Author: Expert Visitor

Give back – driven by purpose, not purse

Mitch Anthony

So says Mitch Anthony, pioneer of Financial Life Planning. His article that follows here outlines why he is so certain that making room in our lives – and our finances – for giving back is good for us.

There are only four things you can do with your money:

  1. Owe it (taxes and debt)
  2. Grow it (investing and saving)
  3. Live on it (lifestyle spending)
  4. Give it away (philanthropy)

The choices you make around Owe-Grow-Live-Give (OGLG) have a direct impact on the quality of your own life, and on those around you.

While all four options are critical to living a successful Return on Life®, giving can add the most meaning to your life, whether you are doing well financially or have limited means.

You can’t have a financial plan that works for you without knowing what money means to you, and where and how giving fits into your financial planning.

Take time to focus on what is in your heart—driven by purpose, rather than purse. Understanding the “why” is as critical as the “how much,” and can help you make decisions that will fulfill you from both mind and money perspectives.

The means and methods by which people give are incredibly diverse. Some give money to causes they believe in, which lends an extra layer of meaning to what they do each day to earn that money. Still others lend their expertise and skill to causes and organisations that are making a difference in people’s lives. People are committed to different levels of giving. Some give a day or two a month, and others give a part of or every day. Some simply help by helping a grieving friend or walking a friend’s dog. It really doesn’t matter what the act is—what matters is that you act.

It’s important for people to feel they’ve translated their abilities and assets from self-serving to the realm of benevolence. Whether people have means that enable them to devote themselves full-time to philanthropy, or they wish to do something after retiring, the result is the same: Giving feels good because you get much more in return.

I don’t know about you, but I’m working on the assumption that I don’t get a second shot at this earthly existence. I certainly don’t want to give away my life to frustrating work and empty pursuits—I want to make a difference. My hope is that each of you will do something that will not only help those around you, but you as well.

You can improve your Return On Life® through giving.

Signs of colorectal cancer

Dr Jacques Badenhorst, gastroenterologist at the Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital, Cape Town, says that colorectal cancer is preventable and, with screening, can be detected early. It is commonly thought primarily to affect the elderly and men, but younger people and women are increasingly being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the third most common kind of cancer. Although it’s slightly more prevalent in men, one in every 24 women will be diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer in her life.

Be aware of the signs of colorectal cancer:

  • Change in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation, or stool consistency)
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating or discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained anaemia (iron deficiency)

“Many of these symptoms can be caused by something other than cancer (poor diet, a viral infection, haemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome), so get to know your body well so that you can report any noticeable changes to your doctor, particularly if symptoms last longer than a month,” says Dr Badenhorst.

According to Dr Badenhorst, a colonoscopy is the most effective method of diagnosing colon cancer. “It is a safe, comfortable, simple and widely available procedure that saves lives. A camera, or a colonscope, is inserted through the rectum to examine the entire colon and rectum and to take a biopsy if necessary.

“People with an average risk of colon cancer should start screenings at age 50. Earlier screening is recommended for anyone with a family history of colon cancer, polyposis syndromes or Lynch syndrome, and those who suffer from conditions that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).”

A colon cancer diagnosis can be terrifying. Patients’ first question is: “What’s next?”  The best course of treatment is affected by the stage of the cancer.

Cancer staging takes place after initial diagnosis and may involve many tests. Each test helps your physician to determine how much cancer has affected your body. After determining the stage, your physician will recommend a course of treatment.

Stage 0 colon cancer:  abnormal cells are found in the colon wall or mucosa. A polypectomy is performed to remove all malignant cells. If the cells have affected a larger area, an excision may be performed (a minor, minimally invasive surgery often performed during the colonoscopy).

Stage I colon cancer has invaded the mucosa and the submucosa. Malignant cells may have affected the colon wall’s deeper muscle layer, but not any areas outside the colon. Surgery (a partial colectomy) is required to remove the affected area.

Stage II colon cancer has spread past the colon wall, but not affected lymph nodes. Treatment involves surgery to remove the affected areas and usually chemotherapy. If not all cancer cells could be removed, radiation may be recommended.

Stage III colon cancer has spread past the colon lining and affected lymph nodes. The cancer has not yet affected other organs in the body. Surgery removes the affected areas, and chemotherapy is required. Radiation may be recommended for patients not healthy enough for surgery or those still with cancer cells in their bodies after surgery.

