Thoughts and such like.....
There's a song by SuperTramp that I used to love, and forgot about until a conversation over the weekend with my youngest son:
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical
(Lyrics by Roger Hodson)
Nik was pondering over his career choice/dream, and my career advice years ago, 'do what fuels your passion!' He was tired and sore and is struggling with 'is it worth it?' I truly believe that the saying that if you can marry your passion with your skillset then you don't work for an income - income flows to you. However when you're living hand to mouth as you try and make a name for yourself, that advice might be a little hard to take.
When making decisions about what next, I believe the same rule can apply whether you are 20 or 60. Barbara Sher in her 1994 book 'I could Do Anything if I only knew what it was' says try asking the question: 'What did I like to do at 5, 10, 15 et cetera? What do you like to do now. Throughout that list is the thread that connects you to your passion - go through it, let it sit, and then review it again. Ask too 'What do I hate to do?' Think about how you can cut those things out of your life, to allow you more time to do the things you love. (www.amazon.ca/Could-Anything-Only-Knew-What/dp/0440505003/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1526411276&sr=8-1&keywords=Barbara+sher)
There are many other such exercises, if the one above doesn't resonate with you, try something else - don't give up, because it's too hard. Yes, you can learn anything if you put your mind to it, and you can have a career in a job/sector you hate, learn to love the financial reward that comes from it, but inside how is your soul? Does it feel like it shrivels up a little each year? What if you don't know what you want to do, and so just follow what your parents and teachers have advised, well they've lived well and seem okay with it - have you ever asked them, 'If you had followed your dream when you were young, would you be doing what you do now?' I think many of us might be surprised at the answers we receive.
So many people have moved forward, not really thinking about what it is they really want, and then they become surprised because Change Happens! People, myself included, are funny. We wish for change, if only, and then, because change is inevitable, when it happens we're caught off guard. We're surprised, don't know what to do.... whether it's forced retirement, being laid off a job you've had for years... an unexpected move.. an inheritance.. we're paralyzed. What we fail to realize is that life is actually handing us a gift? If you don't have enough to live on - okay that's a problem, and so while you work through what you really want, think about taking a mac-job. That is a job that pays the bills, doesn't take too much brain power, and yes, it may be a let down from 'who you used to be', but what's the worse that could happen? You're embarrassed - why? You're doing something, and moving forward, your job pays your bills, and at the same time you're figuring out what next - what really moves you? How can I make it happen, who do I know that I can call for advice, to mentor me to bounce ideas off. What do I need to do/learn to make it a reality? Often we're terrified to move forward because of fear - fear of the unknown, fear of rejection or just fear (what/why we don't understand). Fear can be a powerful force in our lives, we stay in the same place because it's easier than moving forward.
When I decided to up my education I was in my late 40's, I was terrified, I still carried the voices of teachers in high school in my head, those who told me I wasn't smart enough, couldn't make it - but, it was something I wanted, not just for myself but for my kids, they needed to see that their mum was walking her talk. What was the worst that could happen, I failed an exam! Big deal! This was a big change, and like all change, whether we instigate it or it happens to us, there was conflict - it's a fascinating thing, we can make change happen, or allow it to happen to us... Me, I was taking control and even in though I made the decision, my choice, I was conflicted internally - fear, worry at the cost, worry just because... it was terrifying! Quite a number of years later, I'm so happy I made that decision and faced down the fear that had been with me for years and had driven me, at a cost to me, to constantly prove myself to people who had no idea of my history and certainly, outside my mind, did not think of me in the same terms as those teachers long ago. Now I think about it, what ego I had to think that they spent their time thinking of me! From that one decision, I've been able to change career, and develop my own business and, despite the ups and downs of any new business, I'm happier than I had been in my previous career - I get to chose who I work with, my values are what carries my business and new career, and I am constantly learning from, and meeting new people who add value to my life.
So, I challenge you, take a chance - look into the future. What do you see yourself doing in five or ten years? Where are you? How do you feel? Did you take that risk, or even make a calculated risk knowing that you could always turn back if it didn't work out? Imagine the future you writing to the present you right now - allow your imagination to let go, create a future you participating in all those things you've dreamed of doing. What would your future self say? What steps did the future you take to get where they are, and what is the message they are sending to you, right now? Then sit down, either independently, with your partner or with a coach, and if this is truly where you want to be, create a plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. What are the steps you need to take?
