That day I retired and gave back my office keys, downloaded all my course documents, and met with Human Resources had me questioning my decision.
Was I really ready to retire?
My last week of teaching college was a roller coaster of emotions. It was filled with lots of well-wishers, lovely gifts, sweet cards, get-togethers, balloons and a few tears.
I clearly remember a young professor giving me a big hug. “Karen,” she smiled, “I’m so happy for you. You have done such great things for this college and you worked so hard all these years. Now you deserve to just make time for yourself; take a break, rest, relax and enjoy.”
Did that young woman mean take a break as in; rest on the bench for a bit, or did she mean take a break as in; head to the locker room and turn in my uniform?
So....Was I done? Did my retirement signify I had reached my full potential and was now headed for the downhill slope? What a sobering thought, and quite frankly, a depressing one.
It seemed that with each conversation I had regarding my retirement I was asked the same question.
“What will I do now?”
My response was pretty much the same. “My plan is to spend more time with my children and grand babies, write, take walks, ...and my husband thinks I need to raise chickens.”
I vividly remember setting in my hard metal folding chair out on the football field on my final attendance for graduation night. I thought about my students taking their next step toward an exciting career and gaining a new identity. Here I was retiring, and I felt like I was losing mine.
So, is this as good as it gets? I wondered. Is my life as fulfilling as it’s going to be? Should I just appreciate that it had been a good ride, and be grateful and satisfied for my experience in a career I loved? Why was I even thinking about this now? I had retired.
I was struggling with being branded with that awful word; ‘retired’.
I don’t know about you, but I hate the word ‘retired’. It sounds so old…and tired. Not only tired…but re-tired. And depending on your accent it can sound like you’re saying ‘retard’ or ‘retread’;
Let me ask you; do these synonyms for the word ‘retirement’ sound like something that helps us embrace this transition? ‘Withdrawal, retreat, surrender, pullout, disengagement, recoil, shrinking, disentanglement…?’
Seriously, who wants that? It sounds like we are abandoning the ship!
I think my husband saw the signs of my tsunami coming, so he bought me a book to try and stem the tide: ‘How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free’ by Ernie Zelenski. In the first chapter, there is a little cartoon character lounging in his rocking chair reading a book about retirement and the caption says, “The only major problem with retirement is that it gives you more time to read about the problem of retirement. If you can avoid this trap, you have it made.”
I did not feel I had it made! And I soon learned I was not alone. I found there were others experiencing some negativity with this ‘retirement’ business.
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Retirement is the ugliest word in the language.”
And Rama. Sami Natarajan, an essayist, described the day he announced his retirement, “All my ‘strengths ‘were stripped off me by some unknown force. I became a wimp in the eyes of the world.”
Spanish cellist Pablo Casals was quite clear on his disdain for the term as well, “To retire is the beginning of death.”
And although I admit Casals sounds a bit overly dramatic; there is actually some research that backs up his statement. Yep…you are more likely to die when you retire. I know…that’s scary!
I began searching for someone who might offer some sage advice on this new seismic shift in my life. I asked my newly retired cousin about his thoughts on retirement. He said, “I don’t tell anyone I am retired; I tell them I am a consultant.” Really, I responded, why don’t you tell people?” Because he said, “I found out pretty quickly that when I mention I am retired, it is like I become invisible …I just don’t get the same respect I once did.” Holy cow; is that true?
A good friend of mine suggested I read a book by Jane Pauley; ‘Your Life Calling; Re imagining the rest of your life.’ Pauley shares how she spent the first year of retirement lying on her couch. She filled her days by making up a list of all the things she could do now that she was retired. As the lonely days slowly and painfully passed, she recalled, her list of possibilities grew. Then one day her son called her up and told her, “Mom, you know that list of ideas you keep working on? Well, I think you have collected enough good ideas…. Now it’s time for you to pick one and do something with it!”
I could so relate to Pauley’s experience; I too was spending way too much time lying on the couch, reading about retirement and jotting down ideas. I recalled the professor’s encouragement for me to just rest.
Then one day while mindlessly perusing the internet; this headline piqued my interest:
“Want a happier, more fulfilling retirement? Try this Japanese concept.”
Did you know the Japanese culture doesn’t even have a word for retirement? I loved hearing about that. Instead, they have a term called ikigai. Ikigai (ee-key-guy). iki, means “alive” or “life,” and gai, means “benefit” or “worth.”
When combined, it means that which gives your life worth, meaning, or purpose…. why you get up in the morning.
Other Synonyms for this Japanese term are; worthiness; fruitful; effective… Now, that is quite a big difference from the West’s retirement synonym words: withdrawal, retreat, pullout, surrender.
I learned that In regards to the kai portion of the term; it is important to note that there is a strong connotation with “challenge”. Therefore, if one is seeking their ikigai it requires a certain amount of effort.
Oh…so no more lounging? No more just resting and relaxing? It was necessary to put effort into finding my next path?
It was time for me to get up and off my couch, change my mindset and raise my standards.
Rather than focusing on my fear of losing my identity, I would instead need to put my energy into expanding it.
In other words: It was time to get to work!
Are you, or someone you know struggling with retirement? It is not always an easy transition.
The following precepts and questions helped me to find my new path.
And here are some Questions to journal about:
Oh, and by the way…I still hate the word ‘retirement.”
I Iove a good challenge, don’t you?
Whenever I read about some studies that has been done, and the researchers show results in a month or less; then that makes me feel like I want to take on the challenge.
