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Growing old is optional.

It’s important to get rid of the myth that you’re old when you reach retirement age. There’s a difference between growing older and getting old. Old age is a destination. Growing older is a journey. I’m not old. I’m only 83, getting older all the time, and enjoying every minute of it. I believe my destination is heaven, not old age, and I’m in no hurry to reach my destination.

It is not essential that you retire at all. The main reason people retire in the first place is probably that they are tired of doing what they’re doing or they have no choice. There could be other reasons depending on their circumstances, such as wanting to become a full-time caregiver to their spouse or whatever. But it’s not always because they need the money. The December 8, 2017 issue of Telegraph-Journal contained an article on retirement that included survey results on why many retirees are continuing to work part-time. 82 percent expressed a desire to remain mentally active, 65% cited the need to for social interaction, and only 32 percent reported financial necessity. But regardless, when people retire they should retire to something – other than a rocking chair, that is.

If you have your own business or are working in a profession or job that you really love, you may choose to continue doing so as long as you are physically and mentally able to do so. Of course there are normally other things you want to make time for as well, which leads to part-time employment. That’s the situation I find myself in now – still in my own little business, but limiting myself almost entirely to the parts of it that I enjoy the most – writing and speaking. Oh, and the odd game of golf. (At least the people I play with think it’s an odd way that I play golf.)

The more variety in your life, the better it is for your brain. Combine physical and mental activity with a sensible lifestyle that includes adequate sleep, proper diet, social relationships and a positive attitude and you have a recipe for a long, healthy and fruitful life. There are other things that will improve the odds – such as a sense of humour, volunteering, connection with nature, an organized and supportive environment, lifelong learning, and so on.

One thing that I want to avoid is dementia. Like many people, I don’t want to outlive my mind. Perhaps this fear is exacerbated by the fact that one of my older brothers died from Alzheimer’s at a younger age than I am right now. Because of this, I am currently writing a book on how to grow older without growing old that includes a lot of information on avoiding this particular disease.

So if I miss posting a weekly blog article now and then, please forgive me. I want to finish the book early in the New Year – and still enjoy the Christmas season. Speaking of Christmas, I wish you a merry one whether you celebrate it or not – and happy, healthy year ahead.

And remember, growing older is inevitable; but growing old is optional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The year I got organized: a personal story of triumph over clutter.

I have a little magnetic sign on my refrigerator that claims, “Organized people are just too lazy to look for things.” There is more than a little truth to that. I am definitely too lazy to look for things, and that’s what spurred me on to become as organized as possible. I find that looking for things is frustrating, stressful, a time waster – and definitely not good for inpatient people like me who have high blood pressure.

I also have learned that the fewer things I have, the easier it is to organize them – and of the less time I waste retrieving them. It’s fun to practice common sense. Do I really need nine pairs of shoes, four winter jackets, seven hats, four scarves, and so on filling the hall closet?

I know everyone’s situation must be different, but unless you’re a centipede, how could you possibly need more than four pairs of shoes? I cut the number in half for the hats and scarves since I only have one neck and one head. I allowed myself two winter jackets because the closet started looking bare

I can’t tell you how many pairs of shirts and slacks were crammed into the two bedroom closets – mainly because I kept losing count somewhere in the 30s. And I didn’t even attempt to count the underwear and socks. My mother would have been proud of me. I could wear a clean set every hour for a month in case I had to be rushed to the hospital – and still not need to do laundry.

It wasn’t easy to get rid of a lot of the stuff. Over half of the 30 odd pairs of slacks would no longer fit; but I still planned to lose weight even though I hadn’t lost any weight in the last 48 years. Quite the opposite. Sometimes you have to give your brain piece of your mind because it can be stubborn. I finally convinced it that if I ever lost weight I deserved the reward of a new wardrobe. Subconsciously I knew I would never have to deliver on that promise.  Once you’re on a roll, it becomes motivational. I even got rid of the tuxedo I borrowed from someone for the school prom back in 1953. I never could track him down and he probably went to an early grave wondering who had borrowed his tux.

I was further motivated when I became a regular hero in a small Mexican village that I visited several times a year. On each trip I would bring down a suitcase full of old clothes. The local “thrift shop” also benefitted and I started feeling really good about myself.

By the time I got to the kitchen, nothing could stop me. 62 glasses, 24 pots and pans – including in an egg poacher that never saw an egg in its life, a cast iron frying pan that I couldn’t lift let alone use, and hundreds of plastic bags stuffed into plastic bags – all went to a worthy cause. The 40-odd cottage cheese containers that I had carefully washed and were now still nestled inside one another on a top shelf out of reach went to the recycle bin.

Perhaps I went too far when I got rid of the one spare set of bedsheets and pillowcases; but I found I never used them. I wash the one set and return it to its rightful place on my bed. Sure, it will wear out sooner; but at least I won’t. I can always replace them with a new set when they wear thin.

I find that getting rid of stuff becomes a lifestyle. It’s a never ending; because people keep buying me things. So for every item I receive, I get rid of something less attractive – with the knowledge that it brings a joy to someone else.

I won’t bore you with further details of my assault on superfluous stuff. I’m sure you get the idea. I found it to be a necessary first step in getting organized. I’ll talk a little about my organizing experiences in my next blog article.

 

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We need good old-fashioned rest and renewal

Rest & renewal

Time to sharpen ourselves

Time management experts for the last 100 years or so have been using the analogy of a woodsman chopping down trees who worked harder and harder to get more work done in a day. In competition with another woodsman who consistently outperformed him, even though the stranger didn’t seem to work as hard or as fast, he finally asked how he did it.

The other woodsman replied, “I pause to sharpen my axe.”

In more recent times, Stephen Covey used a similar analogy when he recommended a time management strategy of “sharpening the saw.”

Normally that has been referred to as pausing for routine maintenance – oiling your equipment, keeping your machines in good working order as well as pausing for rest and renewal, and taking your regular breaks and periodic vacations.

It is this latter reference that is becoming more and more critical in this digital age of speed. We have unlimited things to do, a plethora of choices, and unending supply of information – to the point that not only do we not get sufficient rest, we endanger our health and well-being by getting less sleep, inadequate exercise, improper diet and fewer personal  relationships.

For example, the average person today gets 90 minutes less sleep than a person 100 years ago. A sedentary lifestyle and obesity are becoming the norm. People are frequently skipping breakfast eating on the run. And according to one survey, the most frequently quoted number of really close friends with whom people felt they could discuss important personal matters dropped from three in 1985 to zero in 2004.

We must sharpen the saw. The saw refers to you and to me. We must increase our sleep time, exercise our body and our brain, make regular breaks a daily habit, build more personal relationships, and take all of our vacation time.

This all consumes time. But the net result will not diminish our productivity. To the contrary, it will increase our personal productivity by increasing the energy at our disposal, making us more mentally alert and creative, providing us with more stamina, and improving our health and well-being – even to the point of prolonging our lives.