Thoughts and such like.....
There's a great TED talk by Grace Kim about co-housing, or as I call it intergenerational living . She talks about how co-housing can not only make us happier but also allow us to live longer and healthier. (www.ted.com/talks/grace_kim_how_cohousing_can_make_us_happier_and_live_longer). When I was doing work for a research project a few years ago, I was looking at the needs of elders living independently. One of the challenges is/was the sense of isolation so many feel, particularly when they are unable to drive, Here in British Columbia once you reach 80, and every two years thereafter, drivers have to be assessed by their doctor and submit their medical report to RoadSafetyBC, to ensure they and others are safe on the road. Unfortunately, for many elderly people their car is their means to socialization, and without access to it they often become isolated, depressed and even malnourished.
It's always important to create boundaries, important for our well being and mental health, however I wonder whether we may have extended our need for boundaries well beyond this healthy stance. On my neighbourhood walk there are a number of gated communities, these are communities for people 35+ without children, and it surprises me how many there are and how popular they are. I wonder is it because society has become busier, and in the process forgotten what 'neighbourhood' is about. When many of us grew up, we walked home from school, everyone knew your name, and you knew everyone in the neighbourhood. Neighbours were friends, and would check in on your family if they hadn't seen you for a while. Today many of us drive our cars into our garages, which open into our homes, and from late Autumn to Spring we may not even get into the neighbourhood except through the windows of our car!
It makes me question what we might be losing with this type of lifestyle. What are our children and grandchildren missing from being a part of this type of community. What wisdom and knowledge are they missing from not knowing the old lady or elderly couple down the street? As a very young girl I remember collecting three penny bits with my sister on our street. We had been given a Smarties tube, eaten the Smarties, and so now had to collect three pennies bits for babies in Africa. We walked up the street to each neighbour filling our tubes, then crossed the road to come down again. One was the house of an old man (he was probably in his 50's), a retired AirVice Marshal. He was fierce; who were we? How did he know we would give the money to the charity? And, the questions went on... We ran back home, crying, or at least I was. Our mother went up to see what was the problem and met the old man. He hadn't had much to do with our neighbourhood, and was obviously lonely - she stayed quite a while, and soon she, my father and he became good friends, and remained so until his death many years later.
In fundraising, I used to use this story to illustrate how important it is to build relationships before asking someone for money, however in life I believe it is also important for us all to have relationships between generations. Not knowing any young people can breed fear in many of the older generation, they don't understand the music, the kids are so loud, they have tattoos, piercings - they don't follow rules. Kids think old people are grumpy, they always want 'us' to be quiet, their music is awful and the list goes on.... Intergenerational interactions are important for many reasons, not the least it provides understanding and wisdom, in both directions. Community can be built through interaction and understanding.
A goal I have is to build bridges between the elderly and youth. How can we bring older people into schools, developing conversations and maybe even friendship? When you provide an arena, you may be surprised at the people that come to play - free transit for elders to travel to school, teenagers taking shop can help build or repair small items that are broken; cookery classes can provide a nutritious meal for those visiting and a safe place for conversations for all; sewing can provide learnings from someone who has been making their own clothes for years... the value exchange often includes an important emotional exchange. I believe we need to stop putting walls and gates between generations, rather we should be opening doors and with them opportunities to learn and love - which in the end is what we all want.
Maybe, as the weather improves you could organize a street party so that everyone in your neighbourhood can get to know each other, set up an emergency plan so that no-one is forgotten in a disaster, or even spook your neighbours by saying hello and stopping to chat - I think you, and they, will be glad you did!
I've been reading a lot about purpose in recent months; Simon Sinek calls it our 'why'. How does one find one's why? What does knowing your why/purpose/cause do for you? Why, (sic) do you even want to?
In a nutshell, what do you care for? What gets you up in the morning? How important is it to you, and how can you incorporate it (maybe more) into your daily life?
