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Granting Ourselves the Grace of Self-Permission

Inspired by Kim’s blog on the power of permission slips, this month’s conversation starter revolves around conversations with ourselves, learning to silence the inner critic, and giving ourselves permission to honour our authentic selves.

The Permission Slip Exercise

We all harbour thoughts, ideas, or beliefs that hold us back. Ask yourself:

  • What are the qualities, thoughts, or inner voices you need to banish?
  • What new beliefs and qualities can you focus on to allow yourself to thrive?

Answer these questions and jot down the limiting beliefs to banish alongside the ones to embrace.

Examples of Self-Permission

Granting ourselves permission takes many shapes; here are a few examples to explore:

  • Permission to Say No: It’s okay to decline requests that don’t align with your values or current priorities. Permit yourself to prioritise your own needs.
  • Permission to Rest: Prioritise your well-being! Grant yourself permission to recharge without feeling guilty.
  • Permission to Celebrate: Celebrate moments and achievements, whether big or small.
  • Permission to Change Your Mind: We’re constantly evolving. Give yourself the flexibility to change your opinions or plans as you gain new insights or experiences. It’s okay to pivot when necessary.
  • Permission to Pursue Passion: Make time for activities that bring you joy, even if they don’t seem practical.
  • Permission to Disconnect: In our hyper-connected world, grant yourself permission to unplug from technology to reconnect with yourself and your surroundings.
  • Permission to Ask for Help: You don’t have to do everything alone. Allow yourself to seek support when you need it.
  • Permission to Prioritise Self-Care: Make your physical, mental, and emotional health a priority. Grant yourself permission to invest in self-care practices that nourish and rejuvenate you.
  • Permission to Set Boundaries: Give yourself permission to set boundaries that protect your time, energy, and emotional well-being.
  • Permission to Just Be: Sometimes, we just need permission to exist peacefully in the present moment without striving or needing to achieve anything. Give yourself space to breathe, be comfortable in your own skin, and simply “be.”

Sticky Note Reminders

Writing your permission slips on sticky notes and placing them on your mirror, fridge, or above your desk serves as potent reminders and often helps silence the inner critic.

Your Turn

So, what are you going to give yourself permission to do this year? Share your permission slip ideas in the comments below.

The Freedom to Be … with permission, of course

Have you ever found yourself standing on the edge of a decision, just waiting for someone to say it’s ok before you take the plunge? To give you the approval for what you’d like to do? Or stop yourself from doing something because it feels unfamiliar? You’re not alone. It’s human nature. We all hold ourselves back sometimes.

But what if the only permission slip you truly need is from yourself? Why not write yourself a ‘permission slip’ and give yourself the freedom – and permission – to feel, behave, and live exactly as you want to? Within reason (and your spending plan), of course…

Brené Brown uses the term’ permission slips’ as a way to allow yourself to feel (or do something) that might be out of your comfort zone or that’s new to you. It’s similar to the ones we, as parents, received from school, allowing our children to go on school outings. Last week, I was immersed in the Learning to Love Midlife workshop presented by Chip Conley at the Elder Academy. I was completely taken aback when a ‘learning to surf’ activity was suggested! I’m 55 and have never surfed before! Why try now? My initial response was quickly followed by another voice: what if I hurt myself? And then, “What if I can’t do it – and embarrass myself?”

What I really needed to do was give myself permission not to think about everything that could possibly go wrong but rather to focus my energy on thinking how cool it would be to actually feel what it’s like to surf, to try something new, and to expand myself instead of limiting what could be possible.

So yes! I surfed! Loved it and even managed to stand on the board and ride a wave! Of course, I had an instructor who helped me each step of the way – and in all honesty, the wave was very small! But I surfed in Mexico; more than that, it’s given me the confidence to try new things.

Sometimes, we hold ourselves back, waiting for permission, or do things just to gain approval. Other times, we avoid doing them completely for fear of disappointing someone close to us. This behavioural pattern often plays out within our closest relationships. Asking for permission can also become a convenient excuse – “We would have loved to, but our children advised us against it.” Deep down, we’re actually just looking for a reason not to.

