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.

Nosey or Curious

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“Curiosity is not an only child; it is part of a family of terms used by writers, scientists, and everyday people making conversation to capture the essence of recognizing, seeking out, and showing a preference for the new.” ~ Todd Kashdan

Yours truly is a curious guy. Always have been. And it has raised eyebrows at times. Some people who are unaccustomed to or uncomfortable with my staying interested and engaged in life have likened my desire to learn more about people, places, things and concepts – to being nosey.

Nosey is being unduly curious about the affairs of others; prying or being meddlesome. Think: Gladys Kravitz, who I am not. 🙂 Cue the proverb, “Curiosity killed the cat” which basically translates: beware of poking your nose into others’ business as it may get you into trouble.

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Some say a healthy curiosity serves us in many ways: It nurtures intelligence, contributes to good health and it often increases happiness. Curiosity is a state of arousal so it needs to be prompted. A spark simply launches the interest. Stimulating curiosity is like lighting a fire; once lit it keeps going and can become all-consuming. It can also be doused, if necessary.

An important facet in developing curiosity is to be open-minded whether in questioning anything in life or a task at hand. Some of us do this naturally and some of us drive people crazy with our open-mindedness. Rarely do we know, for sure, what a willingness to investigate something new and/or investing time in discovering a new interest might yield. Until we do.

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If you don’t consider yourself a curious person (maybe you prefer nosey), perhaps the thought of becoming so is now piqued. It doesn’t matter what you decide to become curious about as long as you have a willingness to explore. It could well make you a smarter and more interesting person. Any qualms with that?

I’m about adding spice to life. Maybe you enjoy bland over spicy. And sticking with your preference is fine. But if recognizing and seeking out the new appeals to you, here are three ways in which to develop curiosity:

  1. Ask questions constantly. One way to dig deeper beneath the surface is by asking questions. What, why, when, who, where and how are great sentence starters when engaging another individual. People love to share their knowledge and opinions so why not inquire? Relentlessly. 🙂
  2. Acknowledge your surroundings as dynamic and interesting. We easily become accustomed to what we see, smell, see and feel every day. Stop, think, and wonder about your surroundings as refreshing in their own way.
  3. Model curiosity. You can do this by exploring others’ passions, expanding on their ideas and engaging them in meaningful dialogue about what matters most, to them.

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Search On

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Hope
  • To be inspired
  • Discoveries

These were three of the most frequently searched words/terms in 2014, according to Google. Personally, I am encouraged by this news.

Permit me then, if you will, a somewhat disjointed post; one which makes sense to me though it may not be entirely clear to you.

Fresnel Lighting of Pigeon Point Lighthouse

What else might people be searching for beyond these three foci? Could it be around:

  • Forcing breaks or sealing cracks?
  • Being a puppet or pulling the strings?
  • How to act on one’s dreams?
  • Possibilities
  • Swimming with or against tides?
  • Being part of a cure or part of an ongoing disease?
  • How to be more open to exploring?
  • Calling
  • Could it be worse… or better?
  • How to summon strength you already have?
  • If I had wings, where could I fly?
  • Significance
  • What you want people to know about you
  • What lights will guide you home?
  • How to be a greater contributor?

Regardless of what you may be searching for — finding it, being it, and appreciating it, comes easier when you are inspired; whether through self-inspiration or by others. Would you agree?

92646099_cc9d599dee_mThere are countless ways in which to become inspired. You’ve read about them, you’ve practiced them, and you’ve seen others successfully embrace them. If you’re searching for or open to a couple of ideas, here are three on inspiring yourself or others:

  1. Create space. Be clear about your position on changes you believe you or another individual can take. But don’t force the change. Instead, give time and space to stay the same; to consider choices. Allow awareness and self-determination to make clear that impending change can bring about desired results.
  2. Consider non-conformity. Falling in step for the sake of business or social conformity makes hypocrites of most. It requires you to replace the real you with a fake you. Expecting that everyone follows rules made and imposed by others is a ploy that creates conformity, establishes control, and drains inspiration. People aren’t made with cookie cutters. You need to be you!
  3. Tell yourself a different story. The stories we tell ourselves inspire us or bring us to our knees. Invoke your inner story-teller and tell yourself better stories. Tell yourself stories about hope, inspiration, and strength; confidence, competence and compassion. Write and tell a new chapter, a new ending, a new story forward.

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Comfort Zones

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” ~ Max DePree

Those who knew me then, would say I was a relatively shy child. Even today, I am comfortable tagging myself as an introvert. A little insecurity is not a bad thing for a young person trying to find their grounding in the world. Yet overcoming initial insecurity makes one more self-confident and prepared to step out of their comfort zone. At least it did for me.

