Author: Kim Forbes

Harnessing the power of When

No matter your age, personal reinvention is possible

If you felt – or are feeling – a dip in your contentment in your 50s or 60s, you are living true to life’s timing.

So says author, Daniel pink, in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Pink does not subscribe to the notion of a midlife crisis. “It’s a myth, not supported by evidence,” he asserts.

What does hold validity, in Pink’s opinion, is the U-shaped Curve of Happiness, the subject of an increasing number of books (notably, The Happiness Curve by Jonathan Rauch), articles and blogs.

Because the fifties are also known as the ‘empty nesting years’, there is a sense of sadness and loss, a dip in the U-shaped curve of happiness. It’s not a drastic dip, says Pink, but it is noticeable. The good news is that reaching a mid-point of a pursuit signals a change – a psychological alarm is sounded.

What is your clarion call saying, at whatever point you find yourself now?

According to Pink, the advantage at this stage is that there is still time to change – to reinvent yourself. If you have always longed to play an instrument, always wanted to impact your community through strategically volunteering your skills and time, if you have long recognised that you have always wanted to teach – now is the time. You have a carte blanche to reinvent yourself, your relationships and your career.

What to do about that purposeless feeling

Pink advocates finding a mentor, the benefits of which are clear. Having someone who has walked the path help you find or shape your own gives you insight and reassurance that you can take the risk, strike out on your own, take the initiative to heal that relationship.

Pink draws on Buffett’s five-twenty-five principle. First, write down your top 25 goals for your life (personally, I prefer the notion of self-improvement to goals, or Twyla Tharp’s Pledge – never reached, always inviting you to the next adventure); second, highlight the top five and focus on those only until you feel you have achieved them.

Third, decide what you need to say ‘Yes’ to, and, equally important, ‘No’ to in order to achieve these Top Five. Take time to determine this – write it down. This will give you the clear vision (2020 vision?) that will cause confusion and muddled thinking to evaporate.

What’s your ‘When’ horizon?

Finally, can you allow yourself time? Not everything needs to happen now. Will you allow yourself imperfection? Change ‘destination’ to ‘journey’ – you are always growing, learning and evolving. Self-acceptance and serenity may hold the secret to the contentment that you seek.

To live fully, choose amplitude, not age, to define you

“Breathe deeply, put your shoulders back, and allow your body to take up space.”

This is how renowned choreographer, Twyla Tharp, defines amplitude. With age, she says, “we start to retreat, retract, become protective, secluded and start to ossify.”

With her mantra that age is not the enemy, but stagnation is as her motivation, Twyla has captured her positive message in a new book entitled: Keep It Moving: lessons for the rest of your life.

Hailed as one of the great choreographers of our age, Twyla, at 78, continues to choreograph at the American Ballet Theatre, and continues to redefine ageing with it. “Don’t accept the rumour that the body becomes less,” she protests. “It becomes different, hopefully more.”

She acknowledges that a career as a professional dancer is short lived, with 35 years of age signalling the end. “Ageing is the last taboo,” she claims. “We will do everything we can to deny that we have turned the corner. I knew that I would have to confront and wrestle with this issue of ageing, or I would be stopped … and I am not interested in being stopped; I worked too long and too hard for that.”

Twyla rejects the notion that we should feel guilty for ageing, or try to deny it to be a full human being. “You’re just not attractive as you used to be,” she says, “I’m different from what I used to be. Age is a change, not a disease, so be curious and don’t be afraid.”

“I wrote this book to help others believe that you are constantly evolving,” she explains. “We have had the notion of stagnation laid on us by our culture.” She encourages each of us to bring our physical intelligence to bear, especially as we age, so that we are reminded constantly to be in motion.

How do we do this, you ask. Twyla says that it is optimism that she looks for in a dancer – “you can do it, and if you can’t now, you will” – and it is the same attitude that will allow us to ‘keep moving’.

Twyla recommends making a pledge rather than setting goals. “A goal is something that you can accomplish,” according to Twyla. “A pledge, however, is something that you are working constantly towards that will never be finished.” The implications of this distinction is that you will always be drawn forward into a new adventure when you have made a pledge.

You can watch Twyla’s interview by clicking here.

What a mentor means to you

Stew Lithgow authored an article for the Retire Successfully community on creating a new career of his passion for flying (you can read the article by clicking here).

