PROCRASTINATION: IS IT HAMPERING YOUR TRANSFORMATION?

Now and laterAll of us procrastinate sometimes….don’t we? I surely do. In fact I am in a pressure situation right now because of my procrastination. I have continually put off a task that includes a learning curve to be able to use a software program. There are always plenty of things to do that I can just DO, regardless of their priority. In this case, the task is related to a part time job I have; in other cases I delay doing things I know will help me transform my life in one way or another.

I have allowed myself to think of much procrastination as benign, and in fact it can be useful. By procrastinating on some things, it may turn out that they weren’t necessary or important in the first place. That can be true; it can be a passive way to prioritize.

Timothy Pychyl, who has done much research on the topic, points out that “all procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination.” Procrastination is a very special type of postponement.

The dictionary definitions of procrastination do not reflect the more benign approach. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary calls it “To put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as a postponement, “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable,” or as “defer[ing] action, especially without good reason.”

This is causing me to look at how I think of my “delays” in doing things. I want to be more intention in sorting out things that are priority – important and important and urgent – from those that are not. That will allow the things I truly don’t need to do now, or perhaps ever, to be on a list but not nagging me as much. And those things I truly need to do sooner rather than later will be clear.
Of course that doesn’t mean that I will automatically stop procrastinating on those important tasks! So I found an article by Alexandra Sutcliffe that included these four suggestions for how to deal with procrastination:

  • “Write down you list of goals, breaking them into manageable chunks. Too big a goal and your eyes will gloss over it on the list, but broken into segments and you’ll feel more like tackling one at a time.
  • Set up a reward for later. Try disconnecting your laptop from the internet for a set period, after which you can relax and reconnect. This way you’re not denying yourself, you’re merely deferring the pleasure until you’ve got something done.
  • Attach one task to another, such as, a daily walk you enjoy, followed by the ten minutes of language study you keep putting off. Creating a routine will make any task feel more achievable.
  • If you constantly catch yourself admitting how you never get things done, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, use affirmations to spur yourself on. Remember, affirmations must always be positive, and in the present tense. Try, ‘I take charge and get things done. I seize the moment and take action’.”

Perhaps you will find these tips helpful, also. Here is the link to the entire article: Top Tips for Dealing With Procrastination

If you are interested in a good resource about this topic, I recommend
this concise book by Timothy A. Pychyl (quoted above):
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change 

Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, Part 2

razor wire

 

NOTE: In an earlier post, Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, I wrote about a particular experience in prison ministry with the Timothy’s Gift program. This post is about a more recent visit, this time to Arkansas prisons. This is a Christian ministry and that is reflected in the post.

REFLECTIONS ON THE TIMOTHY’S GIFT HOLY WEEK TOUR, MARCH 2018

During Holy Week, 2018, Timothy’s Gift had its spring tour with the theme “You’ve Got a Friend.” We observed those days leading up to Easter not with traditional church services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Holy Saturday. Rather, we had 8 services/programs in 6 Arkansas prisons.

Our extraordinary team of 17 including musicians, speakers and support folks brought a 4-fold message – You are Loved, You Have Great Worth, God is With You, and You Are Not Forgotten. We communicated those messages through music (secular and fun, spiritual, and Christian), spoken messages, and other exercises and experiences. By weaving together these elements, we provided multiple ways to touch those who come to the program.

We had a Maundy Thursday experience as part of each service. As Jesus shared the bread and wine with his disciples on that day, we share the bread and juice with the inmates – looking directly into their eyes and speaking the words of the love of God. All of the team members participated in the serving of the communion at least once so they had that experience, which is truly profound.

And we had Good Friday during each service as the message spoke to the crucifixion: God in Jesus experiencing the worst that human life provides and demonstrating that God has always been with us and will always be with us. We reminded them that one thief also crucified that day spoke “remember me” – and that they too are remembered.

The person-to-person interaction was especially precious as we greeted people with handshakes and hugs as they entered and left, had conversations which included their stories, heard requests to pray for individuals, and gave encouragement. Often there were tears.

One of the 8 services was in a women’s facility; and as always, the women were more emotional and participatory than the men. As they were moved out quickly to get back to their dorm for count, right after communion and before the final words could be said or last 2 songs sung, every woman was crying in response to what they had just experienced. Several were pregnant and seemed particularly moved.

