Note: This guest post was written by Jesse Campbell, MMI counselor
As the end of summer approaches, parents around the world are preparing themselves mentally and emotionally for the heartrending moment when their children venture off on their own. As children have a near-superhuman ability to make themselves the center of your world with all their ballet lessons and vaccinations and bail hearings, it’s easy to see why the moment when they finally leave your house is such a significant one.
It does not, however, have to be an overwhelmingly negative experience. In fact, it can be the start of something new and exciting for you.
For starters, Empty Nest Syndrome is a terribly negative term for your impending mid-life freedom. There’s no reasonable way to put a positive spin on a diagnosis as dire-sounding as “Empty Nest Syndrome,” which conjures images of sad little bird parents sitting silently in a barren twiggy wasteland.
So I suggest creating a new, more-appealing euphemism for the experience of having your children leave home. I’ve even compiled a list to help get you started:
- Suddenly More Spacious Nest Syndrome
- Hey, We Can Turn This into an Office Syndrome
- It Smells Less Like Feet in Here Syndrome
- Let’s Buy New Furniture Syndrome
- Wow, that’s a Lot of Leftovers — How Much did that Kid Eat? Syndrome
- That's it — We’re Getting a Dog Syndrome
The point is this: it’s all about attitude. If your cell phone bill suddenly deflating by 200 percent isn’t appealing to you, this article — and the mega-powerful life-changing knowledge contained within — isn’t for you.
(But before I go any further, I’m trying to make light of things here, but please know that experiencing a sense of loss and sadness when your children leave home is perfectly normal and certainly nothing to feel ashamed of. Quite the opposite — if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the transition you shouldn’t hesitate to seek help.)
Alright, here we go. Four steps to make your dreams come true! Step right up, no pushing please. Plenty of wisdom for everyone here.
- Step 1: Make a budget.
I can tell you’re already disappointed. A budget! Quite a few people I know would rather give themselves a root canal than go over their budget. But the truth of the matter is if you aren’t writing it down you don’t really know where your money is going and how much of it you’ll have left at the end of the month. And you will have some left at the month — that kid ate a staggering number of Pop-Tarts! So take the time to examine all of your fixed and variable expenses and figure out how much money you have to play with – you may be surprised.
- Step 2: Determine Your Goals.
Depending on your age, you could be looking at another 20 to 30 working years until retirement — which is plenty of time to save and to play, but first you need to decide what your priorities are. Saving for retirement? Paying off the mortgage? Starting a new business? Traveling? Completing that black belt Sudoku book your niece gave you for Christmas three years ago? When it comes to your goals, don’t limit yourself!
- Step 3: Make a Plan.
Making a good plan is all about knowing where you want to end up, and simply filling in the roadmap that will help you get there. Some roads are harder and longer than others, which is why navigational systems are handy. And the same way a GPS can take the guesswork out of road trips, a good advisor/financial expert can help you find the best path toward your goals. So once you’ve decided where you want to be, don’t hesitate to seek help in finding the best routes to getting there. And remember – big goals can be daunting, but your map to success is really just a series of small mini-goals. So be sure to place a lot of pushpins on that map — they’ll help keep you on the path.
- Step 4: Execute.
Now’s the time where you make it happen. Just follow the map and start walking. But don’t spend too much time gazing off down the road. Instead focus on those mini-goals — the little waypoints you cross along the way — and reward yourself every time you cross one, because it means you’re getting closer and closer! Small victory-by-small victory, you’ll make your way, and before you know it – you’re there!
OK, so maybe you're saying None of that was awesome, or even new! That’s all the same stuff everyone always says. But guess what? These four steps are fully guaranteed to work.
In fact, they’re pretty much the only way to get what you want. And they even work if the kids still live at home! Or if you never had kids at all! So why wait? Today’s the day you start. That stupid Sudoku puzzle isn’t solving itself.