4 Powerful Life Habits that are never too late to fully embrace

As I move along in my journey of reinvention, I have been in a process of continual evaluation of what works in my life and what doesn’t. There are many strategies and tools we can all use to live healthier lives. But often we feel too busy, too overwhelmed, or too stressed to focus on our own needs.

Through this process of self-reflection, I have landed on four life habits that I intend to focus on as I move forward on this journey.

  1. Embrace relationships and adopt an anti-age segregation approach – Over the past thirty years I have often found myself intending to call friends or family members only to place that thought on hold because I told myself that life just gets in the way. Friendships require time, attention, and nurturing and family members may be far away both geographically and emotionally. As you age, the scope of your relationships can become very narrow and your risks of loneliness and all of the subsequent health impacts increase unless you are proactive. Developing relationships with people of all ages exposes us to more interests, opportunities, and a deeper understanding about our lives as well as those of others.
  2. Engage in work or activities that sustain passion and provide your life with meaning – Full time work is not the only activity that we can do as we age that provides opportunity to fulfill our passions and life purpose. Finding any activity that both energizes us, aligns with our values, and stretches our ability to learn and grow is important. What seems to be key is that we have to both embrace and enjoy whatever it is that we choose to do.
  3. Adopt a life long learning habit – Although this may sound like a cliched concept, research from the field of neuroscience suggests that to enhance the brains ability to create new neural pathways, it is critical that we not stop learning new things. The current craze of crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles, etc., while not harmful, may not stem the tide of dementias as promised. This knowledge is now surpassed by understanding that our brains actually benefit from learning new things and being challenged by the process. Learning new things may be uncomfortable at first, but if we persevere, the gains can be significant.
  4. Adopt healthy habits as soon as possible – (Or it is never too late). Most of us are aware (sometimes painfully so) that our health habits related to proper nutrition, exercise and movement throughout the day can help us achieve our longevity goals. By reducing and eventually avoiding harmful practices such as smoking or vaping cigarettes, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or abusing other substances, or eating junk or unhealthy amounts of food, we have the ability to turn our health status around no matter what our age. Perhaps most critically is the manner in which we internally talk to ourselves about some of our less desirable habits. Having the ability to counter some of our own negative self-talk and be compassionate towards ourselves can take us forward in a positive way.

These are the healthy habits I am trying to commit to building more mindfully into my life. What are your strategies for living a healthier life? I would love to hear what you and others around you are doing. We only have one life to live and it is a work in progress for all of us.

Retired: But Currently Working…

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asked on several occasions why I am still working (part-time) when I am “supposed to be retired”. In a teasing type of manner, I have replied that I’m not dead yet and still think I have things to share and contribute to the world around me. And the responses that I have received back have been eerily similar.

Each person who asked me this question, told me that they thought that retirement was to be a time of rest and relaxation. And I had a strange sense that they thought I was doing something wrong by working. Perhaps they thought that it would interfere with my new retired lifestyle.

Many folks who leave full time work continue to work part-time, or try out other types of full time work that differ from their previous careers. It seems unrealistic to imagine a life where for, perhaps, as long as thirty or more years, one stops contributing in some way to the world in which they live. And, there are so many ways to continue to have purpose, provide value, and to feel like a valued member of our communities. Working is only one such strategy.

I often feel as though I am in a situation where I haven’t yet decided what to do with my life. I have been setting some goals, learning new skills, pursuing my passion for writing but I still have a strong sense that my next chapter has not yet to become fully formed in my mind’s eye. Working part-time, gives me the flexibility to earn some income while the vision for the next steps takes shape.

There are differences in my approach to working life now. I have the good fortune to choose when and if I will take on some work and can structure work to fit within my new lifestyle. I can work more at some times than others. I truly feel as though I am no longer a part of the long working hours culture and am able to achieve a level of happiness from my occasional work opportunities.

The badge of “busyness” that many of us ascribe to does not have the meaning it once did, nor do I have the desire or inclination to just be “busy”. Learning to meet other needs such as focusing attention on my health, spending more time with family and friends, choosing to take classes that teach me new skills and further my current interests are now my priority. I am able to pursue what really interests me and I find that just being able to do that, in and of itself, can be a joyful surprise.

