7 Reasons Why Smart People Struggle with Retirement

Why do smart people struggle with retirement?

After decades of work, many take a hard look at their finances including pensions and government benefits.  Next comes the decision to retire.

After the hoopla of retirement celebrations, many question this decision.  There are a few weeks — or months — of feeling that life is an endless vacation filled with gardening, golfing, sleeping in and travelling. But, reality hits and retirement turns sour.

Struggles often arise when the psychological and emotional preparations are incomplete. The financials indicate that retirement should be easy but there is a nagging feeling that the spark of life is missing. Feelings of irritability, anxiety and displacement nag at the heart.  Stress sky-rockets.

It’s not uncommon to re-think the decision to retire.  Why does this happen?

The timing may have be wrong.  Retirement may have come too early.  If so,  a return to work — perhaps on a part-time basis — might be the solution.  Unfortunately, sometimes retirement happens too late, and poor health limits enjoyment of retirement years.

Work provides structure to life and when that structure is gone, boredom arises. The phrase ‘boredom in retirement’ ranks high for internet search engines. This is a common concern.

Everyone gets bored from time to time whether retired or not and everyone has found a way through such times.

With so  many choices about how to spend precious retirement days, it’s hard to imagine boredom lasting too long. A review of the bucket list might spark new ideas to help make a purposeful plan for retirement years. Saying ‘yes’ more often when family and friends issue invitations to take part in events is another strategy. Adding structure by calendaring daily and weekly events also helps to plan for free time.

Some people have few or no interests.  Many jobs are all-encompassing.  Coupled with the demands of raising a family, the work years left no time or energy to develop hobbies, skills, friendships, other pursuits.

When people with an over-busy career history leave work, a huge gap appears. Taking courses in areas that have always held interest or re-kindling past hobbies may  be a solution.  This process may involve missteps.  It may take months to find something enjoyable.

A loss of identity is not uncommon as many people over-identify with their jobs. Their title and status in the workforce define who they are.

Job identity stops at retirement leaving  the person to struggle with redefinition of the self. Answering the question “who am I?’ is difficult until a new identity emerges. The  retirement identity evolves slowly developing simultaneously with pursuit of new interests and new relationships.

Even smart people have difficulty letting go of the past.  Grieving is part of the transition to retirement. Workplace friends and peers are lost. Emotional readjustment happens when work ends.  Self-definition changes. Keeping perspective allows consideration of new and challenging opportunities during retirement instead of re-playing the good old days.

Some people suffer from loneliness when they leave the camaraderie of work friends. The buzz of work, even the stress, is missed. Emptiness, isolation and feelings of personal insignificance accompany the loneliness.  These feelings will gradually subside as new friendships develop. A retirement network evolves to replace the social connections of the workplace.

Many people miss the ‘achievement factor’ after retirement.  The awards, accolades, respect, and promotions provided a sense of achievement that is gone after retirement. Too often, achievement equalled happiness.

In retirement, the ‘projects-to-complete’ and ‘goals-to-attain’ involve  achieving deeper insight and self actualization. Reframing the measurement of achievement and learning how to reward oneself for retirement accomplishments will fill the achievement vacuum.

Smart people will struggle with retirement.  For some, this will happen in weeks or months.  For others, it may take years before reaching a level of comfort.

FOGO and The Art of Aging

What is FOGO and how does it relate to the art of aging?

Let’s begin with the easy part.  FOGO is the short form for Fear of Getting Old.

Getting old is inevitable. For many, FOGO begins in teenage years, accelerates with every decade, and becomes more of a pre-occupation if you are fortunate to live into later years — 60s, 70s, and beyond.

Fear of getting old (FOGO) is well documented.  It is often associated with fear of death.  Elizabeth Lesser, speaking to Oprah, famously said that aging is the younger cousin of dying.

Seeing old people often provokes FOGO as it serves as a reminder of our own mortality. Shunning and/or avoid old people relates to FOGO.

For some, FOGO is severe enough that it becomes a phobia.  There’s a clinical term for it — ‘gerascophobia’.  Wikipedia describes  gerascophobia “as an abnormal or persistent fear of growing old.”

