As is the case for most readers, I’ve attended my share of reunions over the years.  High School reunions, university home-comings, class reunions, and work-related reunions.

These events often involve dinners, speeches, pub crawls, site visits and dances.  It is always great fun to see former classmates and former colleagues, to reminisce, and to recall accomplishments.

I often leave such reunions with mixed feelings.  Part of me is happy that I attended but part of me is left unsatisfied. The superficial contacts with others feel inadequate.  Although resolutions to ‘stay in touch’ are mouthed, the reality is that we return to our homes, families and current commitments.  The reunion is soon forgotten, except, perhaps, when an annual holiday or birthday wish is exchanged by email.

I recognize that life has moved along — for me, and also for others. What we once had in common is insufficient for significant engagement.  Shared experiences in the past don’t mean as much as the experiences that shape our daily reality.

This post is about two reunions in my life this month.  One already happened; the other will happen on this coming weekend.

A Special Reunion

There is an annual reunion, however,  that remains special.  It is a gathering that happens on a September Saturday.  On this day a group of women meet together to renew relationships that began in the ’70s when we worked together as teachers, child and youth workers, social workers, and psychometrists in a children’s mental health centre.

For most of us this was the first of many professional roles.  We were young with newly-minted degrees.  We had little actual experience with children but we shared a vision of creating a better life for the children and adolescents.

The agency was also relatively new having been formed just a few years previously under the leadership of a young child psychiatrist. The field of child and adolescent psychiatric treatment was developing as was the field of family therapy. Opportunities for learning abounded.  Visiting academics challenged us and we challenged each other. A wonderful reciprocity between young, visionary staff and a new agency resulted in many treatment successes for children and families.

As time passed, most of us left that agency seeking progressive positions, seeking more education, or different careers. However, relationships did not end. We stayed in touch — some women in the group enjoy close friendships with one another, some play bridge together; others see one another infrequently, sometimes only once a year at this reunion.

We began the annual get together ten or twelve years ago (nobody remembers quite when) and it’s become a cherished tradition. Everyone brings food and drink to share.  Sometimes we tell and re-tell familiar stories, but most often the time is used to catch up on personal and family events.  We share pictures, laugh, and, occasionally, cry together. Special life events such as retirements, anniversaries and birthdays are celebrated.

Aside from the pleasure of re-connecting with each other, this annual gathering provides a time to make new memories. Through the years, interpersonal bonds have grown stronger and friendships have deepened. We feel free to be ourselves, express our feelings, and make mistakes without judgement or criticism. A shared chemistry and common values make for stability in the relationships we have with each other.

Another Type of Reunion

Next weekend, we will see each other again but the gathering will be much larger as it will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the children’s mental health centre where we met each other.  I look forward to that anniversary reunion but I expect different interactions among those attending. The shared history will be part of the event, but there won’t be the same deep connections with one another. It will be a ‘one-off’.

Evidence shows that most people do not keep close connections with workplace colleagues. At the reunion, each of us will remember the time we worked together with fondness.  It was a special mix of people. Marriages, partnerships and friendships happened.

I hope there will be name tags as I’m sure that all of us will have difficulty remembering names or, even recognizing one another as the years will have added both pounds and wrinkles. There will be great stories; we’ll exchange contact information; we’ll celebrate shared successes and disappointments.  At the end of the weekend, we’ll go back to our current lives filled with remnants of the energy and enthusiasm of former times.

Reunions serve as reminders of life changes.  Whenever I meet with people who shared important aspects of my life, I realize how many have helped me grow into who I am today.  My identity is reinforced. The laughter and good times feed my soul.

I’ll keep attending reunions — but will choose the events carefully. However, I do hope that our ‘special’ women’s reunion continues for years and years to come!

I’m interested in hearing about reader experiences with reunions.  Did friendships get renewed?  Were you disappointed that you attended?  Have you stayed in touch with people with whom you re-connected at a reunion? I look forward to your comments!

Here are links to other posts where I have written about reunion experiences: Why attend reunions?