If you need help and/or support contact me for a free discovery session. Remember, you are in charge of how you live this life, whether in your second or third act, there is plenty of life left in you to live. Only you stand in your way!
The Third Act allows individuals time and space to reflect on what their ideal third act will be. The four pillars discussed in earlier posts, mental, physical, spiritual and financial health come together to give a holistic 360 overview of where you have come from and where you want to go in the next 25 - 30 years.
In our second Act, we planned and developed a vision for what we wanted our future to look like, we were aided in this process by family and teachers who directed and supported our journey. In our Third Act the process is much more internal, rather than being shaped by others, our Third Act is shaped by us, through internal work and discovery. What are the relationships and activities that are meaningful for us as we move out of the workforce and into a different life? And, what are the personal practices and habits we want to embrace or enhance, how will we incorporate them into this new life? As the Economist points out so well in this article, 'ageing is a graduation process which people experience in different ways. While some may feel old at 65, nowadays most do not'. (https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/07/economist-explains-7?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed).
The Economist continues to state that governments and organizations around the World 'still treat 65 as a cliff's edge beyond which people can be regarded as "old"; inactive, and an economic burden'. Yet, there are very few people I know who one would regard as 'useless', at 65 or even 75. The argument for extending work to 70+ is growing, and yet some individuals do not want to continue in a job they don't like beyond the accepted retirement age. What we are seeing is that these individuals chose to leave their employment of many years and channel their energy into their own business. Inc.com reports that 'people over 50 are the country's most active entrepreneurs'.
Many argue that a gradual transition from full time work to non-work is most helpful and healthier for individuals and that companies need to consider how they can allow their staff to tailor 'retirement' plans to individual needs. This type of graduation makes sense for both individuals and for the companies they leave - the loss of corporate intelligence when people leave is a challenge that many companies face, a challenge that may only grow as this growing group of baby boomers leave the workplace. An opportunity is there for mentorship and training programs run by transitioning leaders to pass on their corporate knowledge to new leaders coming into the workplace. Companies could also find that they can hold onto key employees longer by developing a new type of corporate benefit in supporting transition coaching alongside mentorship and special project management.
Interestingly studies are showing that full time retirement can be bad for your health! In the UK, the Institute of Economic Affairs found that retirement increases the chance of suffering clinical depression by around 40%, and of having at least one diagnosed physical illness by 60 percent.
What the Third Act program advocates is planning for this next phase of life prior to leaving full time employment. The program creates transitional structures to support people as they move from one act to the other. It begins with looking at where each of us are in our transition journey and what we need to do to move forward. The second phase of the program provides space for participants to tell their story of where they came from. How did the nature and nurture form who they are? (nature being what you were born with, nurture being what you were born into). And how does that continue to influence decisions made today.
Phase three engages participants in the right hemisphere world of creativity and imagination, meeting their future selves, five years out. Where are they now? What are they doing? What steps did they take to get there? What message do they have for their current self? And, finally in phase four, participants translate their experience into the left-hemisphere world of planning and organization by creating a structural tension between where they are now and where they want to be. This provides the energy to activate the practical steps they need to take in order to move forward.
“The third age is not worth living if you are not acting in it” Charles Handy
Third Act planning gives us the opportunity to live a 'Third Act, rather than just a third age'. If you wish to learn more about the Third Act program in North America contact me, email@example.com and in Europe Edward@thethirdact.ie
Although the title reads Finance, there are many Financial Advisors who are better equipped than I to speak on money. What I am going to talk of, is about how your finances can help to design your next Act, what to ask your financial advisors and not to give up on a dream because you have been told you can't afford it.
A question I recently heard was ''If you were told that you only have 6 months to live, what would you change, who would you chose to spend time with, what would you do/go?" Just sit with that question for a while. If you are considering retirement in the near future, what other changes are you considering, and how deep are you willing to go to to design your best future?
Often we ask our Financial Advisors 'Do I have enough money to retire?', but how can they answer you honestly if you do not know where you are going or what you wish to do? So perhaps their response should be 'What do you dream of doing in 'retirement', let's see what that looks like'. Then they can check to see if you have the financial resources, and if you don't, work with you to see how they can support you to develop a plan to allows you to go for it.