FOGO is often associated with dysfunction. Common fears revolve around loss of health, loss of memory, and financial fears.  Fear of dependency and fear of pain loom high on the list.  Nobody wants to become a burden to family members or suffer pain.

Some level of FOGO is natural.  Anxiety about aging accelerates as skin begins to sag, and energy levels decrease. We know that aging brings us closer to dying.

Enjoying Retirement
The Art of Aging

The Art of Aging

Fear of growing old does not need to cripple us nor should it dampen the enthusiasm and excitement of living.  Aging brings many benefits including increased wisdom, better judgement, and greater emotional stability.

Aging begins at the onset of life which means that we’ve had a lifetime to accumulate experiences that strengthen character and give perspective.

The art of aging is a useful concept as it focuses on positive ways to grow old. It nullifies media stereotypes of old people that feed the fears of growing old.

We can use various strategies to practice the art of aging.

1.  Look for role models.  There are many good examples of people who have mastered aging with grace and style. Actress Judi Dench, environmental activist David Suzuki, and feminist Gloria Steinem come to mind as people who have accepted their age.  All of us have parents, grandparents, neighbours and friends who have demonstrated aspects of aging — both positive and negative — to emulate.

2. Focus on the freedom of aging. Physical beauty changes with age but there is less worry about appearances. While there are changes in the structure and function of the aging brain, loss of mental capacity is not a given.  Aspects of memory and processing speed decline,  yet older people demonstrate excellent problem solving skills, better emotional control and good decision-making by making effective connections from brain inputs.  They have more patience and tolerance.  Perhaps that is why wisdom is often associated with aging.

3. Plan for your future.  As much as possible, take control of financial, health, and living arrangements to find a comfortable lifestyle that fits your means and your capacity. Make plans to live the remaining years as well as you can.  Practice self-care. Learn to pace yourself to deal with changes of energy level and stamina.

4. Maintain connections with people.   As well as fostering positive family relationships and maintaining long-standing friendships, it’s important to develop a social network and  that fits your postworksavvy lifestyle. This is no time to withdraw or pull back from the world. Initiate activities, join clubs, take courses, accept invitations and savour social events.

5. Stay hopeful and optimistic. Life adventures don’t belong only to the young.  The novelty of living continues when you when you stay excited and enthusiastic.  Believing in yourself, setting goals, and working to accomplish something you’ve always dreamed about provides meaning and purpose.

6.  Make your life about experiences.  Most people, especially as they grow older enjoy experiences more than possessions.  Perhaps that’s why many find travel so pleasurable and satisfying.  Learning new skills, taking courses, meeting new people, and giving back through volunteer work are other experiences that contribute to aging well.  As we take responsibility to avoid being sidelined, we prevent complacency from setting in.  Experiences make our lives interesting.

Perhaps FOGO should be re-labelled ‘fear of living’. When we embrace the process of growing older, we can stop fighting natural fears of growing older and begin to appreciate the benefits. When we learn to love and to value our older selves, we will have mastered the art of growing older.

Thanks for reading my blog.  I’m interested in your comments about FOGO and the art of aging.

Image courtesy of hyden2012

Coping with Fear of the Future

How can we cope with fear of the future? Why does fear of the future become a preoccupation as we grow older?

Older people have many fears in common including fear of dying, fear of living in pain, fear of losing independence, and, of course, fear of getting old.

Most days, some worry about getting older crosses my mind.  I know this is true for others as aging is a frequent topic at bridge tables, at my gym, and in conversations with friends and relatives.

Growing older brings all kinds of worries that cropped up infrequently in younger years. We worry about the effects of aging.  We worry about losing health.   We worry about money.  We worry about losing a spouse, losing loved family members, losing friends, and, even, losing pets.

Much of the worry revolves around loss, especially loss of physical and/or mental capacity.  How would we cope without capacity to walk, or climb stairs or capacity to care for our bodies?  How would we feel if we could not feed or toilet ourselves? Most of us dread the thought of being cared for by a stranger, a spouse, or worse, a child.

Loosing mental capacity also ranks high on the list of fears. With increasing age comes the possibility of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.  Each time keys are misplaced, a name is forgotten or a thought is lost in mid-sentence, there is concern that mental capacity is in jeopardy.