Keeping in Touch — social networks that matter

Why some reunions make you happy

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Daily Routines after Retirement

A few weeks ago a friend who is about to retire asked about my daily routines after retirement.  She wondered how she would get into a new routine without the structure of a job that required getting up early, commuting, and meeting expectations in the workplace. Without a job that dictates the flow of a day, how would she fill her days?

Her question made me realize that I’ve developed a set of daily retirement routines.  With the four distinct seasons in Canada, there are seasonal variations in the routine, but core aspects remain the same. For example, in warm weather, I sit outdoors to drink my morning coffee; on cool days or during the winter, coffee is drunk in the cozy comfort of a living room chair — preferably near to a sunny window.

After a lifetime of being ruled by a clock I spent the first few months of retirement absolutely rejecting any structure or routine.  I relished the freedom of ‘going with the flow’ which meant eating when I felt like eating, sleeping when I felt like sleeping, and following no routines. I rejected anything that restricted the new freedom of retirement.

As time passed and I completed the honeymoon phase of the newly retired, I realized that routines matter in terms of life balance and self-esteem.  Gradually certain habits developed;  these habits provide routine and structure to most days.

These routines/habits have evolved over the five years since I retired.  I’m sure there will be further changes as time goes by.

My day begins with an hour or so of quiet time drinking coffee, listening to CBC world news, writing my journal, checking emails, and planning the day.  Then it’s time for showering, dressing, and preparing to face the day.

Exercise is an important part of retirement.  I build exercise into every week.  On three or four days, I go to the gym for aquatic exercise, strength-building, or yoga classes.  Gym time is usually followed by coffee and/or lunch with my husband or with gym buddies. On days when I’m not at the gym, I walk for about 45 minutes in the neighbourhood, or, when at the cottage, I walk on the beach.

Afternoons are usually devoted to writing, household tasks, errands, or hobbies.  On most days I cook — usually from scratch.  I make soups and stews during the cold months.  I love baking and bake all the bread for our household plus a supply of cookies and muffins for snacks. Sometimes there is an afternoon bridge game, or a meeting, or a nap!

Evenings don’t begin much before 8 or 9 pm as my husband and I enjoy late dinners.  Because of late eating schedule, we have little time before it’s lights out.  We may finish some of the household tasks that were left undone in the afternoon, do some reading, or, watch the late news on television.

There is always flexibility in the schedule.  After all, why retire if there won’t be time for fun or spontaneity? When a need or opportunity arises, I make adjustments.  If I’m asked to care for my grand-daughter, or go on a special outing with my husband, I abandon my routines.  Adjustments to routine are also called for when on vacation or traveling.

With repetition, many routines have become habits that I do without much thought or attention. Regular exercise and making time for writing are now habits that get incorporated into most days with little thought or planning. When retirement routines become habits, there is energy leftover for new challenges, for hobbies and new adventures.

Here is a link to  earlier postworksavvy thoughts on the topic of routines. Happy in Retirement — Good Routines

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Thoughts on Turning 70

As my birthday approaches, I have many thoughts on turning 70.  It seems that milestone birthdays — especially those that mark another decade merit reflection.

I’ve now lived seven decades of my life.  It’s truly a time for reflection!  I’m looking back at old journals as I can’t recall each of these important decade birthdays. I’ve previously written about celebrating a birthday. Thoughts on turning 70 are similar to those described in an earlier post Celebrating 66 Years — Every Birthday Counts. 

On my 20th birthday I got engaged.  In today’s society, I wonder how I was so sure of a relationship to make a long-term commitment at twenty. Times were different and love dominated all feelings. A few months later, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. Getting a good job and, living my life with a handsome man would fulfill my life’s dream.

By the time I turned 30, my husband and I had moved across the country to Montreal for graduate school.  We both completed our first graduate degrees and moved a couple of times before  settling into careers and our first suburban house.  I had begun my career as a child and family therapist in a children’s mental health center.  We traveled at whim, entertained frequently, and partied every weekend.  It was a carefree time.

Things changed again by the time I reached 40.  We had a bright, talented six-year old son who kept us busy with Suzuki music lessons, soccer, and other sports.  Parenthood brought more stability and responsibility.  My husband undertook studies for a PhD and my career took off with progressive management positions. I wrote the GMAT exam and began part-time studies for a MBA while continuing at my job.