Each location had its own uniqueness, due to the level of security, the type of units participating, the chaplain’s style and focus, and the warden’s overall leadership. Overall, the prison officers and chaplains were friendly and helpful – though a few started out differently. One officer who had not been fully informed about what would be required of him for us to do our two programs in two parts of the facility started out resentful. But by the end, he was complimentary and said “God bless you all” with a warm smile. We had many affirmative responses from other officers as well.

At one location where we had two separate services, the prison’s excellent praise choir and band performed as the inmates came in and left. Before the inmates began arriving, our instrumentalists and theirs played together and shared music. This added a whole new dimension to the gathering.

In our last prison, the location of the chapel required us to walk through a corridor lined with inmate barracks on either side. Getting glimpses of the rows and rows of cots, a couple of feet from each other, with men sitting and standing in those large rooms was sobering and sad. As we trouped through the corridor – 17 people with cases of sound equipment, instruments, music stands, communion supplies and more – many stared, some waved; more waved if we first waved. One can only imagine the range of thoughts and attitudes about our group as we entered. We had to walk back after set-up to get to the canteen area, and then back through to the chapel for the program. And then at the end, back to the entrance with all of our gear again. It was a strange experience each time, knowing there were diverse attitudes toward us and wanting to not seem either aloof, or afraid, or naively cheerful.

At the end of every service, each person who attended was given a survey to return and invited to write to us. After just a week after the first visits, dozens of letters have already arrived. We will be reading them and responding to as many as we can.

Each of the institutions wants a return visit from Timothy’s Gift. The inmates all seemed eager for us to come back. And every team member who went – 7 of them for the first time – seem eager to do it again. It is truly a transformative experience each time we are able to participate. It is a unique and powerful way to live out and share the love of God with others.

This is an example of an experience that transforms all involved.  How can you have such experiences?

For more information on this ministry, go to www.timothysgift.com

Benefits of Writing

Blogging - JournalingAre you a blogger or one who journals? Do you do any kind of regular writing? For some of us, it is a habit that started in our youth and is just part of our life. For others, we may write regularly for a while and then not for some time, and come back to it. It may be a habit that you don’t ever question. Or you may question the benefit of writing consistently. It’s possible you never have done this kind of writing.

I am a sporadic writer, although in the past months my blogging has become more regular and frequent on my business blog. I also do occasional posting on a personal blog.

There are various styles and purposes for journaling and for blogging. There can be benefit in trying out different styles and writing for different purposes at various stages of your life.

My mother didn’t journal as we think of it now, but she wrote in a diary every day for over 50 years. She usually used 5-year diaries that she purchased and which provided about 4 narrow lines per day. I have those diaries and they certainly provide a view into her daily life over the years. The emphasis was on what she did, what was going on with the family, and what the weather was. (Her diaries include high and low temperatures daily for those 50+ years in southern Wisconsin!) It is quite a treasure to have.

This is an example of very simple, regular writing that has value for the writer and those who read it later, if you choose to make it available.

Recently I read an article that listed seven ways that a habit of regular writing can improve our lives after age 50. Here they are:

• helps you clear the mind
• aids in the recovery of one’s memories
• you will be able to stockpile ideas
• improves your verbal and writing skills
• puts your life events into perspective
• you will feel like you have accomplished something
• it’s a great mental exercise

Author Eileen Williams summed up the benefits this way: “It is the best exercise for the brain. It enables the mind to relax, think freely with no stress. It keeps you fit and in good shape.” The entire article is on her blog, Feisty Side of Fifty: Benefits of Writing

Consider experimenting with different styles and purposes of blogs or journals if you already are a regular writer. If you are in a hiatus from a previous pattern of writing, give it another try – perhaps in a different style.

If you have never tried, write in some style for 30 consecutive days and see how you like it and if you begin seeing some of the benefits listed above. If you don’t know how to start, here’s a book that can give you ideas:  The Journaling Life: 21 Types Of Journals You Can Create To Express Yourself And Record Pieces Of Your Life

I would love to hear about your experiences!!

 

Patterns and Milestone Experiences That Transform

Experiences TransformOne of the joys of getting older – let’s say 50 and beyond – is that we can look back and see patterns and milestones in our lives. Seeing the patterns can be instructive and helpful in many ways. In early mid-life, most of us experience the intensity of jobs/careers, community involvement, family relationships to nurture and support – and more. As we move into a different phase of life, we can take time to do this.  Experiences transform, and reflecting on them can be part of transforming your life after 50.

I will share some of my experience with this kind of reflection.

