Showing up can make all the difference

Have you ever had a great idea? But too worried about what people may think and never shared it? Have you got a good story to tell or a dream that’s so big and daring that you’re too afraid to say it out loud? Just in case it doesn’t happen. Have you ever been in love but too nervous to say ‘I love you’ first?

My husband Gys started his business called Kuni a few years ago. He has spent his life in the woodworking industry, and apart from a small collection he sold to Tony Factor when he was a young boy, he never really launched his own collection. Kuni was his dream in the making, to design and create unique handcrafted furniture and art.

Gys grappled with the idea of launching his concept to market for a while. He kept wondering ‘what if’. What if people don’t like my designs? What if they don’t sell? What if no one ends up supporting my brand? But the most significant question Gys asked himself was ‘what if I don’t do it and never even try?’

Brené Brown’s words come to mind: Owning your story is the bravest thing you’ll ever do.

Owning your story and showing up does take courage. Let me tell you, it’s not easy putting yourself out there for the world to see. There will always be doubts and the many ‘what ifs’ will churn around in your mind. I had similar feelings when my book, Midlife Money Makeover was ready to launch. What if I get bad reviews? What if my message isn’t received favourably? What if people don’t like the book?

But what is the alternative? To keep your feelings, your words, your ideas and your dreams to yourself? Just in case people laugh at you or prove you wrong?

Did you know that Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers; Albert Einstein was thought to be mentally handicapped and did not speak until the age of four, or read till the age of 7; Colonel Sanders was rejected by 1009 restaurants before one accepted his famous chicken recipe and franchise model? Thomas Edison who has 1093 patents to his name, failed over 10 000 times when trying to invent the first electric lightbulb.

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves,” says Thomas Edison.

The point is that if you are so worried about what people may think that it holds you back from doing, saying or being what’s in your heart, you may never change your worldview or the world. Think for a moment about everything you may be capable of but not doing. What are you not showing up for? What if that one idea could make all the difference?

From languishing to flourishing

Recently there was an article published in The New York Times about a collective state of being that many of us are experiencing presently, and it’s called languishing. According to the article, languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at your full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation and disrupts your ability to focus. When you are languishing, you are not depressed, but you aren’t thriving either.

So how then do we move from a state of languishing to flourishing? According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, to flourish, we need to find our flow, a term he coined in the 1990s. He says we reach this blissful state when we find the right balance between skill and challenge. If our challenge is too great, we’ll be stressed. If the challenge is not enough, boredom kicks in. But when it’s just right, we experience “flow”. Flow is that elusive state of absorption in a significant challenge or a momentary bond, where your sense of time, place and self melts away.

The first thing you need to do to achieve this state is to step out of your comfort zone. Do something that’s slightly beyond your comfort zone. It needs to be challenging but not overwhelming. Something that you enjoy and requires skill. When you take on a challenge that’s manageable to you – you increase your chances of experiencing “flow”.

Another way to find your flow is to get better at something, develop an existing skill, try a new one, or take up an old one. “Flow” is very individual, so you need to find what works for you – and there are no limits. Walking, gardening, reading an academic book, yoga, or an enjoyable work project might be your thing, and all of them can promote the feeling of “flow”. Whatever appeals to you, draws you in and challenges you can help you find your “flow”.

Try and forget yourself. You may think that’s easier said than done, but it’s crucial if you want to experience “flow”. As a source of mental energy, “flow” both invigorates and motivates us so we can forget ourselves. As you immerse yourself in your activity, you’ll shut off any critical “self-talk”, niggling worries and distractions. “Flow” is about losing yourself in something that offers no tangible reward beyond the activity itself.

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. No one has been left unscathed by the last year, and its impact on our general well-being. Focus on the small wins.

Helping aspiring entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life

With unemployment at an all-time high and the economic impact of Covid being felt, many people have been left with no choice but to start their own businesses. Sadly, according to statics, 50% of small businesses fail within 24 months of launch. Research done by the University of the Western Cape showed that between 70% and 80% of small businesses fail within five years. This is a significant number. One of the primary reasons small businesses fail is a lack of planning or a rock-solid business plan. What you think sounds like a good business idea on paper may not fare so well in reality. Most businesses are brought into existence for survival. The business owners simply register a company and hope everything will be fine. There is no detailed plan on how the business will be run, and there are no well-defined short-term and long-term goals. As a result, there is no understanding of costs, responsibilities, markets, funding needs, and other business requirements.