The years flew past.  By age 50, we had moved once more, this time for my career, and into the house where we still reside.  I was managing a multi-site provincial agency, a role that involved long hours, travel and much more responsibility.  Our son graduated from a specialized arts high school and began university studies in Boston. He played élite level soccer on the provincial and the national team as well as at the NCAA varsity level. Social life changed again. Most weekends were spent traveling to soccer games or tournaments in various cities in Canada or the US.

My 60th birthday found me in another senior executive job with opportunities to influence the public policy agenda for children and responsibility for the policy and funding needs of child welfare agencies in the province. Our son was pursuing graduate studies in Scotland. The empty nest meant that my husband and I could travel again, which we did when opportunity arose.

Birthday Cake -- photo courtesy of Laura D'Alessandro

Over this weekend, I’ll celebrate 70 years. The past decade, like all others, passed without much notice. Retirement gave me a new ‘freedom to fly’ into the so-called third age.  A new identity has emerged through becoming a mother-in-law and a grandmother, writing this blog, developing new friendships, volunteering, and pursuing long neglected hobbies.

My thoughts on turning 70 have me wondering what the eighth decade will bring. I have enormous blessings including a loving husband and family, enough money to life a comfortable life, and relatively good health. I’m at peace with my age and hope that I have many more years of life as there is still so much to learn.

At twenty, I never thought I would get this old.  Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wonder whose reflection stares back. Gravity has taken its toll. I do think of my mortality. I face certain age-related issues as some aspects of aging have drawbacks. In a youth-oriented society, age stereotypes as expressed in a earlier post ‘Aging ‘Successfully’ lead many to make negative assumptions about me.

I’ve resolved that I won’t let societal expectations haunt me.  I won’t let this decade rush past.  I plan to lighten up, yet live my remaining years with purpose. I will stay hopeful about the future, confident about my abilities, and aware of my limitations. I will spend less time meeting expectations of others and take more time to focus on personal expectations. Getting old is empowering — I’m determined to use my experience, wisdom, and strength of character to grow old on my terms.

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Birthday Cake photo courtesy of Laura D’Alessandro


Dealing with change

Dealing with change in retirement is important.

Like most people, I like to think that I’m good at dealing with change. I can adapt.

But recently, I had to confront myself.  Our niece was visiting us last month. The conversation turned to tactics for protecting the brain and keeping it active to assist in warding off dementia.

Our niece recommended an online word-finding game and offered  download the app to my smart phone.  My response was “No, I don’t like games and don’t have time for online games.”

That night as I was going to sleep, I replayed events of the day.  I thought about my  response to her genuine offer of something that could help me.

My curt ‘no’ reflected rigidity and inflexible thinking and not openness and adaptability.

It also reflected an unwillingness to change. Perhaps playing online games is a good strategy for keeping my brain agile as I grow older.

Recalling this conversation and my reaction has caused questions about how I deal with change to float through my thoughts.

Change Ahead_dealing with changeDealing with Change — photo courtesy of bigstockphoto

Thoughts on Dealing with Change

I thought about who influences me to make changes? Answers included my husband,  friends, my doctor,  my financial advisor, the media, and the internet. I also noted that sometimes an offhand comment will influence a change.

However, all significant changes in my life have come from my decision for action.  Sometimes it was a life-altering change like marriage or a move across the country or a decision to go to graduate school or to make a job change or to retire.  At other times, change involved a less consequential decision like changing a habit or trying a new activity such as learning to swim in adulthood.

I also thought of what causes me to make changes? Influences such as life opportunities, health concerns, legal requirements, and boredom were reasons for making a change. Some changes happened as a result of an inference or a dare. For example, I chose to establish and write a blog as one of my retirement activities after a work colleague told me, just before I retired,  that I had neither the skills nor the tenacity for blogging! I was determined to prove him wrong.

Many changes resulted from inspirations that have come unexpectedly.   An inspiration might come from a conversation, from something I’ve read, or from something discussed over a bridge game.

When the inspiration is consistent with my values, I pay attention.  Regular journal writing often influences and stimulates my creativity.  Sometimes, inspiration comes from nature or music or exercise.