It seems that at Chartered, we’ve become quite the go-to when it comes to tricky financial requests from the family. Next time the question of lending money to your adult children comes up, have your answer ready: ‘Sorry, we’d love to help, but Kim and Jason looked at the numbers and advised us not to.’ And yes, when it’s time to treat yourself and go on that trip, count on us to cheer you on: “Of course, financially, you are absolutely able to take that trip!”

As we promise to give ourselves permission to try new experiences, it’s important to consider the impact on our financial planning. Sometimes, we all need objective advice, especially regarding our money and financial security. Your Planning Specialist knows exactly how your actions will impact your planning and will always be available to give you objective advice and guidance without compromising your financial wellness – ensuring that your money is aligned with your life.

Cleaning up your Mental Mess by Dr Caroline Leaf

Reviewed by Karen Wilson

The workings of the human mind and the brain (Dr Leaf explains the distinction) make fascinating and complex subject matter. The author of Cleaning up your Mental Mess tells us that people are not totally at the mercy of their thoughts, and that anxiety, stress, trauma, and toxic thinking can be addressed with some mind management techniques. In her words, “events and circumstances can’t be controlled”; however, “we can control our reactions”.

Throughout the book Dr Leaf highlights the neuroplasticity of the brain – how it changes in response to positive or negative thought patterns that also impact our physical health. Her solution for “mental mess” is a five-step learning process she has dubbed ‘the Neurocycle’, which is designed to make you more aware of your thinking/feeling/choosing around an issue, reflect on it, write it down, reconceptualize, and take action steps to implement your new thinking.

According to Dr Leaf’s extensive research, her Neurocycle needs to be practised consistently for at least 63 days (the widely held belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit doesn’t apply here!) to produce real change. She claims that toxic stress and anxiety can be reduced by up to 81% using her five-step Neurocycle and, since your mental landscape is not static, suggests that the ideal approach would be to make this an ongoing lifestyle. She also refers to an app (not free), which she developed to complement the book.

The book is divided into two parts, with the first half focusing on clinical research data that may prove heavy-going for readers who don’t want to learn about the finer points of alpha and beta brain waves or the effects of unmanaged stress on blood measures and chromosomes. This forms the foundation for the Neurocycle that she elaborates on in Part 2. Her writing is inclined to be a little repetitive.

Dr Caroline Leaf is a US-based communication pathologist and neuroscientist who has done research in her field for over 30 years. Her book is available in our Chartered client library for short-term loan.

Return to self – Margie’s weight loss journey

Chartered client Margie Kennard Davis reached a point where she was tired of feeling miserable. She disliked her body and felt conscious of how she looked; she was living off Gaviscon to try and control her heartburn; she had a sore body and couldn’t sleep. Hearing about someone her age suffering from a stroke and realising her high-risk factor, given her co-morbidities, should she get Covid was a tipping point for her, and she decided to do something about it.

Margie knew all about dieting and had tried every diet in the book. A few years ago, she signed up for the Real Meal Revolution Hero programme, which she began but stopped because she wasn’t committed. However, she was still on their mailing list, and after reading inspirational stories, she decided to give it a second chance.

She admits that, at first, she was sceptical and wondered what a group environment’s benefits could be. She was pleasantly surprised. She didn’t expect anything as structured and liked the intellectual and psychological approach to food and weight loss. As a curious person, she loves researching, so she felt she had a good understanding of nutrition, but the programme gave her the tools to implement it. The group environment was a non-judgmental, intellectual and supportive space.

A significant part of this journey for Margie was changing her identity and her relationship with food and, more importantly, believing that she wasn’t a failure because she had failed to lose weight in the past.

And it worked. Margie lost 27 kilograms in 27 weeks and is now the weight she was at 27! Margie was very active as a youngster and feels she has come full circle and is back in a healthy space. She has undone all the damage she did and described her transformation as returning to her true self. Her new physique is now part of her identity. She has been given her life back and shines; she likes how she now sees herself. What a gift that is.

Margie walks for an hour five to seven days a week; she does two pilates and two to three yoga classes weekly. She feels stronger, fitter, happier and healthier than she has in decades.

