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Fall – Time for a fresh start

Photo by Mike van Schoonderwalt on Pexels.com

Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.

Sarah Breathnach

With fall peeking around the corner, and closing the chapter on a difficult year, it seems right to dust off my normally held sense of optimism and move forward. Without worry about personal stressors, annoying politicians, devastating traumatic events or the death of a long standing monarch. And most certainly without amping up undue anxiety about whether Covid is here to stay or not. It is. Full stop.

It means dusting off goals that got put on the shelf in March of 2020. And going back to the drawing board where I am free to play with all of the ideas I have rolling around in my mind about what I would like to do next in my life.

There is freedom in that. In actually being able to sit back, spend time in reflection, writing and journaling about any and all ideas when they pop into my head. Without fear, or worry that something will interrupt, interfere, or blow up my life plans.

And really when you consider our life’s journey, it is indeed, full of detours, some of our own making and others beyond our control. And that is okay.

What seems most important is the recognition that you have passions that reside inside of you meant to be pursued. At times, they are apparent and at others, they are elusive. It’s just fine to search for that thing that really resonates, that whispers in a kind and gentle voice to try on. It’s comforting to know that you can dabble until you find what feels right.

Knowing that we can pick some things up where they were left off, bid farewell to those that we won’t be able to continue on with, and choose more intentionality with what we do in our lives regardless of the external world around us.

The fall season, resplendent with changing colours, temperatures, clothing choices, and activities seems a perfect time to reflect, consider new goals, and then carry on.

Enjoy what today will bring!

Leave those ghosts behind

Photo credit LMeyer

The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so we can live our dreams.

Oprah Winfrey

One of the challenges of these times is to remain balanced and to focus on the positives in our present and to spend some time planning for our future. It is all to easy to long for days gone by and to succumb to rumination about all that we may be missing out on in our lives because of the pandemic.

As the weather has become colder and the virus spread intensifies, it may seem even harder to focus on our goals, future hopes and dreams.

Seeking opportunities to develop skills that we ordinarily would never take the time to learn may take us down a path that has the potential to land us in a more positive place down the road.

Becoming more mindful of our health of both ourselves and those around us may have unexpected benefits in the future.

Learning unique ways to stay connected with one another may teach us to become more intentional with our connections and relationships.

Using technology to learn new skills may force us to move in directions that open up a realm of new opportunities and possibilities.

Taking time to develop a practice, routine, or set of activities that make us feel better about our selves and others is something we can carry forward and build into our future day to day lives.

Our world has been consumed with busyness and missed moments because there isn’t ever enough time to focus on goals or our aspirational dreams. Instead of living in regret for what we are missing right now, we could take these moments to reframe all of what is happening in our present reality as gifts which may enhance new learning. It’s time to release those ghosts in our past that have served as barriers and to embrace what may now be possible for our future.

Stay healthy and safe!

Embracing uncertainty

“We know we are no longer who we were, but we do not know who we will yet become”

Fred Mandell

Reinvention by its very nature is captivating and exciting. The possibility of personal renewal, embarking on a new career, or beginning a new relationship often captures our imagination. Nurturing our dreams and planning for a future that we have envisioned for ourselves is an essential part of who we are. But in order to do this, we must first learn to embrace uncertainty.

Making any type of change in our lives means that we are facing some degree of uncertainty. And for most of us, we are often quite adverse to altering our day to day lives. Consider how challenging it has been for many of us since we have begun social distancing and sheltering in place. We have moments where we may experience strong emotional reactions to the impact the coronavirus is having on our lives. This is compounded by the understanding that this will be our new normal for quite some time to come. Uncertainty is part of this new normal.

Fear, frustration, and the weight of our own expectations as well as those of others, could cause us to collapse. Or perhaps we become paralyzed by the emotions that surface during times of uncertainty or change. Indeed, believing that we should achieve something, or aspire to or do a certain thing, can force us blindly down a path that takes us further away from what we are meant to do.

These types of transition are often the most challenging for us but if we are able to find strategies to remain grounded, they can in fact become the most fruitful. I listened this morning to a podcast that was about sharing stories of youth in the child welfare system during this pandemic. One young woman spoke of having to live in a group home and not being able to leave or have people come to visit. At first, she recalled, this isolation from the world, caused her to experience feelings of depression but she talked about moving through that by learning to skateboard and to knit.

These grounding activities helped her not only get through this time of social isolation but she spoke about finally getting to know who she actually is. The hardest part of living through uncertainty and transition seems to happen for all of us regardless of the age or stage of life we are in.

But in the midst of challenge and chaos in our lives comes a hidden opportunity to discover those creative moments that signal to us what we are truly interested and passionate about, and to learn more about who we really are. And it is these learning moments that help to get us excited and motivated to prepare to make changes in our lives. If we choose to acknowledge our fears and take the time we need, to sit with ourselves to figure out where we want to go, our chances of reaching our new destination will increase.

Who knows what we will discover during this time of uncertainty if we reach out to embrace it?

Stay healthy and well!

Facing doubt

Anyone coming into this creative realm has to know that it’s not all “fun,” and, in many ways, the further into it you go and the more successful you become, the more the challenges intensify.