I considered the discomfort caused by a change. Change is rarely easy. Although I dislike most games, playing online is low-risk and quite easy — even for beginners.  Winning is another matter but I’ll leave that for another post.

The level of discomfort depends on how significant the change might be and whether it is a positive change or a negative change.  The level of discomfort also depends on whether the change is self-initiated or imposed by circumstances. For example, it is much easier to adapt to a new job if changing jobs was a choice and not a forced change due to down-sizing or dismissal.

Many changes for self-improvement have been internally driven. I made a conscious choice to move away from my comfort zone and step into the unknown. Playing games online is an example of making a choice to exercise my brain.

Make Dealing with Change Easier

It’s easier to deal with change when you recognize that dealing with change is a process. Sometimes it requires long periods of adjustment. Sometimes it means leaving behind familiar people or abandoning habits that provided gratification. For major life changes, like retirement, the change process involves developing a new identity.

A positive attitude makes dealing with change easier. Regardless, of the type of change, a forward-looking, positive perspective, makes it easier to step into the unknown.

Internally driven changes for self-improvement, changes involving a conscious choice, and changes that are self-directed usually go smoothly.  Externally imposed changes are often more frustrating and stressful. For changes driven by circumstances beyond our control, a positive attitude is especially helpful.

It’s also important to give yourself compassion when dealing with change.  You may not succeed as quickly or as skillfully as you hoped.  The way that circumstances or events cause upheaval in your life may cause disappointment. Dealing with change is easier if you adopt a forgiving and compassionate attitude toward yourself.

I’m slowly learning to understand that dealing with change is a process that benefits from a positive attitude and a good dose of self-compassion.  I’m getting better at adapting.  I know that I’ll repeat these steps constantly and that’s okay because living well means dealing with constant change!

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Letting Adult Children Solve Their Problems

One of the most difficult things for a parent is to stand back and let adult children solve their problems.

In the past three months, I’ve watched my adult son change jobs, sell his house, buy another house, and move to a different city.

It’s been an unbelievably stressful time for him and for our daughter-in-law. It’s also been stressful for us as it was our custom to take a 20 minute drive to have dinner together at least once a week.  We will now  need to travel two hours to visit with them.

Some of their decisions seem quite risky as both quit well-paying, stable jobs with excellent benefits. However, they wanted to leave the big city environment of Toronto for a quieter lifestyle in a smaller city in Southern Ontario. There is a special twist to this decision as they have moved back to the city where our son was born and where we lived until he was twelve years old.  He characterizes the move as going back to his home town.

I’m proud of the fact that I’ve minded my business through this period of change. I’ve dealt quietly with my discomfort and misgivings. I’ve refrained from giving unsolicited advice or offering an unsolicited opinion.

Instead, I’ve given emotional support and encouragement but have left them solve their problems in their own way. This has meant backing away and allowing them to deal with the issues that these changes have brought.

How to let adult children solve their problems

When asked for advice, offer it — but only offer advice when requested. Further, don’t be offended if the advice is not taken.  Times and circumstances are different so advice based on your experience may not be helpful.  Ultimately, the decisions and the consequences of decisions are their issue. Let them listen and then back off.

We are fortunate to have a good relationship with our son and he often seeks our opinion.  He listens and appreciates the information, wisdom, and guidance we offer. However, he often follows a different course of action.

Respect boundaries. As an adult with a family of his own, our son’s primary responsibility is to his wife and child — not to his parents.  They have their own values, their own child-rearing ideas, and their own priorities.  I know that he still loves us as parents but our needs and preferences are no longer his primary concern.

I respect their privacy as I understand that what happens in their marriage or their immediate family is not my business — nor is what happens between my husband and me their business.

We want a long-term. respectful relationship with our adult son and daughter-in-law, so we are careful to keep strong boundaries.

Recognize their capacity to solve problems. Our son and daughter-in-law are independent and capable people who have responsible jobs and who are parents themselves. They know a thing or two about the world and are quite capable of solving the daily problems of their lives. They like recognition for their accomplishments but need space to manage situations.

As parents, we have the parental instinct to protect children from harm.  This instinct doesn’t go away just because they are adults yet the parental urge to protect never stops. Recognizing that adult children may experience such protective urges as meddling is important for good relationships.