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to be one of several presenters who shared personal stories with a group from my church. It was a wonderful opportunity to look back and identify some patterns in my life. One of them was “expanding horizons” and I also identified milestone experiences that had shifted my life in new directions. Each of us can likely identify ways in which our horizons expanded and how that impacted us.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. captured the essence of that by saying, “”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

I found it quite enjoyable to look at that pattern as if I were floating high above, getting the view from the drone, if you will. In my case, I saw an image of concentric circles and that pattern of expanding horizons. I could recognize experiences that launched me from one circle into another, and later into another as the years passed. The changes were more than geographic and included mental, spiritual, emotional and psychological expansions.

The geographic concentric circles started from growing up in a small town in Minnesota, to college in two other midwestern towns, to a summer in core city Chicago, Illinois to much of my adult life in inner city Minneapolis, Minnesota to a couple of years in suburban Orange County, California to the past eight years in Nashville, Tennessee. I can see concentric circles of relationship with a wider diversity of people and of awareness of regional and cultural differences.

In addition to these overlaid concentric circles, I can identify milestone experiences that changed the direction of my life in different ways. The first dramatic milestone was the summer spent in Chicago when I was 19 years old. It was a city immersion program sponsored by the American Lutheran Church in several cities around the country, with our team of six people coming from a small college in Decorah, Iowa. Prior to this, I had lived in homogeneous small towns, both growing up and in my prior two years of college.

Then here we were, working full time jobs and doing neighborhood work in the rest of our time out of a city church located just on the edge of the demarcation line between a white community and a black community. Oh – did I mention: it was the summer of 1966!! Tensions were high in cities across the country as the civil rights movement was in its peak years. During that summer, Aug. 5, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Chicago for an open housing march through an all-white neighborhood and he was hit in the head with a brick or a rock. This was the mood of the time.

The experiences of that summer turned my attention to being involved with the social issues of the day, and gave me clarity that I wanted to be involved in things that made a difference. As a result, I left college and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I would spend my years from 20 to 60 living and working in the inner city.

I encourage you to reflect on the patterns and milestones in YOUR life. It will be life-affirming and may open up some possibilities for you to explore as you are transforming your life after 50.

I encourage you to get a nice journal that you really want to write in.  I love the “Tree of Life” motif, and these are refillable, which is a plus.  Check out this version using my affiliate link: Tree of Life Writing Journal

Innovation Around Housing for Seniors – Your Parents Now, You Later

InnovationThe Baby Boomer generation has been responsible, directly and indirectly, for vast changes within society as they moved through the life cycle. Sometimes we forget all that happened from the time of our large cohort being born after the end of World War II and through about 1964. It started with the housing boom as the young families being formed after the (mostly) men returned from military service. The whole list of innovations, revolutions and changed viewpoints is clearly more than I can address in this post.

Now this generation is changing what it means to be over 50, and especially over 65. There are multiple facets of this, but the one I want to talk about here is about housing and care beyond independent living. Baby Boomers are 71 and younger right now, and have dealt or are dealing with these issues for their parents. What is created now will impact us as we move into the ages where we cannot live alone in our own homes.

An extremely exciting project addressing this need is MAGIC, a pilot project being conducted in connection with the University of Southern Indiana (USI) in Evansville and Dr. Bill Thomas, a nationally-renowned expert on aging.

MAGIC is aimed at creating a cultural transformation related to aging in community (Read the full release). With support from AARP, Indiana AARP and numerous stakeholders, we will pioneer a new (and very old) way of living. MAGIC stands for: Multi-Ability, multiGenerational, Inclusive Community.

Our goal is to bring together people of different ages, with different abilities and from different backgrounds, and look at ways to inspire and sustain a genuine human community….

We will kick off the MAGIC Pilot Project this spring by co-designing a model smart home. This “MAGIC Model House” will serve as a demonstration home showcasing the latest accessibility design, smart-home connectivity and low cost modular prefabrication methods I’ve developed through my Minka Dwelling project. We designed the Minka as an affordable housing platform that can be adapted to meet the needs of people of different ages and abilities.

The full article can be found here: I Believe in MAGIC

What exciting possibilities there are in this project, and others that will be inspired because of it. We truly can change the depressing scenario embedded in many aging persons’ minds of ending their years in a nursing home that fails to provide a good quality of life for them.

The numbers, though not as current as would be most helpful, are these: “The aging of the baby boom generation could fuel a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care, to about 2.3 million in 2030 from 1.3 million in 2010.” Source:  Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States from the Population Reference Bureau.

