Maintaining Relevance

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“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” ~ Satchel Paige

At a recent professional conference a keynote invited those present to publicly share what they feared. A colleague in her late 60’s responded “losing relevance.”

What would your response have been?

As a trailing-edge boomer, I cross paths with many people who are thinking about “retirement.” Note I said thinking about, not necessarily planning for it. What I find fascinating is that, more and more, those giving intentional thought to active lifestyle change are open to doing something besides playing board games or painting (not to disparage either). They seek increased engagement.

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I have yet to hear anyone at this life stage say they want to be bored. Or to become insignificant. Most people want to create and strengthen meaningful connections and to broaden their community. They have the energy and drive to explore and effect change; they’re just unsure what to do next.

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For those interested in doing something entirely new, the possibilities are boundless – often limited only by their own beliefs and stories. For those open to discovering and experiencing something unfamiliar, here are five popular gigs that “retirees” are stepping into and enjoying:

  • Tour Guide Operator – allows a coupling of personal travel interests with social interaction and exercise
  • Virtual Assistant – as the title implies, the work can be done virtually and you get to determine what assistance you provide
  • Uber Driver – an opportunity to meet new people, see new vistas, and you define your personal workload
  • Peace Corp Volunteer – seven percent of volunteers are aged 50+. A new adventure with a humanitarian focus where you can share accumulated wisdom and experience, often benefiting the less fortunate
  • Tutor – anyone, of any age. People love to learn. Sometimes they simply need another caring individual to help them navigate new subject matter.

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What you choose to do next could easily keep you pertinent. It need not be a complex undertaking. A willingness to play in some initial uncertainty might be the very stimulation you seek… maybe it could become vastly rewarding.

There are numerous ways in which to maintain one’s relevance. And not just as “retirement” approaches.  Here are three to consider:

  1. Stay curious. Welcome learning and acquire knowledge any way you can. Share your discoveries with others. In doing so, you show you are willing to try new things, even (gasp!) methods considered outside the box.
  2. Meet new people. Negative friends drain us. Positive friends propel us forward. Our possibilities can be limited by our current ‘network.’ Rejuvenating your network is an important part of staying relevant.
  3. Get your hearing checked. Seriously. Not being able to hear potentially puts you out of touch with people. As we age we tend to deny natural loss of hearing. Eventually younger people shut out the hearing challenged and move conversations elsewhere. One must hear to remain relevant.

Accepting Predicaments

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“If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants you to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law, and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.” ~ Dan Millman

It is generally acknowledged that there are two things we can count on in life: death and taxes. I would offer there are two more: stress and pain, which reveal in emotions such as shame, guilt, fear and anger. And when we experience these, we often feel the need to “fix” them.

Have you ever found yourself wondering, “What would it be like to have no problems?” Imagine the stress in that world! Think this through… having problems or challenges actually enables you to develop creative solutions. And once you’ve solved a problem, you feel a sense of fulfillment. Right? If you had no challenges, boredom would set in and boredom can be seriously stressful.

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There are lessons in predicaments, pain and inconvenience. They actually describe for us a way of being. Our work can be done from the perspective that life’s challenges teach us and we grow through the opportunities of problems. As difficult as they may be, they do make life interesting. (And yes, “interesting” may not be the ideal descriptor).

In my observations, most people feel that when their life is filled with resistance, obstacles and challenges, it’s because they are doing something wrong. To an earlier reference, we launch in “fixer” mode. We ask ourselves, “What do I need to do to get rid of this?” or “How can I fix this problem so it goes away?”

When things don’t go our way, we get upset, sometimes angry. And stressed.

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Here are two thoughts; perhaps you’ve considered them: 1) Simply focus on the things that really matter and; 2) The solutions to the problems you face are already within you. You only need to bring your energy and attention to them.

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As you encounter life’s predicaments here are three ways in which to ease their acceptance:

  1. Respond with a positive attitude. Challenges often have two participants: a victor and a victim. Victor’s mentally prepare, using tools to boost their confidence and positively rise above the pain or challenge. Victims frequently choose to accept the status quo.
  2. Promote patience. When confronted with a challenge, permit the circumstances to fully reveal before making judgments. Allowing time to pass can help to facilitate change. Make use of available techniques (prayer, meditation, contemplation) to learn the virtues of patience and endurance.
  3. Banish self-pity. Yes, people still have pity parties. And if that’s where one chooses to spend time, so be it. Be watchful though for the “It’s not fair” or “Why me?” statements when things are challenging. Those reactions can reflect an attitude of entitlement. Be open to accepting these situations as gifts rather than suffering.

