Living the Life in Retirement…But Where?

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Without a doubt, retirement is a departure from life as we know it. Among the many decisions that need to be made, deciding where to live is a significant one. No longer constrained by their job, the retiree is pretty much free to decide where and how they will live in retirement.

A deep emotional attachment to the family home often exists and not surprisingly, many choose to remain there. For some, the home may be regarded as a financial investment; however, the emotional investment in the family home is often reported to be of greater significance. The desire to stay independent, remain connected to long-standing friends and maintaining active lives in the community; strongly influence the decision for retirees to stay in their current home. Planning ahead for potential physical changes or for an accessibility challenge is imperative. While there are many “Best Places to Live” lists, there is no one perfect place to retire, and the goal is to find a place that best meets each person’s unique needs and personal circumstances

Downsizing or moving to a condo offers many benefits. It provides more manageable living space, freedom from home maintenance, and amenities such as a concierge or perhaps even fitness facilities. However, condo fees are often subject to change and the space for entertaining and family gatherings is greatly reduced.

Retirement Communities provide most of the amenities that one would need, all in one place. Medical care, housekeeping, leisure activities, and optional levels of care can be negotiated. These age friendly communities are usually designed to encourage active engagement by providing safety features such as well-maintained walkways, accessible buildings and good public transportation.

Moving to a new location where the weather is fine and leisure activities are plentiful is another option. Detailed research is essential before making a major move like this. It is critical to understand the tax implications and the costs of healthcare when living abroad. Visit several times, particularly in the off-season. Understand what it will be like to actually live there by checking out residential areas, services and amenities. Peace and tranquility are wonderful, but be satisfied that there is enough to do all year around to remain engaged.

Regardless of whether the decision is to remain in the family home, downsize, or to live abroad in the sun; the considerations that need to be factored into the decision remain the same. The goal is to find living arrangements that provide health and social supports and services one will need to live safely and independently in their home. Furthermore, since retirees must anticipate that their needs will change over time, planning for the future is imperative.

Factors to Consider:

  • Family– Many retirees delight in their in their families and have a strong desire to remain close to them. Do you need space to accommodate an elderly parent, or an adult child? Do you want to be able to entertain or host family get-togethers in your home?
  • Friends – Is it important to remain in close proximity to friends, neighbours, community social groups? Do you have a social network?
  • Maintenance – How will you maintain your home in the future? Are there services in the community? What services will you need to remain independent as you age? How will you manage snow removal, gardening etc.?
  • Physical structure of home – Can you manage stairs now? Will you be able to in the future? Do you/will you need safety railings, grab bars, ramps? Is your home accessible? Do you/will you use a walker or a wheelchair? Can doorway width accommodate this? Can you pay for these changes?
  • Transportation – How will you get around if/when you are no longer able to drive? What transportation options are available in your community such as public transportation, taxis, or disabled transit services? Can you get to the services that you will need?
  • Leisure activities – How will you stay connected and engaged in your community? Will there be people with similar interests? Are there age- friendly activities, organizations to join or volunteer with?
  • Community services – Do you have access to a library, banking, support services, shopping, and health care facilities? Are their options for personal care, homemaking assistance, and help with meals?
  • Safety – What is the crime rate? Is it safe to walk at night? Are there sidewalks, adequate lighting?
  • Unexpected – How will you plan for an unexpected change in your financial situation? What if you end up with a disability or chronic illness?

    As one progresses through retirement, living arrangements become more important than ever. Practically speaking, retirees either stay in place or re-locate for a reason. While the process may be challenging, a detailed and thoughtful plan will prove to be well worth the effort. Ultimately, with a great plan, each retiree will make a housing decision that best reflects his or her own circumstances, needs and desires.

Retirement Anxiety…Do You Have It?

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There are millions of people heading towards retirement, and a significant number of them report feelings of anxiety. But isn’t retirement supposed to be a time to which we all look forward, when we can finally relax and do what we want?

As it turns out, there are many who just don’t see it that way. Financial considerations can certainly cause some concern for those approaching retirement. However, “retirement anxiety” tends to surface when individuals are asked to visualize how the rest of their lives might look. How will you spend your days? Who will you spend them with? Where will you live? These questions can cause even the most thoughtful amongst us to experience some anxiety.