Perhaps the fear of the future comes because, as we grow older, we experience losses more often.  Coping with these losses becomes part of daily living.  Friends and family members die and we grieve.  Changes in lifestyle cause many to uproot from houses and communities, even countries, where most of life was lived. Careers are left behind, as well as professional networks, workplace friends, and the status of former job titles.

We are often faced with worries of loneliness and loss.  Learning to cope with loss, to put things into perspective and to deal with the effects of growing older is part of a life transformation.  It’s natural that there are feelings of anxiety and some fearfulness.

Coping with Fear of the Future

There’s no turning back the clock on aging but we can stop fear of the future from overtaking the happiness of present moments.  By applying some common sense coping strategies we can stop fearfulness — regardless of age.

1.  Focus on what you can control.  You have control over your thoughts and your behaviour.  You can think positive thoughts, keep a daily gratitude list, pray, and meditate.  You can also practice kindness, especially kindness to yourself.

You can’t control what may happen to your health but you can try to protect the health you do enjoy.  Although it’s sometimes inconvenient to exercise regularly, to sleep enough hours for rejuvenation, and to eat nutritious food, these simple things do help to protect physical health. If physician has recommended medications or other treatments for various ailments, it makes sense to follow advice rather than self-medicating or ignoring professional help.

2.  Keep legal and financial affairs in order.  After my mother turned ninety, she made it a practice, to tell me and my siblings of where she kept legal and financial documents.  She did this each time we visited her. We knew who she used as a lawyer and who was responsible for her tax filings.  We also knew where she stashed her treasures!

Each of us can act to make sure that wills are prepared and updated, that investment, credit and banking information is properly filed and safely stored, and that power of attorney for health and legal decisions is given to someone who is trustworthy.

3.  Make peace with the past.  Deal with unfinished family business and other regrets that add worry to your life.  Let go of old grudges, feelings of failure and past disappointments.

Anger leaves scares in the brain! By reducing emotional baggage we cut worries about past events.  The brain is freed up for positive experiences and pleasant thoughts.

4.  Live for today.  The immediate present is all we have.  Maintaining intellectual curiosity and staying interested in big things that happen in the world will also help us find happiness in the small things that happen around us.

By enlarging your life and not allowing it to shrink, by daring to keep learning new things, by focusing on the good rather than the bad, we can enjoy every day and make it count as part of a life well-lived.

5. Maintain a positive and optimistic outlook about the future. Instead of feeling fearful about the future, consider that growing old allows a new you to emerge.  Age can’t prevent you from having a socially rich and enjoyable future full of new discoveries — but a negative mindset and a fearful perspective can ruin every day.

While growing older is inevitable, fear of the future is manageable.  Throughout life, all of us have learned problem solving skills.  We can use these skills  to face aging with confidence and not fear.

Now where did I leave my glasses?

Thanks for reading my post. I welcome your comments with your thoughts about fear of the future and fear of growing old.  If you enjoy my blog please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular updates by email.

Retirement Happiness and Positive Psychology

In recent weeks I’ve been researching positive psychology for guest posts that I write for a UK newsletter.  I’ve been considering how the principles of positive psychology can  increase retirement happiness.

The field of positive psychology is largely attributed to the work of Martin Seligman.  Positive psychology seeks to understand the nature of happiness and well-being.

The basics of positive psychology relate to positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and life achievement. These key elements are considered necessary for a flourishing life.

Positive psychology principles have been applied to leadership development, organizational behaviour, child development, education, family and marital therapy, and wellness. Life coaches and athletic coaches  use positive psychology in their work.

Positive Psychology and Aging

Very little research has been conducted to determine how positive psychology affects aging. Barbara Frederickson in her book, Positivityasserts that there is a correlation between expressing more positive emotions and living longer.

Because emotions tend to be fleeting, it’s important to increase the number of positive emotions in any day to flourish and feel satisfied with life.

One’s daily affairs of life need to be regarded as satisfying.  That morning walk, the aroma of fresh coffee, the colour of a new bloom — these ordinary things must be positively perceived to bring feelings of optimism, energy and inspiration.  Attitudes about life, the approach to routine chores, acceptance of life circumstances, both good and bad, enhance positive emotions.