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Proportion

1193640557_d9fa8902e2_m“You are wholly complete and your success in life will be in direct proportion to your ability to accept this truth about you.” ~ Dr. Robert Anthony

When I think of proportion, finding the right mix is what comes to mind. Concepts of balance, unity, measurement, harmony or relative size might come to mind for you as well. Proportion can be simply defined as the proper relation between two things.

Proportion is abundant in its everyday presence. It applies to and we find it in/with:

  • investment allocations
  • food servings
  • sleep or lack of
  • sun exposure
  • use of time
  • relationships
  • spending/saving
  • Barbie dolls
  • scare resource use
  • home decorating
  • determining where to live
  • social media use
  • architecture
  • exercising
  • “work-life”
  • giving/tithing

6828186220_23d97e16c5_mThere will always be a mix that is appropriate for you and according to where you are in life. The challenge with proportions is how to consciously manage them. For example, how do you act at an all-you-can-eat buffet? Do you skimp on vital sleep at the expense of your health? Is you exercise regimen excessive… or too infrequent? Do you use water judiciously?

How often do you think about the various mixes in your life? Is there too much or too little of some things?

108139247_81df889079_mIf you’re open to reflecting on proportion, here are three steps you can consider taking:

  1. Focus on your mind and body. Start in small ways and find what level of healthy habits work well for you. Pursue being fit. Take a 20 minute walk. The same goes for your mind. A fresh mind is a fresh spirit. Read two out–of-the-ordinary articles each week. Listen to a podcast once a week. Spoken and written words enliven and harmonize our minds. Be rich in thoughts.
  2. Eliminate things that frustrate you. (This aligns with my recent post on being inconvenienced.) If getting home late on Fridays kills social events and puts a strain on important relationships, leave work a little early or limit your travel on Fridays. There can be endless sources of frustration in your life which yield disproportionate reactions. Simply take time to identify and manage them.
  3. Be intentional about time and proportion. Think of each year as 365 days of equal value, and then set out to get full value from each one no matter what you are doing.

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Stepping Into the Unknown

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“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” ~ Barbara J. Winter

During my recent, brief blogging hiatus, I spent time reflecting on why I and others are often hesitant (if not outright frightened) when it comes to choosing action that requires us to step into the unknown. I know why I sometimes proceed cautiously and at other times, jump in headfirst. Each of us deals with our own blocks and how we break through them or allow them to hinder our growth.

I wondered how much time people actually dedicate to thinking about and addressing the unique rationale for why they cannot or will not step into the unknown. Or how for some, it’s simply a matter of ‘why not?’

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For those of you unfamiliar with BBC One, the U.K. based broadcaster produces some exquisite videos. I particularly enjoy their “Life Story” pieces. Unfortunately, BBC One prohibits some of their videos from being posted to YouTube in the U.S. Instead, I invite you to click this link and (in just two minutes) watch a newborn Barnacle Gosling experience its maiden flight, fearlessly!

My take, after having watched this clip, is if that little one can leap out of its nest and into a vast unknown, I can too! I may have a bumpy ride and end up a little dazed, but I’ll still land on something solid from which to grow forward.

2699398136_0041c8b9fe_mIf you won’t take action because you’re unsure of its outcome or you’re afraid of what might/could happen, consider these three perspectives:

  1. Next time you make a decision, make sure you are doing it because it is indeed a better choice for you, and not simply because it’s the nearest patch of safe ground. If your choice leads you through a period where you just don’t know what will happen, see if you can politely let uncertainty sit down with you. Despite its bad reputation, you never know what it might bring to the table.
  2. Inhale, exhale, and smile. In the end, not knowing can be scary, but liberating and profound. Think of yourself in the midst of a turbulent sea and you are afloat without knowing where anything will go. But this is always true, even of people who don’t admit it to themselves. Enjoy the ride. Look at the amazing place you’re in and acknowledge it. This path of not knowing, is the path of life itself.
  3. If you’re afraid of getting in trouble, remember you’re already in bigger trouble by not following your heart. If you listen to the voice of your fears, you’ll live an empty life. But if you listen to the voice of your heart, you’re likely to live a remarkable life. Cliche but… there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Dread du jour

3291312140_078c833b7d_m“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important.” ~ Ambrose Redmoon

I went online today to do some research. I figured mainstream news feeds might have the data I sought. What an ugly mistake. For readers unaware, I don’t watch television/cable, nor do I read newspapers or magazines. And my online experience today reaffirmed why I do not.