While it is important to acknowledge that leaving behind all the things that you spent your life building can be tough, it is paramount to regard your retirement years as being a time of possibility as opposed to a time of loss. Many of us can’t even remember a time in our life when we weren’t working, so some measure of trepidation can be expected when we leave it behind. Some of the work “benefits” we leave behind include; a paycheck, friends, structured days, status, and a sense of utility or purpose. These work “benefits” often become such a large part of who we are, that letting them go can lead to anxiety and sleepless nights.

According to Richard P. Johnson, author of The New Retirement, “In order to achieve successful transition from work to a new retirement lifestyle, we must shift our view of ourselves, and redefine who we are, reframe ourselves; we must undergo a career/life reorientation”. He goes on to say “we must let go of our previous definition of ourselves and begin crafting a new definition that serves us in this new life we are carving for ourselves.” An unhealthy resolution to this challenge leads to feelings of uselessness, boredom and anxiety.

So, what’s the cure for retirement anxiety?

The cure is to develop a working plan that focuses on what matters to us most. We need to start thinking seriously about our retirement about five years before we expect to leave the workforce. Here are some questions to consider when creating your own personal retirement plan.

  1. Have you considered how to disengage from your old self-concept to a new one that will allow you to embrace this new stage of life?
  2. Have you considered how to replace work functions such as your sense of fulfillment, structure, social contact, sense of fulfillment etc?
  3. How will you engage your mind outside of work?
  4. Do you have leisure activities that motivate, relax, and entertain you?
  5. Consider your important relationships. Have you involved your spouse in your planning? Do you have adult child responsibilities, eldercare responsibilities? How will you stay engaged with friends?
  6. Are you financially prepared?
  7. Do you have a positive attitude about retirement?
  8. Have you considered putting some of your new lifestyle plan into practice before leaving the workplace?

For many retirees, leaving the workplace is a daunting thought. The best antidote to relieve the anxiety associated with this change is to begin to redefine yourself well before you leave your work. Consider finding new ways to gauge your happiness. Learn to replicate the things you love about your work in different ways. The cure to retirement anxiety follows thorough introspection, and the belief that retirement is not an ending, but rather the start of a new chapter in your life.

Retirement…Imagine The Possibilities!

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So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you consider your own retirement? Is it panic? Is it relief? Or perhaps you’re so uncertain about how this will all unfold that you avoid thinking about it at all! Bet I hit the nail on the head with that last possibility for a significant number of you…

Just the word “retirement” can stir up all sorts of stuff for many of us. We envision the retirement of our parents, living the life of leisure, while looking for things to fill the time. Or we picture golf as our new “job”. After all, if golf takes up all of our waking hours, every day of the week, it hardly qualifies as a “leisure” activity anymore. Suddenly it looks a bit like work! Perhaps it stirs up visions of a lack of purpose, idleness, or the end of a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Imagine instead, a retirement that fosters physical wellness, a true sense of purpose, and a sense of personal involvement. The way that we regard retirement is shifting dramatically. We are living longer, we’re healthier, and we are re-defining what it means to retire. We are staying in the work force longer, sometimes in part-time roles, different roles, or we’re starting entirely new careers. We volunteer our time for causes that matter to us. We mentor and teach. We follow our passions that we’ve neglected for so long. We enjoy leisure activities and develop new ones, we travel, and spend time with our significant others.

No longer do we have to look backwards and view our working years as having been better, more productive, or more meaningful. Consider regarding retirement as a time of personal change and personal growth. Imagine the possibilities….

Since many of us are uncertain how to handle the changes that retirement will surely present, it is worthwhile to consider creating and following a personal plan in the years leading up to retirement. Usually 1 to 5 years before leaving full time employment is a good time to begin. Enlisting the aid of a financial planner to address the financial requirements of retirement is a good start. For those interested in exploring their retirement readiness, a retirement coach can assist you in creating and executing a retirement plan that will keep you focused on what is truly important. A coach can help you identify your “retirement readiness” strengths and areas that require further focus as you approach retirement.

No more will we think of retirement as an ending. Instead, we will view it as a time when we become more interesting, we can do things differently, and we can forgo our habitual ways or thinking and doing things. It’s an opportunity to change and grow. Imagine the possibilities…

How Do You Know When It’s Time To Retire?