There is perhaps no greater metaphor for how this wonderful man lived his life – freely flying into the endless blue skies of hope, of dreams, of possibility. And passing on this love of life was part of his purpose also.

This legacy from Stew is captured in the tribute to him posted on the Retire Successfully website by his friend, Sven Heyrowsky:
Rest in peace my friend. Stew passed away in December 2019. Always you will remain my idol as a pilot.

Sven reminds us of the value of surrounding ourselves with those who will help us pilot our lives significantly. His words are reminiscent of Chip Conley’s reflections on the quest for wisdom:

Seeking wisdom is a tricky business.

We think we need all kinds of degrees and certificates, or bells and whistles. Spend a weekend walking on burning coals with Tony Robbins or binge-watch Oprah’s SuperSoul Sundays. Maybe a good Deepak Chopra book has our answers. The truth is, wisdom is much closer. Perhaps right next to us.

Imagine your wisest friend for a few minutes:

  • How do they go about creating a purposeful life?
  • What qualities do you most admire in them?
  • How could you emulate them beginning today?
  • Better yet, when was the last time you reached out and asked them for advice?

Chip Conley, author of ‘Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder

Who are your mentors? Take time to connect with them this week.

See differently to live differently

Have 2020 vision for a fulfilling new year

Yes, I am one of those who makes new year’s resolutions. Who’s with me?

I relish the sense of refreshing and hope that comes with a new year. I feel sure that these ‘self-promises’ reflect our longing to improve, to create a more contented life for ourselves, those we love, and those whose lives we can touch positively. The goal may be to lose those five kilograms (or 10!), sign up for a course of learning, or be a better friend – whatever it is, it sets an expectation of a better year.

I know that many people pooh-pooh this habit, mostly because we so often fail to sustain our resolve. Check your inbox and you’ll find any number of articles suggesting ways to stick to our intentions: create small steps, write it down, form an accountability group.

It seems to me, though, that 2020 lends itself to the notion of fresh vision – and if we want an improved life, a renewed view of ourselves, our relationships and the world can be freeing and empowering.

Change your view

Professor Adam Brandenburger, in a Harvard Business Review article, encourages us to ‘defamiliarise’ our way of seeing – “to stop seeing the world in the familiar way and start seeing it in unfamiliar and generative ways”.

He expands: “When we look at the world, we should not just examine, but examine with a deliberately different perspective. Not just name what is around us, but come up with new names. Not just consider the whole, but break things up (or down) into pieces. These techniques can help us see our way to the new and revolutionary”.

How does this new habit help us create a meaningful life?

Avid birdwatchers, or regular bush trekkers understand Branderburger’s advice: taking that moment to enjoy, not only identify the bird, but admiring its colour, its wing formation, its song, makes that moment beautiful.

Consider those things you take for granted, that are now ‘habituated’ and live in our peripheral vision. This applies to our relationships, work, hobbies, and daily rituals.

He urges us to counter our built-in tendency to habituate, to sink into familiar ways of seeing and experiencing.

“One way in which great artists, entrepreneurs, and creators of all kinds come up with the insights that enable them to change the world is that, very literally, they do not see the way that most of us do. By seeing differently, we can end up seeing what no-one else has yet seen. That is how the future is built,” he concludes.

Your year of seeing differently

So, what will you see differently this year? What needs renaming in your world?

A starting point for me is to change the term “new year’s resolutions” to “steps in making personal progress” – it has a much more active ring to it!

How can you redefine ‘success’ to encourage self-acceptance and gratitude?

I love Arianna Huffington’s thoughts in her book Thrive:

We now know through the latest scientific findings that if we worship money, we’ll never feel truly abundant. If we worship power, recognition and fame, we’ll never feel we have enough. And if we live our lives madly rushing around, trying to find and save time, we’ll always find ourselves living in a time famine, frazzled and stressed.

There’s a collective longing to stop living in the shallows, to stop hurting our health and our relationships by striving so relentlessly after success as the world defines it — and instead tap into the riches, joy and amazing possibilities our lives embody.

Finally, I am recognising that much of the contentment I seek is what I already have; it’s just having the eyes to see it – faith, hope and love. I take the words of Thomas Merton, monk, scholar and social activist. I hope they will serve you also for fresh vision in 2020:

We have what we seek. It is there all the time, and if we slow down and be still, it will make itself known to us.