I quickly scanned several well-known sources and 37 out of 39 articles (yes, I counted) featured stories about doom and gloom. The ‘hit parade’ included headlines screaming about:

  • Ebola
  • terrorism
  • climate change
  • social injustices
  • illegal immigration
  • police brutality
  • political propaganda
  • economic demise
  • inadequate militaries
  • religious superiority
  • murders, deaths, out of control crime
  • extremists everything

Not a single positive, feel good or constructive story. Just fear and demise.

2137382661_7f43df918a_mBewildered, I asked myself, “Is this really what we have let ourselves become?” “Have we given in to those who fulminate?” “Are people really buying into the endless dread the media is stoking?”

Fear in any form is an impediment to the free flow of our existence and growth. It limits and restricts our ability to navigate our lives. Fear drains significant emotional energy that otherwise could be available to manifest our inalienable desires and intentions.

308920348_1c265895d9_mFEAR is an acronym in the English language for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Politicians, religious zealots, military decision-makers and greedy corporate leaders use fear simply to advance their agendas and fortunes.

I/you/we don’t have to ingest this daily dosing of fear. We have enough going on in our own lives to keep us challenged, to sustain our wellness, to fuel our dreams, and to fulfill our happiness goals. We’ve got possibilities and opportunities on which to focus and enjoy!

3001987805_14f8beee82_mCertain fears are valid and sometimes, fear can be useful. But not an endless onslaught. If you desire to reclaim some peace, assurance, and hope in your life, you can. For starters, consider these ideas when you feel overwhelmed by fear:

  1. Accept that you will be fearful. If you accept that you will have fear and it is a natural part of life, then you can move on and take action. Not everything needs to be an apocalypse. Fear will always be with us and when we recognize it we can endure it with courage. We will not get rid of fear but accepting it will make it that much easier to take the next positive step.
  2. Manage your sources of fear. When terrible things happen, there isn’t a reason to force yourself to participate. Watching endless repeats of violent newscasts or disasters will increase your fear greatly and for nothing in return other than awful images and worries. It often only makes you feel more helpless.
  3. What could I be doing instead? There is little use driving yourself crazy wondering “what if?” A lot of what you read/hear is fabricated anyway and out of your control. If you are powerless, focus instead on what you can control. Events that you have no influence on are a waste of your time; even though “the voices” want you to believe everything.

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Jumping Off the Bandwagon

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~ Albert Einstein

WARNING: This post is not about Robin Williams.

I may lose readers after having read this post and that’s fine. This blog has never been about the numbers game. It’s about stirring your soul… and encouraging you to look into yourself… to realize your potential… and to focus on what really matters — how you choose to use your gifts, live, and contribute to humanity.

Earlier today I scrolled through the WordPress Reader and recent posts on other social media sites. I knew I’d see them but was astounded at how many people jumped on the Robin Williams bandwagon. Then I intentionally paused to process what I’d seen and read.

I have nothing against Robin Williams. He was a creative and talented man. He brought laughter and thought into many people’s lives, in and out of character. He battled his own demons. And I began to wonder, why does it often require a celebrity, fame, or someone with name recognition, to call our attention to social issues, serious needs, and opportunities? Why do people frequently hold up and pay tribute to talented individuals, people with marquee names, upon their passing?

What about mankind’s masses who struggle and are similarly burdened but are not wealthy, famous and/or “successful?”

In the above video, Clark Little tells how he has chosen to pursue his passion. He didn’t do what everyone else was doing. He blazed his own trail. And he’s loving every minute of life. He’s focused on and using his personal gifts to fulfill his potential. He’s not a lemming; expending energy on simply doing what many others are doing.

Sure there are lessons to be learned from Robin Williams’s choice to end his life. He has, as have others before him, rekindled and created awareness about mental health and addiction. They are real problems and warrant attention. But does jumping on the viral bandwagon to share a few kind words about him change anything?

So you may be saying, what’s your point Eric? Well, it’s pretty simple. Each of us, however illuminated our names are in lights, has unlimited potential. We possess personal gifts and skills. We have enormous, untapped capacity to live our purpose.

The questions then: Are you? Are you acting in your own unique way to effect change? Change that you desire and value? Are your actions genuinely aligned with what really matters? If they are/you are not, what are you waiting for? Are you your own leader? Are you creating moments that are meaningful, even if there is no fame, fortune or popularity involved?

When young, ducklings follow the brace because it’s instinctive. Humans, too. But what makes our species special is that we don’t have to paddle or flock in formation. We can soar in any direction we want. And create amazing outcomes, singularly.

How Easy is Change?

“It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You kind of shake it up and we start all over again.” ~ Eric Fehrnstrom

Such a cool childhood toy. An unsung predecessor to the iPad. Reflecting on the Etch-A-Sketch, I found it an apt metaphor for transformation, for change, for rebirthing (in a non-psychotherapy context).