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Retirement is not an ending, but rather the start of a new life journey.  In recent years, an entirely new definition of retirement has begun to take hold.  It’s a definition that sees a shift away from the old model, which focused on rest and relaxation, yet, often felt more like purposelessness, isolation and general physical and mental decline.  The “new” retirement shifts us away from the concept of retirement as a gradual decrease in the fullness of life.  Today’s retirees regard this as a time of personal growth, an opportunity to fulfill life-long dreams, and a chance to look for new and deepened meaning in their lives. In order to assure a good level of retirement satisfaction, some thorough introspection is crucial.

There are many factors to consider when contemplating whether you’re properly prepared for this transition.  Having a plan in place before you exit the workplace can dramatically improve your chances at maintaining a continued sense of purpose and engagement with the world.  Transitioning to retirement isn’t just about the money.  A seamless transition from the working world to a fulfilling retirement involves planning from both a financial and a lifestyle perspective.

So how do you know if you’re ready to retire?

Sufficient money is the first requirement for a successful retirement.  A clear understanding of your retirement goals, income and expenses will help determine if your financial resources are adequate.   Knowledge of your financial issues, good financial planning, and confidence that you have the necessary resources all contribute to a sense of security in retirement.

Aside from economic factors, there are personal factors to consider when determining how much money will be required to adequately fund your retirement. Our retirement lifestyle, whether we plan to pursue further education, travel, or purchase a new home; all factor into how much money we will need.  And finally, unforeseen events such as health care, adult children returning home, and family financial difficulties, all need to be considered.  The degree to which we feel free from care giving responsibilities will help determine our readiness to retire.  If we have people who are dependent upon us, we may feel the need to put retirement on hold at least until the burden of responsibility lightens.

Work provides many benefits, and before we leave the workplace we must consider how we can replace some of the benefits that work provides.  Perhaps the most important benefit that work provides is financial remuneration. Many retirees continue working in some capacity after they retire.  For some it is because of financial need, for others it is to remain engaged, or perhaps to receive medical benefits.

Our work is also a major factor in creating our self-concept.  For many, our role in the labour force defines not only what we do, but to some degree, who we are.  For many of us, we have come to see ourselves as simply the manager, the worker, the supervisor, etc.  The degree to which we can let go of this former narrow self-definition will ultimately determine how well we embrace this new stage of life.  Our readiness to retire can also be measured by how prepared we are to disengage from our old self-concept and create a new definition of ourselves that will serve us in our new life.

Other benefits that work provides are structure, regular social contact, mental stimulation, and fulfillment.  The need for these does not just go away when we retire.  One’s attitude about retirement can impact our ability to replace these benefits that we used to get from our work.  We need to regard retirement as a time of tremendous personal growth as opposed to simply aging.  The attitude that retirement is a time of personal reflection, growth, involvement and an opportunity to live a meaningful life is one that will help determine our readiness to leave our work.

Another factor that might influence our readiness to retire is our current life satisfaction.  Successful retirement usually happens when the retiree doesn’t expect to forfeit any of the fulfillment and happiness they experienced when working.  Rather, they see these positive elements in their lives as increasing in retirement.  They look ahead with hope rather than considering the past as the best time of their life. Successful retirees generally apply their positive work attitudes toward their retirement as well.

Leisure activities offer increased motivation, creativity, exercise, socialization, and relaxation.  While leisure is a fundamental human need, it need not become the focal point of retirement living.    Leisure can lose its ability to provide pleasure and rejuvenation when it takes centre stage.  Any activity that provides diversion and rejuvenation can be considered leisure.

Having a lifestyle plan in place before you exit the workplace will help you move from the structured world of the workplace to the less structured world of retirement.  The transition can be made smoother if you put some of your new lifestyle plan into practice before you retire.

So are you ready to retire?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you determine whether it’s time or not.

  •     Have you planned sufficiently to sustain adequate financial security in your retirement years?
  •     Have you considered how to disengage from your old self-concept to a new one that will allow you to embrace this       new stage of life?
  •    Have you considered how to replace work functions such as your sense of fulfillment, structure, social contact, time    management, sense of fulfillment etc?
  •      Are you satisfied with your current stage of life?
  •     Do you have leisure activities that motivate, inspire, relax, and entertain you?
  •     Do you have a positive attitude about retirement?
  •     Have you considered putting some of your new lifestyle plan into practice before leaving the workplace?