For example, I just recently tried a blueberry challenge. According to this study, one cup a day every day for a month leads to a better mood, and better mobility. And sure enough…just as the study showed, at the end of the month; I was in a better mood and I am certain I had better mobility. I also felt happier and more focused. (And an extra benefit was that I also brushed my teeth more often because they, as well as my lips, were turning purple.)
Currently, I’m in the midst of a 7-day water challenge. I talked one of my daughters into joining in…doing a challenge with someone else always makes it more fun!
And, no doubt, you’ll be excited to hear that I have a prune challenge on my calendar as well. That one needs to be done when I am close to home?!!
So, would you be up for a challenge? I have one that I want to persuade you to try out. Let’s call it, ‘doing the write thing’.
Your assignment requires writing in a journal each day. I know, I know…. I am well aware that some people do not like to write. And so, they make lame excuses that keep them from receiving the great benefits that come with journaling.
Do any of these ‘I don’t want to write in a journal’ excuses ring a bell with you?
But hold on. What If I told you that just committing one hour a day to this challenge could make you smarter, feel better, be less stressed, lower blood pressure, give you more energy, make you feel happier and enable you to have greater success on your goals; then would you do it?
What if you learned that journaling has been proven to not only be good for your mental health, but also your physical health?
That’s right; the benefits are just amazing! Journaling has been shown to strengthen immune cells. It can decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. And journaling has actually been shown to heal injuries faster. It is true! According to one study, personal journaling can predict an astonishing 53% reduction in all-cause dementia risk!
So let me ask you again. Are you up for the challenge of doing the ‘Write’ thing? I hope you are raising your hand and yelling out ‘You bet, Sister, count me in!’
If one of your excuses for not journaling is that you don’t know where to start or what to say, then stick with me, Girlfriend, and I will show you the way.
Although I have been regularly writing in my journal for decades. And believe me, the journey hasn’t always been straight forward or smooth.
For quite a long while I adopted Julia Cameron’s philosophy of ‘morning pages’ as a means of journaling. In her book, The Artist’s Way, she encourages the ‘wanna be’ artists to fill up three pages in their journal each day. She suggests just writing down whatever comes to you…any random thoughts and ideas. A kind of ‘cleaning out the cobwebs’ process.
I have a stack full of journals that include my three pages of random thoughts from my messy mind. I found that although Cameron’s method did help to clean out the rubbish from my brain bin, it did not seem to better prepare me for my ‘real project’; personal growth.
So, when I came across this quote by Tony Robbins, I had a light bulb moment.
““The quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of questions you are asking yourself.”
That was it…I would design my journaling strategy around using quality questions!
After all, what I ultimately hoped to gain from journaling was a means of growth, of expansion, and of becoming a better me.
Thus, I began to ask myself quality questions each day. I decided to refer to keeping my journal as doing the ‘Write Thing’.
So let me explain how you can do the ‘write thing’.
I find a cozy spot, bring my cup of coffee and start by writing out the date and this sentence on the top of the page: Today is going to be a great day! Then I say it out loud…like I mean it!
I created the acronym ‘I LAUGH MORE’ to help organize my writing.
I- Intention- What is my Intention for this day?
What do you want? Many of us don’t give much thought to what we want. We should be asking ourselves this question each day; What do I want? What will make today a great day? Write it down.
And after clarifying your intention for the day, then ask yourself, “What can I do to support my intention? What can I do to make it a great day?”
If we want more success on our goals, ambitions and dreams, having clear intentions is critical.
L- Learning –What am I learning about that I want to remember?
“When you stop learning you start dying”. This quote by Albert Einstein is a great reminder for all of us to stay Life Long Learners so we can live long fulfilling lives.
Are you reading a non-fiction book, taking a class, traveling, or getting ready to launch a new idea? If we repeat what we want to learn we have a better chance of remembering it.
Research has found that if you write something by hand, all that complex sensory information increases the chances the knowledge will be stored for later.
What am I learning and why is it important to me?
A- Action – What action will I take with the information I am learning?
We have all heard that knowledge is power, but it's really only true power when you take action and actually apply what we've learned.
So, our next question is: How will I apply the information I am learning. What action will I take? Like this article for example….you have to not only read about doing the ‘write thing’ you have to do it!
U- Undone - What is something that I have put off doing?
Is there a chore that remains undone? You know, that thing that saps your energy every time you think about it. Or perhaps it’s that tear in your heart that you haven’t taken steps to mend. Is there someone you haven’t forgiven? A conflict you haven’t resolved? Is there burden that you need to let go of and be done with…like the stories you tell of your past that don’t serve you?
I used to clutter up this part of my journal with a ‘to do’ list of the things that I wanted to get done that day like buy a gift for my sister, go to the grocery store, sign the grandkids up for the art class. I finally got myself a note pad that I keep beside me to remind me of those kinds of tasks. I call it ‘Today’s to-do’s’.
G- Gratitude and Grace – What am I grateful for? Who needs my prayers?
Here are just a few of the many benefits of expressing your gratitude
What am I grateful for today? Don’t just write it…feel it. (include big and small things)
Grace - Who needs my prayers today?
(I choose 3 people: a loved one, an acquaintance, someone I don’t like)
Clearly visualize them receiving your gifts of prayer and grace.
H- Health – What will I do today to support my becoming a healthier me?
Think small steps. How can I become 1% healthier, do one more thing?
I find that being intentional in this area is super important. Eat the rainbow today, walk one more block, 10 minutes of meditation, drink 8 glasses of water, order my vitamins, Make an appointment for my yearly cheTck-up.
Having good health is not the end of the journey; it’s the vehicle that will get us to where we want to be.
M- Marvel at your mate. What is something my mate did recently that reminds you me how marvelous he/she is?