Dave Brosha

One unsettling aspect of the reinvention process is facing doubts. Doubts abound as we take on creative endeavours that are different from what we have engaged in before in our lives. Questions of competence can plague us and derail our dreams if we let them.

I have looked at the opportunity to develop a writing practice and to follow my interests and passions after retiring from full time work as both a gift and at times, a curse.

No one told me how much effort it takes to learn a new skill and to develop your craft. Writing is a solitary profession where feedback can be non-existent and the aloneness aspect can be overwhelming. The feedback and achievement loops that we become used to in our regular work lives, don’t exist in the same form in the writing world.

Quite the opposite actually. Rejection is purported to be the rule rather than the exception. I have even set a goal around the number of rejections I hope to receive this year. Seems a bit topsy turvy from the world I just left.

The time required for learning the craft of writing can be a sacrifice that isn’t understood when you start. The self-imposed pressure to produce and to find some type of rythym for writing can be draining. At times, I have felt like stopping before I even start.

How do you develop strategies to remain creatively energized and work through the process of bad writing until you find the hidden gems through the editing process.

Writers can form a community of support around you and it is critical to choose those who are actually interested in your success rather than putting themselves above where you are currently at with your struggle.

Facing doubt seems to be a part of the process and getting through it has a learning curve all on it’s own. Approaching this work with a light heart, an intense curiosity about the world around me, and a healthy sense of humour have been the strategies that have worked best for me so far.

What keeps you going when doubt seems overwhelming?

Flipping Fears

For the past two days, I have been wrestling with a number of seemingly random negative and fear inducing thoughts. One of my goals for this year has been to submit short pieces of my writing to various publications. My strategy was to create a spreadsheet to document all of the submissions and the subsequent rejections that I anticipate I will receive. My goal was to strive for as many rejections as possible.

Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it?

But, it would mean that I am writing, and even more importantly, I am putting aside all of the fear that seems to co-exist with this vocational pursuit. At the time I created this goal and decided that I was going to send these pieces of creative work out into the world, it seemed innocuous. Really what is the big deal? All writers are subject to rejection, criticism, dismissive editors, and long waits before one may hear anything back from the publication they submitted their work to. Right?

Most writers know that this process is about moving forward, learning the craft, recognizing that the work may not be a good fit for a publication at that particular time but may in fact, fit somewhere else. And truthfully, how would anyone aside from you ever know whether or not you submitted something.

So with all of this knowledge firmly ensconced in my mind, as I began preparing to send something out for the very first time, I found myself in a strange twilight zone filled with fear. It was like an out of control hamster on a wheel was flinging chaotic thoughts around my head. I must have talked myself out of this submission process a hundred times.

Enough. I have taught others how to build resilience skills so why couldn’t I do the same for myself? I started by writing out some of the thoughts that had taking up a lot of real estate in my mind. They ranged from self-criticism to self-disgust to self-shaming and looked a bit like this:

Why even bother – this is an exercise in futility – there is no way I am as competent as other writers? I can’t even format these documents properly so why would an editor even bother to look at what I have written? How can you write a bio if you have never published anything? And really who sets a goal to to count all of the rejections they receive as a writer?

And so on…these horrible thoughts continually popped across my thought screen, and even occurred while I was sleeping, so yesterday I decided that was enough.

Time to flip these fears and really look at what the downside to not submitting my writing might be. At the end of this exercise, I realized that I would be left with paralyzing regret if I didn’t start somewhere. I would be missing out on all of the learning moments from the process and if I keep at this, eventually I may end up with a notation other than a rejection to enter into my spreadsheet.

So I flipped my fear around, and have just sent my first piece of work out. Regardless of what happens with this, I am in the process of reinventing my life and recognize that small steps will move me closer to where I want to go. And if I want to pursue writing as a craft, I will need to challenge those negative thoughts and keep moving forward.

What about you? How do you flip your fears and move forward in spite of all of the thoughts that may fill your mind with negativity and prevent you from doing what you really wish to do?

How do you know when it’s time to make a change in your life?

They always say time changes things but you actually have to change them yourself

Andy Warhol

Most of us experience fleeting moments where we wish that entire aspects of our lives were different. These thoughts often send us off into fantastical daydreams that may not seem grounded in reality. Sometimes these moments are inspiring and we envision making momentous changes that seemingly would alter our experience in the best possible way.

Perhaps we dream that we could do this without even having to put in all of the hard work involved in transformation and reinvention. Or without having the skills required to master a new pathway in our journey. Or maybe you have put in the hard work and acquired the requisite skills but still remain stuck in some way.

Other times we engage in negative and anxiety provoking visions of the worst possible scenarios that might occur if we did actually make any changes in our lives. We may know that negative thoughts might be holding us back but sometimes our tendency to ruminate keeps us stuck. Stopping negative thinking or simply choosing more positive thoughts are often not helpful when we truly desire making changes in our lives.