Animals in the wild have their comfort zones. A bear will return to its lair to lick its wounds or sleep the winter away. But it cannot survive for long without stepping outside its comfort zone. Unfortunately, most of us survive quite well living entirely inside our cocoons. Our lives, our habits, our thinking gets into a rut.

In an early 2012 survey of 5,000+ people, it was found that males have a larger comfort zone than females, but when broken down by ‘comfort zone types’ it’s clear that while men have a larger ‘professional comfort zone,’ women have a larger ‘lifestyle comfort zone.’

At one time, comfort zones served a purpose in our lives. But staying in that space does little to enable the growth most want to achieve now. Parting ways with your comfort zone and stepping into the world of personal expansion can present opportunities that will, in time, assist in refining your purpose. Starting small and choosing to shift beyond your limited comfort zones often exposes you to new experiences, opinions and interests.

It has been said that any challenge falls into one of three ‘zones’ – our comfort zone, our growth zone, and our panic zone. An unwillingness to move out of a panic or comfort zone and into a growth zone, is often indicative of a resistance to change. If you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself, here are three suggestions:

  1. Understand the truth about your habits. They represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully. That’s how habits grow and why they feel useful. To shift from what is less than ideal in your life, you need to give up on your tightly held habits and try new ways of thinking and acting. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas.
  2. Do something weird. One obvious way to leave your comfort zone, even if temporarily, is to do something new. But a more interesting option might be to do something weird. When you choose something new you may choose something that aligns with your personality and thus, comfort. This can be limiting. Instead, choose something that is out of character for you. Something that isn’t you and the people close to you wouldn’t think that you would do.
  3. Get a partner. There are some things that aren’t meant to be done alone. It’s amazing to see how much fun it is to explore and create with an ally alongside. And since you’re no longer alone in your adventure, you can feel safe as you step into a ‘growth zone.’ Find a partner. Make it happen.

Present Moment Mind-set

“But non-doing doesn’t have to be threatening to people who feel they always have to get things done. They might find they get even more ‘done,’ and done better, by practicing non-doing. Non-doing simply means letting things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way. Enormous effort can be involved, but it is a graceful, knowledgeable, effortless effort, a ‘doerless doing,’ cultivated over a lifetime.”  ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Yes this is the longest quote with which I’ve opened a post. Consider reading it again.

Recently, I wrote about patience. And no sooner did I share thoughts about the art of patience, then mine was tested. 🙂 I am rarely one to become angry with an individual who is lost or confused. My inclination is to understand and help, if possible. But if we have a driving experience in which we find ourselves feeling impatient, we can become agitated. The flip side is that by experiencing these feelings, we have an opportunity to see ourselves and monitor/change our reaction(s). So what did I do?

Here is something to ponder: As we age, chronologically, do we become more thoughtful and accepting of others’ behavior or do we become impatient and increasingly opinionated? My take is that whatever is showing up in our current experience is meant to be there or it wouldn’t be. This helps me put things into perspective. And even if you do not believe in fate, what happens in the present moment helps us to consider that everything has a useful meaning or purpose.

Put simply, being in the present moment (similar to flow), with any given situation, is about losing yourself in whatever you are doing – forgetting about the outside world and choosing to instead, focus your perspective. In my driving example and from a place of awareness, I can then choose to feel compassion for those who are banging their steering wheels and honking their horns at a confused driver, rather than join in (which I did not).

If mindfulness and being in the present moment seem an attractive ‘space,’ these three acts may help:

  1. When you eat, just eat. (Note to self:) When you are eating, do not think or read about something else or type a blog post. Just eat. Pay attention to what you are eating. Experience it – the taste, the texture. Savor the moment. Just do what you are doing now, and nothing else.
  2. Accept things. Acceptance of an unpleasant state does not mean you do not have goals for the future. It just means that certain things are beyond your control. Sadness, stress and/or pain is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Quite often when we multi-task, our attention is never 100% where it ought to be. Not all multi-tasking is negative, but we can focus on being in the present moment for the task at hand. If you try to do one thing at a time, your goal for mindfulness would be easier and you would likely feel less stressed, yet still productive.

It’s Okay to Be Alone

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not defined by another person.” ~ Oscar Wilde

There have been timeless arguments, open-ended debates, and casual conversations about relationships, being connected, and being alone. I am sure compelling cases for each have been and can be made. Yet I believe most would agree that the most important relationship we have in our lives is with ourselves, as challenging as this relationship is.

In June, I shared a post about the importance of our being connected, from a traditional, social perspective. On the flip side, there is abundant research that suggests blocking off enough alone time is an important component of a well-functioning social life – that if we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we need to spend time away from them. When we can shift our expectations with ourselves and others to opportunities for discovery, we open ourselves to new paths and unchartered territory.