One book on purpose that I love is, Life on Purpose, How living for what Matters most Changes everything, by Victor J. Strecher. https://www.amazon.ca/Life-Purpose-Matters-Changes-Everything/dp/0062409603/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520378140&sr=8-1&keywords=life+on+purpose It's easy and thoughtfully written, beginning with Dr. Strechers' own story of tragedy and loss, and how that event shaped his thoughts on his own life and how it helped him move forward.
One of the greatest gifts we have as we age is time. Time to think, and work on what matters to us most, time to indulge in travel, hobbies or a new career. However, often we find ourselves fumbling in the dark, how do we start? Are there rules? Actually no, at this time in our lives, why should we look for rules, this is the time to create - think big and do what we want. It can also be a time to think about doing good in the World.
Today I work as a coach, working with individuals and groups in transition, I love working with people who understand the value of investing in themselves and want to make a difference. Being solo entrepreneur also allows me to do work that touches my heart in a program called CoachActivism. This program began in 2016, its purpose is easy to understand, and its impact is growing. CoachActivism recruits professional coaches from around the World to donate their time to provide free coaching to volunteers working in refugee camps in Greece, Portugal, and hopefully this year, Italy. The steering committee is comprised of a number of individuals, from Greece, Portugal, China, Italy and me, in Canada. We provide training to our coaches in a number of areas, including: managing boundaries, helping a traumatize population, and team coaching just to name a few. Coaches are matched with their clients and provide six hours of free coaching. The coaches too are given free supervisory coaching to ensure they are not affected by the work they do, and the stories they hear from their volunteer clients.
We ask the clients, the coaches and supervisors to reflect and evaluate the program each year, and this allows us to tweak and improve it. The work has an enormous effect on each of the client volunteers and is growing each year. The World forgets, headlines from a few years ago fade and yet the number of refugees and migrants grows. I cannot imagine fleeing my country because of war, or hunger or because I hold views that are contrary to my country's ruler. This work fills a space in my heart - I value the fact that thanks to those that work with me, I am able to do it and I have a goal that as my business grows, I will be able to contribute financially to this work.
Think about your purpose - how do you contribute to the world? What does it feel like when you are able to see how you make a difference to your community, your World?
This was the question posed to me by my friend Christine. So, I've calculated if I want to live a healthy happy life and maybe die at 90, then I have approximately 10,950 days left! So the next question is, how am I living each day? Is it filled with joy and laughter, am I doing work I love, or am I allowing stress and upset to bring me down.... Am I willing to allow that to happen, for the next week, year - when will I say enough. We all know people who say they hate their work, who can't wait for 3 years, 5 years down the road when they retire, will they be happier then? What about the time they have wasted hating what they do? What about this habit they have been practicing of being unsatisfied - will it just disappear? Shawn Actor in his book, The Happiness Advantage talks of happiness being a 'state of mind'. He notes right at the beginning that our formula for happiness is broken, we have been brought up to believe 'Success first, happiness second'. We're waiting for something - to lose ten pounds, to get into the school I want, to retire - then we'll be happy, 'it's backwards', if we practice happiness, then good things will happen. How many of us are waiting for something to happen so that we will find happiness.
What if you knew exactly when your life is over, would you still wait for that certain thing to happen, or would you start living life, enjoying each day? It's a funny thing breaking down the rest of our life into days, for me 10,950 days seems so much shorter than 30 years. How am I going to spend those days, especially the last ones, do I want to remain healthy - what will I have to do to ensure good health? We now hear that our genes only impact 20 - 30% of an individuals chance of living to 85 (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/genetic-factors-associated-with-increased-longevity-identified/ ), so part of my plan to live healthily was to change my diet, look at how I exercised and also how I reacted to my environment - that is how much time did/do I dwell on negativity, looking back at what 'went wrong', worrying about the future and what might happen. Science has also told us that our brain and body are interconnected and that our negative thoughts can impact our body and health too. So my advice - don't dwell on what you can't change, nor what might happen in the future, look at what you have and be grateful. A mantra from Reiki is something I have begun to practice each morning, when I meditate or sit in silence for those who don't wish to start a medication practice.
