Life From This Point

A Blog About Retirement & Aging

Learning to Embrace Change

It’s November and the weather in our little village is changing. The air is crisp and the multicolored leaves are falling fast. The forest is preparing for winter and will soon be fast asleep dreaming of spring. Having four seasons is one of the things I enjoy about living here.  I love change—and I’m not just talking about weather.

I always thought journalist George Plimpton had the most perfect job in the world because he got to experience so many different occupations and then be paid to write about them. What could be better than that?  Over the years I’ve sampled my fair share of occupations too, and when my husband retired, I took a self-designed sabbatical to spend some time with him. During that period I wrote a book, spent extended time in Mexico, taught ESL classes and learned to sail so we could cruise the Intracoastal Waterway.

I’ve loved all of it but always felt guilty about my inability to be satisfied with any one thing until I read Barbara Sher’s eye opening book, Refuse to Choose! I quickly identified myself as a “scanner,” her term for people who are hard wired to explore many paths rather than settle for one.  I can’t describe how liberating it was to know there are other people who think like me.  Thanks to Ms. Sher I now understand that all these life experiences have enriched my core passion and made me better able to help others.  If the scanner shoe fits you, too, I highly recommend any of her books and have included a list of them in the Resources section. 

Change happens and learning to embrace it—or at least accept it—is a mindset you can learn. Some of it, like aging, illness or losing people we love, is out of our control.  But some of it we can make happen. Is it scary?  Absolutely.  And will you always be successful?  The odds are strongly against it but on the flip side of every failure is an opportunity for growth.  If we can learn to push through the fear we can enrich our lives in ways we’ve never imagined. In her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers writes, “The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow.”  Welcome the fear!  It’s an indicator you are moving in a new and exciting direction.

I’m a perfectionist and whenever I contemplate doing something new, no matter how much I want to do it, I always find reasons to stall.  I tell myself  I’m not quite ready, that I need to take one more course or read one more book or talk to one more mentor.  The old familiar script begins to play with the same old negative thoughts such as:

  • Why would anyone want to listen to you?
  • You don’t know enough
  • You’re too (fill in the blank)
  • You’re not (fill in the blank) enough

Starting this blog was scary and the old script predictably played.  But I’ve learned that is just fear talking so I hold my breath and jump in, trusting I’ll figure out the missing pieces as I go.  You be the judge of whether I was ready or not.

This quote is widely attributed to Mark Twain but a Google search credits it to H. Jackson Brown Jr., from P.S. I Love You.  Regardless of the writer it’s one of my favorites:

I can almost hear your thoughts from here.  “Nice sentiment but it’s too late for me to try something new. I’m too (fill in the blank).”    

That’s fear talking. Ignore it.  

The whole concept of retirement is in transition.  Reaching retirement age no longer means “not working.”  It may mean working differently.   The second half offers a chance to let go of things that aren’t working for us and open up new possibilities for growth, change or renewal.  All we have to do is push through the fear.  There’s an ad campaign for a clothing line whose slogan is “No Fear.”  I’d rather wear a T-shirt that says “No Regrets.”

Food for thought:

  • What’s holding you back?
  • What are you afraid will happen if you step out of your comfort zone?

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