Click here to watch her interview with RMR on YouTube

Mindfulness – a way of perceiving, thinking, and behaving

Life can feel overwhelming, frantic and exhausting at times. Just think of everything going on right now, our unstable economy, load-shedding, and interrupted water supply, to name a few. And it’s impacting our happiness and health.

As our minds fill with chatter, our worldview becomes tainted and distorted, and our ability to be present is lost. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. You would be forgiven for thinking that mindfulness is just an activity; in fact, mindfulness is a way of perceiving and observing, and it can be developed using various tools. Some of these tools include meditation, exercises, and breathing.

Mindfulness takes us beyond coping and making do. To be mindful means paying attention to what is happening in the mind, body, and immediate environment and remaining present. It improves in response to a straightforward meditation practice that increases awareness of thoughts, sensations, and feelings.

Moreover, mindfulness is not complicated. The practice can be as simple as an awareness of a simple daily task, and it doesn’t have to take long. Feeling unsure how to start, try these simple one-minute mindfulness exercises.

Mindful breathing

This is a chance for you to step out of the daily grind and allow time to be present with yourself; that is, being present with yourself and whatever arises in your mind and body. Take a minute to observe your breathing. Breathe in and out as you usually would: notice the time between each inhalation and exhalation; notice your lungs expanding. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Mindful walking

You can practice mindful walking any time as you go about your day. It’s good to try it slowly at first, but once you’re used to it, you can practise it at any pace – even when rushing. Walk slowly: become aware of the sensations in the soles of your feet as they make contact with the floor and any sensations in the muscles of the legs. You don’t have to look down at your feet. When your mind wanders, use the contact of the feet on the floor as an anchor to bring you back into the present moment. Just take a minute to focus on the sensations generated by walking.

Mindful eating

Eating mindfully can take us out of autopilot, helping us appreciate and enjoy the experience more. The next time you eat, stop to observe your food. Give it your full attention. Notice the texture: really see it, feel it, smell it, take a bite into it – noticing the taste and texture in the mouth – continue to chew, bringing your full attention to the taste of it.

Mindful listening

Taking this time out to tune in to your environment and listen to what it tells you will help you bring mindfulness into the rest of your life – bringing your awareness as you move through the day. Take a minute to listen to the sounds in your environment. You don’t need to try and determine the origin or type of sounds you hear; just listen and absorb the experience of their quality and how it resonates with you. If you recognise a sound, label it and move on, allowing your ears to catch new sounds.

As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.”

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I am often asked where I find the time to do everything I do: from being a wife and mom, running a business, doing talks and workshops, writing books, and going on fun adventures with my family. You may not buy into my answer at all, and when I tell people that one of my top life tips is meditation, I can almost feel them switching off. Most people believe that it won’t work for them.

Sometimes I do wish it was possible to stop time or hit the pause button on the speed of life. But we all know there’s no stopping time. Still, there may be a way to buy time by focusing on the present and reducing the repeating background noise in your mind.

To me, meditation is one of the most valuable tools in our fast-paced, modern-day life. I like to use the Chopra meditation App, but I’ve often heard people say the Headspace App works really well. It’s about quietening the thoughts that my brain can’t switch off. Remember that your thoughts become your reality, and you cannot allow the spiralling negative messages of worry, fear, anxiousness and despair to take control of your life.

The benefits of quietening the voices in your head are endless and there are many ways to still your thoughts: going for long walks, consciously finding joy in everyday moments, and simple deep breathing. These are all forms of meditation. As long as you’re prepared for a process rather than a quick fix. It takes practice. Don’t expect to be perfect at it. If you accomplish just being conscious of the thoughts in your mind and not allowing them to control you, you have made a good start.

Like you, I also did not think that meditation was for me when I first started and it did not work perfectly for me in the beginning. I struggled to see how I was ever going to quiet the voices in my head, from to-do lists, worries and stories that my mind made up. I decided to give it a good go, and each time I meditated, my brain got slightly quieter. I still don’t always get it right, and the to-do lists still pop into my head – even when I’m trying to block them out. But now I feel the difference when I’m not meditating.