Financial freedom is a dream we all have, who hasn't dreamed of winning the lottery, not working a day more or being able to underwrite our children's dreams? However, I wonder how satisfied are those people who have nothing to do - often I hear 'Oh, it's not what I thought it would be?', or 'Is this all there is?' And still others say 'oh, I can never retire, I'm not rich enough'.
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
14th Dali Lama
In his book The New Retirementality, Mitch Anthony, talks of Retirement Whiplash, Be Careful What You Wish For. He talks of how we are unprepared for the loss of structure that jobs offer, as well as loss of identity - the fact that people often feel that they have become invisible, or no longer exist! (www.amazon.ca/New-Retirementality-Planning-Living-Dreams/dp/1118705122/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525114619&sr=8-1&keywords=the+new+retirementality). He asks 'what are you retiring from?, remembering that the word retire comes from the word 'withdraw'.
For those who may have enough funds to do nothing, and for those who may not, there is a third choice - what if one invests in oneself? As noted in previous blogs on the third act, as we move toward this phase of life, there are many questions we can ask about what next, however perhaps the most important is 'What is meaningful to me, today?' What if you could negotiate your ideal life - mix work (maybe new work), and life in a way that meets your needs, maybe you would prefer to work 25 hours/week rather than 40; maybe you want to work eight months/year rather than eleven.
Even if you've been told you don't have sufficient money to retire, this third option is still viable. Take time to reflect on how you can creatively use your resources, including your talents, to develop the life you desire. How can you design a life that meets your intellectual need, feeds both your soul and brain, and ensures that your savings last longer than if you stop work altogether? Work with someone to help you think of innovative ways to use all your resources (abilities, time and money), to create the live you want. Maybe you develop your own job or business? Statistics Canada shows that the majority of small and medium businesses started in 2014, were by those in the 50 - 64 age range. I believe this growth continues, everything is possible.
Mitch Anthony talks of ROL or Return on Life, Mark Aardsma, talks of time.(www.amazon.ca/Investing-Purpose-Capitalize-Create-Tomorrow/dp/1501262491. Time is special, 'given to everyone at an equal rate for free' and although we may not receive the same amount as others, we are given it at the same pace, and each day we are given another 24 hours. We can't save or store time, however we can decide how we want to use that time - we can complain and worry that we don't have enough money, we can't retire with the lifestyle we see others seemingly enjoy, OR we can use time to reflect on what we can do, and pursue those things so that we can invest in the future we want at any age.
Many people assume that they need to be rich, to do what they want. What does rich look like to you? For me rich is living a life where I have lots of interaction with people I love, rich in experiences and I'm living my purpose - that is working with, and helping others live their lives to the fullest; happy and able to deal with what life throws at them. One gentleman I met said, I've retired, now I'll wait until I get bored and then I'll decide on what I want to do!'. That's great, but why wait until you get bored - what does boredom feel like to you, and if you wait, will you recognize it is boredom that is making you irritable, depressed, or unhappy?
As we look at our Third Act, we may or may not have the financial resources to do what we believe we want, however we always have the time to research and review what excites us, what aligns with our values and passion. There are always opportunities hidden out there, you don't have to suddenly change, you can take change in small steps - set your goal and then lay out the steps to get there. If you need support, find a coach who can support you on your journey and help you articulate and reach your goals.
The past is behind, learn from it; the future is ahead,
prepare for it; the present is her, live it.
Thomas S. Monson
The Third pillar of the Third Act is spirituality. When they hear the word spirituality many people think of religion, but that couldn't be further from the truth - spirituality to me is at the core of who I am as a person. It is about how I operate in this world, what I hold dear, what my values are, and how I live them daily... Spirituality to me is about my soul.
The word 'spirituality' comes from Latin, a noun: spiritualitas, derived from the Greek noun pneuma, meaning spirit. The Oxford English dictionary defines spirit as
'The non-physical part of a person regarded as their true self,
capable of surviving physical death or separation'.
Thomas Moore in his book Care of the Soul (www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/care-of-the-soul-twenty/9780062415677-item.html?ikwid=Care+of+the+soul&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0) says that care of this soul 'is not primarily a method of problem solving. Its goal is not to make life problem free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness'.
