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HEARING LOSS IS A FAMILY MALADY

In a recent Washington Post article by Marlene Cimons, former President Jimmy Carter, 91, said that 90% of the arguments he has with his wife of 70 years, Rosalyn Carter, 88, are about hearing. Mr. Carter said that having to repeat things “drives him up the wall”.

According to the article 25% of people 60-69 have some degree of hearing loss. That grows to over 50% for those 70 to 79 and to almost 80% for those over 80.   Curious isn’t it, that this is such a prevalent health care problem, yet most insurance coverage totally omits hearing loss?

Provoked by the article about President Carter and Mrs. Carter’s candor about hearing loss and its impact on their lives I decided to interview a friend that I knew had recently gotten hearing aids. Call him Eric. He’s 57 and otherwise in excellent health. His wife Nancy had been complaining about his hearing for the past 2 years. When he went to the audiologist for testing, sure enough he found that he had a gradual, early form of slow hearing loss. Hearing devices were required prescribed and delivered to him, along with education about how to use and maintain them.

Eric and Nancy, both attended a new-hearing-aid-device-wearer lecture. They continued to cling to the false notion that once the hearing aids were in place and Eric was accustomed to them; life could and would go on as before.

Some things did change, of course. Wearing his new hearing devices at home, Eric’s first question was “Who turned the tv up so loud?” Nancy was quick to point out that it wasn’t turned up. This was the volume level he had needed pre-aids. Also, Eric was much more aware of Nancy speaking to him from another room. He just couldn’t understand what she had said, which left him having to go find her and ask “What did you say?”.

Eric was the first to realize that even with hearing devices life wouldn’t return to exactly what it had been before hearing loss. While he was getting increasingly real about what he could hear and what he could not, Nancy continued in the opinion that hearing aids should fix everything.

He realized the devices really helped but he wouldn’t ever have the hearing of a 30-year-old again. This meant that he and Nancy needed to begin to look at home environmental factors that affected his hearing; ambient noise, proximity, volume and pitch, and a much greater moment by moment awareness of each other.

Thus began the real hearing arguments between them.

Paying close attention to his environment, Eric noticed 4 key factors:

  1. Nancy frequently begins conversations with Eric just AFTER he has left the room
  2. Nancy frequently speaks to him facing away from him (he jokes that it’s common for her to talk with him with her head in the dishwasher as she works)
  3. Nancy, at 57, no longer projects her voice the way she did when she was younger. Her voice is simultaneously softer, quieter, and airier.
  4. While it’s easy for Nancy to notice, comment on, and even complain about Eric’s hearing before and after hearing aids, it seems almost impossible for her to admit to her part in the environmental factors and make a commitment to do something about them.

Earlier they had almost gone to a counselor to air the friction over Eric’s hearing loss.   Now, because they have begun to fight about it, he is asking her to go to a counselor with him discuss the environmental factors in their communication and her part in them. So far she is resisting.

We’ll see what happens. Hearing loss as it turns out, can indeed be a family malady.

What is the condition of your hearing, and what have you been able to do about it that really worked in your daily life?

 

TWO OF THE IMPORTANT AFTER 50 LESSONS MR. TRUMP CAN TEACH US

I don’t know Mr. Trump. I see an experienced showman on television, read his speeches, and listen to the pronouncements of his staff. Arguing crowd size isn’t what it’s about for me. I’m not a therapist. Analyses aren’t going to happen here. I’m not an Ethicist, so you won’t find words like “lie” and my reactions to it in this blog.    I’m not a politician. You’ll need to go elsewhere for political analyses.

I am, however, a Developmental Psychologist and can speak my opinion with some authority here about life After 50. What’s the connection?

More often than not, when we say “Developmental Psychology” we’re studying and talking about children. How does a good 3-year-old get to be a great 6-year-old?    What do we need to understand and do to support this happening?

What far too few of us understand about After 50 is that human development is lifelong. We need to learn new skills and ways of thinking across our entire life spans.   If we don’t, our personal, decreased relevancy is guaranteed. Not only are we not fully “cooked” by the time we’re in our forties, some of our greatest opportunities and best work can happen in our 60s, 70s, and 80s. How does a good 50-year-old get to be a great 75-year-old? That’s the important question to me, the one to which I’ve dedicated years of research, writing, and observation.