I like to meditate early in the morning before my day gets busy, and I put aside 15 – 20 minutes to sit quietly. Most days, I use the Chopra guided meditation and other days, the transcendental meditation technique of repeating a mantra until my mind stills. My husband, Gys, has watched my morning ritual for years and now also meditates daily. He says it’s helped him look at his business differently with a more strategic outlook. Josh, my son, has also started and finds he can control his anxiety around exams much more.

I encourage you to give meditation a go! Just remember that you don’t need to be perfect at it. It may feel impossible at first but it gets easier over time.

Clear your clutter – inside and out

When Chartered clients Don and Joan King’s second son emigrated with his wife and four children to Australia earlier this year, Joan knew it was time for a change. Having lived in in the same 5- bedroom home for the past 33 years, Joan was keen to sell and move somewhere smaller, while Don wasn’t quite ready to move, particularly since he had yet to complete restoring his 1969 Mustang, a project which he had undertaken with his son. At a crossroads, and after a meeting with their RetiremeantTM Specialist and Kim Potgieter, they reached a compromise. They would spend the year getting the house ready to put on the market. For Don, this meant finishing his Mustang project, and for Joan, it meant beginning the process of decluttering 33 years’ worth of stuff.

During a client vision boarding day earlier this year, Joan was very intentional about what she wanted her next chapter to look like, and it was clutter-free. Joan had done some serious decluttering a few years back when she retired and closed her interior decorating business, so she knew the process to follow.

Joan decided to declutter by themes to make the task more manageable. She recently gifted a lifetime of old clothes to workers she knew in her area. Using rails, she hung up all the clothes and invited people to help themselves. She also used to make costume jewellery, so apart from a few special pieces that she kept, she gifted those too.

The next project that she is tackling books. Slowly she is sorting out books into relevant piles. She is passionate about animals, so she has decided that most of her books will be donated to the SPCA or Saints Animal Shelter for them to sell. As for the more specialised books, like those pertaining to her interior decorating business, she is researching where they may best be utilised.

There are things that they plan on selling; for example, they were a keen family of scuba divers, so they have all the equipment. Joan has begun preparing the process of decluttering these objects and has taken photographs and gathered information so that she can sell them on Facebook Marketplace or other online platforms when the time comes.

As Joan proves, decluttering is best done the same way they say it is to eat an elephant, one bite at a time. As for her vision board, not only has the decluttering begun in earnest, but she and Don have also booked two trips to see family this year. It just goes to show.

Joan’s vision board, shared with permission from Joan.

Clearing the clutter

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor; it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” Peter Walsh

Clearing the clutter, all the “stuff” in our lives that prevents us from living our best life, is becoming a global trend. In an age of overconsumption, people are starting to realise that “having it all” and feeling happy and fulfilled don’t always go hand-in-hand and that getting rid of unnecessary items can bring people a sense of personal relief and pride. As we prepare for transitions, which often entail downscaling, clearing the clutter becomes necessary.

Decluttering is freeing in so many ways. Letting go of the excess “stuff” that fills your home often feels like a weight being lifted from your life. Sometimes you don’t even realise how heavy and burdened your belongings makes you feel until you start letting them go!

One good reason to declutter sooner rather than later is that it allows you to make your own decisions about your belongings and what you want to do with them. This way, you won’t leave your family with the burden of clearing out your home, guessing what you might want to do with items or what items were special to you.

If you’d like to start decluttering your home, but it feels daunting, begin decluttering in waves. Don’t feel you have to tackle every room in great detail. Take a look at each room, slowly and objectively. Immediately remove the things you can see that you don’t want to keep. Put them in a box to donate or recycle. Re-visit that room when you’re feeling fresh and take another look. Remove anything that you notice the second time around. Decluttering in waves means that with each successive sweep, you’ll notice a little bit more each time you do it—nothing scary and nothing too daunting.

