JUNE 1, 2017 /
~ This was actually a cry of anguish from a friend of mine.
From a neutral position, I could have responded by saying, “So what is your point?” But because of the conditioning of the collective mind, my comment would in all probability be interpreted as cold and sarcastic.
My friend works in a large organization where 60 is the mandatory retirement age. While he understands the need to make room for younger employees to reach the lofty heights where he currently resides, he also resents the connotations attached to the concept of retirement, such as, ‘being put out to pasture’, ‘over the hill’, ‘long in the tooth’, ‘seasoned’, ‘past your sell-by-date’…. Sayings that imply diminished value.
No-one wants to feel worthless, but is it entirely up to others to determine our worth? How did we gain that value in the first place? Were we valued because we were young or because of our potential and ability?
While the policy of retirement age may often stipulate 60, what is 60 when removed from society’s conditioned thinking? It’s just a number, not our identity? It does not signify the end of life, or that of our skills and talent. Yet if we load the concept of ‘60+ years old’ with dread, despair and every other joy-sucking thought we can conjure up, we’ll turn our minds into soul vampires and transform who we are into merely a memory.
A joy-nurturing alternative is to drop those thoughts and revisit our reservoir of potential and desires. Every time the conditioned mind steps in with cries akin to “Oh Woe is me now that 60 is upon me”, we can stop the thought in its tracks! Prevent it from building momentum! Change our focus to thoughts that are expansive, adventurous, exciting. If they feel a little scary, good! Consider it thrilling much along the lines of the fun fair roller coaster joy ride – would you even consider going on that ride if it didn’t have the hurtling, thrill-filled package? Now there’s an enticing metaphor to hang over the retirement portal. After all, why should retirement be boring? Entirely safe usually equates to boring.
My friend has clearly been very successful in his career, so there is no reason why he couldn’t rechannel that potential-to-succeed into new avenues.
This is sooo possible for everyone to do, but only if we remove a common obstacle that we humans tend to erect between us and our success, and that is resistance to change. Many changes are out of our control, such as turning 60 years old! And if that’s the time to bid adieu to our current job according to company policy, then that’s what it is.
What do we gain from accepting what is? We let go of the internal negative cries of resistance and we stop writing a bitter, melancholic drama in our heads. With all that out the way we are free to place our attention squarely in front of us, allowing us to remain open to new opportunities.
It’s a matter of unlearning old patterns of thinking and conditioning, and replacing them with beneficial and productive thinking.
Time to explore (on our own and with trusted friends) strengths, favourite pastimes, values…
And if the cries of “it can’t be done” persist, take encouragement and inspiration from a few examples among those who have “done it”.
Harlan David Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, founded Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 60s. Although he tried many jobs, he enjoyed dabbling in cooking, which gradually took more of his time. The franchise business concept was totally new to him when he launched it.
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) took up art when she was 75, leading to her discovery by a collector three years later which in turn led to world-wide fame.
The book Robinson Crusoe was written by Daniel Defoe when he was 60 – his first novel.
At 96, Harry Bernstein’s debut novel The Invisible Wall was published.
And talking about writing, retirement provides an excellent time to record all the gems of expertise gained from our experience for the benefit of those in our field. If you don’t want to write for public consumption or you don’t think you have anything worth sharing, it’s still a good idea to jot down all the achievements that you have notched up, if for no other reason than to bolster your confidence and belief in yourself. Travel back through the years and surprise yourself with how much you have done, within and outside the work arena.
If we could do it before, we can do it again. Etches of wisdom run through wrinkles – they do not signify diminished power. The power of choice is ours forever. That force within us only leaves with the last beat of our heart; it is not controlled by numbers unless we think it is – our thoughts and beliefs impact every cell in our body.
But if we wait for others to usher in our new beginnings, we could wait forever.