What we focus on we will see more of. The more I look for the good, the more good I will see.
I think of all the questions I decided to ask each day, this one made an immediate difference. Such a beautiful way to start out my day is to remember what a great partner I have.
What can I do or say today to support my mate? Is it a compliment I should give, an act that I should do or simply being kind, giving a hug and a thank you?
O- Others- What other person in my life do I want to reach out to?
More than 100 years' worth of research shows that having a healthy social life is incredibly important to staying healthy in mind, body and spirit.
The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships.
What will you today to enhance the quality of an important relationship in your life? Who will I contact today (text, email, call or see)? Is there someone who I feel called to reach out to?
R- Review and Reflect – What went well yesterday?
Think of three things.
What did I do yesterday that was fun, fulfilling or loving?
How did that make me feel? What do I regret not having done?
Is there anything I can do today to fix or repair any regrets I have?
E- Exemplify: What can I do today to serve as an example to others?
I have my vision board in front of me as I write this article. There is a picture of a woman walking with a strong posture, using big strides with her shoulders out. Below her it says, “Walk like everyone’s watching.
If everyone is watching you, what would you like them to see?
I Laugh More – What made me laugh?
Having this question ‘what made me laugh’ before me each day reminds me to search out more reasons to laugh….I want to giggle more and let my laughter become louder and more frequent.
I recently wrote an article on putting more laughter in our lives. Like so many things in our life, just being more aware of them can be a catalyst for change.
I hope I persuaded you to take on the journaling challenge and do the ‘Write Thing’.
Like all habits we want to develop, we want to make them our own. It is best if we tweak the steps to suit our personal preference. So, pick and choose the questions that most resonate with you. You may decide to create your own list.
Please feel free to download my journal page format to get you started.
What Made You Laugh Today?
When my husband and have meals with our grandchildren, we often have a favorite game we play at the dinner table. We call it ‘the mad, sad, glad’ game. I highly recommend it.
The rules are quite simple. We begin by going around the table and each person has a chance to tell us about something that made them mad that day. When one person is talking, the others are just expected to listen and encourage one another.
Next, we each take a turn sharing about what made us sad that day, and then what made us glad.
I am always surprised to see how this simple game allows not only the children; but also, their moms and dads to have a chance to open up about something they wouldn’t normally talk about with the kids.
We recently added some more things to our game: “What did you learn today and what made you laugh today?”
I remember the first time we did the ‘laugh’ part. When it was my turn to share, I paused and asked, “Can it be something that made me smile today?”
“Nope,” my 6-year-old granddaughter quickly retorted, “It has to be something that made you laugh, Grandma!”
“Hmm…” I paused, “I can’t really think of anything that made me laugh today. Can I have more time to think about it?”
Our 10-year-old jumped to my rescue… “Here’s an idea, Grandma. You can say, ‘What made me sad today was when I couldn’t think of anything that made me laugh.’”
Pay Attention to Life
It seems my grandkids often remind me to pay more attention to my life; like the fact I wasn’t laughing as much these days.
Have you heard of statistics that say children laugh about 400 times a day and adults about 15 times a day? Have you ever wondered why that is?
At what point in our maturation period did we decide to drop the other 385 laughs? It must have been during puberty… or maybe for us women, it was at childbirth. (That’ll take the grin right off your face.)
Come to think of it; it must have been when all four of my kids turned into teenagers!
I guess when my doctor reported my bone scan showed I was losing bone mass, I should have asked him if that loss was also occurring in my funny bones?
I found myself pondering this question:
Is Laughter a Big Deal?
Since I am often in search of finding out about things that might make me happier, healthier, and more fulfilled, I decided this question would be a worthwhile research project.
Can laughter play a role in improving not only our attitudes, but also our health?
So, what do you think? Is getting your laughs in each day all that important?
Norman Cousins thought so. It was over 40 years when he called attention to his experience with laughter as a cure. Cousins famously chronicled the effects of his self-prescribed “laughing cure” in his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.
Cousins, who suffered from inflammatory arthritis, claimed that just 10 minutes of hearty laughing while viewing Marx Brothers movies brought him two hours of pain-free sleep – and that both his inflammation and pain were significantly reduced. His laughter caused the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
What Does New Research Tell Us About Laughter?
Cousins was on to something! In the last seven years there has been many new scientific studies that support the benefits of laughter in our lives.
Laughter Benefits Our Physical Health!
Laughter Is Good for the Heart
A recent study of 20,934 individuals, aged 65 years or older, showed that laughter had a profound impact on their health and well-being. Persons who reported rarely or almost never laughing experienced a 21% higher prevalence of heart disease than those who reported laughing every day.
The same startling result was true for the prevalence of stroke: 60% higher among the non-laughers than among those who reported a daily dose of laughter.
Are you serious?? I need to watch more Johnny Carson reruns!
So when we read in proverbs that laughter ‘maketh our heart merry’ it is not only a nice adage but also a scientific fact! Laughter, I learned, improves our blood pressure. It enhances our intake of oxygen-rich air, which not only stimulates our heart, but also our lungs and muscles.
Laughter Leads to Greater Resistance to Disease
When negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions, they can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive and humorous thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
Laughter Helps with Insomnia
One more reason not to go to sleep watching the evening news.
Laughter Helps with Pain
Laughter alleviates pain which supports Norman Cousins earlier claims.
Laughter Benefits Our Mental Health:
Laughter increases health-enhancing hormones (such as endorphins), neurotransmitters, and infection-fighting antibodies.