I believe that people can be spiritual, and religious, but that people can spiritual without being religious, or can be religious without being spiritual. Often spirituality shows itself in individual behaviours, contemplative practices such as private prayer, meditation, reflection, journalling and yoga or other meditative activity. And, there is growing research that demonstrates that these spiritual practices are associated with better health and well-being. In the Third Act program participants are encourage to look at values and beliefs that may have been imposed or unconsciously adopted at an early age, and examine whether they still serve today, a kind of self-mastery review. As James Hollis states 'A mature spirituality requires a mature individual. A mature spirituality already lies within each of us, in our potential to take on the mystery as it comes to us, to query it, to risk change and growth, and to continue the revisioning of our journey'. (Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/finding-meaning-in-the-second/9781592402076-item.html?ikwid=finding+meaning+in+the+second+half+of+life&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0)
Spiritual people are often described as compassionate, empathetic, and open hearted. Galen Watts suggests that 'there are certain virtues which have come to be associated with spirituality: compassion, empathy and open-heartedness'. He goes onto say that these virtues, or values, denote a high level of self knowledge that demonstrates knowledge of why we act in certain ways, and most importantly, knowledge of our interdependence. (http://theconversation.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-spiritual-87236)
You may ask, surely spirituality and mental health are the same, they do overlap, however I believe that there is a difference. Spirituality is curious, it asks questions about finding meaning and connection, it's internal; Good mental health is about developing a positive state of mind, it's external. They're separate, but intrinsically linked.
My first experience in deepening my own spirituality was during coach training, the premise being that you can't really coach others well, if you haven't looked deeply into yourself - it was an experience that at the beginning I hated, who would want to do this stuff? Literally taking out all my baggage, beliefs and things that I clung to for many years, and ask why? This internal sh*t, who wanted to do it? It was painful, and something I resisted, for a long time - however once I got serious, I was able to let go of a lot of baggage, and more importantly, I was able to forgive and let go of blame and negative feelings. Many spiritual traditions, including traditional religions include a practice of forgiveness. Again, science shows that forgiveness has many health benefits, including longer lifespan, lower blood pressure and fewer feelings of anger and hurt. It can be transformational, looking back and reflecting where we have been, and what we have achieved, then looking forward and seeing possibilities - letting loose our imagination and expanding our mind.
How is your spiritual life? Is it time to take a few minutes each day and examine your being, try meditation, study spiritual ideas or as Thomas Moore suggests: Begin your spiritual life 'with an appreciation for the soul of the world and of all beings'. Your spiritual health is as important as your mental and physical health. Remember you are in charge of how you live this next third of your life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live!
Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, man cannot live without a spiritual life - Buddha
The four pillars behind the Third Act program are Mental, Physical, Spiritual and financial health. In my last blog I spoke of ensuring that we remain healthy in mind, and in this one I'm going to focus on the second pillar - body or our physical health.
'Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness' Edward Smith-Stanley
Now there are millions of books out there that talk about diet and physical fitness, you may consider yourself fit, you meet the 10,000 steps a day recommendation, you eat healthily, you only drink the occasional glass of wine or beer, and you drink your eight glasses of water per day. However physical health is not just about keeping fit, it's also, and you have probably heard this before, about what we put into our bodies. As Rick Steiner, PhD, in his book Retirement, Different by Design states 'In the end, life at any age is what we choose to make of it..... We can pursue lifestyles that promote physical and mental health, or we can choose to live in ways that seemingly go against our own best interests'. (www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/retirement-different-by-design-six/9781578265565-item.html?ikwid=retirement%2c+different+by+design&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0)
Exercise also doesn't mean you have to take up a sport or train to run a marathon, more it's about balance, 30 minutes of walking each day is shown to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you already walk each day, try adding a few minutes each week, what about having an accountability partner to walk with. I love walking on my own, I've always loved it even as a teenager I would take off for hours often coming in late at night from my 'strolls', probably worrying my mother silly, wondering where I was. When I had young kids it was more difficult to get away, however, now I try to get my walk in daily, and when the weather is really foul, I take to my treadmill. I also try to walk with a friend a couple of times a week, it keeps both of us accountable and we have such interesting discussions, often not noticing how far we've gone. Or, you could take up a sport once you have finished your day job. I know of a gentleman who on retiring felt it was important to get fit and so proceeded to learn how to run. He continued well into his 70's competing in seniors games and winning medals until his doctor advised him to shorten the runs due to a heart condition. He continues to do short runs and he took up the pole vault, setting a Canadian record at 85! His attitude on aging is one we all could emulate, 'take care of the body, and keep on learning new things to take care of the mind'.