While thoughts of freedom, travel, and renewal can make it tempting to leap into retirement at the first sign of financial security, it is equally important to ensure that you are prepared from a lifestyle perspective.  A clearly defined lifestyle plan will serve you every bit as well as financial security in your quest for a fulfilling and meaningful retirement.

Do You Feel Like a Fraud?

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Fooled them again!  Mary had just delivered a brilliant presentation to a
room jam-packed with her peers. Appearing deeply engaged, asking thoughtful,
provocative questions, and rewarding her with a huge round of applause, they
clearly enjoyed her talk.  Inexplicably, Mary is overwhelmed with anxiety that
these highly regarded individuals actually regard her as an “expert”. She lives in
constant fear of exposure that she doesn’t deserve her reputation and that she
has deceived others into believing that she is better than she really is. Well
educated, she is a leader in her field, and highly regarded by her peers.
Regardless of the external proof of her competence, Mary dismisses
compliments, and feels her success is more a result of luck than ability. Mary’s
constant fear of being exposed is an incredibly stressful way to live.

Ever heard of the Imposter Syndrome?  Consider the scenario where
you’re working in your dream job, you have been promoted several times, and
everybody thinks you’re a star. Everyone, that is, but you. You can’t shake the
feeling that you don’t deserve all this recognition, and that somebody is going to
catch on and expose you. Clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne
Imes (1978) described it as “regardless of what level of success they may have
achieved in their chosen field of work or study, or what external proof they may
have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally
they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds.
Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others
into thinking we’re more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves
to be.”

Have you ever held back from going after a promotion, accepting a
speaking engagement, or trying something new because you believed you
weren’t good enough, even if you were perfectly qualified?  Have you learned
everything you can about a subject, and then still doubt that you know enough?
After all, you can’t really be an expert unless you know everything!  You could
risk being exposed, after all.  Even the smallest hint that your work isn’t excellent
can de-rail you for weeks.

While those with imposter syndrome are unlikely to regard themselves
highly, their willingness to continue learning can be a positive attribute. However,
the inability to internalize their own success, and the constant focus on the
negative, can definitely hold them back from achieving their potential. It might
prevent a great candidate from going after a promotion, and it definitely gets in
the way of ever feeling pride for a job well done.

People suffering from Imposter Syndrome have extremely high and
unrealistic expectations for themselves.  If you can’t take credit for your
accomplishments, you’re crushed by mild criticism, you believe your success is

due to luck, and you feel inadequate to do work that you are fully capable of
performing, then you might be struggling with this syndrome.

What can you do when you suffer from The Imposter Syndrome?  Dr.
Valerie Young, an internationally known workshop leader and public speaker
suggests that the “imposter” might consider re-framing things. Rather than
focusing on what you don’t know, think instead about how much you are going to
learn.

Another possibility is to write down any compliments that you receive.
Rather than deflecting the praise, just accept it for what it is. Consider the
possibility that it might be true. A “reality check” is simply checking the accuracy
of your thoughts. If you say that you’re not qualified to accept an assignment,
stop for a moment and check the accuracy of that statement, giving appropriate
credit to your training and experience.

If you are faced with something you have never done before, rather than
agonizing over the fact that you don’t know how, ask yourself, “Why would I know
this?” This is an opportunity to learn and improve. Stop holding yourself to the
impossible standard that you are supposed to know everything.
Take time to celebrate your achievements. Learn to acknowledge the truth
about how your successes came about. Taking a few moments to celebrate
accomplishments helps us to recognize how our particular skills are
worthy of the respect we receive from others. Give yourself the credit you
deserve.

Be realistic. Often people with unrealistic expectations of themselves need
to set more accurate standards.  While you may think you have to measure up to
some kind of ideal before you will be worthy of being labelled an “expert”,
consider finding out what the standard really is. “It is having a substantial amount
of knowledge in a field and being able to convey that knowledge in an
authoritative, professional, well defined manner”, says Chris McGirr, of Whole
Life Coaching, a coaching firm specializing in Transformational Coaching.

Consider hiring a coach to work with you to explore your beliefs and your
self-limiting thoughts. A coach will help you to clarify and embrace your strengths
and abilities so you can move forward with a realistic, achievable, set of goals
and objectives.