Just for today I will not be angry
Just for today I will not worry
Just for today I will be grateful
Just for today I will work honestly
Just for today I will treat every living being with kindness
Work out how many days you have left, then ask yourself the question, how am I going to live my life from hereon in, what do I want to change?
Let me know if this question resonates with you and what you might do differently below - as always, stay happy.
Yesterday I woke up to a winter wonderland, as I said in my facebook page, "who moved my house?" I had gone to bed with the rain pounding down and woke up to approximately 6 inches of snow, beautiful, however it changed how I spent my day. Life tends to do that to us, and often it isn't as beautiful as the scene before me yesterday morning. However, as you've probably heard before it's not what happens, it's how we react to what happens that matters. We cannot control a lot of stuff like the weather, whether our company is downsizing, whether our peers and others are rude/disrespectful to us, but we can change how we react to each of these actions. Yesterday, I had planned to continue painting my office, but as I watched the sun come out and how it twinkled on the snow, a visual delight, I felt my resentment at this unexpected change, melt away (couldn't resist the pun!). My car, of course being at the bottom of the driveway meant I had to clear the driveway, and it would depend on the roads around me as to whether I could get out to shop. My plans to paint, and then spent some of the day shopping and people watching as I walked, slowly disappeared.
But instead of grumbling I got up cooked myself a yummy breakfast which I ate sitting at the window with this amazing postcard perfect vision in front of me, and then did the filling and painting that I had planned for the day. Then, with the sun still shining, I donned a cap, my hiking boots and tackled the snow. It was easy, well not easy but because I went at it without resentment and took in the beauty, it was a lot easier than if I had gone at it with feelings of being hard done by. I was even able to fill in a little walk afterward, and shopping, except for the cat, who cared, I had enough food in my cupboards, just had to be a bit more creative!
If we look at what is happening around us, and keep asking why is it me that bad things always happen to, we are going to embrace thoughts of being treated unfairly, or mistreated, and we miss the beauty of what is around us, or those individuals who support us , we're so caught up in the 'poor me', syndrome we miss out on other 'brighter' things. The kindness of a co-worker, the smile of a homeless person, the fact someone left cookies in the the kitchen! Sometimes this 'poor me' is because we've set ourselves up, we expect certain things to happen, or people to support us and they don't? Did they know our expectations? Life happens in it's own mysterious way, and although we may not like it, we can start to look at the opportunities that change brings us.
Sometimes the best way to bust resentment is to look inside ourselves, and ask what did I do to set myself up and what can I do to get out of this funk? I don't mean if life hits you unexpectedly that you should grin insanely and pretend everything is right, more take a few minutes, alone, and think about why you're feeling the way you do, what was it that you thought might/would happen, and how can you turn it around - for you, or at least take away the bitterness that you may be feeling...
Unexpected change happens to us all, taking the time to be aware of your feelings, how they appear and why, can make us more adaptable and happier with life.
In my blog and on my website, I've talked about the Third Act and some of you have asked what do I mean by The Third Act? This was an idea introduced to me by my friend Edward Kelly. Ed introduced and has taught the concept for the past few years initially in Ireland and now across Europe. We are living longer, and the idea of retirement, as conceived in our parents and grandparents day has changed.
Image your life as a play. The beginning, Act One, like a play sets the stage for your life: You are born and the influences you have during childhood and adolescence, the family you are born into, where you live, the principals and values that are instilled in you and that you may still live by are formed during this time. This is the nature/nurture period, and sets the stage for your Second Act.
In your Second Act, there may be further development and learning – like the second act of a play there is growth, maybe complications. You are independent, building a career, partnering, bringing up a family, saving for later… Independent, however as you progress through this act there are often others dependent on you. Often in a play the Second Act ends with questions, so too as we transition to the end of this act, we wonder - What happens next? What should I do now? Is this old, I don't feel old? How do I proceed without the structures and supports that I have had throughout my lifetime? Is this it?