Give concrete help when needed. Adult children often need and appreciate concrete help.  Often, it is financial help to get through a crisis. For many adult children, knowing that they can move back home when things are rough is security and concrete help.

During this time of change, our son and daughter-in-law needed our help with caring for our grand-daughter while their house was shown to prospective buyers, while they were house hunting, and during their move. We did this willingly as we had the benefit of spending many hours with our grand-daughter and strengthening that relationship. Their move was less stressful because they could count on us for child-minding.

This time of change for our family has been a time for personal growth.  I’ve realized that I have the ability to ‘let go’ and to let things evolve. In the past, I may have tried to be more involved, to provide guidance and to give direction.  Backing off made life easier for me and gave me time to purse my retirement happiness.

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Finding Happiness When Life Isn’t Perfect

If you have perfectionist tendencies, like I do, sometimes it’s difficult to find happiness when life isn’t perfect.

I am slightly neurotic with high standards for myself and for others around me. I know and accept that there are highs and lows in life yet I often have  unattainable expectations. It’s related to being a bit of a perfectionist.

Logic tells me that things will not be perfect all the time. I accept that perfection is impossible, that things won’t always turn out well, that it’s unrealistic to expect that everything will be perfect. I also can accept ‘good enough’ for much of what I do.

I know that I won’t be ‘on’ all of the time. There are times when I’m tired, or preoccupied, or worried, or not feeling well.  At these times, happiness seems elusive.

This has been true for me during the past four months as I’ve struggled to overcome ‘pernicious pneumonia’.  Several courses of antibiotics and use of two types of inhalers have helped the obvious symptoms of a hacking cough and low energy. I’ve spent most of the summer at the cottage lying in the sun and doing little except reading, knitting and writing the occasional blog post.

Times, like this summer, when life is less than perfect, teach us about ourselves. Here are some of the lessons I’m learning.

  • It’s a psychological struggle to recognize that I am ill and need to rest.  During 40 plus years in the workforce, I hardly used sick days. In my adult life, seldom did I have a cold or the flu. Learning to rest means lying down in the afternoon, going to bed early, and sometimes doing little or nothing for the day.   I have more understanding of what many people face when they must retire due to illness or disability.
  • The biggest difficulty is accepting that I can’t accomplish many of the things that I usually do.  Plans for entertaining and socializing are temporarily abandoned. I’ve let some of my standards for cooking and cleaning slip just a little. My garden is neglected. Usually, I measure the success of a day in terms of some accomplishment.  During this summer, the measure of success  is whether I have enough energy to stay awake until nine in the evening.
  • I am discovering how to slow down and to take the day at a pace consistent with stamina and strength reserves.  I’ve always been inclined to rush through the day and fill every hour with productive activity. Doing less and proceeding slowly takes patience yet it conserves personal energy.
  • I am also learning to accept ‘good enough.’ Among my colleagues in grad school, there was a belief that the difference between an A and a B was ten hours of study time.  As part-time students in a difficult MBA program, most of us were coping with full-time executive jobs, families, and commuting.  There were times when we had to accept a lower mark because there was insufficient study time to get an A on a paper or an exam.
  • Accept life the way it is and appreciate the small moments of perfection.  On the weekend, it was my grand daughter’s smile when she arrived at the cottage for lunch and an afternoon visit. Yesterday, it was seeing friends for a bridge game. Today, it was time for a peaceful walk in the early morning.

As I regain my health and deal with convalescence, I am realizing that a happy life doesn’t have to be a perfect life. There are times when you simply have to get through a rough stretch. I know that I’ll never stop striving and I’ll never lose the perfectionist tendencies. I also know that I can adapt and change when necessary.

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Every Retirement Choice has a Price

It’s a sad truth that every retirement choice has a price. The choice may have a financial price tag or an emotional price tag.

In planning for retirement, most people try to make choices that will reward a lifetime of hard work with a care-free, stress-free lifestyle. They recognize that all choices come with price tags although sometimes it’s a hidden price.