Finally, and definitely essential, know that you’re not alone. It has been
estimated that over 30% of the population suffers from Imposter Syndrome.
People from all walks of life have described these feelings. Jodie Foster said, “I
thought (winning the Oscar) was a fluke. The same way as when I walked on the
campus at Yale. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar
back.”
It can be a great relief to know that we are not alone. In fact, most of us
feel that way some of the time, particularly when we’re embarking on something
new. Stretching outside of our normal comfort zone is often uncomfortable. The
key is to take stock of what is true. If the evidence of your ability is there in the
form of degrees, promotions, excellence, and in the faith of your colleagues,
consider believing it to be true. Step into the wonderful, capable person they
believe you to be. And begin to step out of your own way!

To Thine Own Boundaries Be True

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It’s Friday night and Michael is driving a little to quickly.  He’s racing the clock to get home in time to take his son to hockey practice and pick up his daughter from karate.  At this moment, Michael is a menace to everyone on the road.  His cell phone rings, and his assistant informs Michael that he is needed back at the office.  Michael is ready to blow.

Michael, a 49-year-old business owner, and father of two, thinks he has to be perfect.  He plays the role of family peacekeeper and problem solver.  Professionally, he is involved in all aspects of his company.  On this particular Friday evening, Michael hits the wall.  He suddenly realizes that he has lost control of his own life and is spending his days entirely in the service of others.  Michael experiences an overwhelming surge of resentment towards everyone.  He feels anger towards his family for their constant demands.  He feels anger towards his assistant for calling him at all hours.

How much unwelcome behaviour from those around you do you tolerate to keep peace in your life?  Anger is a clear signal that someone has crossed your personal boundaries.  A boundary is a line, a demarcation point, which marks the limits of your personal space. How can we expect others to know our limits if we don’t clearly define them?  How often do you agree to take on one more assignment, because you don’t know how to say no?

Our boundaries protect us from being manipulated by others, and they define what we consider to be acceptable and not acceptable by those who interact with us.  Many of us, like Michael, do not clearly establish our boundaries and end up trying to accommodate everyone.  It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us.

Michael needs to let those around know him when they are acting in ways that are unacceptable to him.  First and foremost, Michael must believe that he has the right to protect himself.  Furthermore, in order to be effective he must educate his colleagues, family and friends on where his boundaries lie.

Tips for Michael

  1. Create a list of the actions and requests that are unacceptable from  others.
  2. State your boundaries in a clear manner.

My evenings are for me and my family.  I do not schedule business calls after 6pm.”

  1. Inform others how their behaviour affects you when they cross your boundaries.

    “I feel frustrated and I am unable to enjoy time with my family when I have to  take business calls at home”.

  1. Teach others how you want them to behave.

Please do not call me after 6pm in the evenings.”

  1. Advise others of the consequences if they continue to violate your  boundaries.

“If you call me at home after 6pm I will not accept the call.  I will, however, be happy to address your concerns tomorrow at the office.”

Careening around the city in his car, seething with pent-up anger is not the time for Michael to have a conversation about his boundaries.  He should not attempt to define his boundaries when he is angry or defensive.  Upon regaining his composure, it will be critical for him to relay his new boundaries in a neutral tone of voice. He will want to project confidence when requesting respect for his boundaries in both his words and in his body language.

While Michael cannot prevent others from continuing to cross his boundaries, he can prepare himself for when it does occur again.  Without appearing to be confrontational, Michael can design and communicate consequences that he will enforce upon further violations.  At the same time, he must avoid making idle threats and ensure that he intends to follow through with his stated consequences.  The goal for Michael is to teach those around him what he can and cannot accept.  It cannot sound like a threat, an ultimatum, or a rejection.  It is simply a clear statement of his limits.

While this is a rather simplistic version of what can often be a huge issue, the approach taken with more complex issues will be similar.  Frequently, we feel selfish when we state our boundaries.  However, we don’t do ourselves any favours by always trying to please others, at our own expense.  Establishing healthy boundaries helps us feel more secure and works to reduce our anxiety levels.  The art of setting meaningful and effective personal boundaries is often a completely new skill.  While initially it is difficult, with practice it becomes almost automatic.

Armed with his newfound ability to protect his personal space, Michael feels a great sense of relief.  He has taken a major step in taking control over how he allows other people to treat him.  After several weeks of practice setting and enforcing his boundaries, Michael reports that he has regained some control over the demands exerted upon him by others, and that he is no longer a menace on the road.