Alternatives such as MAGIC can be effective in improving quality of life in our later years. It’s time for the creativity and innovation of our generation to focus more on this and similar issues. I can hardly wait to see what we can do!!

Dr. Bill Thomas is an expert in aging issues. His book, Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life covers a wide range of important topics.

5th Aging with Attitude Film Awards

Aging With Attitude

 

For the 5th year, Senior Planet has published its nominees for their Aging with Attitude Film Awards.

“As in earlier years, we’re nominating films released over the last year that embody ‘aging with attitude.’ The pressure is increasing in Hollywood to address ageism…. Here are some films with images about aging that were honest, strong, resilient, empowered, and well-rounded.”

 

The nominees among films released in 2017 are the following: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, The Hero (starring Sam Elliott), The Midwife (from France with English subtitles), Lucky, and The Post (Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks).

Descriptions, trailers and where you can view each movie are included in this article: Aging With Attitude Film Awards

This list provides some great movie entertainment for us who are in the over-50 group as well as everyone who would like to see some good films. We can all benefit from positive depictions of people of all ages.

The Power of Our Questions

Power of Our QuestionsHave you ever (often?) realized that your fleeting thoughts and questions were all of the ‘What if this negative thing happened…’ variety? We can easily fall into that deep, dark hole. With negativity a far too steady diet in our lives, there can be days when it is hard to maintain a positive, hopeful approach to life.

If you are thinking of your future as the years pass by, it is easy to have negative images of aging dominate our thoughts, consciously and/or subconsciously. One of the most powerful things we can do as we anticipate and transform our years after 50 is adopt practices and habits that counteract those thoughts, images and mindset.

I have long been an advocate of one simple strategy: consciously switching our “what if downer” questions to “what if upper” questions. I first learned of this from Mendhi Audlin in her book, What If It All Goes Right and recommend it as a powerful tool to shift our mindset.

Louise Foerster, writer, reader, marketer, business story teller and new product imaginer, writes about the impact of what questions we ask ourselves as we face decisions, especially those involving significant risk. Rather than asking what is the worst that can happen – a common approach of coaches and friends – she advocates the opposite approach.

What is the best that could happen?
Now, that question gets my juices flowing. I can’t wait to imagine the best, the brightest, and the most wonderful and then ten billion times better beyond that. It is so flipping amazing that I can’t stop.

I inhabit the dream. I revel in bliss. I smile, recognizing that the best is so far beyond my small, safe imagining that I’ll have to wait until I get there to grab it tight and hug it as hard as I can. I imagine the view from the top of the mountain, endless majesty, beckoning me forward.
That is where I want to be.  What is the Best That Can Happen?

Yes! That is where I want to be also! As we anticipate, investigate and explore what it means to reinvent and transform our years after 50, this is a powerful approach. Every day we can ask, What is the best that could happen?

I recommend Mendhi Audlin’s book, What If It All Goes Right?: Creating a New World of Peace, Prosperity & Possibility

Questions can be so powerful – for reflection, writing prompts, journaling, discussions with friends, etc. The Question Book: What Makes You Tick can be a great tool. 

Searching for Clues to Your 3rd Act

Interest in the worldIf you are thinking about what your 3rd Act might be and how you want to craft those years ahead, there are a variety of strategies to consider. One of them is looking back to identify those activities and efforts you loved, excelled at and were recognized for in earlier parts of your life. Part of the process will be simply nostalgic. But taking it to another level can provide clues to things you may want to explore for your future.

I discussed this idea this post, Recapture Dreams That Still Excite You.  Psychologist and freelance writer Holly Lawrence suggests a similar approach in this article:
For Boomers to Find Their Next Act, It’s Back to Childhood .

She shares her personal story of going back to childhood memorabilia to unearth achievements, passions and things to reflect upon and provides additional resource links. She suggests 3 steps to research your childhood keepsakes to help find your next act:

1. Study your main character: you, as a child. Conduct an objective character study. What is the main character’s demeanor? Hint: candid childhood photos reveal more about your personality than posed smiley photos. Do your notes or diaries describe your career dreams? What do your report cards show? What interests do you have in common with the character today? What did you abandon that you’d like to reclaim?

2. Consider repurposing your childhood dreams and passions…. So analyze the characteristics of your childhood dream profession. For example, firefighters rescue people in trouble and save and protect members of the community. You can repurpose your dream by volunteering at the local fire station, becoming a social worker with displaced families or taking a fire safety course and teaching students what you learned.