Frederickson advocates mindfulness, paying attention to human kindness, going outdoors in good weather, and using strengths and skills learned through experience as methods of increasing positivity.

Her advice can easily be applied to happiness and to successful aging. Adopting a positive attitude, using the extra time in retirement for meaningful activities, and continually adapting to life as changes occur are simple techniques that all of us can practice. They make common sense.

Retirement happiness is about attitude and mindset.  Positive psychology techniques are simple to understand.  They are available to everyone.  By employing these techniques we can all enjoy a flourishing and happy retirement.

Thanks for reading my post. I appreciate comments on my retirement musings. If you enjoy my writing, please consider becoming a subscriber. If you want to read my guest posts and other writing on retirement at the Exploring Retirement newsletter, please follow this link http://www.exploringretirement.co.uk


Retirement Happiness — Staying Relevant

Staying relevant is important for retirement happiness.

The world changes everyday.  Most often we attribute the pace of change to technology.  But there are also legal changes, economic changes, language changes, style changes.

When there is no need to prove professional competence in the workplace, staying relevant and abreast of changes is challenging.  Without interaction with others in the workplace  everyday, it’s easy to limit oneself.  We start to think we’re too old.

How does one keep up  — or, better, stay ahead?

I’m not always ahead of the change curve, but I do aim to keep up with major changes. I don’t want my relevance to diminish because I’ve stuck my head in the sand and tried to hold on to traditions that are defunct. I’m not ready to be set aside as a ‘has been’.

I try to keep learning about technology.  Technological progress creates many of the changes that affect us. I’m not a wizard, nor am I a Luddite.  It’s impossible to function in 2015 without embracing some level of technology.  I use social media. I’m on my computer and on my smart phone regularly. I know that I can’t force the world to stop changing but I can keep learning about it. I can maximize the benefits of technology to stay in touch with people, for banking, for shopping, and as a quick information resource.

I keep working at general life improvements.  I take courses. I read. I seek new knowledge.  I experiment.  I take risks.  Staying relevant is about constant renewal and self-development. Engagement doesn’t stop at age 65 or at retirement.

I keep up with what’s happening in the world by staying informed about key events — in politics, government, the economy, the environment, and in my community.  I try to stay tuned into the bigger picture using newspapers, the internet, and twitter. I don’t want to bore people by limiting my conversation to health troubles, grand children, or my latest trip.

I engage with a variety of people. People from different cultures, different educational levels, and different ages provide new perspectives. Engaging with younger people who tune into the world through digital experiences exposes me to new problem-solving approaches. I love hearing their opinions and understanding their value systems. I’m intrigued that they seek me out for the wisdom that comes from longer life experience.

I stay aware of trends.  I pay attention to new products and services that come on the market. I especially love labour-saving devices that make retirement easier. I like new ideas.  I’m conscious about fashion but try to avoid fashion trends in favour of enduring style.  After all, we are still judged on outward appearance regardless of age.

I try to understand language changes. Although I love grammar and syntax, I know that it changes quickly.  Words used for SMS are continuously evolving and new words are introduced.  I’m determined that I will be able to communicate with my grand-daughter in language she understands as she grows.

I stay focused on the present and the future. Too many older people get stuck in the past and fall on the sword of past success.  I realize that what I did five or ten years ago was interesting and relevant but such accomplishments count for little in 2015.  Life changes.  People change.  Every day I try to incorporate something new into my thinking.

I face limitations that I place on myself.  When confronted with new opportunities, and I find myself thinking that I’m too old, I ask myself ‘why’.  Am I really too old or am I fearful of a new experience?

Relevance isn’t something that lasts.  It has a ‘best before’ date and must be constantly refreshed. There is no magic formula for staying relevant in a youth-focused world that changes rapidly.

Making relevance a priority brings the reward of a retirement lifestyle that is  happy and fulfilling — and what could be better than that?

I’m interested in your comments about how you stay relevant when faced with never-ending changes.

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Does the way we think matter?

Paying attention to the way we think matters. Thoughts create reality through memories, observations, judgements, perceptions and intentions.

People flourish with a healthy mindset that is focused on positive, worthwhile things. When we think positive and not negative thoughts, when we are careful with self-criticism, and when we treat others with respect, we cultivate the basics for happiness.

