Recently I was invited to join my first online book club through Facebook. The book to be discussed was Life Reimagined—Discovering Your New Life Possibilities. And while I was a bit skeptical about how a book club discussion through Facebook could be that helpful, this upbeat and practical book appeared to cover ideas I often read and write about—so I said yes. Now four weeks later I consider the book club experiment to be a relative success. But best of all, I discovered along the way some helpful ideas for us all to “reimagine” what I call a right-sized life.
What is a right-sized life? My definition of right-sized is a life where each of us creates an experience of life that brings us the greatest sense of well-being, peace, fulfillment and meaning. When you consider each of those elements separately it is obvious that we each will have a different definition of what works best for us. Right-sizing actually applies to every category of our lives, but it often begins when we reach a certain age where we begin to question what others expect of us (and maybe we went along with for a while) and then decide that it’s time to follow our own guidance and create the life we believe is possible.
Gradually through the years my husband Thom and I started right-sizing our lives. Along the way we decided we didn’t want, need or really desire to live up to the expectations of others. We also didn’t want or need the “stuff” that our culture (and some of our neighbors) thought was that important. We instead decided that freedom, peace of mind, a focus on what matters, and a more simple and sustainable lifestyle were at the top of our list. I’ve written about our path and many of the steps we took before so if you want more detail, here is a link to a previous post.
So what does right-sizing have to do with Life Reimagined—Discovering Your New Life Possibilities? In many ways they are the same. Interestingly enough, this book, which is authored by Richard J. Leider and Alan M. Webber, is also endorsed and promoted by AARP. But before any of you who are not big fans of AARP jump to conclusions (not to mention those of you who consider yourself way-ay-ay too young to be even interested), you might be as pleasantly surprised as I was by some of the insights offered in this book. One of the most profound and proactive ways it suggests we focus on our future is by beginning a conversation of “living versus aging.”
Think about it. When we approach life, especially life after youth, our society normally refers to it as aging. I hear it all the time, don’t you? Aging doesn’t sound positive. It brings up ideas of loss, unwelcome change, and decline. But what if instead of calling it aging we merely began to recognize it as ongoing life. Living versus aging not only sounds more positive, it is more positive. Best of all it reminds us that the entire journey of life isn’t over at a certain age, it just constantly changes, adjusts and becomes something new. So while reimagining may focus on many who are in the second part of life, right-sizing similarly is a focus on the journey of life at any age.
One of the more practical benefits of the book is a “road map and guidance system to help people navigate a new phase of life.” Its six steps to reimagining your life is a refreshing and useful strategy that any one of us can use to steer our way through whatever change we are facing. What are the six steps?
- Reflect. Before any of us make any change it is wise to reflect on where we are and how we got there. The book offers several suggestions that while not new to most of us, are great reminders for the need to be honest, open and aware with ourselves before tackling any big change.
- Connect. I’ve written about it before and the book makes it very clear—“Isolation is fatal.” Those of us who plan to live a long and happy life need to stay close and connected to others.
- Explore. I personally loved how the book places a big emphasis on the skills of curiosity and courage no matter what our age. It points out that far too many of us have made comfort and security our primary goal in life. When we do that we sacrifice possibility and opportunity.
- Choose. A big part of the journey of a reimagined life is being open to possibility and then narrowing down the choices that bring us well-being, happiness and a sense of great possibility. And remember, when we refuse to choose—that too is a choice.
- Repack. Of course before we can move too far ahead we have to let go of some of the old patterns, behaviors, people and “stuff” we’ve been hanging on to that no longer serves us. This step isn’t easy but it is very important before we can really move forward.
- Act. This final step is just that—a step. It doesn’t deliver us to a fully reimagined (or right-sized) life. Instead it reminds us that it is one action followed by another, then another and another that will gradually unfold into the life we imagine. Once we complete this “act” we then return back to the beginning of the map and start all over again, and again, and again.
One of the more fun things about reading this book along with others in our Facebook Book Discussion were comments offered by other participants. Most agreed that change isn’t easy but that having a support system and hearing others talk about the process made it more doable and fun. Most seemed eager to try the map and move forward, but as might be expected, a few resisted. The book explains why by saying, “What people seem to have expected is that by the time they’d reached this point in their lives, they’d have everything under control…. What we didn’t expect was that we’d have to keep figuring it out, no matter what our age.”
Life Reimagined is an encouraging book but it also points out that the alternative to “living versus aging” can instead be one of limbo, resignation, and “inner kill.” The book also states, “…you are responsible for shaping your own reality,” and reminds us that change and, “…reimagining your life is going to be messy.” Ultimately it encourages us to remember that, “You are in charge of your own experiment of one.”
What became increasingly clear to me as I made my way through the insights in this book was how its helpful steps can assist us in right-sizing our lives right now. Rightsizing provides us with a perfectly tailored goal of a SMART, happy and fulfilled life. And while we will never ultimately arrive at any final destination of right-sizing, continual reimagining helps us courageously navigate that journey in an ongoing and practical way.