Welcome this new chapter in life and allow curiosity to propel you as you seek out the angles that best align with your own personal power capacity. And if that takes you into something completely different from your career, well, why not? Actor Wang Deshun took up modelling at the age of 79, and by 80 he was strutting his stuff on international ramps. He favours pursuing ‘nowness’, as he puts it, and when it comes to old age he says, “One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, ‘Do you dare try something you’ve never done before?’ ”
Former concert pianist Deirdre Larkin certainly chose ‘something different’ when she took up running at the age of 78. She has broken world records and at 85 continues to do so, competing in 60 races a year, mostly over 10kms but with at least one half marathon included every month.
A reinvention of the self is possible and empowering. The alternative is that of ‘victim consciousness’ which carries the attitude that life happens to us. Our attitude is always within our control, so we can choose to take 100% responsibility for our experience of life.
The sheer joy of fulfilment is what life is all about and if that is what pre-60 life has been for you, then post-60 does not have to be any different no matter what ventures take your fancy. If indeed you feel that you have missed out on the experience of delicious fulfilment, then there is no time like now to change that. It’s never too late.
And when next someone throws you a suggestive hint of “a pasture, hill, sell-by-date or season”, think back on how often you’ve heard or indeed said, “If only I had known what I know now when I was 30!” Be appreciative of your age and the wise insights that come with it. There is no substitute for experience which combined with the right attitude will transform any pasture into a green paradise of abundance.
It’s the age of discovery!
“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” ~ David Bowie
MARCH 8, 2017 /
An important question to ask when you are heading into the retirement phase of life is, ‘What am I going to do next?’
This question and its answer(s) are important for a number of reasons:
- It reduces the risk of slipping into no man’s time where the tendency exists to sit back and watch the days slip by into a murky puddle of dreariness and depression
- It compels you to wo/man up and consider options rather than bury your head in the sand
- It encourages reflection on your strengths and desires
- You get to choose directions instead of waiting for life to happen to you
- Having options to explore and research, give you a meaningful reason to get up in the morning
- A time of exploration, researching options and trying out ideas all lends itself to structure and strategy which sustains choosing forward.
All six points can be summed up as living with purpose.
If you need to continue earning an income in your retirement you may feel that your answers to the question of ‘what to do next?’ should be of a ‘responsible’ nature and therefore confine your choices to a safe area where you can draw on your work experiences. Something affiliated to the field that you have spent the last 40 years in and which should then say something for your credibility.
This is fine and absolutely makes perfect sense if the last 40 years saw you with a smile on your face for most of the time. In other words, you could honestly say that, by and large, you loved your working life.
However, most surveys conducted on Job Satisfaction rate the ‘the very satisfied’ group well below 50% statistically. If this reflects your sentiments regarding your work, perhaps it’s time to break out of the mould and do something completely different. It’s not only feasible, it’s eminently doable.
So where do you start?
Your area of interest or dare I say it, passion, forms the premise on which to build the castle of your dreams. Spend time reading as much as you can on related topics. If you know of anyone who is doing what you are passionate about, contact them and ask if you can spend some time with them in discussion and/or observation.
Never shy away from learning new material simply because you believe or have been told that you are too old. According to Neuroscientist Prof. Michael Merzenich (a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research) the brain is built for change – no matter your age, you can get smarter!
Play around with ideas of what you can do and how you can structure the way forward. Throw an ‘ideas’ party where you discuss your venture(s); ask your friends for suggestions and any assistance that you may need to get started. People are not mind-readers so if you need help, ask for it. And this is especially pertinent to know-how questions.
Keep a notebook with you to capture those creative ‘light-bulb’gems that pop up out of the blue when you least expect them.
If you are no longer sure where your interest or passion lies, cast your mind back to when you were a child – what did you love doing? What were you naturally drawn to? These answers give strong clues because young children generally have not yet fallen victim to social pressures and coercion.
List your strengths as you see them and ask friends and family what they consider your strengths to be.