But what this type of thinking does do for us, is to signal to us that some aspect of our lives may need to change. When our thoughts are calling for us to pay attention, what do we do next? Engaging in reflection is critical for our resilience and well-being. Spending time to ponder what is working or not working in our lives can be powerful and may motivate a change that is needed. Taking stock by pondering questions allows us to cast our net as narrow or as wide as we feel comfortable with.

Some possible questions to consider when you can’t stop thinking about the need for change in your life:

How would growth opportunities make a difference for us, actually make our lives improve?

What is it that we truly wish to spend our time on?

What investments of time and effort are we realistically willing to devote your energy to?

How can we intentionally stretch ourselves?

Are we running away from some aspect of our life?

Or are we moving towards something that will have a profound impact on what we are going forward with in the future?

What holds us back from pursuing change? Fear? Lack of Support? Resources?

The process of guided reflection can be a helpful tool. These are some of the questions that I considered before I embarked on creating major changes in my life. How would you know that it is time to make some type of change in your life? What types of questions would you ask? I would appreciate hearing how your change or reinvention journey may have begun. Happy Wednesday!

Pathways to Possibilities

“To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human spirit.”

Bernard Edmonds

As we celebrate this January 1st, of 2020, we have the opportunity in front of us to explore the promise and possibilities in our lives. The path to reinvention begins with a blank canvas and allows all of us a chance to create our own next steps.

Just think. It will be another ten years before we have a new day, of a new year in a new decade. As I consider this, the following questions are bubbling to the surface as I explore the pathways and possibilities of what I want my future life to look like.

What shape and form will your life take over the next decade?

What changes in your life are calling you?

Do you focus attention on thoughts and ideas that you may have placed on a shelf?

Perhaps this is the year to bring them to fruition.

Is this the decade where you make conscious choices rather than allowing life to carry you along?

Are you willing and able to turn off that critical voice in your head that challenges your growth?

By becoming committed to our ideas, hopes, and dreams, the path forward seems bright and exciting. What questions and thoughts are you considering on this first day of the new year in this 2020 decade?

Happy new year!

Writing exercise for reinvention

As I end this year, I continue my reflection on my progress along this reinvention journey that I have been travelling on. My writing practice, which I typically find energizes both mind and spirit, has slowed and deepened. I find that I have been generating lists. Reflecting on them. Writing more lists. Lists and more lists.

Lists of things I tried and did not work out.

Lists of things I tried and did work out.

Lists of things I tried and did work out and now I no longer want to do.

Lists of things that I haven’t tried but want to.

Lists of things I haven’t tried but am afraid to.

Lists of things I don’t know how to even get started at.

So…I listened to a podcast featuring a woman named Meryl Cook who is a journal writer, artist, and creativity consultant. She described an ongoing exercise she does as part of her reinvention process that she called writing your What If’s. The exercise is to dream wildly and write What If you actually did that thing you have been thinking and dreaming of. What If you had the money, the time, the freedom to actually do that thing?

Use a What If exercise if you need to reframe things that are not going well in your life. What If you could actually do what you need skills and knowledge for but don’t yet have? What If you could actually do what you really want to but fear or busyness or something else gets in the way.

What If by writing down these wild dreams my reinvention journey is strengthened? What if some of the dreams I write down actually come true? My list writing to evaluate how my year has gone has now been replaced by What If exercises. What If the What If writing for reinvention exercise is actually helpful? I look forward to the upcoming year and using this What If writing exercise.

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.

Retirement Reinvention – Moving beyond golf and pickle ball

We each carry around a picture or visual schema of what people are supposed to do once they retire. Often this is based on the kinds of retirement activities we observed our family members engaging in and the social constructs that have existed for decades about this chapter in the life course. Stereotypical activities such as golfing, playing pickle ball or bridge populate our thinking about this stage of life.

The process of aging, which permeates these societal expectations and also may create stigma, complicates this.

So, what types of activities do you pursue when you retire and begin the process of reinvention?

The answer to that question seems to be elusive for some and easily addressed for others. It is critical to recognize that for some people, there may be as many as 30 plus years ahead of them. That is often the same length of time that many people have worked in full time jobs. Perhaps this is what makes some people nervous when they contemplate leaving work. That horizon ahead, may represent decades in our lives. This can be intimidating or exhilarating or both.

Individuals who have well developed plans for reinvention when they leave work often seem to move full throttle ahead. To some, this might seem like the last opportunity to recreate your life, leaving the past behind and pursuing new possibilities. This can be daunting and no one has a crystal ball that tells them how long they have.

Setting clear intentions may help guide your direction, whatever that is, whether it actually is golf, pickle ball or something else. Developing a focus with an actual plan helps. Trying out new pursuits and creating a passion based on a life long love of learning has helped me navigate the first couple years of my retirement. Narrowing down my list of activities and what I truly wished to pursue, has helped propel me in ways that have moved my quest for reinvention forward.

Discovering when something doesn’t resonate or fit my new lifestyle and feeling free to release it by discarding what no longer make sense. All of this has occurred in a trial and error kind of way. When you make significant changes in your life, what approaches have proven to be most helpful for you? This has been a pivotal aspect of reinvention and I will continue to revisit this in the future on this blog. Your comments and input would be appreciated.