But, I still like to work some of the time, and will continue to pursue professional development opportunities that I ironically I actually used to be too busy for. Many of the skills that I have developed over my career are easily transferrable and have allowed me to move forward to new opportunities. This transition has proven to be dynamic and multifaceted in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

When I was ready to retire a couple of years ago, I had already begun a process of disengagement. Following a period of creative reflection to explore what I want to be in this part of my life experience, has led me to re-engage with the work world on my own terms. I appreciate that I am now able to take the time I need to re-develop my identity during this period of transition. When I pause to think about some of the conversations that I have had recently, I realize that I am quite content to consider myself, Retired but currently working.

Retirement, writing…and the beginner’s mind

Life changes of any kind often leave us in an emotional limbo where we may experience strong sensations of being off balance. Navigating this anxiety provoking tightrope can be challenging indeed.

The old saying, be careful what you wish for, has popped into my mind more than once over the past couple of months. Dreaming for years of having both the time and the freedom to become a writer seemed to be a beacon along the path of a busy life full of family and work obligations. Fantasizing about creating a writer’s den where creative thoughts and activities would abound when I retired was one of my favourite pastimes.

Now that time is here. The part of this new life that never occurred to me was the fact that I would be starting to learn a new set of skills and would have to cultivate a beginner’s mind to appreciate both the learning process as well as the inevitable stumbles along the way.

At a writing workshop I attended not long ago, the instructor spoke of how irritating it could be to hear people state that they intend to write a book in the future as though it would happen with ease. The instructor revealed that most people practically have no concept of how demanding and taxing the work of writing can be. Writing, both art and craft, requires all of the activities you find in learning any new skill. Practice, learning to fail, and developing micro skills one step at a time are all in play on your road to any type of writing success.

When you read a strong piece of writing, it often does little to reveal all of the sweat equity and investment that have to coalesce in order for the writer to arrive with a successful finished product. Learning to have patience, to practice with no end or deliverable required, spending more hours rewriting than actually putting words on the page, are all a part of the beginning writer’s reality.

So how do you cultivate what is often referred to as the beginner’s mind?

Reflecting on past new beginnings in our lives can be helpful. What were my emotional and psychological experiences when I entered high school, university, got married, started my career, had a family? Using a journaling approach to answer questions about these previous life transitions, taught me that I have forgotten how hard life changes can actually be. They are scary, feel threatening, place you on very steep learning curves, and require you to reach out for support at times.

They also mean that you have to become kind and compassionate with yourself as you are learning new skills and going through the trial and error process that is all part and parcel of the beginner’s state of mind. Most importantly, I think I am beginning to accept that it is okay to experience many different emotions as I navigate this new stage of life and struggle to develop new skills as a writer. And that this is okay.

Intrinsic satisfaction – another way to measure blogging success.

We use a variety of measures in many stages of our lives to determine whether or not we have been successful. Most of us will have some perspective on the shape of our lives as it unfolds and whether or not we believe that we have achieved some measure of success. Most often we measure ourselves and the worth of our activities based on external factors.

In the field of work, an entire industry exists to create numerous metrics by which we can measure our achievements. In the world of sport, we either win or we lose. In the world of the arts, we create and assign success by whether or not others either purchase our works or admire them in some way. In the political realm, you are either voted in or you are voted out.

Long lasting relationships are often deemed to be successful, and family members sometimes measure their self worth based on achievements of their partners or their children. For some of us, the number of friends we have has become a symbol often used to assess our self worth.

Since I have started blogging, I have read many posts on how to develop your brand and write about your niche. There are many strategies and techniques described and shared so you can have readers follow you, like your posts, etc. Content concepts seem to outshine the creative process of writing. One begins to wonder if the way to determine the achievement of blogging success can only be determined by statistics.

When was the last time you did any activity in your life without the expectation of measuring up, without checking the graphs, number of likes, and analysis of insights?

What if you enjoy becoming lost in the flow of writing and posting ideas that emerge in a creative daily life with the hopes of engaging others but not worrying about whether or not the idea measures up through statistical analysis?

Is it possible to create, connect, and enjoy the writing that abounds in this blogging world simply for the pleasure of the experience? Surely, if we could quantify and measure our intrinsic satisfaction, it would precede any other measures of success that we strive to achieve.