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Change Happens—
Here’s How To Make It Right
Article appeared in the initial issue of 50 Forward

All right! You're on the other side of 50, and you realize that you are still moving forward—and that means change. To some, a scary word. But approached openly and thoughtfully—even changes forced upon you—give you the opportunity to reevaluate, redirect and create a life of your choosing.

At this stage of life, change comes to our health, our activities, our relationships, our home(s), and our financial and legal affairs. Personal values—knowing yourself—provides the structure that supports us best through change. One older acquaintance expressed it this way, "I've come to realize that people who have mastered life seem to be guided by an internal compass. They've developed a philosophy that always brings them back on course."

These mature years offer an opportunity like no other time in life to assess how you deal with issues such as love, forgiveness, marriage, youth, age, wealth, poverty, greed, power, death, and spirituality. If you have not done so, take the time to explore these issues and come to your own understanding.

What matters to you?
Every time you are faced with transition, it's important to know what matters to you and what your ultimate goal is. Then, evaluate all options.

For example, you may want to relocate or downsize your home. Looking at all options does not mean looking at everything on the market. It does include knowing yourself and realizing practical alternatives. Ask yourself: What makes you happy? Staying in the same area or moving to a sunnier location? Living in a single-family home or a maintenance-free condo? Renting or owning? Being near family? Living in an adults-only community? Having more than one place to live or maintaining a base and adding extended travel opportunities?

Making good choices also means facing facts. For instance, to make good choices around inevitable changes in our health, we must first embrace the natural process of aging. Denial of facts traps us and keeps us from participating in life. For instance, probably the first health decision to sneak up on you was your eyesight. Either your arms needed to grow longer or you required reading glasses. By accepting the fact that your arms were not going to grow and getting those glasses, you continued to be able to read and participate in life. Had you denied the change in your vision, you would be doomed to a permanent squint and forever asking people to read the menu to you.

Think 20 years out
One helpful device in decision-making is thinking in 20-year spans. Ask yourself: Will I be happy with this change in 20 years? (If only more people did this before getting tattoos.) Taking a long-term view can help you look realistically at other facets of a decision. For instance with a move, considering budgetary concerns over 20 years—years in which you may wish to retire—might change your price range for a new home. What you can afford now may not be what you wish to afford 20 years from now. Will you have to use your savings or switch investment strategies? Taking a long-term view can help you through rough spots because you have thought them through and are prepared.

Carpe Diem
At age 50 and forward, change can also be something you do for yourself. It’s time to look at all your dreams since childhood and focus on one or more of them. No more procrastination; "I'll do it later" is a phrase to abandon. If you dream of being a writer, start keeping a journal today. If you want to improve your health, take action. Keep in mind you're moving to, not retreating from, life.

Separate life’s wheat from its chaff
People need very little—only water, food and shelter. Everything else you add can be called niceties—not necessities.

At some point, niceties can begin to subtract from your quality of life because they demand too much. Each nicety added, whether it's a new gadget or role, will extract a share of your attention. You may find yourself feeling fragmented, overwhelmed and mired in a swamp of obligations.

It’s easy to confuse standard of living with quality of life. You tend to expect quality to go up when a product or service is purchased. What's really going up, however, is standard of living. Take time to think about how you wish to spend the next few decades in your life. What do your days look like? What are they filled with? Who are they filled with? And what fulfills you? Then devise and live a strategy that makes room for that life and lets go of unnecessary activities and items that prevent you from having that life. Take care when making commitments. Ensure each is worthy of your time.

Take off the blinders; live deliberately

When you plan big and envision yourself in perfect scenarios, however, you must take off any blinders so you can glance at possible pitfalls. Have balanced expectations and be prepared to adjust and adapt. Reality may differ from your fantasy. You may have to tweak one or both.

Though change is inevitable, the changes you make are your choice. Live deliberately. It's up to you to take charge—for the rest of your life.

 

These motivational thoughts are an overview of Part One, "Making Successful Transitions," of Mary Helen and Shuford Smith's inspirational book, 101 Secrets for a Great Retirement. Distributed by McGraw-Hill, the book can be ordered/purchased at any bookstore.


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