How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan (for the Empty Nest Years)

How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan (for the Empty Nest Years)

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Picture of a wooden boardwalk stretching out over a blue sea at sunset. Overlay says How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan (for the Empty Nest Years).
How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan (for the Empty Nest Years)

Make Your Empty Nest Intro a Good One

Ever since those first college brochures showed up on your doorstep, you’ve been preoccupied with how to create a personal strategic plan for your child’s post high school journey. You think, “my kids are my life.”

You raised independent thinkers poised to take on the world and contribute their unique gifts to the world. Congratulations on a job well done! 

Now it is time to turn your attention to how to create a personal strategic plan for the empty nest years. The empty nest syndrome is most likely to occur if you fail to have a plan. How about avoiding all that and find a renewed purpose filled with exciting new adventures?

Plan Out Your Life to Find a New Purpose

Plan Out Your Life to Find a New Purpose

You probably did plan out your life. The problem is that your plan probably did not extend much past find a career, get married, have kids, and then raise the kids. Sometimes it feels like the kids are taking YOUR life with them as they fly off into their future. How dare they?

It’s time to dig deep and go find the woman you were before the kids were born. You. Got. This. You just need a few strategies.

I found some resources that might help. First, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Divide it into three sections.

Label the first section, “Do.” The second, “Be.” The third, “Have.” Do not overthink this. To help, set a timer for about seven minutes. 

You probably have not spent a lot of time thinking about your five-year life plan, let alone how to create a personal strategic plan. Why?  You’ve had “a million tabs open” in your mind during the years spent raising kids. 

Please begin by giving yourself permission to focus on your own wants, needs, and desires. No one will call you selfish. You earned this.

Once you are in a quiet and reflective space, answer the following questions.

What do you want to do?  Assuming you need to produce an income, how do you wish to spend your day?  Do you want to continue your current position or transition into something new?  

If you do not need to make an income, are there any causes you are passionate about?  

What places have you always dreamed of traveling to?  What local day trips have you never had time to do before? 

What hobbies or interests have you neglected while raising the kids?  This is a tough one because sometimes we’ve forgotten what we even did B.C. -before children. Click HERE to learn about meeting new friends by starting a Book Club.

So think back to the things you loved when you were younger. Can you revive any of those hobbies or interests? 

The next category is “be.” What kind of woman are you becoming?  More importantly, what kind of woman do you want to be?  If you were a character in a book, what kind of personality traits would your ideal woman (with an empty nest) possess?  

The final category is about what you want to have. Don’t be afraid to list financial desires, but don’t limit yourself to just material possessions. 

Struggling with negative thoughts and want to be more positive and upbeat?  Find some new ideas to help you transform your mind HERE.

Do you want to have a different state of mind?  Hopeful, enthusiastic, purposeful, and energetic, come to mind.

Connect the Dots to Avoid Empty Nest Boredom

You’ve spent years telling your kids that, if they are bored, go find something to do! Oddly, the empty nest boredom feeling and general restlessness is a fairly big problem for many moms. It’s as if we’ve been so busy for so long that we don’t know quite what to do with ourselves when we suddenly have so much unstructured time.

You need a plan. I needed a plan. So I did some research. 

It turns out that some Stanford University professors were tired of so many brilliant students having zero idea of what to do with their pricey Stanford degrees. So they did what academics do -researched- and came up with a class to teach really smart people how to plan out their entire life. 

In this Designing Your Life TED Talk, you can hear Professor Bill Burnett from Stanford University explain how to apply design thinking ideas towards designing a life you love.

These professors thought that the design thinking that Silicon Valley geniuses apply to invent the Next Big Thing might have applications to the most important problems, like how to have a life of purpose. Throughout the transitions of life, humans can apply design thinking ideas to finding renewed purpose in life. 

The Designing Your Life course sounds perfect for moms with an empty nest. Since we can’t be in class, let me explain how the steps apply to empty nesters. These big ideas should help you plan out your life after the kids are grown. 

Connecting the dots in your life refers to the quest to live a meaningful life. As you learn more about design thinking concepts, don’t be surprised if you wish that someone taught you this when YOU were eighteen years old.

Most of us are on a quest to find the meaning of life. According to the professors, the meaning of your life is the sum of your life view plus your work view. If you can align the two, you will probably be very happy. The answers to the following questions provide your life view and work view:

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you do the work you do?
  • What do you believe?

Voila! You now know the meaning of life. 

Confront Gravity Problems to Prevent Empty Nest Anxiety

If you spend any time around other moms of almost grown or already flown kids, the anxiety level is often palpable. Lots of moms are stuck. They want to change their life. The gap between where they are and where they want to be is causing some serious empty nest anxiety. 

Since you want to learn how to create a personal strategic plan, let’s confront the issue directly. Do you have a gravity problem or not?

First of all, what’s a gravity problem? If it’s not something you can act on, it’s not a problem, it’s a circumstance. Essentially, you can’t have a problem you can’t act on. Some things are just circumstances and it’s important to know the difference.

So the million dollar question is this-are you willing to work on the problem?  Whether it’s a health issue, marriage issue, lack of financial stability, or you have caretaking responsibilities (such as for aging parents), are you willing to seek solutions?  

Sometimes people are not willing to work on the problem. They’re stuck. In this case, you have a circumstance and the only thing to do is to accept it. But if you ARE willing to work on the problem, it’s time to come up with some options.

The mere act of sorting out your circumstances provides some clarity. Are you ready to start creating some options for your future?  I sure hope so because this is the fun part. 