Laughter reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine; Currently, research is indicating that the physical act of laughing, even without humor, is linked to chemical changes in the body that potentially reduce stress and increase pain tolerance.
Laughter Helps with Depression and Anxiety
Laughter improves our mood. It gives us a more positive mindset and overall outlook on life.
Laughter Even Sharpens Your Mind!
Although you may not think of the funny pages as intellectually stimulating, laughter sharpens your mind. So, put more humorous books on your list of fun activities. Erma Bombeck is one of my favorite authors for finding humor in everyday life.
Laughter Benefits Our Social Life
Laughter Helps Us Connect with Other People
Laughter improves communication. Communication can sometimes be awkward . Even for those of us who share the same language. But laughter can transcend language and strengthen playful communication.
Sets the Mood for Romance
Although most of us focus on being physically attractive to find that man, but laughter can be a real turn on. Unless of course your laugh sounds like Lily Tomlin’s snort.
Laughter is great at fostering emotional connection. And it gets to the core of deeply felt emotions too.
Laughter makes you more approachable. Who doesn’t like to be around someone with a good sense of humor?
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
It appears that laughter really is the best medicine. It can improve our mental health, our physical health and our social lives.
And finally; laughter makes you feel younger; in fact, it’s been revealed that humor can actually be the key to living longer.
And this powerful tool in our toolbox for healthier living is also fun and free! Plus, you can get it without a prescription, and no negative side effects.
Knowing all this, why in the world wouldn’t I do more to seek out this medicine to improve my health, and my happiness? And why wouldn’t you?
‘More Laughter in My Life’ Challenge
Here’s my 5-step plan:
I found this quote and I am going to post it on my refrigerator.
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”—Nicholas Chamfort
I will do a laughter assessment and ask myself at the end of each day: What made me laugh today?
Write down my responses and take notice of how much better I felt after a good laugh.
Be open for more opportunities to find something to laugh about. Take laughter yoga, for example. (Yes, this is actually a thing.) Not only do you get to practice your laughter… you get to do it with friends.
At the end of the month look for commonalities, aha-s and new ideas for bringing more laughter in my life.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
So, what made you laugh today? What gives you the giggles, or better yet, what causes you to bust out into a good old belly laugh? Have you had ‘laughter-healing experiences’ in your life?
Reflections before Resolutions
Photo by Lili Kovac on Unsplash
It will soon be that time on our calendars when making our New Year’s resolutions come front and center. And I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love it!
My family will tell you I become obnoxiously giddy this time of year. I’m like a sprinter at the starting gate, digging my toes in and ready for the ball to drop at Times Square.
Just thinking about my upcoming goals and resolutions gets me charged up and inspired.
Around mid-December I begin to feel drops of inspiration and new ideas beading up on my forehead. Call me crazy, but I get psyched!
I mean, really? Who doesn’t love being given another chance for a new beginning?
And who doesn’t want to think about positive change in their lives?
So, how about you? Have you already carved out your plans for 2023? Have you gotten your goals written down in indelible ink; and ready to scotch tape them up on your refrigerator?
Or have you, like about 60% of the population, given up this age-old practice of setting resolutions? By the way, did you know that it’s been 4000 years since the Babylonians first started the tradition as a celebration and a festival?
Perhaps you don’t care how old the tradition is, and you don’t give a hoot about celebrating; especially celebrating setting goals! Well, my friend, you are not alone.
Although the stats vary somewhat, the bottom line is that of those 40% of us that do plan ahead with specific and clear intentions less than 10 percent achieve them. That’s depressing!
So, Why Is It That So Many of Us That Set Goals Fail?But what if I told you, you could beef up your chances of being more successful in 2023? What if you learned there is current research to show you a better way to accelerate your progress and accomplish your goals? Would you give it a try?
One of our challenges of not being successful with our goals, is that we are often too quick to come up with them. We spew out our new resolutions without taking time to learn from our old ones.
How many times have we resolved to join a gym and get fit, try that new diet and start saving money? And how many times did we fail to accomplish each of those goals?
I fear that in our anxiousness to get up and out with our positive improvement plans we are ignoring a crucial first step. That step is the process of reflection.
There has been a deluge of recent research on the importance and power of focusing on reflection in our lives.
One study published in 2014 by Harvard University shows that when employees practiced reflection at the end of their working day, after 10 days the workers performed 23% better.
Just think how our lives would improve if we did 23% better!
“Reflection is not only valuable,” conclude the researchers, “but it is a critical component of positive change in our lives.”
And frankly, we have known about the positive impact of reflection for many years. In fact, over 2000 years ago, Confucius, Chinese teacher and philosopher, when asked about his advice on becoming wise, said, “First we become wise by reflection.”
And, in the early 1930s, John Dewey, a renowned education reformer and psychologist, studied the importance of reflection. “We do not learn from experience,” he wrote, “we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Here is an interesting summary of Dewey’s key concepts about reflection:
So, if we’re serious about making intentional plans for the upcoming year, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves this question:
“Have I taken adequate time and given careful consideration to reflection in 2022? “
Do you want to try harder, do better, get more done, set new goals, and strive for more success? Then may I propose that we take the advice and the wisdom from many that have gone before us and do some serious thoughtful reflection on our past experiences?
I mean really reflect. Not like a two-minute stroll through memory lane but ‘a get down and dirty’, brutally honest assessment and self-reflection.
This time of year is a perfect opportunity to dig deep, look back, and examine the past year in order to learn from our experiences and perhaps not repeat our mistakes. We can explore our thoughts and feelings looking for insights to help us on our precious meaningful journey forward.