If you haven't thought about your physical being, or think it's too late, think about the gentleman above, who for most of the 40 years when working had no exercise plan. He certainly didn't feel it was too late. Start small, Spring is an ideal time to get into the habit of walking, begin with a 10 minute stroll and build by 5 minutes each week, or if you have a step tracker spend a couple of minutes each evening for a week, average the number of steps you take each day - try adding 100 steps to that average over the next week and build your plan from there.
Obesity is a real issue in the baby boomer generation, and continues to grow. Unfortunately, people can be obese and malnourished at the same time. Looking at what, and how much you eat as you age is an important strategy against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and a host of other horror illnesses. As the saying goes, you are what you eat - think about becoming a little greener, or at least more green. Once a week have a vegetarian meal, or even a vegetarian day, buy a different vegetable, one you haven't tried before; ask or look up the best way to cook it, experiment with food, make your food life more interesting. A current favourite author right now is Dr. Michael Greger, author of How not to Die, www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/keywords=How%20not%20to%20Die#internal=1 Dr. Greger tells great stories, and favours a plant based diet. I follow his instructions 95% of the time, and 5%, well let's say I have my moments of indulgence. I believe that this is okay, my diet has definitely improved over the past few years, and as a consequence I feel better. His website: https://nutritionfacts.org is where he investigates nutrition research and provides it free of charge in 'bite size videos'.
I would also suggest you look up what a portion of meat, fish, vegetables look like, and practice portion control. Here's the Dietitian's of Canada website link: www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Healthy-Eating/Week-3-Portion-Size.aspx . I thought I knew what a portion for each of these food groups looked like - I was so wrong! We all could improve on what and how much we eat, think about how you measure up, and then think about taking mini steps to improve your eating habits.
A third part of being fit in mind and body is ensuring that your emotions don't 'convert into physical systems', as Thomas Moore talks of in his book, Ageless Soul. www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/?keywords=ageless%20soul#internal=1 Anxiety and worry affects a large number people as they age, and it's effect can be devastating to many individuals. Keeping yourself fit, healthy in mind and body is so important at all stages of life, but particularly as you age, because you are in charge of how you live this next third of your life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live!
If you would like to learn more about the Third Act program, or want to know more about career transition and/or retirement, contact me for a free consultation.
Yesterday I read an article about Antonio Banderas and how his new role (Picasso) was a way back into more serious roles now he was entering his third act. He talked of how a heart attack last year has brought about a new respect for his health, but that doesn't mean he wants to live life like he's already dead. "I'm just going to live it, and if I die, I die." (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/apr/08/antonio-banderas-i-dont-want-to-live-my-life-like-im-already-dead). I wonder how many of us once struck by a serious illness or chronic disease have the same attitude, and how many others decide that this is a sign that they have become 'old', and therefore it is time to stop doing certain things because they're now old. I've known both types of people, and those that seem to have the most fun are those that spend time reflecting on what it is that they want to do, and how they can support those dreams, whether or not they are living with a serious illness.
The Third Act program is based on four pillars: physical, mental, spiritual and financial health - each of these pillars are important as we move forward to embrace this next phase of life. In North America we often only only review whether we have the financial resources to keep us as we retire. I believe we have it backwards. How can we know whether we have sufficient funds to keep us in our retirement if we don't have a plan, or at least an outline, of what we want to do, and how we are ensuring our health will be the best it can be so that we can continue to enjoy life to the fullest. I think we need to start at a place of what next?, go about planning much as we did as teenagers looking at 'what do we want to do with our lives?', asking similar questions, but with less judgement and, of course, more experience. What excites me? What did I dream of as a child/in my twenties, and couldn't do because of.....?, What would I like to achieve, now? Remember, if you are 60 today, you have a 50% chance of living until you're 90+, that's a third of your life - do you want to look back at 85, and say I wish......