Stage IV colon cancer has spread to other organs in the body through the blood and lymph nodes.  Those with stage IV may undergo surgery to remove small areas, or metastases, in affected organs. Often, the areas are too large to be removed. Chemotherapy may help shrink tumours for more effective surgery or to prolong life.

(Source:  All4Women, 5 March 2019)

The key to positive mental and emotional health?

Remember that you have choice.

Chartered Wealth Solutions client, Lindajane Thomson, has recommended a book that has received rave reviews from a range of sources. The Choice by Edith Eva Eger is the account of this young ballerina’s experience of Auschwitz, and how she has learned to live with life-affirming strength, finding purpose in helping others.

Here is Lindajane’s review:

It feels almost understated to write that Edith Eva Eger is an incredible woman with resilience and strength of character, but such a remarkable woman she is. Having endured horror and cruelty to the point of death, yet surviving because of her strong mind and determination to live makes her almost super human.

After the war years and having raised a family, she studied to be a doctor and a psychiatrist which enabled her successfully to counsel war victims with severe PTSD. She could empathise with her patients because of her own experiences.

Her life achievements are huge, so for Chartered clients, her life is a reminder that no one is ever too old to learn a new skill, acquire a new hobby, meet new people, read more books – we have time. Life is very precious as Edith Eva Eger has proved at the age of 90 something years.

“I can’t imagine a more important message for modern times.  Eger’s book is a triumph, and should be read by all who care about their inner freedom and the future of humanity.”

New York Times Book Review

The Choice is a gift to humanity. One of those rare and eternal stories that you don’t want to end and leaves you forever changed. Dr Eger’s life reveals our capacity to transcend even the greatest of horrors and to use that suffering for the benefit of others. She has found true freedom and forgiveness and shows us how we can as well.”

Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

The Chartered Library has two copies of The Choice available to be borrowed.

Challenging the term ‘old’

A brilliant article from The Economist in which the notion of being ‘old’ at 65 is debunked.

IN MUCH of the rich world, 65 still marks the beginning of old age. Jobs end, subsidised bus travel begins and people start to be seen as a financial burden rather than an asset to the state.

The larger the “65-plus” group becomes, compared with the population of working age, the more policymakers worry about the costs of their healthcare and pensions. By the end of the century the “old-age dependency ratio”, which tracks this relationship, will triple. Pessimists predict a “silver tsunami” that will bankrupt us all.

But does it still make sense to call 65-year-olds “old”?

The Oxford English dictionary defines “old” as “having lived for a long time”. It illustrates the sense with an accompanying phrase, “the old man lay propped up on cushions”: the old person as one who has made all the useful contributions he can possibly make to society and is now at rest.

When pensions were first introduced in Prussia, in the 1880s, this was probably a fair characterisation for anyone over 65. Not many people lived beyond this age; those who did were rarely in good health.

Today many 65-year-olds are healthy and active. Yet governments and employers still treat 65 as a cliff’s edge beyond which people are regarded as “old”: inactive, and an economic burden.

3 reasons why it’s wrong

First, what “old” means is relative. Life expectancy has gone through the roof since von Bismarck pioneered the Prussian welfare state. Today the average 65-year-old German can expect to live another 20 years; so can most people in other rich countries, meaning old age now arguably kicks in later than before.

Second, the term carries an underlying implication about health, or at least fitness. But healthy-life expectancy has grown roughly in tandem with life expectancy; for many, 70 really is the new 60.

Third, surveys show that the majority of younger over-65-year-olds increasingly want to stay actively involved in their communities and economies. Few want to retire in the literal sense of the word, which implies withdrawing from society as a whole. Many want to continue working but on different terms than before, asking for more flexibility and fewer hours.

All this shows that life stages are primarily social constructs.

Words like “old” and “retired” signal to policymakers, and to old people themselves, how they ought to behave and be treated by governments, businesses and employers. In a three-stage model of life’s cycle, children learn, adults work and old people rest. As a result, most institutions still treat 65 as a cut-off point for social and economic usefulness. But ageing is a gradual process, which people experience in different ways. While some may feel old at 65, nowadays most do not.

Acknowledging that there is a new stage of life between full-time work and old age would help everyone make the most of longer life spans.

The persistent popularity of property

Chartered Wealth Solutions’ RetiremeantTM Specialist and Certified Financial Planner®, James Carvalho, assesses the value of rental property as an investment.