Entrepreneur and Chartered client Megan Stark and her business partner were all too aware of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs. So, with a passion for helping aspiring entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life, Hola Business was formed. Hola Business is for any aspiring entrepreneur serious about turning their idea into a profitable business. It was developed specifically for South Africans, informed by the country’s legal, tax and business environment, and caters for all age groups.

Through 12 online modules and over 30 hours of interactive training material, users are walked through the entire business and financial planning journey. While gaining start-up skills and knowledge, they develop their own business and financial plan as they learn. The information captured by the user is automatically populated into a pre-formatted, professional business plan template which can be presented to potential investors. Some examples of the modules that users cover include: cycles of your business, from ideas to plan, business planning, financial forecasts, understanding costs, pricing for profit and marketing for start-ups.

Additionally, the course includes a fun-to-play business simulation where users can see how their decisions impact the businesses, and in doing so, they can learn and sharpen their business skills before launching their own business.

This project, finalised and launched during lockdown, is what Megan calls her passion project, and she has a deep desire to empower and help other entrepreneurs succeed. Her passion, vision and motivation, all characteristics required to be a successful entrepreneur, shine through in this project.

Midlife Money Makeover book review

In her latest book, “Midlife Money Makeover”, Kim Potgieter draws on her own experiences and those of her many clients to deliver a cohesive, easy-to-read manual on how to deal with both life and finances. I was thoroughly absorbed by the book, even though I would have to live to 140 if I am only halfway through my life.

It was a relevant reminder of the path my wife and I set out on some years ago with Kim and all the workshopping we subsequently did to map out the next stage of our lives. All the various ideas and dreams are falling into place, and some have become irrelevant. All this requires constant monitoring and updating. Being well prepared for our future has made the COVID-19 event so much easier to work through. During this time, we successfully sold our big house and have made a move into a lifestyle estate.

I am investigating mentoring people starting their own businesses and dealing with the daily challenges and reinventions. A path has opened up to do this, and despite being a little afraid of the idea, Kim’s book has given me many pointers as to how to set about this task. I think her programme can be used whenever a big change is made and would recommend her book to anyone starting out on a new adventure.

Written by Dick Binge

You’re not imagining it

Do you wake up some mornings wondering or, perhaps hoping, that you’re waking up from a bad dream? I have been feeling like this a lot lately. Waking up and realising that this is another day where Covid is real and coming to terms with my emotions has become a morning ritual.

I have been feeling lost emotionally. And for me, this is hard. I write and teach about the importance of naming the emotion so that you can connect with grief and move through it. And here I was, feeling numb, almost like someone switched on the dimmer switch to all my emotions.

I reached out to a friend who understood that I needed to name the emotion, and she explained the term ambiguous loss to me. It is not something you imagine at all!

Ambiguous loss feels uncertain, is without closure and clear understanding. It does not have defined boundaries; it is not a black and white event. You may be grieving for someone physically present but psychologically absent in your life (as in dementia, or so overwhelmed with stress and anxiety that they are incapable of connecting with you). Or you may mourn for someone who is physically absent but psychologically present (such as missing the people you love due to Covid restrictions, confinement to your home or living with someone who is autistic or a drug addict).

I suspect we are all grieving for the people absent in our lives but still a part of it. We are emotionally exhausted and drained, and very often, we mourn in isolation. We are unsure about what tomorrow will bring. Will we test positive for Covid? What if someone we love does? What does all this mean for our economy? It is hard to find the love, joy and belonging that we crave as humans.

This type of loss is hard to explain and even harder to heal from. If you can’t name it for what it is, you are left searching for answers, and because you are not really sure what or who you are grieving for, the healing process takes so much longer.

