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.

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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.


Oh Canada — Celebrating Canada Day

“Oh Canada, our home and native land” — we’ll sing these words of the national anthem tomorrow as we celebrate Canada Day, our national holiday.

Canada Day is a time to contemplate the benefits and privileges of Canadian citizenship. Here are my top ten.

1.  I value the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which forms part of the Canadian Constitution.  The Charter guarantees  freedom of conscience, religion, thought, assembly, and association.  It also guarantees the right to vote.

2.  I value the  Canadian way of life. Canadians are polite and generous, yet reserved.  They accept diversity, are slow to judge, and, generally, keep their political and religious ideas private.

3.  I value living in a country that has many regional differences.  Sometimes when traveling just a hundred miles, it’s possible to feel that you are in another country.  The biggest contrast is between English and French Canada; but, the lifestyles of people from the prairies, the Northern territories, the Maritime provinces, and the West coast have unique features. There are also differences in lifestyles of big cities and the small rural towns.

4. I am proud of the Canadian flag that prominently features the maple leaf.  Although Canada’s international reputation has been tarnished in the past ten years, Canadians still proudly wear the flag as a lapel pin when traveling abroad.

Celebrating Canada Day - photo courtesy of meddygarnet
Oh Canada — a comic character holds our flag!  photo courtesy of meddygarnet

5.  I’m proud of Canada’s food heritage.  Here are some of my best food memories:  Bannock cooked over an open fire served by an elder at a feast on a First Nation community in Northern Ontario,  Lake Huron yellow perch cooked to perfection in my favourite Grand Bend restaurant;  butter tarts from a Saskatchewan bakery, cod and chips in a Newfoundland diner, freshly caught salmon cooked to perfection on the beach in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, a fresh lobster dinner in Nova Scotia, home made perogies and venison at a retirement dinner in Kenora, Ontario, and, a pail of oysters with a bottle of hot sauce from Cape Breton roadside stand.

6.  There’s no point of thinking about Canada’s food without mention of the excellent wine from Ontario and British Columbia wineries.  During the past 15 years, Canadian vintners have won many international awards for ice wines.  We regularly enjoy outings to wineries in the Niagara region where chefs pair local food with their best wines.  I also love that most Canadian wines are bottled with screw tops!

7.  I can get excited about some Canadian sports.  I’ve recently enjoyed seeing the Canadian women play in the FIFA World Cup.  Too bad that men’s soccer stinks in Canada. I love hockey but watch only international games as the NHL has become a waste of time.  It’s too commercial and too violent. The Pan Am Games begin in Toronto on July 7.  We were unsuccessful in our quest for tickets for the velodrome bike races; that means that television broadcasts will need to suffice.

8. I am grateful for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation aka CBC. The CBC provides excellent radio and television coverage of world news,  Canadian news, and Canadian culture in both languages. If I can’t listen or watch it everyday, I check cbc.ca to get updates — it feels like an addiction!

9.  I am proud of the multicultural nature of Canadian society.  Since the early nineteenth century Canada has welcomed immigrants from every corner of the world.  My ancestors came from continental Europe in 1900.  My husband is an immigrant who arrived in 1957 on a student visa and remained here to pursue his career and to acquire Canadian citizenship. Canada also welcomes refugees from war-torn countries with generous re-settlement policies.

10.  I acknowledge the role of Aboriginal and First Nations people in the making of our nation. During my career, I was privileged to visit many First Nations communities.  I learned about their rich culture and history.  I participated in sacred ceremonies.  In retirement, I struggle to understand what can be done to make sure that aboriginal people have a place of opportunity in our country. Despite the Prime Minister’s apology to  former students of Residential Schools and the recent report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, public policy in Canada fails the significant needs of our First people. Treaties are ignored.  Calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women are ignored. On Canada day, I’ll give thanks for the contributions of First Nations in making our country what it is and I’ll keep searching for ways to give more opportunity to our First people.

As citizens, Canadians need to value and celebrate the many advantages we enjoy.  Our climate is not perfect and our laws can always be improved, but, overall, there is much to appreciate and celebrate.  The anthem goes on with these words “Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee”.  Indeed there is much to guard!

For all Canadian readers — enjoy this holiday and celebrate the wonders of our country.

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Positive Self-Talk and Positive Thinking

One of the secrets of a happy retirement is using positive self-talk and positive thinking. I’ve had a reminder of this truth in the last few days.

After their annual health examination, our veterinarian recommended that our 13-year-old cats needed to be anesthetized to have their teeth cleaned and to have extractions of decayed teeth.  This happened last week.

During the surgery, we received a call from the animal hospital indicating that one of the cats had a large mass, about 1 inch by 2.5 inches in her throat.  Because of the size of the mass, cancer was suspected. To properly diagnose the mass, ultra sound and biopsy were necessary.  During the phone call, I agreed to the procedure as well as agreeing that the mass should be lanced and drained.

My self-talk said that our cat might as well die with clean and shining teeth. I had already assumed that such a large mass indicated that she had cancer.