So, for me, that means that although I get super excited in anticipating another chance for a new beginning – and as much as I want to race ahead in order to get a start on my goals for the new year – I must first pause. I must take time to reflect.
So, what do you say… are you in?
And here’s a tip: I am much more successful with this process of reflection if I give it some structure.
In case that is true for you, I have included the list of questions I use that you might find helpful. reflection_questions.doc
Let’s Have a Conversation
What are your greatest lessons from 2022? And what new actions will you take as a result of your reflections?
"A reflection from a flickering candle cast its silhouette upon the wall as the Christmas Carol fades and the bells jingle grows still." Karen Spencer
Image by Mika Baumeister
One day I walked into the living room and said to my husband. “I have this idea that won’t leave me alone. I know it is probably a really dumb idea but, I just can’t seem to let it go.”
“What idea is that?” My husband asked as he peeked around his morning newspaper.
“Well,” I said…tiptoeing my way into the conversation. “I have been thinking that maybe I might like to sign up for a health coaching certification program.”
“So, you ‘maybe’ ‘might’ want to be a health coach?” My husband asked.
“Yeah maybe” I said, “It’s just an idea.”
“Well then,” my husband said patiently, “Why don’t you sign up for the program?”
“Because the program it is not cheap, and I am not even sure I really want to be a health coach.”
“Ok” he said…” then don’t sign up.”
“But it just feels like a good idea that I don’t want to pass up on.”
My husband stuck his nose back in his newspaper and was silent.
After a few minutes he spoke, “Karen, I think that if you want to do it, you should do it.”
“But here is another problem.” I responded. “I am 68 years old now. And the certification program takes a year to complete.”
“So that means I will be 69 years old when I get my coaching certification! 69 years old!”
“And so, Karen”, he said, “how old will you be in a year if you don’t sign up for the program?”
I whispered. “I will be 69”.
“Yep,” he retorted matter-of-factly, “and without that health coaching certification”.
Can you relate to my example?
Do you have an idea or a dream? And do you think about taking action on it…someday…maybe?
Have you considered that your good idea may not keep? What if you were given the good idea, as a gift on loan. And that the good idea actually has an expiration date on it? After which time, if you don’t begin to act on it…. then poof…it floats on to a more deserving soul; someone who will actually do something with it.
I can hear you saying it now, “I want to be the deserving soul, but I still feel stuck. I just can’t seem to make up my mind to get started.”
Would I make you feel better to remind you that you are not alone?
Lately, I have been particularly conscious of hearing others talking about their dreams and ideas. Ideas that get them motivated, excited and full of anticipation. Ideas like: going back to school, beginning a new project, starting a volunteer group, committing to a new health plan, a new invention, creating a website, building a product, taking on a new challenge. I'm reminded that there are really a ton of great ideas and unfulfilled dreams out there. A ton of ideas that no one is taking action on.
I wonder what kind of tsunami we could create if all of us over the age of fifty-five banned together and actually did something with our ideas.
Can you even begin to imagine what that would look like?
I say, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s do this thing!
Using the acronym IDEAS; we can work through the following steps. First: Identify your idea, then Decide to do it, Engineer a plan, Act on it and finally Share it.
I -Identify your Idea
A few of us are crystal clear on what it is we feel driven to do. But I would venture to say the rest of us are foggy, unsure, or all over the place. Which one are you?
Perhaps you experience a flickering insight or a hunch or just that whispering inner voice reminding you there is still work to be done.
Here’s an exercise to help shake out and clarify your ideas: Don’t think too much about it and don’t judge your list; just quickly write it down…no matter how small or impossible it may seem.
Once you have finished with your brainstorming, go back and circle the things that most resonate with you. Is there one idea that stands out and cries for your attention?
D- Decide to Do it!
Be honest now…this idea you identified has probably been with you for a while and you haven’t done a darn thing with it, right?
Listen to what Alfred North Whitehead, mathematician and philosopher, tells us.
“Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them."
And so, my friends, let’s get on with it and take the next step. This is the part where we decide to do it; not just think about it, talk about it, or dream about it.
What is it that has been holding you back thus far?
Do any of these lame excuses sound familiar to you?
I beg you, do not let another year go by with your dream still in your mind and on your heart. It is time for you to decide to do it.
And as soon as you decide to do it, then declare it! Whether it’s telling a trusted friend, posting it on Facebook or standing on the mountain top and shouting it out to the world. “I am going to turn my idea into a reality!”
E Engineer a plan –
Once you identify your dream and decide to do it, then celebrate!
Set a date for your planning party and get your pens, pencils, rulers, colorful markers and large pieces of paper ready because, it is time to engineer your plan.
Caution: Like all plans you can get too wrapped up in all the specifics…just get started!
A-Act on your plan
I wonder if we thought our time was limited with the chance to do something with our good idea, would we be more willing to begin the labor?
You have to admit, talking about your idea and dreaming about it are the easy parts. Even the engineering of a plan can seem like a fun play day activity. But the actual doing it…now that takes work.
In his book titled 'Love Does' Bob Goff writes these inspirational words. “Let me tell you what I do when I don’t know what to do to move my dreams down the road. I usually just try to figure out what the next step is and then do that. I know it sounds too simple, too formulaic; it seems like there must be more to it. But there isn’t. For most of us, the next step is as easy as picking up the phone, sending an e=mail, writing a letter, buying a plane ticket, or just showing up. After that, things start happening; things that perhaps have God’s fingerprints on them. You’ll know which ones do and which ones don’t. Pick the ones that do.”
Did you get that? Figure out what the next step is and then do that!