With an Etch-A-Sketch you simply created a drawing by turning the two knobs simultaneously. What you created on the screen could be emblematic of anything: your potential, your beliefs, your attitude or your best stick-figure persona. As you created, you evaluated your results. (Okay, maybe as a child you weren’t evaluating but you get the point). 🙂 And if you didn’t like the results, you just turned the screen upside down, gave it a shake, and started anew.

Looking at our lives, we want:

  • To feel
  • To learn
  • To grow
  • To stretch
  • To shift
  • To move through
  • To overcome
  • To embrace and trust our ability to transform, your self, your family, your community, perhaps, the world.

And you can. Often, it’s as easy as reviewing what you have created in your life. If you aren’t jazzed with what you’re facing, turn it upside down, shake things up a little, and move forward. Clean and fresh.

So how can you effect change, easily? Here are three starters for your consideration:

  1. Be honest with yourself. Most people around you won’t be honest with you. Human nature steers us away from conflict and hurting others feelings so it’s important to be able to identify your abilities and limitations and understand how others perceive you. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you adapt.
  2. Focus on what you can do. People fail because they immediately attach their attention to the negative. They do (though some of you may find this surprising)! Change your thinking and work the part of your plan you can. Do everything you can.
  3. Share yourself. Too often, we miss the value of sharing our feelings. We don’t want to be vulnerable so we hold back. In doing so, we deprive others of our experience, our learning and our humanity. When you share from your own experiences, you increase your empathy, you’re more approachable and you increase your relatability to others.

The moon changes effortlessly. Any reason you can’t too?

It’s Not Always So

“At any given moment you have the power to say this is NOT how the story is going to end. ” ~ Author Unknown

Many of us have received or know someone who has received a serious medical diagnosis. Perhaps a terminal pronouncement. Even with access to second and possibly more professional opinions, despair and resignation often sets in.

This post is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and treatment. And I’m not advocating self-diagnosis. What I am trying to create awareness around is that you are not always your diagnosis. To significant extents, in some cases, one’s physical and mental wellness is more about perspective, choice, and mind-set.

A diagnosis is inherently a label that denotes that sickness or pathology is present. Invariably, a diagnosis is then associated with negative emotional responses and assumptions, which stimulate stress responses to varying degrees.

In reality, a diagnosis reflects an imbalance in the body that is caused by a variety of factors – genetics and lifestyle behaviors being just two of them. When someone understands they are not their diagnosis, nor are they prisoners to it, they start the process of breaking free from limiting beliefs and labels. This opens the door to the possibility that a positive outcome is possible.

Illness and life problems can be reckoned with and other options for outcomes are possible. People have a choice about how they are going to go about handling their challenge(s).

Modern (Western) medicine offers success rates for recovery greater than ever before, even for serious illnesses. Some situations that would have been considered hopeless are now viewed as fairly commonplace, with patients routinely surviving and thriving. Even with medical advancements, though, there are still conditions where modern medicine holds no promise of recovery. For these patients, as well as those who simply prefer to explore treatment outside the medical mainstream, there is an ever-growing arena of alternative medicine approaches.

Given that “it’s not always so,” there are many things one can do if diagnosed with a serious ailment. Among them, these three:

  1. Do what makes you happy first. Sometimes one can feel like they’re going through days on autopilot. That can get tedious and depressing. Consider starting the day off on a positive note by engaging in an enjoyable activity. This can completely shift one’s outlook and lift the spirit.
  2. Help someone else. Take the focus away from you and do something nice for another person. It can take your mind off of more challenging things and you’ll likely feel better helping someone else.
  3. Take time to strengthen/rejuvenate your mind and body. The treatment road ahead could be grueling and you’ll want to be in good physical and emotional condition. Go on long hikes in the mountains, eat super healthy foods, and meditate. Picture yourself (if the patient is you) healthy and visualize good strong blood cells destroying whatever has invaded your body.

There is truth to the saying “mind over body.” Augmenting positive beliefs with positive lifestyle changes, can yield amazing outcomes. I know this.

I’ll Do It When…

“Instant gratification is not soon enough.” ~ Meryl Streep

I’ve been reading about stress management and a factor that contributes to stress, namely, impulse control. Impulse control is defined as the ability to resist or delay an impulse, drive, or temptation to act. It entails a capacity for accepting one’s aggressive impulses, being composed, and controlling aggression, hostility, and irresponsible behavior. Many people have been or are still challenged by impulsive tendencies and actions.