Some people down-size and move to smaller houses or apartments.   Some people choose retirement communities. Some people move across the country to live closer to children, grandchildren or friends.  Some move to live in a warmer climate. Many people stay in their family home choosing the familiar. Each of these choices has a both a financial and an emotional price tag.

Many make choices that they hope will endure throughout retirement without considering, health, medical care, mobility, socialization opportunities, transportation, hobbies or interests.  The needs associated with each item will change during retirement which may well cause a re-evaluation of earlier ‘ideal’ choices.

Too often people will plan the  ‘ideal’ retirement only to realize that there is no ideal retirement. Each choice has its own price.

Financial Choices

Financial calculations often drive the decision to retire.  How much money is required?  What lifestyle is wanted? Are there existing obligations such as mortgages or college expenses for children? Will I/we outlive our savings? Does the portfolio allow for predictability for the next five, ten,  twenty years and beyond? What income sources (pensions, investments, government payments) will fund the choices?

Despite our best efforts to predict the future, there will be surprises.  Death of a spouse, escalating health care costs, or market downturns affect finances.  Unexpected or hidden costs to such events will have a price that may change previous choices.

Emotional Choices

Choices about how to re-define oneself after retirement are as significant as financial decisions. Emotional choices also have a price tag. Some choices may increase happiness; other choices may lead to isolation, loneliness, and, perhaps, depression.

Regardless of what you did in your career before retirement, your identity will change after retirement.  You will no longer define yourself as an accountant, a teacher, a journalist, a social worker, an engineer, or a plumber. Without a career definition, you need to establish who you are in terms of how you recognize and value yourself.

Will you define yourself as ‘retired’? Often using the term, ‘retired’, is difficult as there is no societal status associated with it. Using the term ‘retired’ has a negative benchmark of withdrawing from something or going out of circulation. Many associate ‘retired’ with a price tag the involves loss of social status.

After retirement, life purpose will change along with identity. There is freedom from work commitments but choices to find meaning are required. Having a life purpose gives motivation and informs other decisions and choices.

Finding a new purpose in life after retirement  often takes time and may involve several false starts.  What seemed an ideal choice before retirement may need re-evaluation.

Relationships change after retirement. Spousal relationships usually need re-negotiation when togetherness becomes 24/7.  Home life can become challenging if both spouses retire at the same time, if retirement coincides with an ’empty nest’, or if the marriage was already in difficulty.

Social relationships also change with retirement.  The network of colleagues and work friends shifts or ends completely. Until new friendships, based on retirement interests, begin, the price tag involves feelings of loss and, even, loneliness.

Too often we are seduced into the societal viewpoint that sees retirement as a destination instead of a long and meandering journey that can last for 30 or more years.

During these years, much will happen in terms of finances, social change and personal change.

By recognizing that each choice has a price tag, everyone can plan realistically for this wonderful stage of life that comes with no instruction book.

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Powerful Thinking and Positive Thinking

Is there a difference between powerful thinking and positive thinking?

When I posed this question at the dinner table, my family’s responses were interesting.  There was consensus that powerful thinking had a Machiavellian quality to it related to getting and keeping power in organizations or among friends.  Positive thinking, however, was equated with success and happiness.

It was interesting that most of the conversation about powerful thinking involved thoughts about leadership tactics and theories about how power is used negatively to control others. This may be the case, but there is also research that shows how powerful thinking can shape what happens to you.

Defining Powerful Thinking and Positive Thinking

Powerful thinking is thinking with a purpose. Powerful thinking inspires.  It leads to creativity and action. It leads to making choices that leave you feeling that you can make a difference — in your life or in the lives of others.

Powerful thoughts help to overcome fears, worries, stress, guilt, and self-limiting beliefs. Powerful thoughts provide the capacity to approach each day with the certainty that our thoughts will change the way we deal with the day.

For example, upon waking we can decide that instead of a gloomy, negative approach to the day, we will approach it with confidence.  Whether the day is filled with obligations or with pleasurable events, how we think about each activity will affect how it is experienced.

Powerful thinking has implications well beyond organizational behaviour or leadership tactics.

Positive thinking refers to approaching situations with a mindset of optimism.  it is often seen as a ‘glass half-full’ attitude.  Frequently, positive thinking includes affirmations designed to help achieve personal or organizational goals.