Our Third Act is a time for reflection and transformation, longevity has given us the gift of time, today there is a second chance, a chance our grandparents didn’t have. There is time and space to look at new opportunities, maybe a new career – this is about you! This is the time to review who you really are and the tenets you live by. It is a time for new beginnings, and adventures, however without proper preparation it can be a time without focus, a time of regret and of lost opportunity. Preparation should include a holistic audit of not only our financial health, but also our physical, emotional and spiritual health - if we want to sail across the ocean, are we physically and emotionally ready? Even if our goal is to play 10,000 games of golf, would we be physically able to do so?
Finally the end of the Third Act is a time for paring down, increased frailty and loss of sense, health or mind – the curtain comes down and we face the inevitable end of life, without regret.
'Each of us will have a third age, not all of us will have a Third Act'. Edward Kelly
Are you in transition? What do you have in mind for this next stage in your life? Do you need some additional insights, or support to prepare you for this new stage? How is society treating you, is there an assumption that maybe you're just checking out, or are there supports there for you?
Does this column resonate with you? Comment below and let me know how you are preparing for your Third Act
How often do you sit down and give thanks for your life? Me, not often enough. I have healthy kids, forging their own way in the world. I have a host of siblings, that I get to visit every now and then, and who I talk with often through the various electronic mediums available. I have a life that's full and great friends who are supportive and there for me through thick and thin. When I had my knee replaced, broke my ankle, they brought coffee and conversation, cleaning my house and ensuring I was well taken care of. They are there through the highs and lows, and, to my shame, I'm sure I don't thank them enough! Finally, through my work I get to meet a variety of new and interesting people!
We read a lot about being thankful, but how much do we understand. What does thankful mean?
thank·ful adjective \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
Definition of THANKFUL
1 conscious of benefit received <for what we are about to receive make us truly thankful>
2 expressive of thanks <thankful service>
3 well pleased : glad <was thankful that it didn't rain>
To me thankful means acknowledging what I have, ensuring that this acknowledge includes some kind of service, whether sitting on a board of a NGO, or providing pro-bono coaching to those in need. I am one of the lucky ones, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and an interesting life, filled with work and hobbies. One of those hobbies, some would say passions, is the ability to read, as much as I want; right now I'm reading the Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, a book which is both funny and informative - it's my treadmill book, so if I want to read it, I have to walk on my treadmill! Exercise and fun together!
Principle #1 reflects on how happiness gives your brain - and your organization - the Competitive Edge! It's fascinating. Think about when you feel happy at work, how is your productivity? How does your day progress, do you notice the time flying by, or does it seem the day never ends? What is the effect of a great supportive supervisor or leader have on how you view your job?
Happiness can help us 'achieve the extraordinary in our work and in our lives'. (Achor, S., 2010)
What makes you happy? How can you extend this feeling and reprogram your brain to become more positive in work and life?
"If you honour old people today, you will probably feel good about your old age. But if you give in to your neurotic disdain for the elderly, you are setting yourself up for a painful old age" (Thomas Moore, Ageless Soul, 2017)
What does he mean by honour, for me it means not ignoring our elders, nor treating them like children. Understanding that it may take longer for them to gather their thoughts, move or even eat. Our modern day rush does not allow for the slow meander, and yet we are beginning to see 'slow' movements starting up around the World. Slow food, slow gardening, slow fashion and so it goes on.. the movement which advocates slowing down life's pace began in Italy in 1986, and encompasses many aspects of life - there is even slow aging which advocates 'a personal and wholly encompassing positive choice to the process of ageing', which suggests personal ownership and non-medical intervention options to a potentially longer, more natural life.