When I got off the phone, I immediately told my husband that the cat had cancer and might need to be euthanized.  He was upset as well but his response was ‘let’s not jump to any conclusion — we don’t know that it’s cancer.”

When our cat came home, her neck was shaved, there was an incision with a long line of sutures, and she was wearing a restraining bandage.  She was in distress and let us know with cries through the night. I cradled her head and tried to keep her comfortable at the expense of my sleep.

In my mind, her behaviour confirmed the diagnosis I had imagined. My husband quietly comforted the cat and kept telling me to wait for the biopsy results before leaping to a catastrophic conclusion about her condition.

Self talk

Throughout the day, everyday, each of us keeps a constant mental dialogue. Thoughts come and go giving the brain messages about what you should or shouldn’t do.

Self esteem and feelings self-worth are affected by both positive and negative self-talk.  Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into patterns of negativity and pessimism where we seem to be waiting for the sky to fall — or the cat to die! A cycle of worry begins.

Events happen that generate feelings and emotions.  The brain processes the event and decides whether to react positively or negatively. In the case of our cat, my brain jumped to a negative conclusion.

In decision theory as taught years ago in business school, I learned to consider the worst possible outcome, the best possible outcome, and the most likely outcome before making any decision.

Unfortunately, I often focus too much on the worst possible outcome while hoping that a different, more positive outcome will bring a happy surprise. I know that much of this comes from deeper psychological processes. Usually I am aware of this tendency. I try to change my thoughts to envision an optimistic and positive outcome.

Self talk transforms thinking in any situation.  It affects perceptions and reactions.  It is also habitual. With awareness and practice, it’s possible to change cynical and negative self-talk patterns. Additional techniques include affirmations, mindfulness, self-care, and gratitude — all material for another post!

Cats truly have nine lives!

Here’s the good news — the biopsy indicated that mass in our cat’s throat is benign.  As a result of the lancing and drainage, it is reduced in size. The lump may or may not recur as it relates to a treatable thyroid condition. After the sutures are removed, fur will grow back to cover the incision. It may be true that cats have nine lives!

Here is a shot of our beautiful Tinkerbell before the surgery
Here is a shot of our beautiful Tinkerbell before the surgery

My husband’s ‘wait and see’ approach and his stubborn belief that the cat would survive kept him from taking a negative approach. For me, it’s been another lesson about positive self-talk and positive thinking!

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If you liked this post, you may also like Does the Way We Think Matter?

Boredom — or Too Many Choices?

Is there a link between boredom and too many choices? Does choice overload lead to boredom? Does it lead to longing for more simplicity?

No matter what decision is needed, there are many options to consider before choosing.

At the grocery store, the cereal aisle features box after attractive box of cereal. The varieties are endless, yet the choice I make usually is the ‘tried and true’ option. I choose the familiar and then wonder why I’m bored with the same taste every time I eat cereal.

Likewise, when looking at movies playing at the local cinemas, the choice is overwhelming. Staying home and watching something on Netflicks is boring, but easier. If the Netflicks choice is disappointing, changing to another movie is easy.

Choice Overload

Futurist Alvin Toffler in his book, Future Shock, first introduced the term ‘choice overload’.  His work, describing changes into a technological society, postulated that too much change left people disoriented and overloaded with information, hence the term ‘choice overload’.

Society has evolved since Future Shock was published. Urban alienation means that people have fewer close ties within their neighbourhoods.  People involved with information work often have a broad network but fewer empathic connections with each other.

Smart phones allow effortless information seeking about product choices.  Anybody can do brand research while shopping — but how often does this happen? Most often the familiarity and predictability of known brands becomes the default.  This is particularly true when someone has spent the day working with too much stimulation or dealing with  difficult life decisions.

The dark side of too many choices

Choice overload happens to everyone.  It happens everyday.

Whether it’s a choice at the grocery store, a choice of how to spend time, a choice of a new vehicle, or a choice of an investment, it’s tempting to tune out and avoid considering the options.

Everyday decisions become overwhelming.  Choice overload leads to frustration and stress even when the benefits of various choices are unequal. People fear that they will make the wrong decision which will lead to regret.

Selecting a television program from a menu listing too many  sit-coms, police shows, re-runs, and reality shows often results in indecision. While it’s wonderful to have a hundred or more channels from which to pick a program, the array of choices leads to the conclusion that everything on offer is boring which, thankfully, means that I watch very little television.

In a time when there are so many choices for time utilization, it becomes difficult to stay interested and absorbed in any given activity. When choices overwhelm, paralysis and boredom result.

Boredom and Choice Overload

Too much stimulation often creates difficulty attending to any one thing. Motivation to assess available options before making a decision may exist and may lead to product research or decision analysis. However, exhaustion from assessing the merits of what is on offer soon occurs, especially if the options are of similar or equal value.