So let’s name it for what it is – you may also be experiencing ambiguous loss. I have felt a tremendous sense of relief to know that there is a name for what I was feeling. I was not imagining the sense of unease and the urge to numb the pain I was feeling. The problem is that if you numb the pain, the joyful moments are also less wonderous.

What has helped me is to become more conscious of finding my daily joy. You have to physically stop, pause for a moment, and take in the joyfulness. In this newsletter, Claire Holden shares a wonderful exercise on finding our joyful moments.
I find my peace and enjoyment in my garden, looking at my beautiful roses or sitting at the fish pond watching the Koi fish. My morning run has become my tonic for the day and, every time I’m able to connect with a friend face-to-face outdoors, my happiness index rises a couple of notches. As a family, we celebrated with lots of smiles and happiness when, after two operations and many treatments, my husband Gys’s cancer biopsies were negative. We have three stress-free months before we have to go for another check-up.

You are not imagining how you’re feeling, but you are not alone. Let’s spread some joy and love together.

Get Journaling

Soon it will be a year since life as we knew it changed, and many of us are feeling that we are missing out on our lives. Some days feel endlessly long and it is hard to see any silver linings. Sometimes we have to consciously remind ourselves to be grateful and to find joy in everyday life, and a great way of doing this is through the process of journaling.

Journaling has been found to have numerous positive benefits. For example, It makes us more self-aware and allows us to identify unhealthy patterns in our thoughts and behaviours. This gives us greater control over our lives and can help us shift from a negative mindset to a more positive one, especially about ourselves. It reduces stress and anxiety as it provides a space to write about your emotional responses to events that have happened throughout the day as a way of coping with stress and anxiety. This can help you to process what you are feeling and perhaps even explore more positive reframing options. Because we’re getting things out of our head and onto a piece of paper, it increases working memory, this works together to improve sleep.

Journaling has health benefits too as it improves the immune system and strengthens immune cells. Studies have shown it reduces symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis and one study showed that expressive writing (journaling) for only 15-20 minutes a day 3 – 5 times over the course of a 4-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver function! Journaling uses the analytical, rational left side of the brain and the creative, emotional right side of the brain. This helps promote creativity, problem-solving and improves our sense of wellbeing.

If you are considering journaling but don’t know where to begin, a gratitude journal is a good place to start. It is as simple as getting a notebook and starting to write down three things each day that you’re grateful for. Gratitude journaling shifts our attention from what is wrong to what is right. It encourages us to focus on the things that are going well and the positives that each day brings regardless of the challenges that might come with it. What we focus on we find, so this simple tool really does work to reprogram the brain to look for the positive.

Another way to start is to complete the 50 Things that Make me Happy exercise developed by Claire Holden. This exercise allows us to reflect on the things that make us happy – not just the big exciting things like overseas holidays or special treats but, more importantly perhaps, the little everyday things too. It may be the sound of birdsong or the feel of sunshine on your face. As you begin to reflect and record theses small moments of happiness you will become more conscious of them. As this consciousness increases so too will your conscious moments of happiness each day.

If you would like help in kickstarting your journaling journey we recommend you sign up here for Claire’s free 20-minute online course as an introduction to the Joy of Journaling available through her ‘Be A Better Human’ online learning platform.

Remember that journaling is for you, so don’t preoccupy yourself with managing perfect punctuation, grammar or spelling. Just write and don’t censor yourself. There is a beautiful quote by Mina Murray that sums it up best. “Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.”

Extracts from an (Eventless) Diary

DAY A

Big discussions in our house today. Kev (my hubby) who has not been at work since the initial lockdown in March, was asked to return to his GP practice. None of the circumstances have changed – he remains a 77 year old diabetic in the times of Covid. If anything, things have got worse. But, here’s the rub. Is it better to take a calculated risk and do the thing you love or stay at home unfulfilled but safe? There are so many people out there who need him for check-ups, script repeats etc. He isn’t in the frontline where exposure is unrelenting. It took him less than 5 minutes to make the decision to return to work and his beloved patients. I was not best pleased, but for selfish reasons, because now I would also become more exposed, but on reflection I was proud of the decision. We aren’t going to live forever and isn’t it better to be able to be a meaningful contributor to the well-being of others rather than ossify in isolation?