One of my yoga teachers repeatedly advises monitoring thoughts carefully. She talks about ‘stinking thinking’ as patterns when thoughts, about ourselves or about others, are judgemental or critical.  She urges us to adopt a loving, accepting mindset to support healthy living and fitness.

We can take a ‘thought break’ from time to time during the day to check thought patterns and not allow thoughts to drift aimlessly. Are thinking habits creating stress?  Are thoughts judgemental? Are we re-playing old, hurtful memories?

The way you think matters — photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons
The way you think matters — photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons

It’s possible to discipline ourselves to consciously pay attention to how we think.

Our mindset determines whether a life situation is perceived as  opportunity or danger.  The way we feel, the way we react, and the way we look at the world is often described as’ a glass half full versus a glass half empty’.

Whether we think positively (glass half full) or negatively (glass half empty) affects our outlook on life. Regardless of what happens, our interpretation of the event can make it better for ourselves — and better for those around us.

Positive Thinking

Thinking patterns are habitual. We all know people who have an uncanny capacity to see the good in others.  As well,  they can find potential or learning in most situations. Such positive thinking leads to optimism and self-affirming behaviour.

Optimism creates capacity for resilience and perseverance. It leads to loving acceptance of oneself and others.

Looking for and finding the ‘silver lining’ in situations attracts others and leads happiness in life.

Negative thinking

Negative thinking sets up a world view where life circumstances  seem perilous.  It leads to a pessimistic outlook, to fearfulness, and to self-defeating behaviour.

All of us have experienced situations where a person who is always complaining depletes energy.  No matter the situation, something is always wrong. Their negativity may come from anger, fear, sadness or jealousy. Nonetheless, it dampens spirits.

Negative thinkers fill their days with unnecessary worries. People shy away when faced with constant negativity and criticism.

Bouts of negativity and discouragement can affect everybody.  The trick is to recognize negative thought patterns and shift into a more positive mindset.

Become Aware of Thinking

Awareness of thought habits can be learned with practise.

Meditation is an effective way to learn how to focus attention and notice thoughts. Meditation is a skill. It begins with breath awareness. By slowing and deepening breathing,  thoughts are released. The mind is calmer. Eventually the brain develops the habit of controlling attention.

When practising meditation, simple mantras help to keep tangential thoughts from racing through my head. When thoughts come, I try to them go by continuing to focus on breathing in and breathing out.

Practising gratitude is another technique for monitoring thinking.  It gives perspective. Many experts recommend starting the day by naming 3 things for which to be thankful. Practising gratitude is a simple way to focus on what is good in your life.

A gratitude  might be as simple as sunshine streaming through the window or the sound of a cat’s purr.  It might consist of thankfulness for food in the fridge or a kind word from a stranger. Practising gratitude teaches awareness and helps to change thought patterns.

Learn to turn negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  When you catch yourself doing ‘stinking thinking’, try to shift to thoughts that encourage you.

By remembering that your thoughts create your reality you can re-frame perceptions and keep yourself from drifting into a negative frame of mind.

Changing outlook also influences our thinking.

‘What you think about, you bring about’ was one of my mother’s favourite sayings. When we expect the worst, it often happens.

There is no question that life throws curve balls to all of us.  By choosing our attitude toward the unexpected, we can shape a better outcome.  For example, when encountering rudeness or disrespect from others, a kind response often changes the way the other person is treating you.

We can become aware of thoughts by periodically taking a few seconds throughout each day to take note of the assumptions, judgements, and expectations in our minds.  As well, we can observe the feelings that arise from our thoughts.

Our thoughts matter. By paying attention to thinking, focusing on positive thoughts and adopting an optimistic attitude, we can increase happiness in our precious retirement days.

Thanks for reading this post.  You may also like How Your Face Reflects Your Thinking, a post published in 2011.

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A busy life is not a happy life

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” — Socrates

 A busy life is too often seen as a badge of honour.  Everyone is constantly busy.  Schedules are overloaded. People rush from one thing to another while often accomplishing little or nothing during a day. Life is busy yet it feels empty and unproductive.