Enter Mr. Trump. We all need to learn from each other through observation and conversation. Who is the most visible After 50 person in the world? You guessed it.    With all due respect, he leaves Queen Elizabeth (90), George Clooney (56), Sarah Palin (52), Clint Eastwood (81), Sonia Sotomayor (62), and Bruce Springsteen (67) in the After 50 dust when it comes to constantly holding our attention. I think we’re only beginning to learn from him and, as we all know, After 50 isn’t a time to stop learning.

Lesson #1: In the process of our own After 50 development, at some point it’s crucial that we each move from 51% or more externally validated to 51% or more self-validated. Later in our lives opportunities for external validation will decrease and so will our quality of life if we fail to learn this lesson.

I recently did some retirement work with a couple in their late 50s. The husband, a top national salesman, was terrified of retirement. His entire identity and self-esteem were built around his job performance each month. During the months he exceeded his sales target numbers, his self-esteem was through the roof. During the months he failed to meet his sales goals, his self-esteem was somewhere below the basement.    If he were retired, who would he be? He and I took opposite views on what to do. He wanted in retirement to find the next thing at which he could be a champion. I thought he was going to have to find a way to give up his addiction to ongoing “proof” because as he aged that external proof would become less and less likely in the long run. He wanted to know what would be satisfying and a guarantee to go with it before he made the leap. His wife, after many years on the proof rollercoaster with him, sided with me. Did he have the courage to give up being so dependent upon repeated external validation that ranked high on the “never enough” scale? Was he willing to do the work to get really comfortable and happy in his own skin? On a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high), where do you rank Mr. Trump’s ongoing comfort in his own skin without dependence on validation hits? On the same scale where do you rank your own?

Lesson #2 In the process of our own After 50 development, at some point it’s crucial to allow  disagreements without creating enemies and opponents. Living a life of constantly seeing only opposites (self and opponents) and being at war is unlikely to create an After 50 life of any reasonable quality for you and your loved ones.

A couple came to me to do some life planning work. Money wasn’t an issue. The husband had lots of interests and looked forward to exploring them. The wife, however, was so dependent on the adulation of her children and grandchildren that they had begun to avoid family holidays with her. Why? She demanded their attendance at each and every holiday, birthday, celebration, and anniversary.  She was pugilistic. Anyone who wasn’t totally with her was considered to be against her.    She could be verbally abusive and a bully. She was tenacious, a veritable bulldog.   And this pattern – if you aren’t fully with me you must be against me – extended to friends, colleagues at work, staff, and, especially, her husband. Given time, she could recite long lists of opponents including her son in law, his family, and neighbors. Was she willing to go into a retirement that was less dependent upon war and opponents? What was reasonable to demand of retirement, and what was she willing to do to make it work?    On a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high), where do you rank Mr. Trump’s ongoing preference for having opponents and conducting interpersonal wars? On the same scale where do you rank your own?

In my own case, I’ve assumed some of my best work and greatest opportunities will happen After 50. I’ve written a book about retirement and life planning in times of increasingly unplannable, discontinuous change. “How Do I Get There From Here?” will be released by AMACOM (publishing division of the American Management Association) in July. For me it’s a bold expression of what experience and expertise tell me will work for most of us in the coming years. Some days it also feels like a huge risk to put myself and my ideas so far out there in public. My own, personal developmental job is to rely more on my independent sense of myself than I am on the book’s success. Usually I’m OK with it.  Some days are a bit of a push. How could I possibly write about After 50 ideas if I’m not willing to take them head on myself?

I don’t know Mr. Trump but I’d like to thank him for the lessons he makes available to me. We are all – or should be – mirrors for each other. We After 50 will do well to pay attention. I hope he is intensely successful as President for all our sakes. We certainly stand – if we’re available for it – to learn a lot about how to build or injure our collective future.

The Slippery Road To Isolation Well Before We Are Old

One of my longtime California friends recently sent me an email commenting on how many long-term friendships are affected by the recent presidential election. His observation is that a significant number of people – from both of the major voting spectrum positions – are unable to comprehend how their friends could possibly have voted the way they did. Even worse, they are currently unable to forgive. On the surface they can still socialize but it’s awkward because conversation topics are now limited and everyone knows things just aren’t the same between them. Trust has been broken and, once broken, repair is not in sight. “How could you?” is the question hanging, unspoken in the air between them.

Provoked by his email, I checked with other friends around the nation. Sure enough, it’s not just a California phenomenon. I had previously thought of divisive as an adjective. Somehow, while I wasn’t looking it turned into a transitive verb with long term friends as the objects. And this is a potential, durable problem for all of us After 50.

