My friend, Kathy Gottberg (and her husband, whom I’ve also met) took some time to re-evaluate their lifestyle in midlife in a way that I know you’ll find interesting and inspirational. It’s so good that she wrote a book about their rightsizing, RightSizing * A SMART Living 365 Guide to Reinventing Retirement, which can be found HERE. And if retirement is in your future, I do suggest you get it because it’s chock full of good advice. So much so that I asked her to contribute this post. And here it is.
Eight years ago my husband Thom and I hit a crossroad. After years of pursuing goals that our culture told us were important, we stopped to ask ourselves if the ladders we had been climbing were even against the right wall. Sure, we’d achieved many appearances of success, but at midlife, if felt like our heart and soul were calling us in a different direction. They were. When we stopped listening to others and started working together to discover where our inner guidance was taking us, we found what we now call rightsizing.
What is rightsizing? Simply put, rightsizing is the conscious choice to create a life and a lifestyle that more sustainably aligns with your unique Self in the best possible way at every stage. The good thing about rightsizing your life is that your age or situation doesn’t matter. Although many reach retirement before finally making it happen, rightsizing can benefit everyone and leads to more happiness, fulfillment, and peace of mind than ever before regardless of circumstances. Of course, just like most things that are desirable, there are tradeoffs. Here is a list of the most common myths that keep many of us from choosing a rightsized life.
#1 We’re afraid of what we’d have to give up. Something that comes up continuously when I talk to others about rightsizing is how much people feel they will lose if they do it. One of the first conversations usually highlights how big and expensive a home they live in and how it’s impossible to imagine less. So many of us have identified with what we own and our “image” that we somehow believe that giving it up will be devastating.
On the flip side, rightsizing asks us what we truly need to be happy and fulfilled. It never asks us to settle for less than what is important to us, but instead, makes us carefully examine the actual fulfillment we get from the things we own. In other words, do our things own us or do we own them? And are we fully awake, aware and focused on the amount of life energy we are spending to keep all those things in our life? Instead, by letting go of what we don’t actually need or want, we free up the enormous potential to live in a much more life-enhancing way.
#2 We’re afraid of who we might be if we give up our stuff. Many of us identify ourselves by what we own and how that looks to the outside world. If we give up our stuff, who would we be? Those fears become particularly problematic at retirement. Not only do we lose our “job identity” but if we move or rightsize, we lose our “stuff identity.”
Fortunately rightsizing is all about redefining ourselves in a way that is so much MORE than our stuff. Learning to love ourselves the way we are and recognizing our innate abilities to co-create our world is far more satisfying than any amount of material goods or external power.
#3 It’s easier to go through life asleep and unconscious. Many of us live our lives on autopilot. I know I have at times. The busier we are, the more caught up we get in just about anything, the easier this becomes. It’s also not necessarily a bad thing. Allowing our unconscious to take over automatically when we’re typing, riding a bicycle or doing any one of a hundred things is a real benefit. That routine frees up our minds for more important things. The problem of course, is that if routine becomes a habit so we never bring those important things up. Then we experience our days feeling like robots, going through the motions, and often living a life of quiet desperation.
On the other hand, rightsizing ask us to focus in and question all the elements of our life to evaluate whether or not they are life enhancing. If something in our life doesn’t bring joy—eliminate it! If we are working on a job you hate—change it! Worried sick over the debt you are responsible for—do what is necessary to get rid of it. Got more stuff than happiness—let it go! Rightsizing asks us to stay awake, aware and focused on finding the good in our lives.
#4 It’s easier to let other people make most of our big life decisions. Similar to #3 above, many of us prefer to turn over big choices and decisions to others. Anytime we expect and allow a doctor, a politician, a salesperson, a child, or even a friend decide what is most life enhancing for us, we give away our power. Choosing to rightsize empowers us to decide for ourselves, and love the process at the same time.
#5 We care, far more than we are willing to admit, what other people think about us. Not a day goes by that I hear or read about someone saying they don’t care what others think. Really? If we’re honest, I think most of us care a great deal of the time. If we didn’t care, I doubt we would put ourselves through the majority of misery that we do on a regular basis.
Again, let me ask a few questions: Do you routinely do things you do not love doing? Why? Why not just walk away and find something more fulfilling? Chances are, you care what others think if you do. Want to ditch it all and travel the world? Why not? Is it because of what other people will think? Or what about deciding you wish to be a writer, a painter, or some other artist? It’s likely that you think others will not approve, so you never try. Want to stay in bed all day? Just imagine what others would think about that! Do you believe only selfish people do things that bring them joy? Who told you that and why do you believe it? Rightsizing is about doing what you feel called to do, and refusing to let others dictate the course of our lives.
#6 We’d rather follow the crowd than trust our own guidance. Most of us live life based on what others told us, and what others are doing. Be a nice girl—check! Go to school—check! Get a good (and acceptable) job—check! Marry the right person—check! Buy a big house, expensive car, etc. regardless of whether you need or can afford it—check! Stick with the same job (no matter how awful) until you retire—check! Retire and play golf until it is time to die—check! Oh, wait.
Why do we so often do what others expect? Likely, it’s because if we didn’t, we’d stand out. Most of us crave the approval of others so desperately that we sacrifice our happiness to please everyone else. Fortunately, rightsizing asks us to question ourselves deeply and for as long as necessary to find an answer—and then once we discover our true nature, we usually stop following others and instead follow that still, small voice within.
#7 Our culture teaches us, and we still believe, that life is a struggle and that pain is virtuous. It often boils down to the fact that many people believe we aren’t supposed to be happy anyway, so why bother? But where did that often-unconscious thought start? For most of us, that thinking came from indoctrination from other people, our culture and most religions. If we believe that we don’t deserve to be happy and live a meaningful life (at least while here on Earth), then there is a strong possibility that we:
- Follow the crowd rather than trust our own guidance;
- Care what other people think about us;
- Let others make our big life decisions;
- Are afraid of who we might be and what we might lose; and
- We’d have to wake up and start living our lives the best we can.
Rightsizing begins with the premise that the world overflows with goodness and grace and that each of us is the beneficiary to those qualities if, and when, we take the road less traveled. Rightsizing focuses on the fact that as a co-creative individual you can choose how your life will unfold, what’s important to you, and that quality experiences are always better than collecting stuff.
The good news is that rightsizing isn’t difficult, and the rewards make up for any of the cost. During the last eight years, I learned to appreciate and celebrate the many benefits of rightsizing and write about them all the time. But bear in mind, rightsizing is an individualized approach. It doesn’t matter where you are or when you get started—only that you do. And now that you know the truth about the myths, I would strongly encourage you not to wait until you are ready to retire. The SMART approach is to start today, where you are and rightsize your life.
Kathy Gottberg has been a published author and writer for over 30 years. Kathy’s current passion is blogging at SMART Living 365.com http://SMARTLiving365.com where she shares ideas and experiences that lead to a happier, peaceful and more meaningful life. Her most recent work is entitled RightSizing * A SMART Living 365 Guide to Reinventing Retirement. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1517467020/ref=rdr_ext_tmb Kathy lives in La Quinta, California with her husband Thom of 40 years and her dog Kloe. Ultimately, Kathy strives to live life fearlessly and full-out….and to remember, that each of us get to make it up!