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Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Consider the possibilities for a reimagined life

Life Reimagined Theme Month (Ms. Jenkins) DESCRIPTION: Tight shoes – when each day no longer feels comfortable.


Want comfy shoes and smooth sailing? Transitions come with the territory. It’s best to embrace them.

En español | At some point in most of our lives, we reach a stage that one of my friends calls “tight shoes.” What we’re doing each day no longer feels perfectly comfortable. There’s an unease with day-to-day routine. Things just don’t fit quite right.

Such moments often accompany major life alterations — the last child leaves for college or a new boss arrives with new ideas or you have a chance to move to Bulgaria! Or, sometimes, as author and professor Joseph Campbell once astutely observed, you spend your career climbing to the top of the ladder, only to find it’s against the wrong wall.

Whether your changing circumstances involve losses or gains, the feelings and thoughts they inspire deserve attention.

They’re telling us that we need to do some soul-searching to figure out what might suit us better. Transitions come with the territory, as long as you’re alive. It’s best to embrace them.

So how do we tackle these shifts in our life’s tectonic plates? If we’re like most folks, we’re somewhere in the middle of our journey here on earth when we begin to question the direction we’re headed. Are our dreams different today? Do we find ourselves envying someone whose example we might want to follow? What are the most satisfying, gratifying moments we spend, and can we find a way to create more of them? How much does money matter, and can we afford to contribute more time?

Each of us will have different questions and, of course, the answers will be wildly individual.

But the quest can feel daunting, and most of us can use a little guidance.

AARP offers a wealth of resources that can help steer your search, including many examples of people like us who have made big and small adjustments in our day-to-day direction. AARP also offers Life Reimagined, developed along with some of the world’s leading experts in life coaching, counseling and guidance, as a kind of map to help you plan the next phase of your life.
As someone who has opted for big changes at many junctures, I urge you to wiggle your toes and try on some shoes that might fit you better. You never know what you might find!

Mark Twain thought about reimagining life in nautical terms, and I love the way he framed it:

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I wish you comfy shoes and smooth sailing. Take a look at Life Reimagined to learn more.

Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.

Video: Disrupt Aging and Embrace Growing Older — AARP CEO and Disrupt Aging author Jo Ann Jenkins challenges people to change the conversation about aging and embrace what it means to grow older during her recent appearance on the Dr. Phil show.