In social network theory Strong Relationships/Strong Networks of Relationships is used to describe interpersonal connections characterized by high levels of trust, significant shared history, similarity of values, intentions in common, mutual support, and well established assumptions about one another. How many of these relationships are enough depends upon the individual. Strong Relationships/Networks are very important because they are efficient, reliable, and trustworthy. You don’t have to explain. You can make direct requests without preamble. Working on something at home or on the job can feel choreographed because you know how to move together.    And sometimes you can even finish each other’s sentences. We all need Strong Relationships/Networks.

Again in social network theory Weak Relationships/Weak Networks of Relationships is used to describe interpersonal connections characterized by little knowledge of each other, few if any shared friendships, potentially different background or approaches to life, and values which are not identical to our own. How many of these relationships are enough depends upon the individual. Weak Relationships/Networks are very important because they are the source of new possibilities, contacts, and approaches. They are also the source of a significant number of AHAs! and fresh ideas. If you are looking for an insightful answer or piece of information, weak relationships are more often than not a superior source because the individual is not burdened with assumptions about you and is likely to come from a totally different place than your own. We all need Weak Relationships/Networks.

The severing of a longtime friendship at this time is more than the termination of one strong relationship. It’s also the eradication of a significant number of weak connections your former strong connection could have arranged for you. How many strong relationships do you currently have and how does this total compare to what you really need in your life right now?

How many weak relationships – including connections through your strong relationships – do you currently have and how does this total compare to what you really need in your life right now?

Impoverishment in relationships later in life often comes because:

  1. The individual has not maintained his/her strong relationships AND has failed to replenish the network as people dropped out through moving, illness, no longer working together, or any of a number of other causes.
  2. The individual has failed to maintain and adequate weak network of relationships and, therefore, has few candidates in line to occupy strong connection positions.
  3. 1 and 2 lead directly to isolation.

I am asking you to consider how much energy, time, and effort it takes to build and maintain enough strong relationships. No one knows where our country is really going. It’s like hanging on to a surf board bouncing across the waves at the moment.

Do you have such an excess that you can easily afford to jettison previously important and strong relationships?

How are you resolving the relationship divide and the loss of trust with your strong friends who didn’t vote the way you did?

How strong is your Weak Network?

I propose a checklist of isolatioin conditions:

  • Enemies
  • Impoverishment of Strong Networks
  • Failure to nurture Weak Networks
  • Diminishment of curiosity
  • Failure to remain and interesting person
  • Capitulation and victimization

How many of these conditions exist in your networks?    What can you do about them?

Please let me know.

What Do We Owe To Our Grandchildren?

There I was in a long line with my grocery cart.  The lady at the front – the OCD woman with 30 clipped magazine coupons to scan, each of which will save her 1.5 cents – was proudly waving her fanned collection at the checker as if she were about to be a big winner in Reno. This was going to take a while.

So, I did what I always do to distract myself. I looked for something to read. To my immediate left at eye level were THE TABLOIDS, the early, spawning originators of fake news and voyeur headlines.

How often has your first reaction to something been “I’m so glad my grandchildren aren’t here to see/experience this.”? It happens to me with surprising frequency. It isn’t that I want to insulate them from the world. I don’t have primary responsibility for them nor should I be setting priorities. They have parents for that. Still, these times always trigger in me concern about what I am doing on a regular basis to help my grandchildren.

Grandparents come in a dazzling variety of configurations. Some can’t wait to buy teddy bears and books to read together. Some don’t want much to do with them until they are old enough to get into the car on their own for a ride. Other grandparents delight in baby sitting or taking a teenager out for her first cup of coffee or helping them become diehard team fans or setting aside money for college or attending piano recitals and T-ball games.

My personal configuration is built around the intention that I can give each of them confidence and adaptability. Provided we have the foundation of high quality one on one time together, I can add experiences which will serve them well for the rest of their lives. For example, finding their way (safely) through a new experience in a place they don’t know well with other kids they don’t know at all – Circus or Marine Biology or Theater day camp, for instance. Or lunch with me at a white table cloth restaurant followed by a movie or a play. Or walking down Grant Avenue together hand in hand and going into a tea shop for a cup where the rest of the customers are all Chinese and over 70.  Or going down ALL the waterslides together several times at a sunny resort.