Martin Seligmann, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, framed positive thinking as explanatory optimism or the capacity to explain life events in terms of opportunity, even in difficult circumstances.

Positive thinking is about mindset. It’s about mental toughness.  It’s about attitude.  It’s about hope.

Positive thinking is also contagious. When a smile greets you as you enter a room, it’s natural to return the smile with a happy greeting. Positive thinking certainly improves general happiness and produces energy.

Links and Limitations

There are a links between powerful thinking and positive thinking. The toolkit of powerful thoughts shapes the way you talk to yourself and your thought patterns.

The same is true for positive thinking which is often characterized by using affirmations and visualizations.  A positive and optimistic attitude helps us to navigate life.

Regardless of whether you term your thinking as powerful thinking or positive thinking, you are using your subconscious mind to shape perceptions and behaviour.

However, there are limitations.  Richard Sloane of Columbia University Medical Centre cautions that there are things you can’t think your way through.  For example, you can’t think yourself out of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.  Neither powerful thoughts nor positive thoughts will prevent a stock market crash or a financial downturn.

Realism is important when using powerful and positive thinking. Understanding the situation and choosing your thoughts purposefully will help to stop unnecessary worry and stress.  You might be able to change aspects of your life, manage an illness more effectively, and help yourself accept human failings.

Both powerful and positive thinking will help you overcome limiting beliefs.  You can choose which term makes sense for you.

Resilience and Dealing with Change

Resilience is important when dealing with change. Change happens all the time.  Dealing with change effectively is a key component for retirement happiness.

Every day of your life brings change. Sometimes the change is subtle; it may be a small event like wearing a new shoes or eating a new food or meeting someone you knew in the past. Sometimes its a big change — like retirement,  a new job, a move to a new home, a marriage, a birth, or a divorce.

Sometimes it’s a catastrophic change involving trauma, sickness or death. Such life events create uncertainty and stress.  Natural reactions include strong emotions including sadness, anger, and fear.

Change is never easy.  Even positive life events cause emotional reactions that may create stress.

Resilience Defined

Websters dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.

Definitions found online refer to resilience as the ability to regain control from difficult conditions, to withstand the stress involved, and to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma or tragedy.

Change can be positive or negative.  Learning to cope with change is the key to developing resilience.

Most people think of resilience as it applies to coping with adverse, or negative,  situations that often involve loss.  However, coping with positive change can also be stressful.

Resilient Approaches to Change

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”   — Ernest Hemingway

This quote from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea encourages the expectation of change.  When we expect that today will be different from yesterday and tomorrow will be different from today we are better prepared to ‘roll with the punches’ and to employ flexible approaches to dealing with change.

Support networks are essential for resilience.  Family members and friends who provide understanding, love, and encouragement are invaluable when facing a life-changing event. Like me, you may value privacy and self-sufficiency, but there are times when leaning on others restores equilibrium.

A positive attitude builds resilience. An optimistic attitude that focuses on problem solving skills enables you to face adversity and cope with change. Taking control of your reaction to any life event is a positive action.  It can be the first step in seeing opportunity even when negative changes occur. Remember, it starts with you!

If you take responsibility for your actions and feelings, you develop an attitude that helps you understand what is happening around you.   The strong feelings that come from a major change can derail anyone; when you control how you are feeling, confidence builds and you are able to deal with even difficult situations.

At the end of each practice, my yoga teacher makes reference to the importance of mindfulness. It’s a reminder to savour the moment without expecting that it will return. I appreciate her subtle coaching most of all when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  At those times, I try to breathe deeply and focus on what’s important in that moment without thinking about what I’ll need to finish in the next hour, day, or week.

How Resilience Affects Retirement Happiness

Many of our friends have spent huge amounts of time and money trying to craft the ideal retirement.  They have renovated their homes for accessibility, down-sized, or moved to retirement communities with the expectation that they will be protected from some of the life events that create stress. They have carefully managed their finances to ensure that they won’t run out of money.  They keep a healthy lifestyle controlling diet, exercise and sleep.