When I first came across Goff words, I was suddenly struck by how profound they were. I began thinking about the people I know that have taken their dream and turned it into reality and sure enough, that’s what they did, isn’t it? They just took the next step.
S- Share it
One would think that this is a ‘no brainer’. But I fear that way too many of us have turned our good idea into reality and then went and stashed it in the closet or set it up on the shelf. Raise your hand if that is you?
“Starting isn’t enough,” writes Seth Godin in his book Ship it. “It’s that follow through to the end that matters. Creating and doing the work is hard, yes, but nothing compares to the difficulty many people have actually shipping. Amazing ideas and incredible projects die at the hands of people who think just one more tweak, one more proofread, one more change is needed before putting that project out into the world.”
So now that you know the steps; it is time to begin: Identify the idea, Decide to do it, Engineer a plan, Act on the plan, and Share it.
And speaking of sharing…It would be such fun to read about your ideas and dreams.
Have you decided to do it? if so, what is your first action step? We would love to support you on your journey.
The Incredible Power of Play
Our family tries to get together each year for a reunion. With eighteen of us it is no small undertaking. This summer our gathering was in Destin, Florida. We rented a lovely home about a block from the ocean. Our eight grandkids; ages 6-13, and their parents were totally psyched for the experience.
As for me, I was a bit uneasy about the whole ‘beach thing’. You see I have horrible looking varicose veins, cottage cheese thighs and dry, sagging skin. Probably not a lot different from other women my age, but nonetheless this 70-year-old body of mine is not something I care to flaunt…. Seriously, who wants to look at that!
So, before walking with my family down to the beach the next morning, I covered up my bathing suit and my unsightly body with a floor length cotton dress. Once we arrived at our spot; I quickly plopped down in a beach chair and hid under an umbrella. I adjusted my sun glasses and straw hat, picked up my bottle of water and waved at the children and their parents as they marched down through the sand, boogey boards in hand.
After about 15 minutes Adie, my six-year-old granddaughter, started waving at me from the water; inviting me to get in and play. I smiled at her and shook my head ‘no’.
She was persistent and continued urging me to join her. I continued to decline.
Finally, my granddaughter strutted up on the sand, hands on her hips like a girl on a mission. “Come and play, Grandma. Don’t be afraid. I promise I will not let go of your hand until you feel brave.”
“Darn it, I mumbled under my breath grabbing Adie’s hand, “the things I will do for these kids!”
I tossed the dress and beach towel aside and Adie and we skipped down into the cold ocean water together. For the rest of the morning, I was boogey boarding, swimming, riding the waves and building sand castles.
I had a wonderful time!
When did I decide to stop playing?
After returning home from our vacation, I found myself with a gnawing question that would not leave me alone. I kept asking myself, “When did I decide to stop doing that?” “When did I decide to stop playing in the ocean and frolicking in the sand? And what other fun things have I quit doing along the way?”
As synchronicity would have it, I found myself listening to an episode from ‘Huberman Lab’ about the topic of ‘play’. It was titled, “Using Play to Rewire & Improve Your Brain”. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist from Stanford University, was speaking about the myriad of research studies being done on the incredible power of ‘play’. As we age, he said, the amount of time we devote to play decreases. And yet play still holds amazing power for us all.
Do you remember when you began decreasing the amount of time you devoted to Play?
Here are some ways that ‘play’ can contribute to healthier living?
Now let’s face it, Girlfriends, who at our age does not want to improve her memory, and her brain functionality; not to mention more stimulation and growth in our cerebral cortex?
As I became more intrigued about play, I found myself doing more reflection. There were so many things I used to enjoy playing in my past. And so many of those things I had stopped doing.
Why did I quit shooting basketball hoops, playing volleyball, four-square and chess games? What other things had I stopped doing?
I pulled out my journal and started to make a List…………….
Here are some starter phrases that helped me brainstorm more about the play.
I used to…. (play piano, dive, swim, play chess and poker)
I always liked…. (playing basketball, volleyball, foursquare).
I once loved…. (creating and acting out plays, running lemonade stands and running through the fields of sunflowers).
I remember when … (we would go water skiing in the lakes, and bogey boarding in the ocean)
When I was younger, I loved… (doing cartwheels in the grass and playing Candy Land with my mom. I loved riding my bike through the neighborhood and sledding down the mountain in the winter).
I was pretty good at…. (Jumping on the trampoline and making up cheer and dance routines)
I wish I would not have stopped…. (playing board games, basketball, volleyball, …just being open to more play)
These exercises were so cathartic for me that I decided to get off my bum, quit worrying about my 70-year-old body, and return to focusing on more play in my life.
Since our beach vacation, I started playing pickle ball, playing volleyball in the swimming pool, and challenging my grandkids to games of chess. Last week I drug my sister out to shoot some hoops and play HORSE. We also tried out Tossing a few games of disc golf. And during a recent sister weekend we all joined in and learned a new dance on YouTube to the tune of, “We are family”. We laughed until we cried…. our endorphins were running wild!
Now it is your turn. I challenge you to create Your own list
I want to invite you to join in and create your own list to identify what you might be missing in your life. Ask yourself the questions I did about play…. Why did you quit? Is this where you stop? What play can you add back in to my life? What new play can you experience?
I urge you to consider ways you can get more play in your life. Jump in and you will quickly be reminded how much fun it.
Play is so good for our brains, our body, our relationships, our self-esteem, and our overall happiness.
Oh and yes…and that nagging question, ‘Why did I decide to stop?’ has changed. I now have a new question I ask myself, ‘How far can I go’?