How does what I want to give to them differ from what I owe them? THE TABLOIDS pushed me into exploring the difference.

I discovered I’m clear about what I want to give to them: any kind of new experience that will 1. allow them expanded forms of curiosity and knowledge they hadn’t thought of before, 2. provide them with enjoyable social and cultural surprises and insight, and 3. add to their confidence that they are smart, adaptable, and highly competent people.

As for what I owe to them, I have to remember that their lives won’t necessarily be an extension of mine. In fact, their lives may differ as significantly as the world they are inheriting differs from the one handed to me.

Here, after much reflection, is my list of what I owe to my grandchildren:

  1. My own authenticity (and non-pedantic exposure through me) to the norms of my generation
  2. Explanation more than total protection. I could blind them to THE TABLOIDS or I could have a serious conversation about the implications of rampant voyeurism and fake news.
  3. Trust and respect that in the long run they will make good decisions about their lives as they move into a future which I can only imagine.
  4. Unadulterated, non-demanding affection.
  5. Continual remembering – and the behaviors that go with it – that I am their grandfather and not their parent.
  6. Sincere interest in them and their interests.
  7. Enough high-quality availability without being like hot water, always available at the turn of the tap.
  8. Respect and support for their individuality. I remember, when I was 17, my own maternal grandmother gently taking my hands in hers and saying “Do what you want to do, dear. You will anyway.”  I have never forgotten it.

In a nice way, I owe the OCD coupon-waving customer and THE TABLOIDS in the rack a moment of gratitude. Without them I wouldn’t have been pressed to distinguish between give and owe.

As for what my grandchildren want from me, I’m saving that for a future blog.

The new year is now upon us. What is it you want to give to your grandchildren in the coming year?

What is it you think you owe to your grandchildren in the coming year?

What is it you think your grandchildren want from you?

Let me know, please.

Inspiration Might Be Sitting On Your Left

I’ve just come back to the office from a deeply inspiring lunch meeting. For all our important work with “Seniors” and the services many of them need, I think we tend to carelessly lump then together, regularly falling into the trap of no longer seeing them as individuals and very, very bright people with full biographies. The fact is lots of “Seniors” are still trucking along admirably with significant humor, vigor, and insightful thinking. Chronological age is clearly not the primary determinant of much of anything.

I am fortunate enough to belong to an almost 70-year-old professional media and journalism-oriented organization. It is made up of retired print and broadcast executives and professionals, along with the rest of us still working in several forms of journalism and media.

These older men and women were heavy hitters with long careers in exciting times for their industry, complete with opportunities that are now unlikely if not impossible.   It’s always a revelation to occasionally experience myself as one of the youngest people in a room full of really articulate, experienced, passionate people. How often do my peers and I get that chance for inspiration?

Essentially, the organization is a luncheon club where we come together at a common table with microphones available to review and discuss a wide variety of topics from journalism and media perspectives. We discuss current issues of local, national, and international importance (political positions and religion are not permitted). This isn’t a bunch of geezers telling war stories and reminiscing. This is a group of thoughtful, experienced minds coming together for highly informed discussions. About 45 of us gather each time, both men and women. The membership is larger than that, so the attendance is slightly different at each meeting.

What did I find inspiring today, you ask? I’m glad you inquired.

A woman in her late 70s (an unrepentant thespian) played her instrument-studded washboard and sang everything from Jazz to Rap as warmup entertainment. She remarked on her pig tails and wrinkles, and then announced that all it took was moderate musical prowess and, blessedly – no longer having much sense of shame – an increased capacity for joy. She knew how to seize a point and get it across, grabbing our attention without doing or being anyone we would usually expect. And all the while her significant dignity shone through. How many of us can do that well, I ask you?

The gentleman on my left, 93, remarked about having written a piece with his daughter announcing his wife’s recent death for posting on his Facebook page.

Two men in their early eighties got into a heated debate about where journalism ends and media begins. Journalism and media, although we often mash them together, are not synonymous as we all know.

Today there was a general discussion about the November 13 letter to New York Times readers from the Publisher and the Senior Editor reflecting on issues with their campaign and election coverage. Full article HERE .

A famous elections polling analyst/scientist and journalist, easily in his late 70s, talked about the intelligent limits of polling and how they can miss what’s really going on.