DAY B

I have made an exciting discovery! I think I have found a new psychological disorder which I have named “Justitis.” I was the only lab rat during the observation period. These are my findings. If I have an early morning appointment (I often am on the golf course before seven), then the symptoms don’t kick in, but if there are no commitments, then “Justitis” displays its scary symptoms with gay abandon. Let me explain. I’ll get up and go to the bathroom. Thereafter, the disorder wreaks havoc with my day. On my way to the kitchen to make my cappuccino, I have to pass my study so I say to myself “I’ll just check my e-mails”. Half an hour later, I make my coffee but then I open a cupboard which “just” needs a bit of cleaning. Then I notice my plants look a bit wilted and “just” need a quick watering. And so it goes. By the time I have “just” done this and that it is midday and I am still unwashed and in my pyjamas. My brain seems to have lost its ability to prioritise! I have spoken to some of my friends who were delighted at my confession because they too suffer from the same malady to a greater or lesser extent.

DAY C

To my shock and horror I seem to have developed the habit of speaking to myself OUT LOUD! I often find myself saying “I could swear I put my cell phone on this table.” Of course it isn’t there and no amount of oath taking will make it miraculously appear on the table, but I do it anyway. Thankfully I have a pinging thing on my watch to pinpoint my phone’s location. But not all of my “lost” items have this advantage, so I spend a large portion of my day trying to find misplaced thigs. Can you imagine how “Justitis” thrives then?

DAY D

I don’t think my hearing is bad at all but I really struggle to hear what callers are saying on talk radio. 702 used to be my go to station but now I just get so frustrated because I am only hearing one side of a conversation. Also I am tired of political debates and the state of the nation shenanigans. There is an adage that when one door closes, another will open. Now am happily listening to Classic FM which is really weird for me because I have always been more of a pop adherent. I think I made an early association between classical music and sadness so I have been working hard at reconditioning myself. Surprisingly I actually recognise a lot of the music but find it hard to connect tunes with names if there are no words. Maybe I have finally grown up! Bit of a late bloomer perhaps?

Learning another language

It has been my dream/desire/wish to learn to speak isiZulu, this for several reasons, a few of which I mention here…

  1. I know that as one gets older, our old brain cells slow down/die; one of the ways of retarding that process is to learn another language – old dogs apparently can learn new tricks!
  2. My wife Michelle and I recently moved to KZN; it makes sense therefore if I was to learn a new language that isiZulu should be the one.
  3. I believe that one of the ways to bridge the racism gap in SA is to learn ‘the other’ person’s language – it not only shows enormous respect to the recipient, but also commands it.

So I did some internet research (yep even I can) and found an excellent qualified Zulu teacher called Bryan; he has moved from KZN to Vietnam of all places (the joys of ZOOM)! He is also fluent in Afrikaans, French and Spanish and is currently learning Vietnamese while teaching English there. Most impressive!

My question to him was “How have you learnt so many languages and yet you are not even 40?” Bryan’s methodology (and what he uses/employs with me) he explained, is called Comprehensive Input (CI) – and I quote:

“Comprehensible Input is meaningful, compelling interaction in the target language which is the KEY to acquisition. It’s the way language gets language into heads, and stays there so that eventually it will be used it to communicate.”

Simply put CI means: dedicated and regular hours to ‘hearing’ – Bryan has given me many links to Zulu movies, narrated stories with pictures; to ‘reading’ – I buy the local Zulu Newspaper once a month plus Bryan sends me more reading; to ‘speaking’ – wherever possible I speak to Zulu folk e.g. at the garage, at the shops, with the gardener, with security guards… explaining that I am learning. Everyone helps!

What joy – not the old classroom method of laborious grammar classes, although some grammar has to be explained during ‘class’ time with Bryan.

A New Long Life – Book Review

A New Long Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott
A framework for flourishing in a changing world.

This book was launched during lockdown, and I read it during the month of May. It was not written with COVID-19 in mind, but it certainly has escalated some of the ideas, and it was a great navigation tool for me to use during this time.