As we become more chronologically gifted, and open to finding what truly makes us feel deeply and strongly, we can then make even more meaningful choices about if and with whom we want to share ourselves and create connections. It is the prospect of losing yourself and finding your way back that makes the experience that much better (yet, uncomfortable for some). The end outcome with creating space and allowing time alone, is to give yourself a chance to learn more about yourself.

In a recent study, Eric Klineberg, a sociologist at New York University claimed, “There is so much cultural anxiety about isolation that we often fail to appreciate the benefits of solitude.” Whether it is for a short period of time of an extended duration, why not consider “the benefits?” Here are three ways to explore:

  • Focus some time on your thoughts (because thoughts do create your reality). What are your most powerful thoughts? Where are you putting your attention? Take time alone to become aware of your thoughts. Monitor them, rewrite them, and spend time each day changing negative thought patterns into what you truly believe and want. For those familiar with neuroplasticity, this is how new brain pathways are created.
  • Schedule solitude. Proactively create time on your calendar to spend time with yourself. If you can make time for all the little extras you fit in your day, like stopping at Starbucks, you can schedule time for solitude. It doesn’t have to be gobs of time, just long enough to meditate, focus, relax, produce and/or think deeply is better than no time.
  • Like a vitamin – once per day. Check your online communication once each day. This means one stop to your inbox, Facebook and reader. This rule not only allows you to enjoy more quiet time during your work, it forces you to actually meet people when you are feeling social.

Clickety-Clack

“Going to work for a large company is like getting on a train. Are you going sixty miles an hour or is the train going sixty miles an hour and you’re just sitting still?” ~ Jean Paul Getty

Even though I was quite young, I have unusually clear memories of hot summer train trips from Seattle to New Jersey. They were four-day treks and the only place that was air-conditioned was the dining car. Multi-hour layovers in Chicago were, for we kids, like going to Disneyland. But years later, commuting via train to work in New York City, this once magical travel mode instead became a necessary routine. The novelty had simply worn off.

Two summers ago, I returned to the clickety-clack world (that rhythmic place where iron wheels meet rails). Tired of air travel and all its inconveniences, I booked a “roomette” and round-tripped my way from Albuquerque to NYC, via Chicago and Washington, D.C. The experience was like returning to my childhood; sensory delight… all over again. Thank you, Amtrak, for rekindling fond and creating new memories.

Not surprisingly, the rails that crisscross the countryside and slice through massive fields of grain, small rural towns (think: Norman Rockwell), and cities have long captured people’s imaginations. Just the idea of taking a ride on a train can evoke a sense of freedom, adventure, or romance. I find trains are like people in that they must inevitably arrive at their destinations. They make scheduled and unscheduled stops along the way and move at different speeds. Some trains can travel for hours and are mindful of only a single destination. As with my commuter train, others meander from busy stop to busy stop. The route and purpose of any train may change as the years go by, though less so on Amtrak’s fabled cross-country routes.

As you visualize this world, think about how our lives stretch out in front and behind us like train tracks, and we are the train, its passengers, and the engineer. The way you choose to live your life and the goals that you are working toward are the route and the destinations you have chosen. (Remember, you purchased the ticket.) Like a passenger, you have the choice to get on and off, find new routes, pick new places to visit, or just stop and enjoy an experience – as I almost did in South Bend, Indiana.

Maybe you prefer to move through life as if you were an express train. Or, like a commuter, you enjoy taking the same routes over and over again. Some of us might want to just stop riding and choose a different direction you’d like your life to take.

Have you looked at the tracks of your life? Are you feeling unsatisfied with what you see? Would you like to explore the changes you can make to find a more fulfilling path to follow? Maybe you’d like to slow down and experiment with a more winding, rather than a straight and narrow route.

Or, perhaps you’d like to experience your life more as a ride that gets you where you need to go. Changing your route can sometimes give you a chance to “get on the right track.” In doing so, you may discover that the something new you seek is just around the bend.

In the words of many a conductor, “All Aboard.”

Getting from Here to There

“We are our choices.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Making the visible invisible is entertaining. That’s what a magician does when he makes an object “disappear.” However, making the invisible visible is a far more impressive feat and you have done that every time you have taken a dream, waved your magic wand of ambition, and created something in the physical world for all to view.

You already have accomplished so much. But you know there is still more ambition inside of you; so much more you want to do. So much more you can do. So much more you will do. How? Walk along with me…

For thousands of years, generations have been surrounded with amazing knowledge and possibilities for personal growth. Whether it is time, focus, or not understanding, the application and use of knowledge and learning is the hardest part of change. We read, listen and learn, but it doesn’t seem to make it into our reality. So all the knowledge and possibilities in the world are useless if we don’t cross the bridge from knowing to living.

The bridge is a path over or through the gap between where we are and where we want to be. To cross the bridge and expand the possibilities of living better begins with awareness of what brings us satisfaction now and what would bring us more. Clarifying what is creating the gap between where we are and where we want to go begins the crossing of the bridge. Honest awareness makes this possible.

