. I debugged my way through various system failures in telecom equipment sometimes where others had given up the chase. In all of these thrusts I needed to be an organizer who could capture data, distill out the significant, and explain issues in a logical format. Does it surprise you that compiling and organizing spiritual lessons and sharing knowledge with others through teaching and writing appear at the top of my list of passions?
Answer the questions provided above and see if you are surprised at your results. Perhaps you will find your own “Aha!” moment.
Compile a list of my skills.
Retirement is often forced upon us as companies replace the gray-haired crew with the faces of youth. Suddenly we find ourselves unneeded, and that hurts. Some seniors recover, find a new path, and move forward. Others, sadly, remained mired in discouragement.
Is the lifetime of skills and experience I have amassed really worth nothing? Of course not! You are uniquely you, and your collection of abilities and accomplishments differ from those of others. Again we have questions to ask ourselves and notes to take:
- Are there tasks in which I excel?
- What functions came easily for me?
- Have I completed and enjoyed course work in specialized areas?
- Where have my experiences, both in the office and out, led me?
- What abilities did I collect along the way?
Good career planning books offer checklists to help us identify our skillset and working through such an exercise can be illuminating. I’ve found that the skills I’ve honed mesh with my ambitions. Now how in the world did that happen? Refer back to the opening point and the truth that we are God’s workmanship. As one old southerner commented, “God don’t make no junk!”
Make my life choices my own.
Certainly we have responsibilities and obligations but perhaps for the first time since childhood retirement brings some degree of scheduling freedom. If we are not careful we may find that someone else has plans for that time. “Well, now that you have all this free time on your hands you can …”
This is our time to pick and choose and pass on those roles for which we are not passionate. We can refuse to be manipulated by guilt and decline to allow someone else to determine how our time will be invested. Perhaps on the surface this mindset seems selfish but dig deeper. We have limited time remaining, and our desire is to invest that time where we can do the most good rather than fill the days with obligations.
Explore and experiment.
I may not discover my retirement ambitions right away, but I do need to understand that the clock is ticking, and I get no timeouts. Explore. Stretch out. Take a painting or pottery class. Join a garden club and expand your botanical horizons. Start and lead a book club. Volunteer at a local charity or for one of those organizations where experienced business people advise newbies. Open your home for a tea party and create an encouraging place for other seniors to fellowship. The message to grasp is, “Get moving! Start the journey!”
Grow by learning.
Knowledge of most any subject waits at our fingertips though perhaps the first step might need to be the expansion or acquisition of some basic computer skills. Check with your local library or county services to see what training is available. Access to the Internet unlocks new worlds and storehouses of data. Don’t let the fear of technology keep you out of this fruitful arena. We are never too old to learn something new.
From my desk I can attend the next class session of a course I’m taking from a major university. I can view, rewind, and view again “how to” videos on a variety of home repairs or computer topics. I can download and read e-books, tour topic specific sites, and participate in webinars of interest. The Internet opens the door to collaboration and learning like no other tool in the human arsenal. Yes, I know it also ushers in scads of filth and time-wasters, but at this age we can exercise our discernment.
Consider the constraints.
In achieving our goals and realizing our ambitions we face constraints such as time, energy, and finances. Let’s examine each.
Time is allocated as twenty-four hours per day per person, and we have no way to increase our portion. Retirees, if we stay up late watching the one-eyed monster then sleep till the crack of noon we’ve expended considerable ticks of the clock toward something with little longterm impact. Set the clock, get up, make the bed and tackle your day’s plan.
Evaluate your personal schedule and identify time that could be better invested. Set aside time for discovering and pursuing your ambitions and block it out on the calendar.
Watch out for time-wasters. Social media can snare us into a lengthy argument with a stranger over some nuance of political thought and before we blink two hours have vaporized. Check and respond to emails at fixed times rather than responding to each alert. Be on the watch for that retired neighbor with nothing planned and no plans to plan something. Prepare some polite but firm ways to separate yourself from the conversation to return to your work.
Heredity, disease/disability, habits, and the unavoidable process of aging may reduce my energy levels considerably. Healthy habits take time and focus to form but offer big energy paybacks. Consider eating right, exercise, stress reduction, and rest.
Repeat after me, “I cannot do everything.” Some days I may accomplish all the items on my list, and the next day I may quit after crossing out two or three. View the list as a guide and helper rather than as a harsh task master.
The inner drive differs from person to person and from time to time in the same person. Disability and illness took my late brother before his fiftieth birthday. We talked about those days where getting out of bed, showering and dressing represented a full plate for him. On other days he strapped his oxygen tank over his shoulder and ventured into the woods to his tree stand to watch the deer.
Not every moment will be productive and not every day will find us chalking up an impressive list of accomplishments. Stuff happens. We grow weary mentally and physically. The best plans derail. Enjoy the journey. Don’t fret because the list has more items than the day’s energy will address.
I cannot print my own money! Financial responsibility becomes weightier as I approach or enter retirement. Mountains of debt will affect my retirement prospects and any ambitions I hope to pursue. If you have not done so identify costs and set a budget. Get control of the spending. Consult some of the good books from reputable authors that explain finances and the necessity of streamlining the budget for retirement years.
What can I afford to allocate toward the pursuit of my ambitions? What expenses can I cut from the budget today to free up a few dollars a month? We’ve worked hard for years to provide for others. If our financial situation affords it we should take advantage of retirement and pursue those ambitions about which we’ve always dreamed.
Hopefully this food for thought has resonated with you and you are excited about uncovering your ambitions. I would love to hear how your search is going, what you’ve learned, as well as what has worked and not worked. Other readers would appreciate that discussion, too. Use the comments section to share your wisdom.
Gas Pump – User robenmarie at morguefile.com
Hourglass – User PatriciaEGreen2 at morguefile.com
Calculator and Pen – User albert12001 at morguefile.com
Archer – User GaborfromHungary at morguefile.com