Soon I found myself reading about an interrelated issue: immediate versus deferred or delayed gratification (which to me, was much more interesting than studying impulse control). The more I searched, though, the more lop-sided I found the gratification topic. There seems an abundance of studies and writing about delayed gratification and how it can change your approach to many things in life. However, one has to dig deeper to find comparable arguments favoring immediate gratification or for ‘doing it now.’

Many people advocate ‘a pleasure delayed is a pleasure enhanced.’ The advantage, they believe, is that delayed gratification is an excellent way to weed out the fake pleasures of life from the true. These same people expand upon and caution about opportunity costs and the need for careful deliberation. And they raise valid considerations.

Readers of this blog know that I encourage conscious and intentional choice. I’ve worked with a fair share of clients who invoke sayings such as, “I’ll do it when I finish…” or “I’ll finally go when I…” or “When my kids ______, then I’ll…”

It is a choice. When you choose to act is measurably, if not entirely, up to you. Right? Unfairly though, people who choose not to delay gratification have often been characterized as irrational and as having poor impulse control. This is untrue according to researchers at the Colorado University-Boulder, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

I’ll leave you with three reasons why you may want to reconsider what you’re choosing to delay or defer:

  1. You could die first. Actuarial tables say that roughly 17% of men will die between age 25 and 65. Will you be one of them? It’s a gamble you take. For women, the odds are better, but there’s still roughly a 10% chance you’ll die from the age of 25 to 65.
  2. Life gets in the way. Life has a way of getting more complicated as you get older. You could marry someone who doesn’t want to travel or your current partner may decide they don’t want to. You could end up having to take care of your parents as they age. In short, a thousand things could change, making it harder for you to do what you want at a later date.
  3. Will you be healthy enough? Our health can often take a turn for the worse as we age. Anxious to go on a walkabout through the Australian Outback or hike up the Acropolis? You may want to do things when you’re healthy enough.

Perhaps Ms. Steep, in her opening quote, is on to something.

Antidotes for Inaction

 “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” ~ Richard Bach

For nearly a decade, the coaching field has been my playground. Not sports coaching (though I had the privilege of serving in that capacity, earlier in life) but personal and life coaching. To date, I have pretty much heard it all. And you have likely heard the echoes of my clients claims. In fact, I’d wager many of you have wrestled with some of the same challenges.

Coaching is unique to each individual. The client sets the agenda and determines the focus for our conversations and collaborative efforts. Over time, I’ve found that much of what each of us wants can be found in clarity about possibilities, choice, and self-belief.

Rather than dwell on limiting beliefs (because the common ones are known), what if we considered antidotes that can shift one’s mindset? That prefaced, let’s explore three…

1. People are accomplished at creating excuses for staying stuck. They comfortably default to being fearful of making mistakes, invoking an unwillingness to embrace the unknown, and expressing concerns about appearing “less than” to themselves and others. I’m sorry to break this to (the proverbial) you but that’s life — uncertainty, uncontrolled, and unlimited.

What to do: Stretch yourself out of your comfort zone (here’s a related post). Determine what an exciting and enriching life would be/is for you and accept the challenges involved to create and live that life. If you choose not to ‘go for it,’ then the inaction is yours. Disallow your ego to rule and ruin your dreams. You have a choice: stretch yourself or become comfortable with your status quo.

2. My financial resources aren’t enough. And for some people this is true. Yet for many, it’s simply a convenient excuse. Regrettably, people choose to live life in scarcity. I’ve posted about this, too. It’s an easier position to take than to access and use your trove of capabilities, skills, and personal gifts. In addition to fear, claims of financial scarcity are often what anchor people and prevent them from exploring and effecting change. Potentially exciting change!

What to do: Dispel the “I can’t” belief. Vanquish it! It’s more empowering to let it go than to hold onto a limiting belief. Understand that the more you allow yourself to take control, the more you tap into your ability to be of service and be compensated from what you enjoy and do naturally. Know this: each of us has something important to offer that others need, and will pay you well for.

3. What if I fail? Well who hasn’t? 🙂 Doubt is the bane of self-confidence. It drains us. Many people doubt outcomes before they have even launched an initiative. If something doesn’t work out, deal with it. You will become stronger, more confident and more capable than you were before you tried this new approach.

Self-belief is powerful. It’s intoxicating. When you see it, feel it, and know it, there is often no stopping people. This post sheds light on and explains the strength that abounds in confidence. And there’s nothing new or magical about choosing to take action. What action yields when coupled with self-belief can be transformational.

Why not push, now? Can you accept the notion that if you want something different in your life, there is no better time than now to take action and bring your desire into being?