3. Revise your life narrative and adjust to fit your goals.

Enjoy the process of trying to get back into your experiences as a child and young person. You may find some great clues and possibilities for transforming your years after 50 into a joyful 3rd act.

To explore more of these possibilities, check out Too Young to be Old – Love, Learn, Word, and Play as You Age

The Space Between

the space betweenMany of us who are 50 or over are thinking a lot about what’s next? If you are 50 or 60 or 70, the questions and possible answers may be different, but they are all questions that lead to questions, that lead to more questions with no definitive answers. We can’t know all that will be facing us in the coming 10, 20, or 30 years, how the cultural and economic landscape will change, or how our family and friendship circles will change. This is not a unique situation for people in our age group, but we may experience it differently than younger generations do as we are transforming our lives after 50.

All of us ultimately, then, are confronted be the question of how do we live in between now and the unknown future? Karen Sands, gerofuturist, author of The Ageless Way and several other books, addresses this in “What’s Next? Midlife Questions We All Ask”:

We have to stay in the center of time and wait it out. … find a safe middle ground. A place within where time doesn’t exist, where it’s okay to not know . . . yet. That’s where real clarity is birthed….

But while I wait, my task is to keep striving for greater consciousness, stretching to unleash my greatness and to re-awaken the visionary within…. We must create our own eye in the storm of time, a place of inner calm, where we look objectively at the possibilities around us.

Waiting, striving, stretching, re-awakening…. great concepts, but we may not be sure quite how to do that! It begins with waiting. We have had periods of waiting throughout our lives – to become an adult, to find our life partner, to start a family – and on a daily basis. Waiting in line for things is a part of our lives. One of the pitfalls of all the waiting is that we can slide into inertia during these periods. Be alert for signs that this is happening to you, as I wrote in “The Cost of Inertia.”

Instead, we can accept and make the best of waiting periods. That space can be golden – a time to explore without pressure of immediate changes or decisions. One of the things we can do as we wait is stretch our minds and horizons by exploring how others have experienced and are transforming their years over 50. We can talk with people in our circles and read the increasing number of books and articles that are available. We can reflect through journaling, discovering through that process treasures within us to lead us forward. We can make the most of the space between.

I recommend these books written by Karen Sands as you wait:
 Visionaries Have Wrinkles
 The Ageless Way

Gratitude: Beyond Lists to In-The-Moment

gratitudeFar too often in our striving to improve, to stretch, to reinvent parts of our lives, we forget to be grateful for who we are and what surrounds us. In our focus on the future, we neglect the present.

Many of the gratitude exercises and practices I have heard of and practiced are of the reflecting and listing type. For example, at the end of each day, write down 5 things for which you are grateful. In fact, I encourage such practices, as in this blog post: Gratitude as the Overriding Tone of Your Life. I recognize the value of them and also am glad to learn of another way of having a sense of gratitude infuse the day and form the foundation of all we do.

David Cain, in “Gratitude Comes From Noticing Your Life, Not From Thinking About It” provides inspiration for this practice.

Gratitude, when we do genuinely feel it, arises from experiences we are currently having, not from evaluating our lives in our heads. When you feel lonely, for example, simply remembering that you have friends is a dull, nominal comfort compared to how wonderful it feels when one of those friends calls you out of the blue. Reflecting on the good fortune of having a fixed address is nice, but stepping inside your front door after a cold and rainy walk home is sublime.

 

The experience, not the idea, is what matters. So if you want to feel grateful, forget the thinking exercises. Look for your good fortune not in some abstract assessment of your life situation, but in your experience right in this moment. What can you see, feel, hear, or sense, right here in the present, that’s helpful, pleasant, or beautiful?

Often our push toward change we are acting out of dissatisfaction, which can be a powerful motivator. If, however, we are at the same time acknowledging and feeling gratitude for things in our present moment, it is a much more powerful position from which to move forward. It also calms us and reduces the stress caused by dissatisfaction, thus freeing up energy for moving forward into our intended future. I am not quite ready to “forget the thinking exercises” as David suggests, but I will add this practice to my days and encourage you to try it too.

In addition to this simple and profound practice, I invite you to check out this extremely helpful book, Unlock Your Ideal Self, Transformation From Within by Dennis Becker. Gratitude is among the topics covered. This is indeed a handbook that you can refer to again and again.