This is a second book by these authors. The first one was the 100-year life. The first book focused on longevity and how this is impacting individuals, business, government, and society. The second book includes how technology is impacting the way we live and has some great ideas to use as you navigate your own life currently. This is leading to a changing landscape of jobs and careers for the future. Technologies are not just changing jobs but also how we live and work. COVID-19 certainly accelerated this process as so many of us found ourselves communicating more online and via platforms like Zoom.

Lifespan and life stages are changing. Many over the age of 65 are living longer, healthier lives. What does it mean NOW to be old? Younger generations will need to structure and finance for a 100-year life.

The old story was the linear story of education, work, retirement, and death. Three stages. This story is now shifting. Longer life, technology disruption- creates more transitions. This moves us to a multi-stage life. It needs to change the questions we ask and how we narrate our story.

Looking at your story and designing future possibilities can create several paths. This is your crossroads moment. The past is known. We need to imagine the future. Each of us is unique. We all arrive at this point with a number of factors to consider and are the collective of our past. We need to imagine age as malleable to design a different future. Age needs to be disrupted. People are living longer, and how they age is changing. Age is influenced by your actions and beliefs

For your age to be malleable, you need to focus on making significant investments in your future through learning new skills, building relationships and investing in your health.

We each age uniquely, shaped by our behaviour, environment, circumstances, and genetics.

The book brings together three main areas we need to focus on in the design of our lives. Our lives have all been impacted, and this brings time for reflection and asking some questions may help each of us to reimagine a new future.

Narrate
Navigating a life story and creating a narrative that brings meaning to life and helps to navigate the choices we need to make.

  • What will my job be if any?
  • What skills will I need?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it mean to be old?

Explore
Learning and transforming that enable us to successfully make the transitions that will be part of our lives

  • How do I explore the new options?
  • How will I learn the new skills I require?
  • How do I experiment with change and navigate through a life with more transitions?

Relate
Connecting deeply and building and sustaining meaningful relationships.

  • How do I respond to changing family structures?
  • What will a world with more older people and fewer children look like?
  • How do we learn to bring generational harmony?

For each of us, this is a personal journey of reflection. It can also be a wonderful way to start and work together as a couple or even as a family. These new macro trends are changing the way we need to think, plan, and live our lives. We are social pioneers in this space. Our parents and grandparents did not have the privilege of this longevity or the technology that is driving change. “A new long-life” will take you on an exciting journey. Be curious, engage and experiment.

Ten ways to improve your technology skills

How to improve your technology skills for the world we find ourselves in

The world changed overnight and forced us to isolate. This impacted us in different ways, depending on our work and life scenarios. We have all realised that improving our technology and digital skills can help us better navigate this new world we find ourselves in.

We own digital tools. Our computers, smart phones and tablets. Smart technology has certainly made it easy to navigate. We learn new skills in different ways.

  1. Use a manual or instruction on Google or You-tube and self-learn.
  2. Ask a family member to guide you- often frustrating due to generational differences.
  3. Use a coach and work systematically through the process you are trying to conquer.
  4. Attend a class to understand the concept or skill and then go and practice.

Our fears or lack of knowledge can be frustrating and challenging. These skills are new for many of us and not growing up with technology can be frustrating. The media often feed us enough to convince us not to try. Being empowered and making your own decision is a much better strategy.

Here are ten ideas to try:

  1. Look for podcasts in your area of interest to listen to.
  2. Download books on Audible.
  3. Use a platform like Zoom to engage with family and friends.
  4. Join a workshop online in your area of interest.
  5. Chat to your grandchildren.
  6. Do all your banking, buying and paying of accounts online.
  7. Start a blog
  8. Join an online church service
  9. Learn remote skills to work from home
  10. Build a business and develop your online presence using social media.

The lists are endless. The challenge is once you know how, so many new opportunities will emerge.

Staying relevant and connected is critical as we age. Technology has shifted the world we live in. The pandemic has forced us indoors. A perfect time to learn these new skills and open new and exciting opportunities.

At 50plus-skills we help our members to learn, serve and earn and many of these skills are learnt collectively through our online events. You are welcome to connect with us if you would like to become a member or need coaching. www.50plus-skills.co.za