When you are in browse mode, either in a book shop or paging through a magazine or skimming through the television channels, what do you always stop to look at or read?
The answers to these questions hold some of the clues as to where your interests lie and what would sustain and nurture your interest. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be only one subject or area that will keep the inner flame alight. Interests can be varied, yet blended together, give depth and variety to life’s canvas.
Once you have a rough idea of what you are going to do, draw up a strategy and schedule for the next week, months, and year. Even if you start with broad strokes that give a vague outline, at least you have started. The filling in of detail comprises a step-by-step process – baby steps, not ones for mankind. Each little step that you take (even drawing up the schedule) will give you a sense of accomplishment and in that way, your momentum will grow exponentially.
Think of it as a growing wave of magnificent productivity that you surf towards the shore of fulfilment.
FEBRUARY 22, 2017 /
~ Grow bold as you grow old
If you regard old age as an ever-shrinking cage, let me help you change your thinking.
The time in life when you are regarded as old, is actually the time in life in which to celebrate freedom:
- the freedom derived from a rapidly fading self-censorship
- the freedom derived from being the boss of your time
With the hindsight accrued from many years of life, we gain X-ray vision in evidencing the transparency of society-engineered motivations. For example, to achieve the stamp of social approval, certain boxes need to be ticked – career position, where you live, what you drive, your appearance and fashion sense. Advertising flaunts the streamlined youth in styles, cars and grooming habits geared towards defining a lifestyle that represents success. It’s an effective form of brainwashing which takes root during the early teens. And even if intellectually the substance of such a definition is questioned, the emotional dictate is imprinted. We are enslaved by trends and the need for external approval.
Unless you are an authentic eccentric (Edinburgh based psychologist Dr. David Weeks found that eccentrics live longer and visit the doctor less and suggests that because non-conformists do not repress their inner nature in a constant struggle to conform, they are happier and healthier,) it takes awareness, self-discovery, self-belief and courage to break out of society’s pressurised snare….or you can wait until you are old when you are less likely to care about hanging importance on external hooks. This means that the “what will others think?” dictum no longer controls your choices. It’s a zone that lends itself to liberating the real you.
As old age is the last chapter in this life, all kinds of thoughts such as:
- Life really is short so let’s pack in the fun
- With no dependents I’m ok with risks
- I can be selfish with my time…….
run sub-title attitudes such as:
- ‘what the heck’
- or ‘so what’
- or I have nothing to lose…
while reaching for the purple hat or bow tie to decorate decision-making. And this in turn encourages giving different ideas and options a bash.
Freedom also emerges once you have left the nine to five routine of your job. Ending old routines is tantamount to clearing out the old to make room for the new. You could dedicate different hours to new pursuits; make your ‘weekend’ in the middle of the week; turn a hobby into a morning’s business and allocate the afternoons to sport, recreation or studying something new. Many countries around the world offer university or college courses for older adults to encourage lifelong learning. There’s also the University of the Third Age (U3A) – an international organisation with local contacts in most cities.
According to the World Health Organization, active aging is defined as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”
The opportunities for expansion, participation, contribution and ultimately fulfilment unfurl like the fronds of a fern, with each frond bearing many leaflets and each leaflet holding hundreds of spores. Each spore is the beginning of another fern plant. This process represents an analogy for your life which does not end when you retire.
‘Fronds’ are always unfurling and if you explore the ‘leaflets’, you will find the ‘spores’ or is that spoors to a new life, identity or adventure?
Networking is a way to cultivate and sustain the ‘unfurling of fronds’ and prevent sliding into the reclusive cage of a comfort zone. List your interests and Google them – you are bound to discover a variety of posts elaborating on your interests and offering membership of like-minded groups, online and/or locally in your area. If a group does not exist in your area, take the opportunity to start one yourself.