What Are You Putting Off?

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Imagine the perfect dinner party. The table is beautifully set with gorgeous flowers, twinkling candle light, and it is loaded with delicious food paired with fabulous wines. Your favourite dinner music is playing and your closest friends will be there.  But wait!  You can’t possibly have that dinner party! Your house is a mess, it’s a bit cramped, the kids are noisy, you’re not a gourmet cook, and it will cost so much!  Better wait until everything is perfect…

Or maybe you’re a new skier.  You’re dying to get out there to try out your brand new skis.  But, maybe not today…  The weather doesn’t look great, the slopes might be icy, and all you have to wear is an old ski suit from years ago.  Better not go.  Maybe you should wait until the time is just right!

And what if the scenario is more serious?  You desperately want to apply for a new position in your company that offers greater seniority and responsibility.  But, you’re in the middle of a large project, you know there are some other highly qualified applicants, and you aren’t sure that the boss knows all that you’re capable of.  So, better wait until your chances are better.  This might not be the perfect moment.

Sitting on the sidelines, deliberating, waiting for the perfect moment, and worrying about how things will turn out prevents us from getting what we want in our lives.  Without a doubt, it is difficult to start down a new road when that which lies ahead isn’t clear.  Fear of failure, making mistakes, or looking foolish can stop us in our tracks.  What we fail to recognize is that making mistakes is often a part of the learning process.

So what are the consequences of waiting for the perfect time, or getting bogged down in the “getting ready” for action?  Ultimately, it could mean that what we really want in life will always remain out of reach.
Nothing will happen without taking action.  Those who end up achieving their goals are the ones who make a plan, get in the game, and do what needs to be done.  Just get started, assess how it feels, and begin creating momentum in the direction you are headed.  Once we start down the road we will receive feedback, which can help us correct our course and allows us to learn from experience.  Every experience provides us with information from which to learn.  Make mistakes, learn, make corrections, and eventually get to the result you want.

While planning has it’s place, it must be kept in perspective. We must be willing to start, even when we’re not sure where the path leads, or how it might unfold.  A willingness to explore uncharted territory, will require us to resist excessive planning and take a risk.

The perfect moment when the stars line up, and everything is in order, is a rare occurrence indeed.  Waiting for life to get perfect will only lead to missed opportunities.  However, taking a risk despite any imperfections that may be present doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.  But it does offer an opportunity.  Waiting for the perfect scenario where there are no complicating factors will only ensure that it will never happen.  So stop putting your life on hold, it just might pass you by.  It is far more likely that we will regret the thing that we didn’t do,  rather than the one we did.

What are you putting off?

Facing Fears

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Not long ago, I participated in a skiing event that truly challenged both my mental and physical abilities. Although I have skied for many years, the fact that I learned as an adult, has always left me with this little nagging feeling that I’m not as good as I should be.  Don’t get me wrong – I am a perfectly capable skier, and I have skied at resorts all over the world.  My children began riding the chairlift as soon as they were big enough to haul themselves up onto it.  Needless to say, by the time they were 10 years old they could ski faster, harder and on far more difficult terrain than I ever dreamt would be possible for me.  Or so I believed…

So then, what was the big deal, when my group was decided to head down a heart-stoppingly steep run?  To put it bluntly, it was FEAR!  I succumbed to the little voice in my head that speaks rather loudly when I’m with this particular group of daredevils.  One by one, as they disappeared over the edge, I managed to work myself up into a panic.  The only one left, I talked myself right out of jumping over the edge and sheepishly headed down the long, gentle, green run to catch up with my friends.  As I was winding my way down the baby hill, I became aware of another voice in my head.  My son, who is particularly skilled at this type of run, and one of my biggest cheerleaders, managed to work his way into my consciousness.  I could hear him saying, “C’mon Mom, you’re a great skier.  Don’t let your head get in the way.  You can do it.  I know you can!”  By the time I caught up with my friends, I was mortified that once again, I had let my “head get in the way”.

Sure enough, they wanted to do it again.  This was my opportunity to face my fears!  And maybe I wouldn’t have to go home and tell my son that I panicked…

In this particular scenario, as with most of life’s challenges, it is fear that holds us back.
Fear can be debilitating.  Fear robs us of our ability to see possibilities and it robs us of our self confidence.  The fact is that fear almost always presents itself when we stretch ourselves, whether it’s on the ski hill, at the start of a new job, or when building a new relationship.  It is simply a fact of life that we cannot know what the future holds.  We cannot control the future any more than we could control the past.  The only thing we can control is ourselves.