Over the past ten years or so, I have been party to numerous conversations that have debated the merits of rental property. I have frequently wondered what lies at the heart of this affiliation to property.

I have concluded that it is most likely the ability to own something tangible – you can see and touch it. (You seldom hear braai-side talk of share portfolios or unit trust portfolios!)

While property is certainly a viable option for investing, what many may not realise (if unprepared for the rigors of renting out property) is that this investment can be a source of persistent headaches.

The case for diversity
In 2011, in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, one of my clients was overwhelmed by her emotion in our meeting.  She owned eight properties and suddenly, four of them were standing open. Three of the tenants had lost their jobs and one of them had moved to Cape Town.

Rental payments from her remaining tenants were barely covering her bond costs, and she still had three bonds over the properties.

For years, I had been encouraging her to diversify her risk in her investments.  But, as so often happens, she was lured by the exaggerated returns in the property market, based on the promise of the boom years from 2002 to 2008.  And the unfortunate consequence has been that, at present, she has managed to sell only two of the properties, and her rental incomes are not beating inflation, and nor is the annual growth on her property.

Still a sound investment?
Through a planning process, we as financial planners would establish what the optimum investment return would be for your money to sustain your lifestyle and to last the term of your retirement.

Generally, we find retired people aim at achieving a return of approximately inflation plus 4% with their funds.

In light of this goal, I note some of my clients’ responses, when I ask by how much their rental fees had increased.  “Nothing this year; it’s been a tough year for my tenant,” or, “My tenant just lost his job so I am giving him a contribution holiday.”

Perhaps the most concerning comment was that the tenant would not pay and possession equals nine tenths of the law.

Despite these tales of rental regret, there are still many investors whose investment in property has given a positive return.

I would suggest that, if you are thinking of buying property to rent out, you consider the following:

  • Buying off-plan is appealing as there are no transfer duties. Transfer duties is a sunk cost: it is doubtful that you will recover this cost.
  • Schedule fixed rent increases in your lease – it obviates having to negotiate these every year.  Rent should increase by more than inflation every year.
  •  Establish a lease of twelve months, renewable with three months’ notice, thereby allowing you time to find a new tenant.
  • If you are a tax-payer, bond your rental property so that you can write off the interest against the rent.
  • Rental income is taxable and needs to be added to your tax return.
  • When you sell a property, other than your primary residence, it will attract Capital Gains Tax.
  • You need to be able to pay for repairs to the property; as a rule of thumb, you should keep 10% of the rent aside for maintenance.
  • If you don’t have the patience to deal with tenants, use an agent to rent out the property.  This usually comes at a cost of 10% of the rent, but it is often money well spent.

In conclusion, I reiterate the timeless sound advice to ensure you diversify between all assets when investing:  shares, cash, property stock, and corporate and government bonds.

And, remember, that your financial planner is always at hand to guide and advise you.

How much sex are older adults having?

Last year, the editors at asked their readers to tell them what question regarding older adults and sexuality they would most like to see answered. The editors narrowed down responses based on common themes, then did an online poll to select the “winning” question – which was three related questions.

Here they are, with answers from experts to provide helpful information:

  • How much sex is going on among older folks?
  • How long can sex be maintained?
  • Are there alternatives?

These are important questions, especially since sex helps us have better relationships and better physical and mental health.

“Sex is a basic, primal human activity, and there is no reason it needs to disappear forever as we age,” said Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, founder and director of Men’s Health Boston and a member of the American Sexual Health Association’s board of directors.

For many years, there was very little information on the sexual habits of older Americans, said John DeLamater, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. One exception was a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008. Researchers interviewed 3,005 older men and women in the U.S.

The results:

  • 73 percent of those age 57 to 64 said they were sexually active (defined by the researchers as having sexual contact — though not necessarily intercourse — with at least one partner over the past 12 months).
  • The percentage of those sexually active dropped to 53 percent among somewhat older respondents, those age 65 to 74.
  • Among respondents age 75 to 85, 26 percent said they were sexually active.

The study consisted of in-person interviews with 3,005 men and women. Some were in long-term relationships, some were not. Women are less likely in older age to be in a relationship, as they are more likely to outlive their their husbands or male partners.

“Clearly, in our society, we’ve been raised to believe that intimate sexual activity should occur primarily in a committed couple relationship,” DeLamater said. “And particularly women, when they lose that partner, the older they are, the less likely they are to try to establish a new relationship.”