My threshold for busyness has changed since I’ve retired.  Since I’m living the last third, perhaps the last quarter,  of my life, I am hyperaware of how I use my time. I refuse to be ‘busy’ with a predictable schedule of too many exhausting activities. What’s the meaning of “I’m too busy”

Every day I want time to read, to exercise, to write, to spend time on hobbies, and just to relax. Additionally, I like to go to see my grand-daughter, play bridge, attend the occasional concert, visit galleries, play with my cats and go to movies.  Living in both the city and at our Lake Huron cottage means taking care of two houses and two yards.

With these expectations and responsibilities, every minute is precious! Thus, I have to prioritize and set boundaries.  Unless I  limit the number of things I do, I get distracted, cranky, anxious, irritable,  and stressed out.

When I did my last life review a few weeks ago,  I took a hard look at my overloaded schedule to see what I could drop.  I reduced volunteer commitments to limit how much time I spend in meetings. To make life less insane, I’ve resigned from boards that require 2 −3 hours travel time to get to and from meetings in downtown Toronto.

To further protect my schedule, I’ve refrained from making new commitments. I’ve refused invitations, favours and requests. I decided that missing some activities would be preferable to attending but not enjoying the event. Are you suffering from FOMO?

I’ve also realized that I need a couple of afternoons or evenings with no activities. This allows me to absorb emergencies, surprises and setbacks such as needing extra time to finish writing a blog post.

Having a margin of time during the week also protects an amount of personal space.  It keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. It gives time for silence and for reflection as well as time for goofing off.  Idle moments were too rare before retirement!

I’ve also tried to add a margin of 30 minutes to every appointment to avoid rushing. This simple technique helps me to cope with unexpected delays and surprises.

Another technique I’ve been using to add space in my retirement schedule is what I’ve referred to as the ‘Rule of Two’. I plan for no more than two activities or appointments each day including gym time.  On most days, that means only one commitment as I go to the gym four or five times per week for exercise, yoga class or swimming.

Making conscious choices not to rush through precious retirement days has meant taking a hard look at life priorities, deciding what really matters, and scaling down commitments.

Hopefully these strategies will shield my Postworksavvy lifestyle from Socrates’ warning of the ‘barrenness of a busy life’. If you seek enjoyment and happiness from your hectic lifestyle, the best investment you can make is to take deliberate steps to use time effectively.

Thanks for reading my post.  If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular email updates.  I’m also interest in your comments about how you manage you own ‘busy life’.

How to motivate yourself

Do you know how to motivate yourself?

Are there aspects of your lifestyle, habits, or health that you want to change but you find yourself stuck in old routines? Do you find yourself in a holding pattern that needs invigoration?

After almost five years of retirement, I find myself repeating patterns that satisfy me.  Unfortunately, I also repeat patterns that leave me frustrated and wanting to change.

I have periods of productivity when I complete  writing projects, finish hobby projects, and make things grow in the garden of my life. I spend quality time with my husband, go to the gym for exercise, and have lots of energy. These are the times when I am happiest.

How to Motivate Yourself to Change
How to Motivate Yourself

There are also times when motivation lags. I get stuck in old ruts — reading until the wee hours of the morning, sleeping in,  missing gym classes, and resorting to take out foods instead of cooking nutritious meals at home.

I get lazy.  I procrastinate.

I don’t like spending the day doing a whole bunch of nothing. It’s a waste of precious retirement time. That’s when I know that I have to motivate myself and get out of a slump. 

I need to make the effort to get started.

Sometimes just sitting in front of the computer and starting to write makes the ideas and the words begin to flow.  The same happens when I pack my gym bag and set out to attend a yoga class or  exercise on the cardio machines or exert myself in the pool.

Once I get started, things happen. By just doing something, I begin to motivate myself. Taking even a small action can motivate.

I need to protect my sleep.

When I don’t have enough sleep,I lose energy during the day. The energy drop often causes me to take a nap instead of writing.  It also leads to nutritional short cuts and high carb/high sugar snacks.

Having a set sleep/wake cycle helps. I naturally wake up at 7:30 am regardless of when I go to bed.  My challenge is to get to bed at a reasonable time so that I sleep 7 or 8 hours before my internal clock wakes me.