I’m not some voyeur at these lunches. When it was my turn, I talked about my notion that we had all been prisoners of the images and language of local/regional/identity politics and, therefore, unwilling and unable to think and behave otherwise. It’s my opinion that we, as a nation, HAVE AN EXCESS OF LANGUAGES AND IMAGES THAT SEPARATE US AND are missing the ALTERNATIVE language and images to understand commonly shared pain and hope, without which we have little opportunity to actually create an inclusive dialogue. I’d like us to do a journalistic investigation of this without having to have another September 11 to pull us all together again.

The lady to my right, in her middle 70’s, is so alert and attentive that her eyes sparkle. She worked with Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, among others, and clearly understood the historic nuances in all of the remarks.

It’s my experience that many of us suffer from absence of intelligent intergenerational engagement and the inspiration that can accompany it.   My grandchildren regularly teach me important information I might otherwise miss entirely. When I say intergenerational engagement, I’m not talking about 3 or 4 generations showing up for a big holiday meal and watching sports on television rather than actually interacting. I’m talking about seizing the opportunity to look to my right and my left and observe the wisdom and perspective each generation brings from the lives they have led, regardless of age.

I’m inspired and this came from accomplished professionals senior to me.

What do you do for inspiration in your own life, especially multigenerational inspiration?

SOME OF THE MANY FACES OF RETIREMENT

There was a time when you said the word “Retirement” and everyone knew what it meant.

There was a consensual definition and set of expectations that looked like this: You had worked for years, probably at the same company, reasonably assured that you could move “up the ladder” as the people above you retired or transferred and made room for you. It was a stable company in which the organizational structure, job titles/descriptions, and experience/skills tended to have long shelf lives. Retirement was something to look forward to; a new and discrete stage of life. The time came at 65 when, after years of service, you were entitled to a parting gift, a recognition party, a pension check (large or small), and the final reward of entering your golden years of endless leisure. Some younger person stepped into your job and overnight you were free of responsibility for the first time in your adult life. You could be and do anything you wanted. It sounded like the ideal situation, although it often didn’t play out that way in practice in the lives of retirees.

Fast forward to Retirement today:

Bill and Doris Green both worked for the same company straight out of college beginning in 1975. When the kids came along, Doris left to be a stay at home mom. Bill changed employers twice, both times for significant promotions in manufacturing management. Pensions and defined benefit plans had, of course, gone away. In their place the Greens made it a priority to put money into 401Ks and employer matching plans as well as building a significant equity in their home over time. When he was 54, with two kids in college, Bill’s company was sold, his job was declared “redundant”, and he was laid off. Despite his best efforts, Bill was unable to land another comparable position in the decreasing pool of such jobs. They lived on their savings. Eventually Doris went to work in retail and Bill went back to school for retraining in technologies. It was a tough time. Their kids are now out of college. Both Doris and Bill are employed. Tearfully, they sold their house at the top of the market and now rent an apartment, which to their great surprise, has proven to be a happy change. They have rebuilt some of their savings but certainly not enough to stop working. As they look toward “Retirement” it looks increasingly like eventual part time work for both of them, indefinitely combined with local interests and activities. Their biggest retirement worry is outliving their money. Retirement isn’t a new and discrete phase of life in their future. It’s an integrated and logical extension of the decisions they are making and the life they are living now.

Barbara Kushner thought she and her husband had it all together financially and personally. They had just retired to Arizona from Ohio. She was looking forward to music and golf – a life of volunteering and good works. Then her husband, Tom, died suddenly. Barbara had never paid attention to the financial side of their lives. Tom took care of all of that. When he died she was suddenly propelled into a relationship with a financial advisor she didn’t know, a set of financial concepts and languages she didn’t understand, and a combination of decisions she wasn’t prepared to make yet couldn’t delay. It turned out that Tom had made two unwise investments that had recently eliminated a large portion of their net worth. She certainly isn’t going to lose the house nor is she going to be destitute. However, she will have to downscale her life style in order to live within her means. For Barbara, retirement looks like learning a whole body of financial knowledge she should have learned earlier, working part time, and gathering her friends and family around her to help her make the necessary transitions.