Kim Forbes is the Writer and a Life Coach at Chartered Wealth Solutions.

You’re too old to be doing this!

A celebrated chef I will never be, but I do persevere with trying to be a half-way decent cook. I often wonder, though, when deciphering a new recipe in the hope of producing a culinary masterpiece, if I should just give the whole thing up. Stop trying to master the cooking skill and succumb to the Woolies Food run and resultant pocket drain.

Then, I was encouraged by Chip Conley’s article and gained two insights: learning is good for me, and so is letting go of measuring my cooking against everyone else’s.

Chip Conley, founder of Modern Elder Academy and author of Wisdom at Work, shares his experience of his journey to learn Spanish.

“My first half-dozen classes were brutal,” he confesses.

Frequently, he says, the feelings of stupidity would overwhelm him on the journey home, as he replayed the message in his mind: “You’re too old to be doing this!”

After watching a TED Talk, he came to realise that we, as adults, take ourselves far too seriously.

A corollary to this is that this can hamper our learning. “The fastest way to metabolise something new – whether it’s learning a language, trying to stand up on a surfboard, or joining a different industry – is to have fun with it,” he advises.

“And you can’t have fun when you are constantly worrying about how you are measuring up,” he adds. “This is essential 21st century wisdom as our most important midlife skill in a constantly changing world – learning how to learn again.”

Chip found he could laugh with his Spanish teacher, and they could talk about a range of subjects. Suddenly, the learning “felt less like walking on a balance beam and more like climbing on a jungle gym”, he says.

It was not a surprise then, that his Spanish improved, and he leaves us with this challenge for 2020:
What’s something new you could try with less seriousness and a lighter heart?

Here is this TED video that Chip Conley found so freeing.

What are the differences between Perfectionism and Excellence

And why Excellence is a better for you and everyone else!

Aiming for perfection always in our lives – our expectations of reality, our expectations of ourselves, our tasks, our relationships. Excellence, experts and psychologists suggest, is a healthier goal. It allows us to meet high standards and still leave room for mistakes. This article highlights contrasts in the influence and effects of each approach:

(source: Psychology Today – Dr Barbara Markway; Forbes – Angela Civitella)


PERFECTIONISTS


PURSUERS OF EXCELLENCE

Strive for impossible goalsEnjoy meeting high standards within reach
Value themselves by what they doValue themselves by who they are
When they run into difficulty, they get easily overwhelmed and give upExperience temporary disappointment, but keep going
Can be devastated by failureLearns from failure
Remember mistakes, dwell on themCorrect mistakes and learns from them
Wants to be number oneCan live with not being the best, especially when they know they’ve tried their hardest
Hates criticismSee criticism as a way to learn
Have to win to keep high self-esteemCan finish second and still feel good about themselves
How things appear to others and whether they’re done rightHave a reason for actions, being driven by that purpose to achieve success
Sets up for failure, drains, causes pain and the disillusionment of not being up to parRazor-sharp focus to execute and accomplish what matters and what needs to get done to achieve
No gain, little reward, no joy or sense of accomplishment; only disillusionmentAllows you to be productive, stay the course, keep the end goal in sight

Five tips to free yourself from paralysing perfectionism

It’s the season of festivities and the hosting of family gatherings … and my stomach is already in a knot. How can I make the event perfect by meeting each person’s needs and preferences perfectly? What would be the perfect menu? How can I get everyone to relax and enjoy themselves, when I am contorted by anxiety?

It can be paralysing.

As someone with a tendency to criticise myself for not achieving self-imposed high standards, I found the advice in this article to relinquish perfectionism immensely helpful. I hope you will benefit also, by embracing excellence without the need for perfectionism.

One is myth, one is reality, says Angela Civitella, CEO and Founder of business coaching service Intinde.
(source: Forbes.com)

Harriet Braiker says, “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”

Which one do you aspire to attain? Some people think excellence and perfection are the same. Actually, the best way to achieve excellence is not to demand perfection.

Maladaptive perfectionism prevents you from starting or completing things you set out to do. Your head and heart get in the way, and you’re left inactive, in perpetual inertia and with a constant drip of self-blame, and in some cases, pointing the finger at anyone and anything because you can’t accept the demons inside you that are leaving you paralyzed in the face of getting things done. There isn’t much fun there.