Going back to the pillars although they are all interconnected let's take them apart and then, in part five of this series of blogs, we'll connect the dots. Let's start with mental health, as it was part of a conversation I had with friends last week. Today in most cultures there is less shame about admitting to mental health issues, however agism can still be a problem, both in Canada and elsewhere in the World. As people age, health issues, lack of transportation, loss or illness of a partner or spouse, and low income can promote the feeling of aloneness. People may be unaware of opportunities in the community to help them, or they may be too proud to ask for help. As a result many elders may suffer from depression, which may bring shame and then isolation.
Now you may say, not me! But how are you safe guarding yourself? The conversation I had with friends last week centred around one person looking forward to retirement and my question about her social circle - if many of her friends come from her workplace, how can she be certain that that connection will stay strong after her retirement, and what is she putting in place today to ensure she continues developing new friendships, based on common interests and values? Interestingly in a couple of recent surveys, (in the interest of transparency, one was a small one I did), when asked about worries in retirement, no one mentioned mental health, they may have meant it within the response 'health', but I'm not sure many of us think about this aspect of aging.
Health Canada recently put out a report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/focus-areas/seniors), which states that over 1.8 Million people 60+ live with mental health problems or illness. Using data from interviews with older people it speaks of the increasing number of older adults with mental health issues, how to approach the subject with them and keep in mind their changing needs. It was mainly targeted at health professionals, but also has a course for the everyday Canadian, to increase the capacity of individuals to recognize and help elders suffering from mental health issues. It also has other initiatives including tips for cities to promote aging friendly initiatives, and a program call Fountain of Health (https://fountainofhealth.ca/), which supports people in changing their own attitude on aging. The program provides resources to improve individual longevity and happiness, how to reduce the possibility of illness as well as steps to support mental and emotional health. If you are a self starter and can hold yourself accountable, this may be all you need to support you in this new journey, however if you are like many of us you may need an accountability partner . This may be your spouse or a friend, or you may wish to hire a coach who can help you initiate new goals and habits and then hold you accountable.
As we age, we must remember that each of us is responsible for our own mental and physical health, and our perspective on aging and how we value and enjoy those years may be one of the most healthy ways we can prepare for our elder years. If you would like more information on the Third Act program, or how I can help you as you plan your retirement years, contact me for a free consultation. Remember, you are in charge of how you live this next third of your life, and there is plenty of life left in you to live!
'A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don't change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully'.
(Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2009) Immunity to Change).
The above quote really set me thinking about how difficult some habits are to change, and how we rarely think of some as addictions; we are accustomed to them, we have years of repeating them and have forgotten why we began them, and also, that we have the ability to stop them. What is it about habits that make them so difficult to change? Some habits are formed in childhood and are so inbred within us that we often aren't even aware of them. Others are formed as we go through life to make things easier, to be cool (often in the case of habits formed in our teens), to cut down on time (driving to an appointment), as a reaction to a situation, and so on.
One of the first books I read on habits was Charles Duhigg 'The Power of Habit', Why we do what we do in life and business. (charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/). I had heard a discussion about his book on the radio, and then seeing the cover at the bookstore I was attracted to the colour (yellow), and then seduced by the narrative on the inside cover. The book explains in easy language why some of us, individuals and companies, can change overnight, while others continue to struggle for years. He talks of focus and understanding how habit patterns shape us. Through reading I was able to recognize a particularly bad habit and one I wanted to get rid of: each time I went grocery shopping I would buy myself a chocolate bar, because it was a task that I really don't like and feel/felt I should be rewarded for doing it. Once I was aware of the habit, I could work on replacing it with something that had less of an impact on my person, and as a consequence lost the couple of pounds I had gained in the few years since it began. Can you guess what my new reward is?
The next book I found was Immunity to Change, (www.amazon.ca/Immunity-Change-Overcome-Potential-Organization/dp/1422117367) quoted above. Now as a coach I'm always trying to understand the struggles I, and my clients, have in meeting our goals, and the vision of who we want to become. I loved this book, and half-way through asked permission of a client to use the strategies outlined, in our coaching sessions - this meant extra work for her, asking her to be vulnerable to her community, and extra work for me as her coach, however I was convinced that some of the challenges she was experiencing in life could be addressed by using the tools outlined. After some time, even before finishing all the exercises she was able to experience a break through in consciousness around a habit that had begun in childhood, an awareness as she moved into the habit, and with the power of awareness was able to, using small steps, move toward breaking the habit that was causing her such grief. Did I say I loved this book?