From expanded awareness we have to spend time and energy to explore and discover the concepts, ideas and strategies which could help us close the gap and cross the bridge. We have to reflect, consider, and imagine how new ideas or actions could change us. This is the new knowledge and if we can’t see the knowledge expressed in our reality, we’ll be stuck on the bridge. And we all know how frustrating that can be.

Finally, with clarity and knowledge, followed by exploring our possibilities, we can make choices. We only have to choose an action, a pattern, or an opportunity to effect change. Keep repeating the new choice and the easier the change will get. It won’t be long before the new knowledge is the old knowledge and more possibilities for growth are recognized – and a new gap appears.

It’s a cycle; a constructive loop. Everyday becomes a new adventure in expanding, enjoying, and discovering, as the bridges get crossed. With each bridge crossing from knowledge to reality, we will enjoy the process more as our potential expands.

So, are you contemplating crossing, already traversing, or have you successfully bridged a recent gap? Being afraid of heights doesn’t cut it. 🙂

Delight in Discovery

“I do not seek. I find” ~ Pablo Picasso

There is something magical about discovery. Receiving or naming a precious find; that gush of sensory glee – these are part of what makes discovery exciting.

Yet if I were to ask you what your passion is, could you name it? If you are like many people you would answer, “I’m not sure.” So many of us are busy with our day-to-day responsibilities that we have become strangers to our passion. We may catch brief moments of joy and inspiration, but rarely do we benefit from prolonged periods of passion. Our lives simply do not consistently reflect what’s at our core.

Then, you have a life-changing experience that creates a sudden epiphany of an underlying passion. The experience is unexpected and its effect is powerful. With abrupt clarity, you are left with awareness of who you must be. It can come anytime, anywhere – while on a quiet walk, reading a book, taking a shower or performing daily tasks. Whatever its context, it’s an explicit wake-up call from your heart.

So how do you discover what lights your fire and will keep it burning for a long time? How do you know if something is truly your passion? Well, for starters, you get that constant yearning; you’re willing to take risks for it; and even when people tell you you’ve lost your mind, your pursuits remain unwavering.

Most of us uncover our passion gradually as a result of daily experiences. There are sneak previews, courtesy of your intuition but few understand the significance. Yet the messages are there. And unless you heed them, you are likely to dispel them. The challenge is learning to listen to and interpret the signals…the whispers, and translate them into action.

But what if you don’t know what your passion(s) is (are)? What if you’re still searching? Here are four (of many) ways to help find your passion:

  1. Play – If the process confuses or bothers you, just play with it. Don’t force a purpose until you can define one. Amuse yourself with the process.
  2. Become Curious – Curiosity is the basis for passion. Let go of your current understandings and begin from a point where you are almost completely ignorant on the subject. Then look for creative, unusual ways to boost your interest.
  3. Encourage Enthusiasm – Energy is contagious. Spend time with someone who exudes passion about something. Seek out people who have the energy you want. Ask them to describe their motivation. These may yield information you had no idea could be so intriguing.
  4. Be Humble – This is necessary for passion but arrogance can destroy it. Grow this confidence where you believe in your abilities to handle the unknown while retaining respect for it.

And listen. Really listen. Shut out the daily noise, stress and confusion. Seek perspective on your life. Answer these questions: Where am I today? Where do I want to be tomorrow? What do I want to do with my life?

If you still cannot identify your passions, try a different discovery path. Seek out new experiences, people and activities. Look for fresh in the stale, the new in the old. If you sense a bolder move is necessary, step out of your comfort zone and take some risks. If you usually stand on the sidelines as an observer, jump in as an active participant. The point is to side step what could be preventing you from finding things you are exceptional at and that you enjoy.

Discovering your passion takes a fair amount of soul-searching. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t discover it right away – you will find it. And it will probably come to you when you least expect it.

Focus on Your Potential

One of my two business taglines is, “Finding Possibilities. Transforming Human Potential.” It’s what my clients have been discovering for 7+ years. I absolutely love the collaborative process that reveals and builds upon every individual’s potential.

Each of us, you and me, have a magnificent potential that is the foundation for success in every aspect of life.  If you are not experiencing your potential each day, you don’t know and trust your potential or you are distracted and giving your energy to people who don’t support your potential – then what are you doing with your time and talents?

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Think of your potential as an inside job.  That means no one can tell you what it is or give you permission to experience it.  You explore and discover it for yourself. This happens when you focus on what you can do, have done, and have the capabilities and experience to do now.  When you choose to focus and trust your potential, many aspects of your life change – quite easily I might add.

Focus.  Aim.  Achieve.

How’s that for a simple yet practical mantra?

May your days be personal, your potential unlimited and your achievement abundant!