There is an online social networking portal called Meetup (www.meetup.com) that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. The masthead of the main website features the question, ‘What do you love?’ superimposed over changing images portrayin
g a vast variety of activities, – it is highly unlikely that
you will not find your answer to the question listed on the home page. However, should that happen, you can create a new one. Membership is not age-specific unless the reason for the formation of a particular group suggests otherwise. Integrating ages is mentally healthy for both young and old.
Voluntary work offers another way to integrate yourself into the meaningful fabric of life. Besides creating new networks it tends to heighten your realisation of how much you have to appreciate as well as presenting a wonderful opportunity for personal growth. And it is apparently more beneficial to your overall wellbeing than paid work. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is by losing yourself in the service of others.”
Voluntary work may also lead to employment opportunities if that’s what you are after. In fact all networks hold potential leads to work – ‘explore the leaflets and you will find the spores.’ Never be dismissive of places, people or events as possible opportunities where you will find assistance for your quest, be that a richer social life, a work pursuit or hobby.
Networks are about connection and connection is the opposite of isolation, a form of which is used as severe punishment in prisons. People are social beings and as such community support and a strong sense of belonging provide an excellent antidote to depression. Studies have found that longevity and good health flourish in societies with strong community structures.
Power lies in the collective mind, in the collective consciousness.
Be bold, show up and play your part in the game called life.
FEBRUARY 12, 2017 /
Does age dominate who you really are?
As the years slip by, your skin may become lined, your hair grey, your diet wiser, and your joints a little less co-operative; but do these changes transform you into someone else? Or is there a voice inside you saying, “I’m still here; I’m still me!”
Of course it is still you, a you who has moved through many cycles of change from toddler to teen to adult to middle-aged to ……………,
Why is it difficult to find a name or description for this last phase of life that does not sound harsh or patronising or even depressing?
Or is it?
Why do we choke over saying the word ‘old’?
When our biographical odometer reflects many yearly milestones, it’s telling us that we have a vast array of experiences under our belt. These are assets which we can draw upon to assist us in navigating our future directions.
There’s a certain experience that we can only gain by spending many years on this planet. It’s an achievement that is signposted by a chunky numerical figure, and yet, admirable as that figure may be, it still does not represent our whole identity.
Our perceivable identities are multi-faceted with each facet seeded in a different experience. It’s not just our work experience that counts as meaningful – all life experiences accumulatively contribute towards an expanded hindsight potential and reservoir of wisdom
The markets’ scream of shame at the signs of age is intended to buckle our self-esteem and boost our gullibility at the expense of our wallets. But if our appreciation of beauty can extend from the lush green valleys of the tropics to the barren undulations of the desert, why can we not appreciate the finely chiselled furrows that represent a wealth of experience?
The milestones, the age number and the physical changes are part of our individuation package but they do not represent the essence of who we are. That essence or blueprint that we are born with, we carry through to our last heart beat. It’s an essence that permeates our behaviour and when heeded unleashes unique potential. The only time that we are unable to express our true essence is when we lose the faculties necessary for such expression.
The indelibility of our essence is an important point to remember when we hit the 60s-and-beyond milestone when most full-time employment occupations advance into retirement. Sadly though, I have witnessed many friends and clients in this phase of life who clearly have forgotten this and instead have that “WTF now?” look on their faces. In fact they seem to exude the question from every pore of their being, such is their despair and sense of being lost.
Retiring from a job does not mean retiring from life. The “I’m still me!” voice remains within you – the real you, who can grab the new opportunity to express and recreate yourself in other ways. Retirement is the time to create a new identity, or, if you haven’t already done so, allow the real you to blossom.
But all this recreating has to begin with our attitude. If our attitudinal filter is clouded by derision for the golden era of life, then that’s where the recreating has to begin. That’s where the change begins – derision, dread and anxiety change into appreciation, curiosity and excitement. Any exploration of opportunities cannot be optimally successful if our viewfinder aperture is constricted by fear.