It’s also important to start somewhere easy. Don’t head straight into the storeroom or garage. Test and hone your decluttering skills before you approach a big project. Start with the bathroom and sift through the cupboards. Remove items you don’t or won’t use. Clear the surfaces, organise what’s left and practice keeping just what you need and use, no excess.

Decluttering your home is an obvious place to start, but there are many other aspects of life that you can declutter too. You can declutter your time and your digital life, to name a few.

When decluttering, remember to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need this?
  • Do I use this?
  • Does this add value to my life
  • Do I appreciate having this in my life?

If the answer is no, then it’s time to let it go. Often this is where the process stops as people are not sure what to do with goods that no longer serve them. We recently wrote an article detailing options for charity shops, online selling platforms and community organisations where you could donate or sell your goods. There are also numerous books available on the subject. We highly recommend one that Kate Emmerson wrote called Clear your Clutter, a practical, no-nonsense book that teaches you the why and the how of ridding yourself of emotional, physical and body clutter. If you still don’t know where to start, there are people out there to help. A quick Google search will link you to reputable people in your area.

Don’t let all the excess and unwanted things in your life take away from what’s really important to you.

Why giving brings more joy than keeping

Accumulating plenty of unnecessary things after five decades of life is relatively easy. I should know. But there comes a time when you have to decide whether what you are holding onto brings you more joy than it would if you shared it with others.

Decluttering can be intimidating because we assign meaning and memories to what we have. A teddy bear reminds us of our childhood, a shoebox filled with old birthday and Christmas cards hold all the memories of our lives, and our children’s old school reports tell the story of their journey into adulthood.

When my dad passed away eighteen years ago, I desperately wanted to hold on to a part of him. I chose to keep and treasure his Stinkwood dining room set that I knew he loved. The table ended up in a boardroom in my husband’s business. I really never had any use for it – it never matched the decor in any of my homes. A few weeks ago, Gys told me he did not have a place for it anymore and asked what I wanted to do with it.

The dining room table is not the only white elephant in my home. I have a selection of bone china tea sets inherited from my mom-in-law, silver cutlery and crockery and specially engraved glasses that I never use. I purposefully don’t use any of these items because I worry that they’ll break, they can’t go into the dishwasher, and I simply don’t have time to polish the silver.

I had lunch with clients the other day, and they shared with me how therapeutic they experienced decluttering their home. Yet my first reaction, when confronted with my dad’s dining room set, was the opposite of therapeutic – it was an emotional one. Just the thought of having to get rid of it made me feel like I was losing my dad all over again. It also made me question the many things in my home that take up space. Would my children want it? Will they use it? Of course not! Some things just aren’t relevant in today’s world anymore. It’s out of fashion and dated – just like my dad’s dining room set.

We have to start reassessing why we keep things that we don’t use and that our children may never want – and find different ways to pass our legacies along. I have decided to pass my dad’s dining room set on to a family who could use and cherish it. This would give me joy. A far more precious gift to my children is sharing happy moments and accumulating treasured memories with them. One way in which I am keeping my legacy going is by teaching them all our family recipes that have been passed to me down generations.

Sometimes giving brings more joy than keeping. Think of items in your home that you are holding on to which may be worth more to someone else. Someone who may actually need, use and cherish it. Donating unused items to charities will make you feel happy, and chances are that the things you have loved all your life but don’t need anymore will be loved and used by someone else.

There are so many benefits to decluttering your living space. Apart from creating more space to live in, going through all the things you have collected revives old memories. And sharing these recollections with your children and grandchildren will be memories they will cherish forever.

Reflections on turning 60 – the good, the bad, and the ugly

So, you’re a man and you just turned 60? The world’s going to change for you. You’ve seen it coming already with your colleagues in their early and mid-60s. Suddenly, they’re gone. The company, the organization, wherever they’ve been slaving away (and perhaps even loving their work) doesn’t want them anymore. Policy dictates after 63 or maybe 65 yadayada… the email crosses their screen and if they’re lucky someone remembers to throw a party for them before they’re gone. Ah, except I forgot for a moment, there’s Covid to deal with – so no party either.

It’s coming to you soon. And unless you are one of the lucky few who has a good pension or independent wealth, you’re going to have to make a plan.

