Surrender is my word for the year 2021. Rather than new year’s resolutions which frequently get diluted within the first few days of January, I advocate setting clear intentions. Not so much specific goals or outcomes, but intentions for how we wish to show up in the world. So, my intention this year is to surrender to life as it unfolds.

During the past year, I read The Surrender Experiment written by Michael Singer, the creator of a thriving meditation center and founder of a highly successful medical practice management software company. Singer’s philosophy of “surrendering yourself to Life itself” was an inspiration to me during the early days of the pandemic where the uncertainty about the future and loss of control of the present was paralyzing for a time.

According to Michael Singer, “The practice of surrender is actually done in two very distinct steps: first you let go of the personal reactions of like and dislike that form inside your mind and heart; and second, with the resultant sense of clarity, you simply look to see what is being asked of you by the situation unfolding in front of you. What would you be doing if you weren’t being influenced by the reactions of like or dislike? Following that deeper guidance will take your life in a very different direction from where your preferences would have led you.”

My intention is to surrender, devoting myself to the present moment, allowing life to unfold and not trying to force things to happen. Surrender doesn’t mean we won’t have to make decisions or chose between different options but, with clarity of intention, we can, in the words of Christina Baldwin, move at the pace of guidance.

Article previously posted on the Dr. Paul Ward Blog

Truth and Lies

There are many kinds of lies we hear and sometimes use in life. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are little white lies such as we use to teach children, “Stop that or you’ll go blind!”, and of course big fat lies such as we hear from politicians and salespeople, like “Buy this and get rich!” or “You can keep your Doctor!”  Lies can be shaped in very creative ways like gift-wrapped presents to mask the truth or enhance it.

Continue reading

The Bonus Years – Health and Wellness – Part 2 (My Approach)

In Part 1 of “The Bonus Years – Health and Wellness”, I discussed the importance of understanding our life goals for our “bonus years”, and then using that motivation to define the health and wellness activities that will help us to best meet those goals. In Part 2 of this story, I share with you my approach for developing and executing my health and wellness plan.

For me, a big part of healthy living is bringing a positive mindset and positive energy to my health and wellness activities.  Whether rehabbing an injury, wanting to spend a long lifetime with family and friends, or mitigating the risk of disease, the more positive the energy put toward setting and achieving these health and wellness goals, the more likely the goals will be met. Have fun with the goals! Make them achievable! Don’t beat yourself up if at times you fall short! For example, if your goal is to eat more fruit during the day, make sure that those fruit options are visible and readily accessible to you.  The more you must search for oranges, apples, or grapes in the back of your crowded refrigerator, the less likely you are to select these options.

To sustain that positive mindset toward my health and wellness activities, I focus on the following:

  1. I visualize the health and wellness goal I am trying to achieve; what I need to do to set-up a successful outcome and what success looks like. 
  2. I look at each activity, big or small, as trying to achieve my personal best as opposed to a world’s record. 
  3. I make sure that I plan time in my day for these health and wellness activities; giving me something to look forward to throughout the day.

Each of us has our own approach to health and wellness that will hopefully allow us to achieve our life goals in our “bonus years”.  My approach is currently working for me, and by sharing it, I hope that it will be helpful for you.

Contributed by Don Fries, Retirement Coach, Certified Too Young To Retire® Facilitator

The Bonus Years – Health and Wellness – Part 1 (My Motivation)

Until recently, when I heard the words health and wellness used together, I started thinking about the need to eat healthier (those 8 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, for example), to get to the gym, to schedule an annual physical, to sleep more, and so on.  Throughout the years that random approach has led to very mixed outcomes. As a result of my coaching journey, I have learned that it is most important to recognize that health is a means and not an end.  People want to be healthy to experience life the way they desire. Once we figure out what we really want, we can then choose the best health and wellness options for attaining that goal.

Once I focused on the “why” of my health and wellness efforts, my motivation became clear. Both of my parents suffered for years with dementia-related diseases and passed on in their late 70’s / early 80’s. Watching the impact on them personally, living the caregiving experience with them, and recognizing the hereditary nature of these diseases has provided a clear purpose to focus on activities that may help mitigate the risk of contracting a dementia-related disease in the future.

With that added clarity and purpose, I now have a reason to exercise my mind and body, to eat healthier, and to sleep more. These are all activities recommended to help delay or hopefully deter the onset of dementia-related diseases. Gaining that clarity was a tremendously positive experience for me and I hope it will be the same for you as you plan your health and wellness activities in the bonus years. What is your “why”?

Finding your motivation toward health and wellness is the first step in the journey. In Part 2 of the “Bonus Years – Health and Wellness”, I will share with you my approach for executing a positive and effective health and wellness plan. It is one that works very well for me and will hopefully be helpful for you.

Contributed by Don Fries, Retirement Coach, Certified Too Young To Retire® Facilitator

The Bonus Years – Travel – Finding Joy in the Journey

One year ago, this month, my daughter and I stood on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, sharing a hug, some tears, and giving thanks for the journey that landed us at the highest point in Africa. I am sharing this story, because when we began planning this trip, the engineer in me had already decided that there was one goal: to successfully reach the summit.  Anything less would be a failure! Fortunately, at the same time I was learning through my coach training, with IPEC, the importance and value of finding joy in every journey. I came to realize that focusing on all the steps and opportunities about the journey instead of one and only goal, was a much more positive, motivating, and energetic approach to this experience. Soon the priorities and excitement became spending two weeks with my daughter, building friendships with the other hikers and guides, physically preparing for the climb, and getting the chance to visit a country and its people for the first time. Reaching the summit was still a goal, but by far not the only one, and not even the most important one.