How Long Can Sex Continue?

The question of how long sexual activity continues into older age depends on a number of factors, experts said. Medical issues may interfere with vaginal intercourse – more on those issues below.

But in couples, how well you get along is vital, too.

Sociologist Brian Gillespie of Sonoma State University in California studied the frequency of, and satisfaction with, sex among a national sample of 9,164 partnered adults age 50 to 85. His 2016 study concluded that “older adults with active and satisfying sex lives engage more frequently in open sexual communication and setting the mood for sexual activity.” Couples who are “in sync” in sexual desire and activities tend to have the most frequent and satisfying sex, it said. Mixing up different types of sexual activities during an encounter was also linked with more frequent and satisfying sex.

Those respondents answered an anonymous online survey that was posted on NBC News for 10 days in 2006.

Gillespie wrote that his study “has helped challenge the idea that older adults do not, or cannot, maintain a highly active and/or highly satisfying sex life.”

DeLamater agreed that for couples in a good relationship who consider sexuality important, sex “can continue well into the 80s.”

What Can Get in the Way

Of course, sex-related health problems can come up as we age. These include:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)  ED can be a side effect of many medical issues, including heart disease, clogged arteries, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism, tobacco use, sleep disorders and treatments for prostate cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also be caused by depression, stress and poor communication between couples. Certain drugs, such as Viagra and Cialis, can help. Some men may benefit from other therapies, such as urethral suppositories or testosterone replacement. It’s important to talk with your doctor about ED and possible treatments.
  • Vaginal dryness. Because of changing hormone levels after menopause, particularly a drop in estrogen, many women lose the natural lubrication they once had. Sex can become very painful. Fortunately, there are solutions. Over-the-counter lubricants are one option. They contain no hormones. Another choice is a vaginal estrogen, which must be obtained with a prescription. It comes in the form of a cream, suppository, tablet (to be placed in the vagina) and vaginal ring.
  • Low libido  Women or men may have less interest in sex for various reasons. Low libido can be caused by anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications, the Mayo Clinic says. In men, it can be caused by low testosterone. Lack of exercise and drug and alcohol use can also cut into libido, as can psychological factors. For instance, DeLamater said one study found that women in their 50s and 60s who begin to feel less sexually attractive may lose their interest in sex. The researcher called it “feeling frumpy.”
  • Medication side effects  As mentioned above, medications can lower sex drive and contribute to erectile dysfunction. These include medications to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, hormonal problems, depression and anxiety. They may also affect the ability to have an orgasm. But it’s worth having a talk with your doctor; a different medication may provide similar benefits without the negative side effects.
  • General poor health  Having chronic pain, such as arthritis or back pain, being overweight or having little mobility can also make sex more difficult or satisfying.

What Are the Alternatives to Penetrative Intercourse?  Click here to read the article on Next Avenue.

Emily Gurnon is Senior Content Editor covering health and caregiving for Next Avenue

13 things to give up to be successful

Somebody once told me the definition of hell:

“On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” — Anonymous

Sometimes, to become successful and get closer to the person you can become, you don’t need to add more things — give some of them up.

Certain things are universal, which will make you successful if you give up on them, even though each one of us could have a different definition of success.

You can give up on some of them as soon as today, while it might take a bit longer to give up on others.

  1. Give up on the unhealthy lifestyle

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

If you want to achieve anything in life, everything starts here. First, you should take care of your health, and there are only three things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Quality Sleep
  2. Healthy Diet
  3. Physical Activity

Small steps, but you will thank yourself one day.

  1. Give up the short-term mindset

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Successful people set long-term goals, and they know these aims are merely the result of short-term habits that they need to do every day.

These healthy habits shouldn’t be something you do; they should be something you embody. There is a difference between: “Working out to get a summer body” and “Working out because that’s who you are.”

  1. Give up on playing small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”   —  Marianne Williamson

If you never try and take great opportunities or allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your true potential.

And the world will never benefit from what you could have achieved.

So voice your ideas, don’t be afraid to fail, and certainly don’t be afraid to succeed.

  1. Give up your excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”

― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Successful people know that they are responsible for their life, no matter their starting point, weaknesses, and past failures. Realising that you are responsible for what happens next in your life is both frightening and exciting.

And when you do, that becomes the only way you can become successful, because excuses limit and prevent us from growing personally and professionally.