A narrow aperture exposes fewer possibilities and therefore a limited scope of choices. And as everything we do is preceded by choice, it’s important for us to remove the shutters of fear from our vision. Stepping out of a comfort zone can be scary but it’s an anxiety that lessens with every day that passes outside the comfort zone, gradually becoming replaced by the joy we sense from honouring our true potential and the courage that that took. The alternative is long-term dissatisfaction, emptiness and despair – leading to a degenerating quality of life and health.
According to neuroscientist Prof. Faull, the best way to keep our brains in good shape is to find something we enjoy doing, and do it every single day for as long as possible.
Let me help you rediscover how to enjoy this phase of life whether that means redesigning a new livelihood or fulfilling those long awaited dreams.
There is nothing to be lost by venturing into the realm of possibilities but there is much to be lost by denying the existence of endless possibilities.
Look out for posts to come that further explore this interesting time of life.
JANUARY 27, 2017 /
The Destructive Fear of Change
When our identity gets hit by change, we generally go scurrying around desperately trying to resuscitate the defunct aura of what was.
It could be our taut bodies from youth morph into ones with surplus skin; jobs change or end; homes change; we gain or lose friends and family members ….
Change happens all the time from the miniscule that slips under the radar of awareness to the major that rips the rug out from under our feet. Whether expected or unexpected, change is an inescapable and essential feature of life.
Even when a new chapter in life is eagerly awaited, excitement can easily curdle into squirming anxiety.
Loosening our grip on the familiar in the face of the unknown can be daunting, if not downright scary – something I unwittingly demonstrated with unrestrained flair many years ago, on my first day at school. The familiar was represented by my father’s hand and the unknown, a formal classroom holding a few uniformed, tearful children. As he tried to leave me and the no-nonsense teacher attempted to coerce the separation, my grip increasingly tightened around one of his fingers. The tug of war ensued but of course with time, the prostrate, wailing, five year old me eventually lost the battle as my life line finger slipped away leaving me to face Mrs. No-Nonsense and the unfolding journey of education.
How many times, as children, did we block every possibility of enjoyment out of the beginning of a new venture, by the belief that we or our identity would not survive it intact? Through the lens of adulthood, through the lens of retrospection, we easily grasp how unfounded our fear-generating beliefs were and how much we lost out on the momentum that curiosity and excitement can give us.
But as adults, are we any different? We may not flail and wail, but the inner twists of apprehension can ramify into sleepless nights, upset stomachs and more, as our merciless thoughts conjure up fantastical details of our pending demise. Even though we survive each change (well we are alive aren’t we?), somehow our mind still insists on moulding some new ventures into chambers of horror.
The long term effect of this habitual angst takes its toll on our health, our bodies, our relationships, OUR LIFE!
This fear of change prompted me to launch the WTF now? platform. Why that name? Because it perfectly sums up the expression and demeanour that I have witnessed in friends and clients as they face transitions from the old to the new and asked, “Where to from now?”
The mission of the WTF now? platform is to facilitate the transformations from one identity to another, where the structure, habits and routine of one come to an end in the face of the total unfamiliarity of the next phase. This is where fears get aired, where I help you to discover how to turn anxiety into curiosity, and accept vulnerability and uncertainty.
Spearheading this launch is the category of retirement and ‘old age’, a phase which many bemusedly regard as an affliction and as such dread it. Not only is the act of dreading a waste of energy, but it’s also unfortunate, as the ‘60s-and-beyond’ era offers so much to appreciate and cherish – it’s a time buoyed by the wisdom of hindsight and rich with opportunities for fulfilment if the life line finger of familiarity is not strangled!
Did you think it a coincidence that ‘olden’ rhymes with ‘golden’?
Look out for blogs to come that will cover this and other life-changing features that hit us along the way in our life’s journey.
Please feel free to share your thoughts either publicly on this forum by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ at the top of this page, or privately with me, Gill Midgley Life Coach; email: firstname.lastname@example.org