One day on a recent visit to New Mexico I was setting on the couch with my 10-year-old granddaughter. We were writing in our journals; a lovely tradition we started when she was three. Now every time I come to visit, she wakes up earlier than usual to join me in the living room with her book and pen in hand.
As usual, this morning it was just the two of us; and like most of our mornings together we don’t get too much writing in because we end up chatting instead.
This day Giada was super excited about her upcoming birthday.
After about 5 minutes of writing in her journal, she turned to me, “Grandma, can you believe I am going to be 11 years old next week?”
“No,” I smiled, “I cannot believe it Giada! It just seems like yesterday when you were a tiny little baby doll…so sweet in your mommy’s arms.”
She scooted closer, as we both laid down our journals and I put my arm around her.
“Grandma, were you at the hospital when I was born? “
“Oh Yes,” I grinned, “In fact I was standing right next to your mommy when she had you. And you should have seen the look on your Mommy and Daddy’s face when you popped out. They thought you were the most beautiful little miracle they had ever seen. And you know what, sweetheart, they still think that about you. And I do too. In fact, I believe you can be whatever you want to be,”
We talked about the exciting years she had in front of her and the many wonderful dreams she would see come true along her way. We had such fun brainstorming lots of ideas for what she could look forward to..
“Eleven years old, she repeated, I just can’t believe it.” She pondered it for a while longer before she turned back to me with a question.
“So, Grandma, how old are you going to be this year?”
“Well…. actually,” I found myself uncomfortable with my answer, “I am going to turn 70 years old this year.”
“70!” she gasped, leaving her mouth wide open. “Do you know what that means, Grandma?”
I wanted to tell her that it meant I was old, but I waited for her response.
“That means, Grandma, that in 30 years you will be 100!”
(Not exactly a celebration moment in my mind, but a reminder she was good at math).
I smiled and repeated her realization, 30 years…huh?... So, Gia what do you think I should do for the next 30 years?
She paused, seriously considering my question, and gently took my hand. “Well Grandma, I think you can change the world.”
“Change the world?” I said a bit too loudly…. “That’s a really big job!”
Her big brown eyes kept looking at me and she didn’t back down from her statement. She waited…. “You know Grandma, you can do it.”
“So, you think I can change the world, do you? Well then sweetheart, “I laughed, “I guess I better get to work!”
Sometimes it just takes a fresh outlook to help us reframe our beliefs, and create a new mindset.
As I reflect on that moment, I realize that many people think about aging as a slow, solo, downhill crawl. We look at the past as the ‘good ole days’ the times we were given an opportunity to live out our life’s purpose.
Since my sweet conversation with my granddaughter, I find myself going back to her words and her message. I ask myself, what if I do have 30 healthy years left to live? And what if those 69 prior years were actually prepping me for my next assignment?
And that reminds me… I do have this good idea that has been, nipping and gnawing away at me. In fact, I have a number of good ideas. I have a book I want to write with my grandchildren, a new website I want to start, classes I want to teach, lives I want to impact. I can already visualize my 30-year calendar starting to fill up.
And what about you? What’s your mindset like right now? How are you feeling about having another birthday? Have you considered the possibilities and opportunities you have for the whole rest of your life?
Do you look at aging as time to gear down, slow down and sit down? Or do you view this season of your life as an opportunity to use what you have learned thus far to get you ready for your new assignment …one that might change the world?
We can do it you know; my now eleven-year-old granddaughter says so.
Diet is a Four-Letter Word!
Have you ever been on a diet? Have you been on more than one diet?
According to the UK Daily Mail
The average woman tries 61 diets by the time she is 45 years old!
Do any of these diets sound familiar? Nutri System, Organic, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Blood-type diet, Dash, Mediterranean, Elimination, Time restricted eating, Candida, Anti-aging, Anti-carb, Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory, Atkins, Scarsdale, Whole 30, Ketogenic, Weight watchers, Gluten free, Raw Food Diet, Macrobiotic, Paleolithic, Jenny Craig, Cabbage diet, Master Cleanse diet, Shake Diets, Flexitarian, Mayo Clinic, Makers Diet, Longevity diet, and _______(fill in the blank with your own diet experiences).
Just for fun I typed ‘diet books’ into Amazon. I received 60,000 results! Holy Cow! One thing there is no shortage of is diet books and diet programs!
Why then, if we have all these available resources to help us with dieting, are we struggling with our weight now more than ever?
As of 2022, 78% of Americans are either overweight or obese.
With that statistic in mind, I think we can agree that our jumping from one fad diet to the next does not work. So why then do we keep trying them?
Many companies use our emotions of guilt, shame, and self-hate to sell us their books and products. As Louise Foxcroft, author, historian, and broadcaster reminds us, "It is always the same old line -- we could be thinner, younger and more loved if only we buy whatever new improved diet food or regime they're selling."
Sadly, many of us fall for the diet marketing and media gimmicks and schemes. In fact, we spend more than 61 billion dollars a year trying to lose the fat and gain that perfect image of our thinner and younger looking body.
After receiving my health coaching certification, a common question, I had from people was what diet I recommended for weight loss. And although I am not a nutritionist or a physician, I would like to see us tamp down this diet discussion.
"Perhaps what we really need to ‘lose’ is the four-letter word 'diet' from our vocabulary."
And instead talk about what we need to gain: a new and improved mindset about how to better nourish our bodies and our precious lives.
Instead of monitoring our weight, and our waist measurements, keep track of how we are feeling and our level of energy. No counting calories, count the hours of restful sleep. No more obsession about the fastest way to lose pounds, let's instead become passionate about a sharp, beautiful mind and a stronger, healthier immune system.