Own your life; no one else will.

  1. Give up the fixed mindset

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

People with a fixed mindset think their intelligence or talents are pre-determined traits that cannot be changed. They also believe that talent alone leads to success — without hard work. But they’re wrong.

Successful people know this. They invest an immense amount of time on a daily basis to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and change their perception so that it can benefit their lives.

Who you are today is not who you have to be tomorrow.

  1. Give up believing in the “magic bullet.”

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué

Overnight success is a myth. Successful people know that making small continuous improvement every day will be compounded over time and give them desired results.

That is why you should plan for the future, but focus on the day that’s ahead of you, and improve just 1% every day.

  1. Give up your perfectionism

Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

Nothing will ever be perfect, no matter how much you try.

Fear of failure (or even fear of success) often prevents you from taking action and putting your creation out there in the world. But a lot of opportunities will be lost if you wait for things to be right.

  1. Give up multi-tasking

“Most of the time multitasking is an illusion. You think you are multitasking, but in reality, you are actually wasting time switching from one task to another “

— Bosco Tjan

Successful people know this. That’s why they choose one thing and then beat it into submission. No matter what it is — a business idea, a conversation, or a workout. Being fully present and committed to one task is indispensable.

  1. Give up your need to control everything

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus

Differentiating these two is crucial. Detach from the things you cannot control, focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards something.

  1. Give up on saying yes to things that don’t support your goals

“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.”  — James Allen

Successful people know that in order to accomplish their goals, they will have to say NO to certain tasks, activities, and demands from their friends, family, and colleagues.

In the short-term, you might sacrifice a bit of instant gratification, but when your goals come to fruition, it will all be worth it.

  1. Give up the toxic people

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”

— Albert Einstein

People you spend the most time with add up to who you become.

If you spend time with those who refuse to take responsibility for their life, always find excuses and blame others for the situation they are in, your average will go down, and with it your opportunity to succeed.

However, if you spend time with people who are trying to increase their standard of living, and grow personally and professionally, your average will go up, and you will become more successful. Take a look at around you, and see if you need to make any changes.

  1. Give up your need to be liked

“You can be the juiciest, ripest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be people who hate peaches.” — Dita Von Teese

Think of yourself as a market niche. There will be a lot of people who like that niche, and there will be individuals who don’t. And no matter what you do, you won’t be able to make the entire market like you.

This is completely natural, and there’s no need to justify yourself.

The only thing you can do is to remain authentic, improve and provide value every day, and know that the growing number of “haters” means that you are doing remarkable things.

  1. Give up wasting time

“The trouble is, you think you have time” — Jack Kornfield

You only have this one crazy and precious life. That’s why you owe it to yourself to see who you can become, and how far you can go. However, to do that, you need to ditch meaningless time wasters and stop allowing them to be an escape from your most important goals.

To do that, you should learn how to take control over your focus, attention and make the most out of your 24 hours within a day. Remember that you will die, so never stop creating your legacy and doing the things that will enrich your life.

Good Luck … the journey is a good one!

Published December 27, 2017 Michael McMahon, Director of MGM 1 PTY LTD

Creating a happy space to work in

To be healthy and productive, we also need to be happy.

The 5 Cs for happiness in your work

In her research for her book Raise your Leaders, Jenny Handley interviewed a number of established leaders and their followers to find out what they believe constitutes a healthy working environment.

(Health Intelligence 2014, Jenny Handley)

Empowerment and Expression

Are you allowed self-expression in your work?  Do you and your colleagues accept your mistakes as a development mechanism? Is your creativity and innovation encouraged?

Verbal and written affirmation and appreciation – expressed financially, and in other currencies such as flexibility and time off – also make a difference on the happiness barometer.

Particularly the younger generation workers want their work to link to their sense of purpose, and to know what the ultimate outcome of their contribution to the company is.  Personal development, plus a sense of belonging is important for them, as is being respected, and respecting those who work for and with.

Stress needs to be avoided or managed if you want to work on your happiness. With technology increasing our connectivity, expectations have been elevated.  Employees may expect their team to be available and on call at all times, and unclear divisions between work time and home time can cause stress.

Happiness and high performance

Those who prioritise happiness are those who see a difference in their work and in their results.  Happy people, according to research, are more productive, as a result of being more energised.  Unhappy people can bring down the morale of happy people.  A happy workforce is more engaged, motivated and has a higher sense of self-belief.  When an individual feels a connection to an organisation, then he or she is more likely to be happy.