So, the first part of that plan is to do what your wife likely does much more often than you ever did – go and see the doctor for a check-up. Prostate, ECG, those scaly little bumps on the side of your cheek, just where the golf cap doesn’t shade the skin. Have them seen to. The good news is that you’ve probably got a lot of years still ahead of you. Medicine is getting better and better literally with each passing month. Things that crippled or killed our grandparents can be solved increasingly easily. Look at your ageing parents. They are doing much better than their parents. We can expect to be much healthier than any generation before us. Probably many of you already know this. You’ve already had your first knee op or are feeling that dull ache in your lower back that means a hip replacement is coming up. I was a war correspondent for many years until finally the weight of the flak jackets wore my back out. I got to the point where I was crippled with pain – and this is no metaphor – I couldn’t walk, I was shaking with agony. I lay on the floor at the doctor’s office, and he operated on me the next day. As I write this, I get a lump in my throat with the gratitude I feel for what modern medicine made possible. I hardly think of my back now. But I tell you what…. my hip is starting to niggle just the tiniest bit when I go for my daily walk. Let’s see, maybe yoga and stretching exercises will keep things together.

So, believe me, you’re likely going to be physically okay for a long time now; but its what’s in your head that holds the most unexpected surprises. You’ve seen your colleagues kicked to the curb. You’ve had the conversations when they hit 62 and they say “what am I going to do? I don’t have a clue.”

“Ah well,” you replied. “Something will come up.” But behind the next sip of Johnny Walker Black he took, you won’t forget the look of fear, anger, and looming humiliation. Usually something does seem to sort of work out. But it’s not a given.

Most of us are going to still be working for another 15 to 20 years yet. And trust me on this, just about no one’s going to give you another job. Even for us freelancers, after a certain age, the phone stops ringing. It’s emotionally the same as getting the two-line email. You’ve been working this career for 35, 40 years and you’re really good at it. And, if you are like me, you’ve loved every minute of it. But suddenly, or slowly, if you’re lucky, the carpet is whipped out from under your feet, and, as Tom Petty put it (remember how we partied to him?) you’re freefalling.

It’s going to hurt like hell. And all sorts of old damage from your childhood or teen years or your divorce will come back to haunt in ways you thought you’d long ago put behind you. And you won’t know who the hell you are anymore.

Be prepared for this. You can’t tough it out. It’s real. It’s life-shattering, and it happens to all of us. It’s what Dante wrote about in the Inferno, getting lost in a dark wood with the road “wholly lost and gone.”

But that’s not the end of the story. Dante also wrote two more books about this journey of life: Purgatory and Paradise. I don’t think the voyage ahead is that clear or that simple, but know this: there is a way out of that dark forest that you will find yourself lost in. There are a myriad of ways. And if you haven’t already started, dive into the internet and the digital world. Wrestle with it daily, learn its ways. There are millions to be made there, and you don’t have to be Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos just to pull in a few thousand bucks here and there. Or use it to grow a business you are running from your garage with the help of a couple of formerly jobless youth.

If you’re really lucky you get to be a consultant for a while, or perhaps mentor younger people. I’ve started doing both and I love it.
Basically, you’ll probably have to become an entrepreneur of some sort. It’s a different thing altogether from getting a consulting contract. Believe me there are a whole host of 50-year-olds waiting to grab that away from you.

Being an entrepreneur sounds a lot sexier than it is most days, but there are also so many opportunities out there that you will begin to find once you’ve stopped grieving for who you were for the last 40 years and begin to accept who and where you are now.

The “golden years” of retirement are a tired old myth created by advertisers for insurance companies when we were in our teens and twenties and watched our grandparents retire on secure pensions. That way of life is gone, if it ever really existed in the first place. It’s not an option for most of us now – men or women – we will have to find a way to keep making it on our own.

Forget about the myth – remember instead just how lucky we really are to be turning 60. We ain’t old yet, no matter how our ageist society largely regards us. So many more years lie ahead, and within each one of those are so many golden days to enjoy with those we love and to celebrate our new, unexpected, and better yet, still unimagined, successes.

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