I worry that they have forgotten that changes will continue to affect them regardless of all this preparation. Nobody can insulate themselves completely from the difficulties and pleasures of life. As well as planning for the instrumental aspects of retirement, I hope they have taken responsibility for their attitudes about change,  have developed good support networks, and have learned how to ‘roll with the punches’ that life will surely bring.

Thanks for reading my post.  I am interested in hearing about your expectations for change in your life as you grow older.  If you enjoyed this post, please consider becoming a subscriber.

Retirement Happiness — Keep Loneliness At Bay

One of the secrets of retirement happiness is to keep loneliness at bay. Unmet social needs often lead to emotional distress and/or physical health problems.

You might wonder why I think about loneliness when I am fortunate to live happily with my husband. I am also blessed with close relationships with my son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter.

I socialize with a network of friends and acquaintances. We spend many hours together sharing the deepest secrets of our lives, eating great meals, and attending various activities.

These relationships are satisfying and fulfilling. However, there are times when I feel lonely. Experiencing loneliness is normal; everyone experiences loneliness from time to time.

Alone -- Keep Loneliness at Bay -- photo courtesy of Sheila Sund
Keep Loneliness at Bay — photo courtesy of Sheila Sund

What is loneliness?

Wikipedia defines loneliness as a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship that is often associated with anxious feelings. The definition notes that loneliness is sometimes described as social pain that can alert one to seek companionship and social connections.

Loneliness is not depression.  It may create feelings of sadness but it is not emotionally crippling unless it persists for long periods of time.

Relationships are necessary for happiness. Social connections are essential.  We can’t live fully when cut off from other people.

Prevalence of Loneliness

Many retired people are lonely.  They live alone and are isolated in their homes. The AARP website tells of a dramatic increase in the number of  people living alone — up to 20 % of the population in the United States. I would venture that the numbers are similar in Canada.

Life in the 21st century means that social networks are not as rich as those enjoyed in previous generations. There is more isolation which can precipitate health problems; loneliness is deemed to have negative health effects similar to obesity or to smoking.

Those who are still in the workplace  often find themselves feeling lonely especially if they work in de-humanized organizational regimes where profit, production, accountability, and goal achievement rule.  Relationships with colleagues become secondary when screens dominate the work environment. Many people work from home, a situation that gives fewer contacts with others.

In our society we tend to live in big houses that give more space for isolation and loneliness. Family members don’t need to be together to watch television as most homes have multiple sets. The screens on smart phones, tablets and portable computers are designed for individual use.  Varied schedules mean that meals are infrequently eaten together. Family communication often involves texting one another.

Social media provides an outlet to escape feelings of loneliness through correspondence with online friends.  However, social media often exploits envy as others seem to be living lives that are more pleasurable. People live in their own worlds of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

You don’t have to ‘be’ isolated or lonely to ‘feel’ isolated or lonely.  It’s true that you can be lonely in a crowd.  Social relationships need to be meaningful to combat feelings of isolation.

Isolation may also be an indicator of depression, anxiety and stress. Over-thinking and negative thinking often occur when alone which exacerbates these conditions.  Socialization distracts and helps to combat these feelings.

Too many responsibilities and commitments may also cause isolation.  This often happens to people who are caring for sick or disabled family members.  Care-giving responsibilities are all-encompassing; exhaustion leaves no time for socialization.

Social connections and friendships become more precious as we grow older.  Life changes.  We often lose friends — through death, illness, or long distance moves.

How to keep loneliness at bay

It’s important to recognize the feelings of loneliness and isolation including anxiety and crankiness.  These feelings signal a need for companionship and social connection.

To keep loneliness at bay don’t limit yourself in terms of friendships — and don’t expect that everyone you meet will become a close friend. Friends are special but having a diverse group of acquaintances makes life interesting.  Social connections aren’t always about the intimacy and strong relationships of close friends.

Tactics to combat loneliness include initiating conversations, joining meet-up groups, volunteering, and enrolling in continuing education classes. You can invite people to participate in various activities with you.

When you meet someone, try to make time for conversation. Be genuine with people when interacting with them. Give them your full attention.

By staying open to new ideas and new experiences you increase the possibilities of connecting with others. By creating opportunities to meet people, you inoculate yourself — and keep loneliness at bay.


Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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