Too many choices bring monotony. The feeling is similar to boredom. There is difficulty focusing attention. The over-stimulation of choosing among options that are different, yet quite similar, leads to postponing a decision or resorting to a default position — perhaps the lowest price, or the easiest to install.

Managing Choice Overload

It’s important to learn to recognize and manage choice overload as it affects behaviour. In most situations we neither want nor need numerous choices.

By narrowing the decision to essential components, many choices can be eliminated. If you want a certain make or model of car and it has the components you need, then there is no point in visiting other car dealers.

Sometimes the choice is inconsequential.  For example, one brand name detergent will likely perform as well as another.   When options look to be of equal value, don’t dither.  Just pick one and get on with more important things.

Sometimes deferring an important decision is the best option especially if you  feel tired.  The advice of ‘sleep on it’ applies. Awareness of choice overload is important when making important decisions.  When both my husband and I worked, we usually met our financial advisor after work.  Meetings often lasted until late in the evening.  As I look back at some of the decisions we made, I wonder how smart we were when both of us were too tired to give proper consideration to available options.

I’m interested in reader’s opinions.  Do you recognize choice overload when faced with it? How do you deal with choice overload?  Does it lead to postponing decisions?  Does it lead to boredom? Do you spend too much time on inconsequential decisions yet hurry to a conclusion on important matters?




Retirement Indulgences

Retirement indulgences are highly individualistic pleasures.  Some consider them ‘guilty pleasures’.

I consider retirement indulgences the benefits of life after work.   Retirement indulgences are those pleasures that give enjoyment and make life worth living. There is no guilt involved.

Retirement is the time in life to indulge in freedoms that come with growing older, having time for yourself, and finding contentment in your own way.

When I think of my retirement indulgences, I begin with those things I consider my ‘morning delights’.  These delights include freshly brewed coffee that  I drink while sitting in my favourite chair in living room, noticing the rhythms of the neighbourhood waking, and playing with my cats.  I listen to world news on CBC, write in my journal, and make a plan for the day.  Later, my husband joins me with his coffee and it’s time for some conversation. Starting the day slowly and deliberately is truly one of my retirement indulgences — something there was never time to enjoy when rushing to leave the house for work.

Another retirement indulgence is nap time. Whether it’s a nap during a rainy afternoon, a nap after a vigorous gym workout, or a quick nap after dinner, a nap restores energy. Taking a nap when I feel like it is an indulgence.  It makes me happy and brings feelings of overall well-being.

Spending time playing with my grand-daughter is another retirement indulgence.  I pick her up from Montessori school and take her to the park, or bake muffins with her, or simply play chase or other games of her choosing.  I’m happy that I don’t have to miss hearing her laughter and squeals of delight.  I watch as she conquers developmental milestones and marvel at her accomplishments. The time I spend with this child can never be replaced.  There is no ‘clock’ time involved as I completely enjoy every moment.

No list of retirement indulgences is complete without mention of red wine or good chocolate.  Knowing that the antioxidants from grape skins may lead to reduced risk of heart disease makes indulging in red wine feel like making a choice for health, and not for pleasure.  Chocolate may also protect the heart and keep the brain agile.  Whether or not this is so, enjoying a glass of wine and few bites of chocolate is an indulgence to be enjoyed — retired or not! On a personal note, I will add oysters with hot sauce, a taste that I acquired many years ago while on a road trip through Cape Breton, freshly cooked spring asparagus from my garden, and perfectly ripened Ontario tomatoes.

Wearing comfortable clothes is another retirement indulgence.  I love my wardrobe of jeans, soft tee shirts, warm sweaters, and good walking shoes. On days when I have to ‘dress’ up for an event, I do so but I am happiest when I get home and don my comfy togs. I have vague, mostly uncomfortable, memories of business suits, panty hose, and pumps which were the work uniform that I sometimes wore for 16 hours straight.

Technology is another retirement indulgence.  High tech advances already offer wonderful connectivity benefits. The internet brings a world of information to any screen.  Most of us already enjoy smart phones, smart cars and smart devices in our homes.  Many older people use monitoring services that connect them to health management centers.  Smart appliances turn themselves off when not in active use.  Apps are available to monitor physiological and behavioral information that provides useful health feedback.  Soon, we’ll own self driving cars — something I look forward to so that I don’t have all those parking and reversing problems!

Having time for impromptu and planned visits with friends is another indulgence.  Whether it’s a phone call that brings a lunch invitation, or an email suggesting a game of bridge, or an opportunity for a weekend getaway, retirement makes easy to enjoy spontaneous activities.

This list of retirement indulgences is modest.  It could include travel to exotic locations, continuing education studies, pursuit of a new career, volunteering, time for hobbies, time for exercise, and a myriad of other activities available to retired people.  I’ve included the things that give me warm feelings of contentment and pleasure.

I hope I’ve tweaked your thoughts about retirement indulgences that matter to you.  Your list will differ, but I urge all postworksavvy readers to explore the pleasures of retirement that bring mental satisfaction and happiness.



Inspiration for a Happier Retirement

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