I need organized workspace. 

By keeping the house reasonably organized, my desk reasonably clear, and my inbox reasonably empty, tackling various projects is easier.

When I’m not organized I waste time looking for things or putting things into place  or making lists and not accomplishing what I’ve set out to do. I’m not obsessed about cleaning but I don’t function optimally when things around me are untidy.

I need determination.

Sometimes what I’m doing is difficult. I may be unsure of next steps or overwhelmed with the size or complexity of a project I’m trying to accomplish. I get confused. I worry about failing,

When obstacles cause motivation to wane, grit and determination are needed.  It’s tempting to quit or to spend my time doing an easier task. Suddenly doing the laundry seems easier than finishing research for a blog post or struggling to use new technology.

Sometimes I need a change of pace.

While persistence helps when feeling stumped,  sometimes a change of pace will get you back on track.

Going outdoors, making a cup of coffee, or taking an exercise break help me to re-focus. Even when the weather is inclement, taking a short walk outdoors changes my level of motivation. Physical activity clears the brain and caffeine re-charges it.

I try to stay positive and confident.  

During the past two weeks I’ve spent many hours knitting a baby afghan.  I started the project with excitement about the soft wool, the colours, and the pattern.

When the project was halfway to  completion I began to despair. I was unsure that I would finish it in time for the baby shower last weekend. I ran out of one colour of wool which meant a trip to the yarn store. I stayed up late, cancelled going to the gym,  cancelled attending my weekly bridge game — all to knit furiously.

The excitement waned. Yet, I stayed with it, positive that this would please a young mom whose career allows no time for handmade baby items.  I was tired but happy when I finished the afghan.  Visions of a new baby who will be warmed and comforted in the pretty afghan kept me going.

The Sweet Feelings of Success

Whether it’s finishing a big project like a knitted afghan or a smaller task like de-cluttering a closet, completion brings a sense of accomplishment.

Feelings of productivity and happiness result.  Those sweet feelings of success mean it’s time to goof off, to take a nap, or to waste a little time online without guilt.





Handling Loneliness

Have you learned how to handle loneliness?

Most of us, no matter how socially active, fight bouts of loneliness. Feeling lonely is not shameful nor is it a sign of failure.  It is a normal feeling that happens to everyone.

The presence of other people doesn’t insulate you from loneliness. Even when you are in the middle of a crowded room, at a meeting, or at a dinner party, you can still feel the ache of loneliness in your heart.

Together but alone — photo courtesy of Nadya Peek
Together but alone — photo courtesy of Nadya Peek

Many  people who are married or in long-term relationships find themselves feeling alone even when they are with their partner. Strained relations and a lack of closeness can leave you feeling lonely.   Years of poor communication may have caused emotional distance that is difficult to overcome.

Loneliness often comes after a major life change such as retirement, after a move to a new community, or after the loss of a loved one.  Such major life changes cause a disruption in the social activities that previously shaped patterns of life.  It may be difficult to build new connections.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is an emotional reaction that occurs in response to life changes and events. Typically, it involves feeling sad and empty. In extreme cases it can lead to chronic anxiety and clinical depression.

Wikipedia defines loneliness as a complex response to isolation or lack of companionship.

Loneliness is subjective. If someone feels lonely and describes themselves as lonely — then, they are lonely.

Poor self-esteem,  feelings of being unwanted, and feelings of being unloved are sometimes associated with loneliness.

Loneliness and Isolation 

Loneliness is usually considered something that happens when spending time alone.  Faced with harsh Canadian winters, many older people hibernate in their homes and rather than going out in cold weather.  They find themselves feeling lonely and out of touch.

Others are socially isolated because they spend hours on the internet interacting with virtual friends.  Spending time in chat rooms and on social media is satisfying to a degree but online friends don’t substitute for real, live people.

Loneliness may cause isolation but isolation doesn’t mean you are lonely. Many people are loners, by choice.  They may choose solitude.  They are alone but not lonely.

If you are facing a bout of loneliness, there are ways to handle it.

Admitting you are lonely is the first challenge.  Feelings of failure and fear are sometimes associated with loneliness. By recognizing that everyone feels lonely at times, we acknowledge and normalize the feeling, thus allowing ourselves to move on.