Here are tips to help you navigate and conquer perfectionism and make room for pursuing excellence, a much better option all around.

  1. Forget the perpetual lie you tell yourself that being perfect will make you successful. It’s not true. Hard work, great vision, knowing the right people, asking the right people for help and getting others to believe in your journey make you successful.
  2. People don’t relate well to perfectionists. Perfectionism makes the rest of us feel like there’s no common ground and no equitable human exchange. To put it mildly, it’s intimidating, and people don’t seek out people that intimidate them.
  3. There’s no power in being perfect. All perfectionism does is show how weak you truly are. Powerful people are comfortable with showing their limitations — it gives them the pulse to want to do better and better. That’s what people respect.
  4. Being perfect doesn’t increase nor decrease your self-worth. They aren’t connected. Value all of you — the good, bad and very ugly — to function in a healthy, productive and results-oriented way. If you’re focused on how it looks, rather than how it is, you’ll never get to your destination.
  5. Being perfect isn’t normal or regular. If you get caught up in being perfect, you set yourself up to think that you’re more than everyone else. A word to the wise: being perfect is an illusion; it doesn’t give you superpowers others don’t have. All perfectionism does is isolate you from participating in life and from the people around you who, if asked, would gladly help you on your journey to excellence.

People gravitate toward others’ strengths, not their weaknesses, and striving for perfection is just that — a sign of weakness. Strong people with conviction are admired and respected. People who think and work alone because they think they’re perfect and above all others end up only doing one thing: being alone.

An incredible story of survival

Stephen McGowan was 36 years old and fulfilling a lifelong dream of biking through Africa when he was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda from Timbuktu, along with a Swedish and a Dutch national. Just short of six years later, he was released. On 2 October, Chartered Wealth Solutions hosted this remarkable young man, whose tale of courage and endurance kept the audience spellbound.

While very rare videos would be released, showing Stephen and his fellow captives still alive, his family had no idea where he was, nor indeed how he was faring emotionally, physically and psychologically.

The truth was that he was being kept deep in the Sahara, hidden from French surveillance planes and drones. Communication with the world beyond was limited, then completely cut off when French military forces showed up in Mali.

Stephen’s story became even more harrowing as he shared of how he learned to protect himself from extreme natural elements, while daily dreading a violent end at the hands of his captors.

Living outdoors, Stephen learned a range of survival skills (including how to dig for water and skin a gazelle) but keeping hope and the will to survive alive were the real challenges. He shared with the Chartered audience how he maintained sanity, with a positive attitude, gratitude and relinquishing what you can’t control as crucial mindsets.

He also stuck to a daily physical exercise regime, and learnt to speak and read Arabic, and recite from the Qur’an.

Stephen was released end July 2017 and is adapting to life back home in South Africa with his family. Chartered guests enthusiastically asked questions, in awe of Stephen’s bravery in sharing his story and inspired to face life’s hurdles with the same courage.

An open ticket to opportunity

When the McGregors grasped the unusual opportunity to travel via pet-sitting in Goa, India and then, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, they booked a ticket to freedom.

“As we jetted out of South Africa, I had no idea when I would be back,” smiles Andrew. “We knew we would be away for at least three months, but we could easily have made it four.”

For Andrew and his wife, Barbara, their ‘golden years’ as they are known, are a time of freedom, with fewer responsibilities and numerous prospects for learning and adventure. “Don’t delay in pursuing your dreams,” urges Andrew, as he explains how he and Barbara embarked on this novel way to see the world.

Global house-sitting sites will typically include pet-sitting options, pool-tending responsibilities and other elements that make up the requirements for signing up to take the owners’ place for a time. “There are great advantages to living in someone’s home rather than in a hotel,” says Andrew, “not the least of which the authentic experience of the country’s culture and the chance to become friends with your neighbours.”

Andrew explained that they selected a possible location, compiled a profile of who they are, and put together a promotional video as evidence of their suitability to take care of a boisterous Beamer or an insouciant kitty. This is followed by a Skype interview, and once accepted, the retired couple had to decide if they would be able to step into the lives of their absent hosts. “We step into their lives, and we have to be honest with ourselves if we would be happy to do that.”


Eager for new experiences and confident in the resilience of their life experience, the McGregors embraced the adventure. “For example,” adds Andrew, “we love cooking, and Barbara is particularly adept at copying a meal that we will have tasted at a local restaurant (in fact, she makes it better!). We would buy the ingredients at the local wet market and enjoy time recreating the flavours.”