Carol Folsom and Rick Smedley met in law school years ago. Married early, they both pursued high powered, well paid professional careers. When their daughter came along, they readily adapted to sharing responsibility for her combined with a full time nanny. Their daughter grown and gone, they are both at the top of their careers and beginning to execute on their retirement plan. Carol and Rick had worked intensely hard for years, largely buffered by their professions from the business roller coaster beyond their doors. They are going to keep their condo in Chicago but have also purchased a condo in Florida. They plan winters in Florida and summers at home. Money is not an issue. Having been active and financially able philanthropists for years, they are moving a portion of their money to a Community Foundation in Florida, which will automatically make them members of an elite community of donors and non-profit board members. Rick is buying a boat. Carol is joining a tennis club. They are both planning on taking Lifelong Learning classes. Retirement for Rick and Carol looks like the ability to step into communities and interests that will provide them with new stimulation and friendships.

Ted Dawson failed retirement. Twice. Divorced and unsettled at 60; he jumped on the opportunity to retire, thinking it would be a fresh and wonderful relaunch for him. With his kids’ support, he visited 15 of the cities featured in 99 Best Places To Retire, chose the best one for him, bought a house and moved. This all happened quickly after the announcement was made that he was retiring from dentistry. During the first year in his new home and city, Ted volunteered widely. He worked at developing non-profit board expertise. He threw small dinner parties for other retirees in his neighborhood. Eventually he realized that part time volunteering wasn’t enough in his case and that he needed to find a full time job. For two years he became the Executive Director of a local non-profit. When he had taken the organization as far as he could take it, he retired again. Six months later, he felt as if he was floundering again, clearly wanting something he could own. The solution turned out to come with an opportunity to buy into a local dental practice and work 3 days a week, effectively job sharing with another dentist who wanted ownership and part time practice too. For Ted retirement looks like a combination of ownership, part time practice, volunteering, and uncommitted time.

There was a time when the word “retirement” was a bit like the word “apple”. Say either word and immediately almost everyone had a common image of it in their minds.

Now the word “retirement” is more akin to the word “shoe”. There are hundreds of images and we all need to find/create the right fit for ourselves.

What do you imagine the right retirement fit will look like for you?

The After 50 Goal Shift – From Validation to OK Anyway

Aging, let it be acknowledged, seldom arrives in our lives all at once. Instead, it appears in large and small changes in our environment. I was recently on a crowded metropolitan bus and a very polite teenager stood up and offered her seat. At first I looked around to see where her gestures were directed and was flabbergasted to realize…she was offering her seat to ME.

Gray hair. Loss of longtime friends. Fine print getting smaller (Surely it can’t be our eyes!). Consonants or vowels becoming more elusive in fast paced vocal music.  Widespread challenges to our iconic values and beliefs (like permanent employment, home ownership, the relevance and place of a college education, our alliances with one political party or another). Our precious little grandchildren turning into people as tall (or taller) than we are, with strong opinions and positions of their own. Loss of muscle tone and skin suppleness. The winnowing of what’s important to us and how we continue to reassure ourselves of our potency and efficacy.  Openness (or the opposite) to new experiences.   The tectonic shifts in what we aspire to and what these aspirations mean to us.

All of this is offset, at least in part, by some magical combination of having little left to prove, greater patience with ourselves and others, a much shorter list of things we think of as life and death issues, the reward of longtime friends to whom we don’t have to explain a thing, and new friends who bring fresh ideas and interests to the mix of our lives.

If we’re paying attention this can be an amazingly rich period of life regardless of the national elections and turmoil.

Which brings me to our increasingly tricky relationship with goals After 50.

Earlier in our lives goals were a part of a complex approach to our personal development, and focusing primarily on our goals could be a kind of roller coaster. Still, If things didn’t work out we had lots of recuperative years left to move on and conquer something else. Goals were often irretrievably intertwined with our validation.

Example: Being a salesperson with significant, monthly territory sales goals. If you made your numbers you were on top of the world, but you were only as good as this month’s numbers. Next month you had to prove yourself all over again.

Example: Being a parent whose sense of successful parenting depended upon kids’ grades, athletic prowess, and college admissions. If your kid did well in your eyes, you had achieved your parental goal. If your kid did not do well there was something wrong with both of you. And you couldn’t be really OK until your kid was.

Example: Taking off 25 pounds and fitting into that dress or suit for your high school or college reunion. You were often only as good, at least for that evening, as your weight loss achievement.

Note in each example the direct correlation between your goal achievement and your sense of your own OKness.

Linda and I have friends (a married couple) who are serial entrepreneurs. They worked together in each business across the decades. Two years ago, for the first time, they disagreed. Her goal was to retire. His goal was to start a brand new entrepreneurial business. Eventually the wife capitulated. It was a struggle. He was only going to be as OK as his new venture was successful. How did they get through?  For the first time in their lives together it was OK to have goals BUT NOT to hook their personal OKness to goal achievement. Their OKness had to be hooked to something else or, like the salesperson example above, they could only be as OK as their latest performance and results. Not the ideal condition for high quality of later life.