Experiencing fear is a unique opportunity for us to begin to understand it’s source.  It is important to know that as soon as you set a goal, fear is going to emerge. Once we come to terms that this is part of the process, we can look at fears differently – as something to handle, rather than as a road block.  Most of the good things in life require a certain amount of risk, and risk is uncomfortable.  If you are the type to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of fear, you might never get what you want in life.

Fear is not real.  It is self-created. We look at a challenging situation, and make up all kinds of possible negative outcomes that we are sure will happen.  In our minds we can create all manner of negative outcomes to almost any situation.  Imagine trying on a different perspective.  One that allows us to believe that there are endless possibilities out there.  Choosing the perspective that things might go well, is far more useful than one which limits you to the negative scenarios.  What might you gain by leaning into the fear?  What will it cost you not to?   What are some small steps you can take towards the fear?  Often taking the first step into our fear empowers us to take further steps.  Each step provides us with greater confidence to keep going. What could be the payoff of eliminating this fear?

Gaining an understanding of what makes you afraid of going forward, can help you deal with it.  In the skiing scenario, I was afraid of falling, humiliating myself, not looking good in my friend’s eyes.  These were all imagined fears that I made up in my head.  And they stopped me.  I believe I felt much worse for not attempting the run, than if I had done it and fallen.

So, back to the mountain.  After a few gut wrenching moments peering over the precipice, I took a chance and launched myself over the edge.  Things went well, at least until I took a little tumble.  Actually, a big tumble, but the only thing hurt was my pride.  I reached the bottom intact, with my friends cheering me on and I felt fantastic! Learning that several of them had taken a fall too, made me realize that we all felt fear at the top of the hill.  Each of us dealt with our own fears, envisioned an exhilarating run, and took a chance.  Rather than giving in, I chose to believe what I knew to be true about my abilities on skis.  I knew that if I stretched myself, that the outcome might just be one that not only moved me out of my comfort zone, but would give me the confidence to push my skiing to the next level.  And sure enough, my third attempt was done with my heart still pounding wildly in my chest, but I’m happy to report it was without incident!

Who Is Responsible For My Life Anyway?

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Who is Responsible For My Life Anyway?

You Mean It’s Up To Me?

The only person responsible for the quality of your life is you.

For many of us, our initial response to adversity, is to search for someone or something other than ourselves to blame.  When life throws down it’s challenges or we are not satisfied with specific areas of our lives, we try to blame our parents, our boss, our job, the economy.  It has to be somebody else’s fault!  When obstacles arise, or we are deeply challenged in some way, we put our clear thinking and better judgment aside, and cast about for a place to offload responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. Rather than examine how we may have contributed to our current situation, we spend inordinate time and energy looking for ways to absolve ourselves of responsibility for our own lives!

Your happiness and success in this life is your responsibility.

To achieve your desired results, you must believe that you have the power to make it different.  You must clearly understand that outside factors do not prevent you from achieving your goals. You do!  It is a mistake to make other people responsible for your feelings and behaviour.  We engage in destructive behaviours such as smoking, drinking, spending too much money, and not asking for what we want.  You smoked the cigarette, you drank the wine, you blew your whole paycheck, and you didn’t clearly articulate what you wanted.  It is nobody else’s fault.

If you don’t like the results you’re getting, it is time to considering changing your responses.  If you want a different result, you need to respond in a different way.  Taking responsibility for our lives allows us to choose new responses to old situations.  Most of us react in predictable, habitual ways.  By always reacting the same way to a situation, we are not consciously choosing our behaviour.  We get stuck in our habitual responses to our partners, our children, our colleagues,and then wonder why nothing ever changes.  In order to regain control over our responses, we need to ensure that each choice we make is a mindful one that reflects what we want from our lives right now.

Successful people take action to achieve their desired outcomes.  Inaction is also a form of relinquishing responsibility.  Allowing things to happen, remaining passive, and not doing what is necessary to create what you want, will not create your desired result.  If you don’t maintain your car (inaction) you cannot blame the car when you are left stranded on the side of the road.  Inaction can be as destructive as habitual responses that are ineffective.