Once you recognize feelings of loneliness, the next step is to decide to change.  This is difficult because the feelings associated with loneliness lead to immobilization and inactivity. It’s tempting just to withdraw from the world instead of pushing yourself to connect with others.

By making the effort to get involved with other people or in some activity, we begin to take charge again instead of letting feelings take charge.

Sometimes the simple act of going outdoors for a walk in the sunshine leads to a friendly ‘hello’ from a neighbour. Sometimes a trip to the library, to a coffee shop, or to attend a social event helps.  Perhaps it’s re-involvement with an activity you have always enjoyed.  Perhaps it means taking a bold step to try something new.

Moving your body and getting physical exercise often brings both a surge of energy and a more positive frame of mind. The endorphins and serotonin released from physical excretion increase happiness and help to change your emotional state.

Spiritual connections are helpful when combating loneliness.  Faith in a higher power helps many to accept what happens to them. Attending a church  or other religious institution offers opportunities to take part in a community of faith which influences perspective and offers social engagement.

Spending time with children, especially grand children is a powerful antidote for feelings of loneliness.  Children need attention and lots of interaction.  They laugh easily, love unconditionally, and bring a smile.

For people with chronic bouts of loneliness, owning a pet can help to handle loneliness. Pet ownership brings increased responsibility and leads to feelings of purpose.  A pet will offer companionship and affection which is an added benefit. http://postworksavvy.com/pets-increase-retirement-happiness/

Changing how you think has a powerful impact. Self-pity and other negative thought patterns reinforce feelings of loneliness.  Use positive thinking as an additional method of handling loneliness. Techniques such as re-framing, taking a long view, and practicing gratefulness are methods that can change thinking.

Extended bouts of loneliness can leave you feeling sad, even depressed.  If loneliness persists for extended periods of time, professional clinical intervention should be considered.

Handling loneliness takes energy. The steps I’ve recommended may not result in immediate change but will begin a process of change that gets you back to feeling like yourself.



Can a Password Mantra Change Habits?

Can a password mantra change habits? Have you tried using a mantra to reinforce a habit change? Can you use a computer password to reinforce your mantra?

This idea of using a computer password as a mantra sounds weird — yet intriguing.

To reinforce a new habit of keeping only two items per day on my retirement schedule, I’ve developed a personal mantra to remind me. Would changing my password reinforce the mantra?

Mantras as Passwords

The strategy of using a password mantra to change a habit came from hearing an interview on The Spark, a CBC program (cbc.ca/spark) about technology.   Nora Young, the host, interviewed Mauricio Estrella who described how he achieved life changing goals by changing his computer password every 30 days. Mauricio began using his password to make positive relationship changes with his wife.

His computer at work required a password change every 30 days.  On a whim, Mauricio began using positive affirmations —like forgiveness, respect, admiration — for his password. He adapted the affirmation into a password which then became his mantra.

This idea was interesting.  Because passwords need to be entered frequently, could a password change a habit?

Research on habits indicates that it usually takes about 30 days or about 100 repetitions create a new habit.  There is no hard and fast rule but the time frame must be of sufficient duration to produce new behaviour.

By using a positive affirmation in the form of a password mantra you prompt your inner voice each time you enter the password. This is a simple digital trick to reinforce the affirmation in your brain.

What is a mantra and how is it used?

A mantra is typically a Sanskrit word or words uttered repeatedly during meditation.  It is a powerful method to calm the mind and to create positive energy in the body.

Psychological or sacred power is believed to come from repetition of a mantra.

“Change your password — Change your life”

Learning Sanskrit isn’t a necessary prerequisite to use a mantra for your password. You don’t need to meditate or chant.

Instead, create a password that is some combination of a word with numbers and symbols that states the change you are undertaking. Each time you enter the password you will validate the mantra and reinforce the habit change in your brain.

Connecting the entry of a password to open a computer program is a simple way of connecting an ordinary activity with changing a habit, or living a bigger dream, or achieving a life aspiration.

The password mantra will trigger your brain and act as an unconscious tracking tool. It still sounds a bit weird, but I’m giving it at try!  I hope that some of my readers will be sufficiently intrigued to try it as well!



Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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