Habits are often unconscious, we're so accustomed to them that we forget why we formed them in the first place, what it was that we were trying to accomplish. We don't realize that because they were made by us, we also have the power to break them. Sometimes as a habit becomes more, an addiction and we may need extra help, however just the act of recognizing that this action/reaction is habitually can be the first step in changing, and choosing a different response.
More recently I read Gretchen Rubin's book 'Better than Before. Mastering the habits of our Everyday Lives', (www.amazon.ca/Better-Than-Before-Habits-Procrastinate/dp/0385348630). Again a thoroughly absorbing book, filled with ideas and science related to habit formation she also states the obvious: ' the true secret to habit change is first, to know yourself'. She uses herself, family and friends to test her theories and tells of the outcomes and her own thought process on the science. A fun book to read.
But to get back to the quote at the top of this blog. Many of us would like to think that if it was a life or death situation, we would be able to change a habit, but science is telling us differently - only 14% are able to do so. As we age, some habits are important to examine and maybe change. What about an introvert whose main social interaction takes place during work hours, as they move toward retirement, they may want to look at how they will socialize once they stop working, and begin to cultivate the habit of getting to know people outside their current circle. For many people as they age, isolation and loneliness can bring on mental health issues.
Physical health is always a big topic, and as noted in another blog, science suggests that as little as 20% of health problems are inherited, so we can no longer blame Mum & Dad! It is sobering to visit residential care facilities and see the myriad of health challenges our elders have - how can we avoid these as we age? Are we willing to change some of our eating and exercise habits to move the dial away from chronic illness, heart problems etc.? If we are expected to live to 85 - 90+ years, how do we want those last ten to 15 years to look? Do we still want to be able to physically and mentally enjoy ourselves - what part do diet and exercise play in helping us reach that goal?
How can we begin to replace habits that no longer serve us with ones that may be initially difficult to practice, but in the long term will allow us to live physically, mentally and emotionally in a more healthy way?
Me, there are still habits I'd like to change, and I'm working on them. What habits do you want to change? How are you going about changing them? Leave a comment below and tell me your ideas for changing unhealthy habits into those that serve you better?
ps. You've probably guessed it, my new shopping reward is buying books, slightly more expensive but so much better for me!
Did my headline stop you in your tracks? Death is a funny thing, it's inevitable, as someone once said, we're not getting out of here alive!, however so many of us find it hard to talk about. I don't have a problem talking about my own with my kids, they already say I'm weird, so this this is another example to add to their list, but to raise it in conversation with others hmmm, that's more difficult.
This subject came about when I was talking with a colleague a couple of weeks ago, he asked me in my work with Third Actors or retirees, do I talk about death? An interesting question, and up to now, no I haven't. It got me thinking about why not. It's relevant to aging, particularly for those working through their Third Act - and yet I don't. I think partly because in Western society we are taught, whether by our teachers/parents or society itself that death is a taboo subject, and partly because, if we really look deeply, we all want to hope that we will live forever, and if we don't talk about it, it'll put death off for another wee while. But death is something that does happen to us all, and isn't it healthier to talk about it and our wishes for what will happen to our bodies, our possessions etc.. now, rather than to let our heirs and loved ones figure it out? In my former life in as a Not-for-profit specialist, I often spoke to grieving partners and children about their loved one, many were sad that they hadn't known much about the wishes of that person who had passed, or who said 'I wished I'd just asked them'. What was even sadder was the stories of hurt and regret, or those families who were torn apart because of their differing views about what should happen, or about who would inherit what.
Initially talking about death with my kids, was a bit like talking to them as teenagers about sex and how to treat girls, it was done in small bites, and in the car - they couldn't escape! Now they still don't like it, but they're more used to it. My point is, that my kids know where the legal stuff is, what my wishes are and my expectations of them both. Of course, I don't want to die, at least not yet, but it is important to prepare them for the inevitable. So why not talk to clients planning their Third Act about the importance of preparation for the end of life?