Brainstorm Jobs for Empty Nesters with Out-of-the Box Thinking

As you think of problems to solve, one of the most common is a need for jobs for empty nesters. The following strategy is applicable to all kinds of problems you might need to solve, but we will tackle the need for the almighty dollar first.

Many empty nester moms spent years at home with children and now wish to reenter the workforce. Maybe you’ve always worked outside the home but made career choices solely based on whether or not it fit your kid’s schedule.

Next, you are seeking a more fulfilling encore career that fits your preferences. Whatever your situation, now is the time to create a Second Act that excites you, fulfills you, and meets your financial requirements. 

But how?  In the Designing Your Life book and workbook, the professors teach a brainstorming technique that helps you break it down step-by-step.

Start by creating a five-year plan for yourself. The goal is to imagine three different choices that would lead to three very different lives. The professors said that most people have 7.5 possible lives in them.

The first choice is the rather obvious one. For example, when I pursued a teaching career, I was hoping it would be a fulfilling encore career because I always dreamed of being a teacher.

It wasn’t so great (that’s a story for another time).  However, it was a rather obvious choice because it was (supposedly) a mom-friendly career. Also, it was a natural progression considering that I have a passionate interest in educational issues. What is your “obvious” choice? 

The second choice requires you to suspend your disbelief and imagine that the first choice “went away.” Continuing with the teaching example, what if there was no longer such a thing as classroom teachers? 

For instance, artificial intelligence could make this a possibility. What if the robots taught children from now on? Another possibility is creating nothing but an online classroom environment with no teacher present.

In today’s environment, this second option is an important one to consider. What are your other choices if your first choice disappears?

 The third choice is the wild card or, as I call it, the fun one! What would you do if you knew no one would laugh?  We all have that one thing that we just don’t think sounds practical or is too “pie in the sky.” That’s the thing. Write all three of these down on a piece of paper. 

Someone Out There is Living YOUR Future 

Once you have a few options, it’s time to do some research. The Stanford University professors likened it to “sneaking up on your future.” Don’t you just love that idea?

Someone out there is living your future-find them and invite them to coffee! Tap into your personal network to find the people that are already living your future. There is much to learn from them.

This concept can encompass many different aspects of your personal strategic plan. Here are some examples:

  • I always wanted to be a nurse. Go talk to a nurse.
  • I always wanted to go to Paris, France. Talk to someone that’s been there.
  • I want to teach English abroad. Talk to someone doing it now.
  • I want to move to Nashville, Tennessee. Get on some forums and find out what it’s like there. Better yet, visit a few times to check it out.
  • I want to leave my marriage. Talk to someone who got divorced.
  • I want to get remarried. Talk to someone on marriage #2.
  • I want to start my own business. Talk to someone who did so successfully.

The general idea is to take your imagined five-year plan and “try it on for size” BEFORE you pull the ripcord. 

More Options Do NOT Mean Greater Happiness

The Stanford professors point out that more options are not necessarily a good thing. You really do need to narrow down the options. 

Once you’ve talked to some people who are living your future, it’s important to test your idea before you take a leap of faith.

If you are interested in nursing, can you volunteer in a hospital to see if you like the environment?  Can you take a side job (on a part-time basis) in the field before you make an investment in further education? This is a great way to make sure the position is really for you.

If your plan includes solo foreign travel, have you experimented with a few short domestic trips by yourself?  This will help you troubleshoot any possible issues you are likely to encounter. 

Planning on making some serious changes to your personal living situation?  Have you come up with a budget and tried to live within those constraints for a few months?

Aspiring entrepreneurs should use their weekends and current vacation time to experiment with the new office set-up. Learning how to manage your schedule when you no longer have a boss calling the shots is another good idea.

As you look at your options, realize that if you were inventing a product, first you would build a prototype to test. The product you are building is your ideal life. Once you narrow down your options, it is time to test the possible outcomes before making a decision.

Be prepared to agonize over your choice because of FOMO-Fear of Missing Out- that seems to make every possible decision an agonizing one. 

As mentioned in the video, you won’t really know if you made the right decision until you make it. This might sound strange, but have you ever “tried on” an important decision?  

This is where you imagine your future as a movie. In your mind, you put yourself into the movie and play out your options. Often you will automatically get an overwhelmingly good or bad feeling your choice. This is what you call a “gut check.” Go with your gut.

Once the decision is made it is time to move along and take the action steps to make it happen. 

Interestingly enough, it’s important to consider the decision final. Why?  The Stanford professors did some research and found that people are 60-70% less happy if a decision is considered reversible.

To help you with this process, first you might want to grab a copy of the Designing Your Life book. You can get it here:

If you are feeling really inspired, the workbook provides a visual space to work through the steps. You can find that here:

As you think about how to create a personal strategic plan for the empty nest years, I’d love to leave you with a thought. 

Change is hard. No actually it’s scary. It’s so much easier to stay in our comfort zone. The problem is that the life you want usually resides right outside your comfort zone.

What would you tell your best friend to do in your situation?  What kind of advice will you give your daughter or niece (if you have one) about pursuing your life plan?  Now go take your own advice. 

You had the right answers inside of you all along. Trust yourself. 

Which part of your personal strategic plan inspires you the most? Please drop a line in the comments and then share this post with another woman that needs some encouragement.

Picture of a wooden boardwalk stretching out over a blue sea at sunset. Overlay says How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan (for the Empty Nest Years).
How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan (for the Empty Nest Years)





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