The hard part, of course, if that if you want a better outcome, such as a better job a more loving relationship, or higher sales; then you have to change.  Change is hard.  It involves risk and fear, it’s uncomfortable and uncertain.  Change can cost money, time and energy.  The choice becomes staying where you are and accepting life as it is, where it is safe and comfortable.  The alternative is to take action to achieve your desired outcome.

Action might begin with some self-reflection that involves asking yourself; how did I contribute to that?  What were my beliefs on this issue?  What do I need to do differently?  What is working?  What isn’t working? What did I do or not do to create this situation?

Successful people take responsibility for their lives.  They act in ways that produce more of what they want and less of what they don’t want. They respond mindfully to situations and avoid reacting in habitual patterns.

The quality of your life is up to you.  It is your responsibility!

Can You Get Out of Your Own Way?

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What do you suppose might be the biggest obstacle to achieving your goals and living a life of fulfillment?  How often have you started the day bursting with energy and enthusiasm, only to quickly lose momentum and fall back into the status quo?  We all do it.  So what’s up with that?  Believe it or not, it is the stuff we make up and believe about ourselves that creates our biggest obstacles.

Often it is our own beliefs that prevent us from moving forward on some aspect of our lives.  Think of all the wonderful ideas you’ve had for self-improvement, better services you could offer, or ways to improve your relationships at work and at home.  Notice how each of those ideas came to you with energy, enthusiasm and excitement, yet for some reason you did not follow through to completion.  When we really look deeply at what gets in the way, it is interesting to note, that often it is the things that we tell ourselves, or the things that we have come to believe about ourselves that holds us back.  This doesn’t mean that we are broken or require fixing.  It may simply mean it’s time to re-evaluate some of the beliefs that we have been holding on to.

Simply put, beliefs are merely habits or thoughts that we have had for so long that they have become our reality and we actually let them go unchallenged.  Our early relationships with family and friends, played a role in how we came up with these beliefs. Negative experiences in these relationships helped create the limiting beliefs that we hold to be true about ourselves.  Once a belief has started to take root in our minds, it is easy to find evidence to support it.

To illustrate this point, we can examine the belief that “I’m not good at managing my finances because I’ve always been poor at math”.  Your checkbook is not balanced properly because you believe you can’t manage your money. You reinforce this belief by gathering evidence that this is true and only notice the errors you make.  As a result of the belief that you can’t do it, you neglect to attempt to balance your checkbook for a long period of time. The checkbook gets in even worse shape. You see the unbalanced checkbook as evidence that you aren’t good with finances.  In fact, you haven’t even tried and it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Our brains are very good at filtering out things that do not support our beliefs and only noticing the things that do.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, our thoughts are our reality.  If our thoughts are based on the limiting beliefs that we’ve been carrying around since childhood, it may very well prevent us from achieving all we hope to in life.  What we think and believe affects the way we behave and perform.  Until we break out of the grip of these beliefs, the things we believe will continue to be our reality.  It takes a conscious and continuous effort to become aware of them, challenge them and discard them.

A life working with a belief system that says “I cant”, will not allow us to experience freedom and personal happiness.  The two greatest obstacles  that prevent us from achieving our goals, are doubt and fear – both of these are rooted in our limiting beliefs.  Common beliefs like, I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, everyone else is better; interfere with our ability to reach our full potential.   Our beliefs hold us back because we think they define what we are capable of doing.  In fact they only define what we are doing right now.  Success is achieved by challenging our limiting beliefs.  We need to develop a belief system that is empowering rather than limiting, and create a new habit of believing in ourselves.

So how can we get out of our own way?  We begin by looking deeply inside and identifying the beliefs that hold us back.  How does this belief serve you?  Is it even true?  What evidence do you have?  If we are genuinely certain that we want to change it,  then we need to create a more empowering belief.  Set an intention that you are prepared to work towards and one that you truly believe that you can accomplish.

“I am completely capable of looking after my own personal finances.”

Look for evidence each day that supports your new belief and repeat it as an affirmation every day.  Plan action steps that will enhance your belief.  In this case it may be contacting a financial advisor to assist you as you get started.  And finally, be gentle with yourself as you work to make this new belief your reality.  As you progress towards your goal and begin to gather evidence that supports your new belief, you will distance yourself from the beliefs that held you back.

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