This thought came back to me as I welcomed a new client into my office. She was startled to see my treadmill at the entrance, with some weights and bands on a shelf nearby and so I explained to her that I have made a decision to ensure better health by walking at least 30 minutes a day, as well as allowing myself breaks throughout the day when I am in my office. This means I sometimes hop onto my treadmill to think out a problem, or a tip I learned from the Urban Monk, if I know I'm going to be in my office for a length of time, I set my alarm for 50 minutes, then when it sounds I get up, move around, maybe pick up the weights and do some arm exercises. I get my exercise and strength training throughout the day,
My treadmill allows me to read as I walk, and I'm not talking about dawdling but going at a 15 min/mile pace, which in turn gives me ideas and possibilities for the coaching I do, and the programs I offer. We know that each small step we take in the form of exercise is a step to better health, and better old age, and yet so many of us find it difficult to make that first move. When I first became aware of the passing of time, I began reading and becoming aware of what might be ahead for me I took an inventory of my health. I was aware, having worked in healthcare for many years, of how many people spend their last years and have made a informed choice that as much as possible I want to live a long and fun life - I made a choice to change, I have no one but myself to be accountable but for me, the accountability is my end game. I changed my diet, added more exercise and am leaning further on my support team (my social circle), I am involved in volunteer activities that feed my soul, and I keep my spiritual practices - these are the things and people that will help me to a healthier old age and a brighter future than I would have had if I had kept up the habits of yesteryear.
I honour old people today, and old age itself, and I still get to eat chocolate, and have my glass of wine, while being conscious of how I treat my body and what goes into it.
How about you? What are you doing today that will help propel you to a healthier old age?
Again, it's been a while since I wrote anything here. I've moved into a different phase of my life, the Autumn or Third Act. It's been an interesting time as I watch inwardly and externally as how others perceive me as well as how I view myself. The goals I've set are mine, I've no one to answer to, I have no-one to push me, and no one to blame if I don't make it. On the plus side, if I want to take the day off and enjoy the sun, I can. I can sleep in and work late - I love it!
I'm working on projects that interest me, some for money, some for my soul - life is good. Was it easy to take a step away into the uncertainty of a home business? not really, was it financially risky? oh yeah. Was it right for me and my physical and mental health? Oh YES! And that was why it was important for me to step away from a position I had grown out of, and that was slowly eating at my soul.
When I was younger, building a career, looking at what I wanted to do, it was easy to move from place to place, job to job. Now, 30 years later it's more difficult and as I wonder why, I realize it's because I think differently. I am more cautious. Will I have sufficient money for retirement, what does retirement look like for me? What if I want to move how will I find a doctor/a dentist? What about friends, I know so many people where I currently live, will I be able to meet others, will I be lonely? What happens if this new phase/career doesn't work out? For a while these worries plagued me until I realized that they were just voices in my head (the monkey on my back), I have the power to turn them off if I so wish. And so, I've done just that, they come to visit, however I'm not inclined to let them take up residence - I'm growing, learning, thriving and enjoying where I'm at - today.
So what are you doing or looking forward to in this Third Act of your life? The Financial Post recently reported that 53% of men aged 65 were working in some form in 2015, and at 70 the number was nearly three in ten. For women, during the same period approx. 39% worked at age 65, and the number at 70 doubled from twenty years previously. The article goes on to comment on current prevalent thought that seniors only draw on the system, while in reality there are many people in this age bracket who want to or, due to circumstances, need to continue to contribute to society in some way, through working, mentoring or volunteering.
My belief is that we all have something to offer society and that something changes and evolves. I have begun to look at how succession planning in organizations and the transition of older workers intersect and I'm asking the question: how are organizations stemming the huge flow of organizational intelligence leaving through retirement? What would happen if we and organizations changed the way we think of retirement, and think instead of transition, whereby our mature workers mentor, demonstrate leadership skills and/or take on special projects that support both the organization they work for, and their own needs as they transition into a new life?
What are your thoughts on this topic? Does this idea resonate for you? If you're thinking of your own transition and would like to explore what that might look like, contact me for a free initial 60 minute interview
Driving is a great time for thought, or listening to the radio and having conversations with the host, sometime disagreeing others yelling at them because they can't see what is obvious to me! Yesterday I had to visit a client and go to an event in Victoria, about two hours from where I currently live. I was able to listen in peace to the radio and then after stopping for coffee, listen to music. I have an eclectic collection of music, everything from bubble gum to opera, and all spheres in between!