We also have long time friends who set up an elaborate set of travel goals. They had just retired and were so happy together. Their sense of self-esteem was closely coupled to the goals of being able to check each of the continents off their bucket list until none remained. Quite suddenly the husband died of lung cancer. Was it great that they had goals? Yes. Was it great that, as a widow, the wife’s OKness was uniformly tied to her husband and their shared bucket list of goals? No. She had to do the painful work of creating new goals for herself and not tying her ultimate OKness to them.

This all comes up for me now because I’ve just realized one of my biggest goals. I have signed a contract with a national publisher to publish my new book. Manuscript is due 12/15/16. Publication date is around July 1, 2017.  What’s different for me – and somehow paradoxical – is that I can and do have goals but no longer have the luxury of letting them define my OKness. It’s not easy to give up the success/failure paradigm. I’d have to be pretty much OK whichever way the publication hammer falls.  This is a huge shift in my relationship to goals.

What are your goals now?

What do you do to create your consistent OKness that isn’t tied to goal achievement?

 

I Do Therefore I Am With My Apologies to “The Reader”

Even for us it has been an extremely busy summer: My wife Linda’s work. My work. One to four granddaughters living with us over the course of six weeks. The new book in publisher review. Travel. Staying current with what’s being written in my field.   Sogetsu Ikebana. TV appearances. Attending to my own becoming which, as a human development expert, is as much a part of my daily integrity as physical workouts would be for an Exercise Physiologist. The normal demands of home ownership and being in society. Coursework. My ongoing writings, including these blogs. Watching, slack jawed, national political campaigns unfold. Guests and dinners. Beginning the all-new new book project.

Yesterday morning my friend Eric and his bike appeared as scheduled at 6:30 am in our driveway. He rides every day and can leave me in the dust, but slows down for companionship rides with me once or twice a week. Rick knows I can always ride our 16-20 miles, punctuated by a stop at Coffee World at around the 14 mile mark. He also knows that I can’t (and don’t want to) go as fast as he can.

Which brings me to the crème colored leather chair in our family room that looks out onto the lake. Stick with me here. I promise to pull all of this together.

After returning home from the bike ride with Eric, I showered, dressed and sat down in the chair intending to bounce right back up and get to work. Instead I spent the day sitting there. Admittedly I took client calls, did my email and eventually cooked dinner for Linda and me, but for the most part I read. No music. No tv. Just our wonderfully silent house and that pile of reading I had been looking forward to.

As I sat there reflecting, all of this brought two experiences to my mind.

First was an encounter with the man I still think of as “The Reader”.  We met him only once, several years ago, at a local party. I’ve long since forgotten his name or what he looks like, but he made quite an impression on me. He was in his late 60’s and had been retired for a few years. When I asked him how he spent his time he said his life was a circuit between his best reading chair and his favorite used book store. He’d buy a few books, go home and read them, and then go buy more books so he could go home and read some more. For variety he would sit and read outdoors instead of inside. He was serious and his wife verified it. I was quietly flabbergasted. How could a grown man not exercise his gifts in some contributory way?  I can see now that I owe The Reader a quiet apology. His lifestyle wouldn’t work for me, but he was and is free to choose for himself.

Second was a Nextel ad campaign selling cell phone services. Plastered on city buses and billboards with bright yellow backgrounds and black print were the words: “I do.  Therefore I am.” I was not so quietly outraged. Did they actually mean to suggest that existence depended upon being in motion? Had we lost our right to NOT do and still be?  Existentially it stunk and I wasn’t happy about it. It was easier to suck me in then than it is now. And I still think the campaign was designed by young savants with little life understanding or interest beyond new and motion.

Which brings me back to the crème colored chair; my repository as it were for the day. It was only one day and it isn’t a pattern, but I do think being able to sit there for a day and mostly read is a step forward for me. It’s a pleasurable After 50 gift I could not have unwrapped or appreciated much earlier in my life. And I’m looking forward to another such day eventually. Just knowing I can do it is comforting and I may, like many of us, have to get better at it when I am much, much older.

What are you discovering about your own After 50 gifts that you couldn’t have appreciated or enjoyed much earlier in your life?

 

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