So, let's switch our paradigm from 'diet' to 'nutrition'. And there is no need for a lengthy book, or an expensive program. We'll just keep it simple to start with.
Here are 10 basic tenets for better nutrition:
1. Eat More Whole foods (food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and free from additives or other artificial substances) In other words:
Eat more Real Food and less Junk Food.
Check out this video and share with the kids. Learning to decipher junk food from real food should be a family affair.
(18) Junk Food vs. Real Food (7 Ways to Tell the Difference) + BONUS - YouTube
2. Read the labels on the packaging
Know what ingredients you are putting in your, or your child’s mouth. Another perfect opportunity to include the kids and learning together how to read the labels.
3. More ingredients are not better!
The optimal food to eat has only one ingredient.
4. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients…don’t eat them.
5. Beware of marketing manipulation
Even if the packaging tells you this food has been enriched, fortified, fat removed, healthy, sugar free, natural, no calories and gluten free…be cautious
6. Pay close attention to the amount of sugar that has been added.
The American Heart Association guideline recommends the following criteria for sugar intake.
For women and children: less than six teaspoons of sugar per day/25 grams
For men: less than nine teaspoons of sugar per day/37.5 grams
(Read more about the effects of sugar in this month's newsletter)
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7. Don't underestimate the positive power of herbs and spices.
Turmeric, ginger, cumin, nutmeg, basil, peppermint and many spices can give you multiple health benefits. Research shows that these benefits can range from anti-inflammatory properties to cognitive boosters.
8. If a food or drink makes you feel crappy, agitated or bloated, stop eating it or eat less of it.
(Lactose intolerant, gluten sensitive, diabetic, food sensitivities or downright deadly allergic? Don't eat what makes you sick, my friend).
9. Keep healthy foods available and accessible.
Let’s take some of the 61 billion dollars that we have been spending on diet books and diet products and use the cash to buy more fruits, seeds, vegetables and whole grains. It's easier to eat healthy if you have stocked up with real, healthy foods).
10. Be intentional.
Come up with a plan and a list for what you will eat.
I created a list of foods that I believe are healthy. I made copies of the list and stick it to my refrigerator to use as I prepare for my weekly shopping. (See the file at the bottom of blog post to help you get started with your own list).
Most of what I have shared with you is common sense, but remember: it’s not what we know, but what we do with what we know and the action we take consistently over time that is the game changer.
Small Steps to healthier eating:
So now, let me ask you, are you ready to stop using the four-letter word and start focusing on better nutrition?
Let's move our conversation to nurturing our bodies and improving our well-being. I challenge you to improve your nutrition. You will feel better and look even more fabulous! We would love to hear about some of your healthy tips, your Aha’s, and your successes.
We have traveling, visiting our kids and grandchildren. Wow are they a busy bunch! They are off to swim lessons, tennis lessons, softball practice, soccer games, t-ball games, basketball and bicycling. Then there’s the theatre practice, theatre performances, guitar lessons, art club, piano lessons, jogging and training for an upcoming marathon! Holy cow! Where do they get all that energy?
I think I once had that kind of energy, but for the life of me I don’t know where it went.
During one of our trips, we went to watch a granddaughter's softball game. I noticed our other two young granddaughters off to the side playing in the grass. They were entertaining themselves by doing cartwheels, roundoffs and handstands. Over and over again they flipped through the air.
“Nora,” I said as I walked closer, “You two are amazing! You have so much energy! Do you know that every part of your grandma wishes she could join you doing those cartwheels?”
Nora smiled and asked, “When you were a little girl, Grandma, did you ever do cartwheels?"
“I sure did!” I responded with enthusiasm, “I took gymnastics, and I did lots of cartwheels and I even did flips.”
Nora looked at me confused, “You did? So, Grandma why don’t you do cartwheels with us now?”
“Well sweetheart," I answered, "I am afraid if I did a cartwheel right now, you might have to call 911, and then what would you say to the person on the emergency line?
“Well," she said thoughtfully, "I would just explain to them, that my grandma tried to do a cartwheel and it didn’t go well.”
I wish I could tell you that my experience and conversation with my granddaughter motivated me to work on my cartwheels, but no…maybe next year. I have, although, been working on pumping up the energy in my life.
More energy is what we are all after isn’t it? It really is one of our best gauges for monitoring our health.
As I dig into the research, looking for strategies and tools to help me live my healthiest life, I am convinced that it is paramount that I place energy at the center. It is a critical piece of the puzzle into what motivates, inspires, and moves us to the next rung in our health journey.
In order to live our best and most fulfilling lives we need energy to do that. Our level of energy undergirds and affects every area in our life.
So, what about you? How’s your energy? Could you use some more?
As always, the first step in our journey begins with awareness.
Are you aware of what gives you more energy? Are you aware of what depletes your energy?
Once we figure that out, it’s a lot easier to create a healthier plan for our life.
With that in mind, I created what I call, an energy audit.
The point of this audit is to clearly identify those things in your life that increase your energy and fill you up. And also, to become aware of what depletes, retracts, and deflates your energy.
When I do this exercise (my energy audit), I like to imagine I have an energy meter wrapped around my waste detecting my energy waves.
For example, When I walk outside on a warm day, I often spread my arms out to collect the sun’s rays. I can almost feel my meter registering high levels of energy.
Would you like to join me in an energy audit? Consider it another challenge. For two weeks, you will be asked to focus on some key areas in your life that can greatly impact your energy and ultimately your health. Areas such as: sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships, environment, spirituality and service, activities, emotions and beliefs.
I promise you; it is worth your time to become more informed about what affects your level of energy.
Here is an example of my personal energy audit.