Yesterday I was pondering a course I'm putting together with some colleagues and started through my collection of Chris Rea albums. The course is about transitioning to a different life, it's based on my friend Dr. Edward Kelly's work in Ireland 'The Third Act', and as I was driving Rea's Winters song came on, never mind that the music is wonderful, it's also got great lyrics 'Autumn begins', turn you in from the storm, from your Autumn through Winter, darlin I'll keep you warm', I felt it was a great synonym for what I have in mind, and for the work I'm doing with clients who are transitioning from one season to another moving from Summer into the Autumn of their lives. Ed, talks in terms of a play, I talk in seasons. Autumn can be wonderful, the colours of leaves turning, red, orange yellow, time is less frenzied, the outdoors calls for long walks, and we have thoughtful discussions over red wine and comfort food as dusk falls earlier each day, much like how the Autumn of our lives should look like. However for many of us life just charges ahead, 'okay I'm now here next is retirement and then I'll do what I've always wanted'. What was that? One thing I'm certain of, life happens, things change in the blink of an eye, so why do so many of us think 'I'll do that when I retire', rather than what would I have to do to do that now. What would happen if we were more focused in planning this next evolution in our lives? What would it look like? For the first time in our lives, we have the opportunity to plan what the next 20 - 30 years might look like, don't we want it to be the best if can be?
At the event yesterday, I had a conversation with one individual who spoke of how disappointed she was in her retirement; she had gone into it, she thought, thoughtfully, she had sufficient money to stop working, but that was the extent of her planning, yes she was involved in causes that interested her, but she was disappointed, retirement wasn't what she had thought it would be. I asked what she thought it would be, she really couldn't answer! We're probably the first generation to have this Autumn time, and we deserve to make it a glorious, joyful, colourful season, so why do we go into it without any firm plan?
What do you think, have you planned the Autumn of your life? Leave your comments below, let's start a conversation.
I was watching the Canadian Forces Snowbirds fly above our inner harbour the other week and got to thinking that life is a little like the flight of one of these planes. We soar and sweep, sometimes dipping down low life can often feel like a loop de loop as we chase ourselves in circles. We're flying along, the sky is blue and nothing seems to trouble us and then suddenly we hit an air pocket and down we go, twirling madly as we try to find something to cling to! Then next moment we're soaring again, everything going our way, our friends, family and colleagues flying with us, everything in sync, then one flies off on their own, but hey we're okay we've still got everyone else, then another disappears, or maybe starts twisting with their own challenges, and once again it feels like we're flying solo, no support. But then, as we think other planes have disappeared for good, they pop up again and fly with us, once again providing that support.
Sometimes we just need to reach out to friends and family, they may not realize we're in difficulty, however once they notice they're there supporting and flying with us, other times we're giving the support and that's good too.
There are times in our lives that people do disappear and that's okay, they have been in our lives for a reason and now it's time for us to fly away from them. When a friend turned 40 some years ago, she told me she had decided to be done with those people who brought her down, let her down or weren't supportive of her - she let a number of people go, she felt so much better, and it was then she realized that they were no longer supporting her, but rather the weight they carried was in put pulling her down with them.
I often tell people how much I want my kids to fly, I needed to let them go, to have them come back to me, trusting that the lessons I taught them as young kids would hold them steady. I've never regretted that decision, I adore my boys, but they have their own lives, and need to live them without me. I'm there if they need me, but they need to be free and I wouldn't have it any other way.
What or who are you holding onto that no longer serves you? What would it take to let it go? Let me know below in the comments section.
Maeve O'Byrne's Blog
Maeve O'Byrne is the Principal of Cumhacht Coaching & Consulting, she loves laughter, light and life and she feels passionately that everyone deserves to find that right place for themselves in life!