For me, this journey became about finding as much joy as possible every step of the way and taking time to acknowledge it, and even celebrate it. I urge you to do the same as you take on adventures in your life. I did not achieve all the goals for my trip, but did achieve the most important ones, and one slightly less important as shown in the picture above.

Contributed by Don Fries, Retirement Coach, Certified Too Young To Retire® Facilitator

Changing Relationships

Whether single or married, divorced or widowed, we all have friends and family that will be impacted by a decision to leave a career and focus on what’s next in the second half of life.  In many cases, much of the personal joy in the decision is the expected opportunity to spend more time with family and friends.  The reality is that your loved ones have likely built their schedules around the amount of time that you were available when working full-time.  This new-found extra time on your schedule, may not automatically equate to your loved ones having the extra time to spend with you.  For me that was an important revelation, and a scary one!!

I remember when my wife, Mel, and I were discussing my pending “retirement”, and Mel made the following important and profound statement, “Don’t expect me to be your cruise director.”  Loosely translated, that meant that she had things to do that did not include me.  After my wounded ego recovered, I realized that my daily activities were just that, mine.  Mine to schedule and mine to own!  That was somewhat new territory for me as I was used to others scheduling meetings or telecoms that I needed to attend and having easy access to co-workers to take a walk or have lunch with.

Getting comfortable planning and completing activities that aligned with that of my friends and family is taking some getting used to, and not every effort hits its mark.  That said, I do find it to be very liberating, empowering, and a necessary step in managing changing relationships, and re-energizing my life. I hope that you will find the same.

Contributed by Don Fries, Retirement Coach, Certified Too Young To Retire® Facilitator

Uncertainty, Fear, and Anxiety

I hope that you, your families and your friends are managing to stay safe and well, and, whatever your circumstances, are surrounded by love.

I know many of us are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety during these unprecedented times. Anxiety arises from fear and uncertainty. During this Covid-19 experience, we know there is and will continue to be uncertainty and it is quite normal to feel the fear. It is easy to say we need the courage to face the fear, even embrace the fear, but we also need tools to support us and calm our anxiety, and maybe even learn from our anxiety.

Answering the question, What has your anxiety taught you about yourself?” Kevin Hines, who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge intending to end it all and yet survived, answered it this way on Twitter: “That I can always survive the pain.” What can we learn from our anxiety and how can we move from surviving to thriving?

For my heightened anxiety, I like to apply Rhonda Magee’s S.T.O.P. Practice:

S — Stop: a moment of mindfulness, a purposeful pause, putting a stop to that negative inner voice

T — Take a conscious breath: just breathe, focusing only on your breathing

O — Observe: notice what’s going on inside of you – become aware of thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations. Bring in self-love and compassion, let go of the tension and anxious thoughts

P — Proceed: with intention, taking the next step consciously and with increasing confidence. 

Read more about the STOP Practice on For my Moment of Mindfulness guided meditation on audio or video, visit The Conscious Leadership Blog Post.

Fear and uncertainty may linger, but the anxiety may subside. Be at peace with yourself. Begin to move from surviving to thriving.

Raising Consciousness through Art

As part of the research for our upcoming book on conscious living in the second half of life, I was fortunate to have a wonderful conversation with Greg Peters who lives in Long Beach, California. Greg’s philosophy is, during the first half of your life you go and investigate what it is that you enjoy doing and the second half of your life you try and do it. He has put this philosophy into practice. After a 28-year career in the aerospace industry working in commercial design and communications, Greg chose to pursue his passion for fine art. Greg painted the picture above and it is included with his permission.

During our conversation, Greg said, “I strongly believe that each of us comes to Earth with a mission to learn so that we can raise our consciousness and use our mission to raise everybody else’s consciousness.” Raising consciousness is part of the reason we are writing this book on conscious living. Raising consciousness begins with awareness.

Raising consciousness through art is Greg’s life purpose. In his book, The Vanishing West, Greg and co-author Johanna Lerwick combine interests in history and the American West, as well as Eastern and Western philosophies, to raise people’s consciousness about what has been going on in the western United States. They have told the story with inspirational quotations and beautiful images, helping people to connect with history through imagery. If you have a story of transition you would like to share, please contact us via the contact page.

For your free copy of The Vanishing West, a colorfully illustrated ebook featuring artworks from Johanna Lerwick and Gregory Peters, go to

Conscious Living

Conscious Living for those Too Young to Retire

The phrase conscious retirement refers to making conscious decisions about our transitions from long term careers into whatever comes next. Unfortunately, this phrase sounds like the terminal stage of our working lives. Yet in today’s world, retirement no longer means stopping work entirely. It is not a terminal stage; not the end of working, but rather an opportunity to make conscious choices about how we live during these transitions. It is about living consciously.

Continue reading

Conscious Retirement

Accepting that retiring the word retirement may be an impossible task, we may find conscious retirement to be a more exciting aspiration. Waiting until we find ourselves out of work, either by choice or because of unforeseen circumstances, is not a conscious retirement strategy. We need to be thinking about what comes next long before we arrive at a place we might call retirement. We need conscious retirement strategies.

Continue reading