So Now What?

A dream vacation comes to an end, you move house, or you begin your retirement … these are all life-changing events and, usually, there has been plenty of advance planning, dreaming and organizing to pull them off. So what happens when you’re sitting on the other side of them? Did you prepare for the first day back home after the amazing vacation, or the first day you aren’t expected at the office …?

I have just returned from a wonderful adventure in Europe. It was part belated 60th birthday present and part retirement celebration and I had spent a year planning and anticipating it. I had lists of my lists … from the ones that included booking travel and accommodations to the list that covered all those little things ones must do before departure—like watering plants, leaving a light on and turning down the thermostat.

I love lists because they free up precious real estate in my brain … I don’t have to remember everything if I know I’ve already written it down and I don’t have to fret about forgetting something important.

But … what about an ‘after-the-event’ list? As someone clearly not a fan of free falls and winging it, I know myself well enough to recognize that re-integration post-adventure can be very anti-climactic. To help ward that off, I prepared my ‘return-to-life-at-home’ lists. The most immediate list included rather mundane, but necessary, tasks such as getting my winter tyres put on and paying my home insurance. I also had a pre-written grocery list with items I’d run out of before I left so, in my jet-lagged state, I wouldn’t have to think too much about what I needed to pick up at the store.

However, the most exciting list contained projects I wanted to tackle, books I wanted to read and creative ideas I wanted to explore when I got back. I wanted to hit the ground running so that I wasn’t continually looking over my shoulder afraid that the demon I fear the most might be on my heels: my bête noire is ‘purposelessness’ or, perhaps more appropriately, ‘listlessness’. It’s the devil that brings emptiness, despondency and ennui to life and my best defence is to have a plan in place and my weapon of choice is to compile a list.

I don’t want to wake up each morning and wonder what I’m getting out of bed for … I want to go to bed the night before excited about what I’m going to do the next day.

My lists aren’t etched in stone by any means and most of the ideas and projects I’ve jotted down have no specific ‘best before’ dates stamped on them, but they are a guide and safety net … some of the projects may never get off the ground, but new ones will be added and others will be completed. All I want is to avoid those unsettling ‘so now what’ days by building in just a wee bit of structure to my glorious new freedom.

I highly recommend this approach to whatever major life change you are about to undertake, or have recently completed … make your goals short term and long term, build in all the things you love to do and a few of the ones you have to do! Set your mental course forward—not backward—and use your lists to position a few navigational guides along the exciting unchartered waters ahead.

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