The journey spawned a whole new motivation for the McGregors to encourage a more sustainable life. They noted the almost complete absence of earth-unfriendly packaging that is so pervasive at our South African stores. Andrew has penned a blog entitled: Talking trash and you can read it by clicking here.

While such exotic and unusual travel may not be your cup of teh Tarik, take the challenge to try something out of your comfort zone – who knows what beautiful images of your life you will create.

Now enjoy the street art that the McGregors shared with us.

If you have missed the McGregor’s account of their pet-sitting stays in Goa and Malaysia, click here.

Make family holiday memories

Do you have cherished childhood memories – even just one – of family holidays? Chances are that your recollection isn’t only of a place; it’s also of the people who gathered there and the experiences you shared. You hold these memories with much nostalgia, and now could make new memories with the next generation.

Fond family memories

We were not a family that went on an annual vacation to the same location every year, but there was a hotel in Sea Point where we visited over three or four consecutive years … I think I was seven or eight years old when we first visited.

Memories of Surfcrest Hotel holidays are sensory snapshots: white starched tablecloths and matching napkins; heavy sliver cutlery; printed menus listing three courses; the tantalising smell of soup of day signaling dinner ready to be served.

It was a great adventure for me and my sister. A black-and-white clad waiter urged the kids to eat their toast at breakfast (unlike today, I was a frugal eater in my childhood). The hotel faced the ocean, and, I recall that sensation of being ushered into sleep by the sound of gentle waves.

Whether local or abroad, the trips that my parents planned for us made lifelong memories, and instilled in both my sister and me a love of travel and a spirit of adventure. It’s a legacy I treasure.

If you would like to create a legacy for your family and friends of memorable vacations, here are some ideas to make your holidays a special tradition.

1. Choose the right type of vacation

Take your and your family’s needs and preferences into account. A getaway with your group of girlfriends (this is for you women, of course!) will most likely require a different setting than a family vacation with young children.

Multigenerational holidays are great for creating a legacy for your children to treasure and possibly recreate for the next generation. A young daughter who fished at Dad’s side may one day teach her son or daughter to do the same; a grandparent may introduce succeeding generations to the joy of jigsaw puzzles while holidaying with the family.

Be sensitive, though, to the fact that multigenerational holidays may have a sell-by date for some members. Children may want to be in a more sociable milieu as they enter their teenage years (or certainly one with connectivity!), and older family members may need their familiar comfort as physical limitations set in. You may just limit the time in a more remote location, and spend some of your vacation elsewhere, to suit all tastes.

Some like it hot, and some not

You may find daily walks in the bush invigorating, but does the rest of the family? Be especially aware of locations that are too hot or demanding for either the younger or older generation.

Consider, too, what entertainment is offered at each location, and if one member is likely to be isolated because of the nature of the attractions. Families with small children may appreciate holidaying where there are activities to occupy their energetic offspring, and those with babies may need accommodation that cater to their particular needs.

Some like a frenetic pace, and others’ idea of a vacation may be completely slowing down. Allow some freedom for independent activities so that those who want some solitude can recharge alone, and those who love to socialise can do so.

2. Create opportunities for connection

As teens become more independent, you may find that they spend holiday time away from the rest of the family. Older people may go to sleep earlier, and rise earlier.

Consider how you can make some time together sacrosanct. Perhaps dinners are always together. Or, if you are away over Christmas, for example, make that Christmas morning a ritual – a special breakfast, carol singing, opening presents … whatever suits your family.

Perhaps there is an activity that you can plan each year that is non-negotiable, but also fun. A games evening, completing a puzzle together, having a “Table-Talk” evening or meal where you share with each other around a particular topic. Maybe baking together, or taking that first swim together.
Isolation is a reality for many older people, and keeping this connection strong makes for healthier and happier older members of our families.

3. Be creative

Not all vacations have to be in an exotic setting. A weekend together where you spend time in the country may work better for a frail older member of the family. Having grandparents stay over and children camping in the garden is another way of creating memories and connection. How about a “Come Dine with Me” type of dinner where the children are the chefs or hosts?

Give yourself the freedom to find out what will work. There is no right or wrong, just good intention to create stronger family ties and a legacy of fond memories of those we love.

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