Death is the ultimate level playing field, it comes to us all. Unless we are extremely vindictive, none of us want to add to the pain felt by our loved ones at our death, and yet so many of us don't have everything in place for them - the ultimate roadmap if you will.
I remember the first time after having children that I thought of my own death. I was newly separated and needed to ensure all their needs would be met. I had visited my solicitor and signed my Will and was supposed to go onto a meeting. The meeting was cancelled last minute, and so I had time to spare and went into the local library, where I proceeded to write a letter to my kids. I can only imagine the thoughts of those around me as I wept and snorted my way through three pages.... I wrote to them about how much they were loved, I talked about who would be entrusted with their care, and why I had decided upon those individuals, as well as who would be the trustees of any money from insurance policies etc... I still have that letter, it is among several that I have written to them throughout the years, and was the beginning of an ongoing story of love and pride in who they were, and have become. I want them to have the letters, to understand a little more about their mum, and to remember the love I have for them with joy in their hearts. While I understand they will mourn, I also urge them to remember that I will always be with them
Death is a time of separation, but also a time of remembrance. Thinking about it is a time to check with yourself and who you are. How do you want to be remembered; by your family; friends and colleagues? Me, I want my kids, family and friends to mourn me when I go, but also to celebrate who I am and how I have impact their lives.
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. (Mark Twain)
This is a short list of things that I have come across, if you want to check your own preparedness:
I was going to write a piece about how we avoid the topic of death, but it seems life took over. I was clearing up papers and documents over the weekend when I came across a container of letters, some of which I have kept for over 40 years! A few were from my Mother, thin, light air-mail paper, probably the fourth of six papers separated by carbon paper - my mother would type her letters to us all (my five siblings and I), and hand write our names at the top, and her signature at the end. Each of us got a paragraph, and we used to joke that whom ever received the last copy was obviously not in her good books! A couple of letters from my father, handwritten rarities, short but filled with his humour. And then, letters from people some of whom I don't even remember. Sitting with them, there were fleeting memories, the young man from the US whose family rented out our house in Wales after his mother died of cancer, and who in his late teens came to visit. Friends from school, old boyfriends and room mates who'd gotten married and moved away a lifetime ago.
Reading through them caused me to reflect on all the people that come into our lives and then leave. Their interactions with us have shaped the person we are today. I still stay in touch with some friends from long ago via facebook or by e-mail, and visit when I can, however there are others that have long gone from my life, and I wonder - where are they now?
My letters, should I keep them or throw them away? They show parts of the young girl/women of many years ago, someone, I wonder if people I know now would recognize. I emigrated to Canada in my 20's, computers were just emerging in business, but certainly not at home; that would take almost another decade. Letters were a cheaper alternative to telephones, which were only used in an emergency, and receiving a letter from 'home', had a transformational effect, bringing joy into the day. What was I thinking when I put them into that box. The letters tell a story of a women who had many dreams, but obviously had also been able to support others, little notes from a niece "Mummy told me to write Thank you!" with a picture of the overalls sent. They tell a story of love, and someone who was missed. Did I recognize that then? I'm not sure, and if I had would I have done things differently? Auden states 'We must love another or die', and these letters show a young women well loved - which is a lovely feeling!
Further reflection had me thinking about decisions I had made, to emigrate, to work, to get married, have kids - interesting to look back - should I have made other decisions? Maybe, but as I said earlier those people and those decisions make me who I am today, and I actually quite like that person! Do I regret decisions made, or not made - how could I? I have two wonderful kids, a life many would envy, a cache of friends, family I love, and try and see as often as possible given we are all over the World, and a career I enjoy, regrets are not part of my life. What I can do now, I hope with my experience and learning is make better, and more informed decisions.
As a coach I work with people looking at how they might improve in life or business - they are looking at the present and into the future, yes they can learn from their experience, good and bad, but if they/we continue to look back we will never move forward.
With technology today we have lost the transformation effect of letter writing - the wonderful anticipation of receiving news from home; maybe I'm getting old, but frankly electronic correspondence just doesn't give the same little jolt of joy as would a letter. So I'll stop now, and maybe jot a handwritten note to someone I love!
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!
Maeve O'Byrne's Blog