So, the five factors for happiness at work:

Contribution: the effort you make

Conviction: about your short-term motivation

Culture: fitting into the organisation

Commitment: engagement with your role

Confidence: self-belief

(Research by Jessica Pryce-Jones, iOpener Institute)

Three elements: Trust, Recognition, Pride, form the foundation of this model.

Well-being in your work

Better physical health translates into more energy and a positive mindset.  What also provides a sense of well-being is when people are working with their strengths and feel confident, when they’re “in the zone”. In addition, if their competence equates to their challenges, there is a sense of homeostasis.

Harmony is enjoyed when there is cohesion in a team, when everyone makes an effort to get along with their teammates.  Whilst there may be dissension and disagreements, if they are tackled in a professional manner, harmony can remain constant.  When a company allows their people to use and feed off one another’s strengths, everyone is happier. Doing a task that weakens your confidence (something you know you’ll never succeed at) causes unhappiness.

Ultimately, happiness is a choice; it can be measured and is contagious. Make your choice.

An apology to Millennials

Richard Watts, author of Entitlemania, takes responsibility as a Boomer parent of Millennial children: he feels parents have protected them from experiences that would engender in them the very qualities we think they lack.

“Kids, we are sorry. We thought we had your best interest at heart, but in reality, we were making you look good to make us look good. We wanted a best friend and failed to realize that parenting was more valuable to you than our friendship. We let our love for you hijack our parenting skills. We prevented you from experiencing the natural consequences of your own actions. We were afraid to risk your affection when we should have equipped you with the life tools that only come from allowing you to struggle, persist and recover on your own.

“We felt obligated to explain every time we said ‘No!’ We handed you an allowance when you didn’t do anything for it. We gave you too much and anesthetized your drive. But most egregious, we prevented you from exploring and honing your passions. We put blinders on you to keep your head looking in the direction we carefully mapped and now you are without expression.

“We are most sincerely sorry and ask you to recognize, accept, and forgive our failure.”

Overcome your childhood fears to get more from life

Writer and blogger, Elaine Ambrose, recalls how a memory of a traumatic near drowning experience in her childhood, nearly scuppered her recent snorkeling vacation. I found her approach to processing her fear for healing hugely helpful.

She describes her memory vividly: “I remember flailing and struggling for breath before sinking slowly. I’ll never forget the feeling of sinking, weak and silent, to the bottom of the pool. I can still feel the rough texture of the pool against my skin. The memory makes my heart race. I have been in the water many times since, but the traumatic memory has never faded entirely. I admit that I am afraid of deep water.”

Recognise and handle your fears

Elaine Ambrose suggests that there are several ways to recognise and handle childhood fears, and these may help you deal with yours or empathise with others.

“First, acknowledge the fear is real. I can’t pretend the near-drowning never happened. The memories are embedded in my mind and can emerge any time I’m in deep water.

“You can also empathise with others who have childhood fears. Some adults are afraid of the dark; others have a phobia about dogs or spiders. Remembering your own apprehensions and experiences can help you understand and sympathise with them and stop others from mocking their anxieties.

“Seek help, if necessary. When fears become debilitating, professional counseling may be required to address and overcome the issue. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome encompasses many symptoms, and a trained counselor can make recommendations for treatment.

“Your experience is part of your story. I survived the ordeal at the swimming pool, and I can use that successful reality to face other obstacles. Surviving an ordeal makes it easier to tolerate another one, like record snowfall.

Your fears do not define you

Elaine is convinced that her near-drowning experience is part of, but doesn’t define, her life. “My adult children have seen me face my fears by snorkeling and waterskiing, so they know I’m not too afraid to get back into the water,” she says.

As expected, the snorkeling adventure brought back the memories from 1965. But Elaine remained calm until the fear subsided. “I paddled on top of the deep water and gazed at the abundant, beautiful vision below. The brochures were correct; it was some of the best snorkeling in the world,” she concludes.

Facing your fears requires courage and often practical actions that take you beyond the potential paralysis.  Sometimes it is simply to make a decision whose outcome is unknown; at other times, it is confronting someone whose words or actions have hurt you; and sometimes it is taking up the challenge not to live a mediocre life.  This can help you live a fuller life as you take hold of all the promise that your second half holds. Be brave.