Friday, October 24, 2014

How did Mom and Dad figure this out?

Confession time. There are days when I feel like a creaky old relic from another time, struggling to cope in a new and changing world. How can we make the best of our October Years? More to the point, is there any “best” left in us by now?
You see, I write about “thriving in our 60s and 70s” as if I really know how to do that. Lest I be accused of peddling tainted expertise, let me set the record straight. What I know about “thriving” has been learned the old fashioned way---by trial and error. (Heavy on the error.) Yet, even then I have paused from time to time to look for outside guidance, something to confirm that I was on the right track, before plowing ahead.

It is a human thing, isn’t it---the way we doubt ourselves, and seek to validate our often feeble efforts? For some of us the biggest obstacle is admitting that we don’t know what to do. Why is “I don’t know” such a hard notion to accept? Whatever our reasons, there is no denying that we do sometimes harbor those self doubts, the ones that send us looking for someone else’s better idea. 

When that happens we run the risk of being swept up in the flood of “how to” and “self-improvement” offers that wash up on our internet shores every day. It seems there is “expert” advice available for everything under the sun---including retirement and thriving in our October Years. At every turn there is some guru promising to sell his “tried and true” success formula at a significant discount. (Or not.)

So how do suppose our parents and grandparents made their way through that same daunting time of life? How did they carry on without the help of some unsolicited “expert”? No matter how long their October Years lasted I doubt that many of them relied on some bestseller, other than the family Bible, for tips on how to live out their late life. So how did they know what to do?  I don’t recall my parents discussing the advice of their “career coach.” Perhaps with offspring like me, there was no reason to seek improvement---though I doubt that.

In any case, for better or worse today’s October population has more “help” options than ever before. Whether you question your own ability to chart a retirement course, are looking for ways to supplement your planning, or feel the need for a mentor to lay out a path for you to follow---there is no shortage of willing helpers ready to guide you toward success. Of course, you mustn't be surprised when the path they recommend comes at a price. To illustrate the range of possibilities, a recent Sunday issue of USA Today newspaper offered a range of new books that offer help to the floundering retirement seeker.
In Encore Career Handbook Marci Aboher says she can show us how to make a difference in the “second half of our life.” Fact is, I had to read that claim more than once. In my October world I don’t think I have “half a lifetime” ahead of me. Still, I was drawn to her “As we age we realize we have only so much time left---so make the most of it.” I believe I’ve read that before in these pages. It is, after all, a recipe for thriving in our 60s and 70s.

Another take on our October game plan comes from Joe Burger in Why Do I Do That? Mr Burger’s retirement advice apparently boils down to ”Life is too short to spend our remaining years merely fulfilling a sense of obligation.” The answer he proposes will hinge on identifying one’s “true passion.” I’m not sure I know how to define what that is---or if I knew, whether I would be willing to admit it publicly. Still, Mr Burger poses a question we all ask ourselves from time to time---Why do I do that?

Paul Irving, in his book The Upside of Aging, paints retirement as a time of change---a focus that will be familiar to regular October Years and Tanner Chronicles readers. In particular, he stresses the importance of helping people adapt to their changing world. “We should enable life-long learning and skills development, so people can apply that new learning as they age.” How about you, does it feel like you are still learning?

Finally, Adam Taggert’s Finding Your Authentic Career is directed primarily at career seekers who are looking for the life’s work that best suits them. Yet I think it applies to seniors seeking a retirement that fits them. Truth be told, it sounds a lot like my own rants about preparing for our October Years. Taggert writes, ”The vast majority of people are actively dissatisfied---or at best unfulfilled---by their current situation. If only they realized that their purpose is out there waiting for them.”
So what are these so-called experts telling us? “We have only so much time left.” “We need to keep learning.” “We are meant to seek our passion.” “Our purpose is waiting for us.” Did our forefathers need a guru and guidebook to know that? Probably not. Still, it can’t hurt to be reminded---if only to keep us thriving.

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