"To know how to grow old,” wrote Henry Frederic Amiel , “is the master work of wisdom, one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living."
One of the most important things you can do to assist in this process, is to work on your emotional intelligence. It includes competencies such as flexibility and resilience.
Want to see how it works?
I have a client who is sure if he retires, he will die. He’s a physician and has been working those long hours since he was in his 20s. His father worked as a physician until the day he died, so this man has no role models of retirement and leisure. You know other people never count, it’s the ones close to you – if you’re solipsistic, and anyone who thinks they will die if they retire has that sort of narrow-minded, rigid thinking.
I have a female client who is having trouble with the changes in her appearance. While the doctor’s sense of self resides in his profession, this woman’s sense of self and self-esteem reside in her beauty. She is convinced she is no longer beautiful.
Both of these clients are lacking in the emotional intelligence skills that can ease any transition – for this is just another of the transitions in life.
After all, “60” is the new “40”. We are all living longer, and enjoying better health, so doesn’t it make sense to prepare for all stages?
You are going to “grow old,” everyone does, unless you don’t get to, but who ever thought of learning how to do it. Well what we want to learn how to do, is how to do it WELL.
One of the keys is a competency we call Resilience. It means being able to bounce back from rejections, losses, setbacks, and adversity, while remaining bouyant and optimistic about the future.
Adversity can hit at any age. Divorce is a hard thing to go through, and people go through it at many different ages. Youth are known to be more “resilient,” and to move through it faster. If you want an example, go to a singles groups for 20 years old, and then a singles group for 60 years old. Most of the people involved in both groups have been divorced, but what a difference in attitude and outlook. Group #1 is already looking to the future, and eager to meet someone new. Group #2 is spending a lot of time talking about the past.
The mind, you see can get into ruts and run in circles all too easily if we allow it to, but that doesn’t need to happen, because we know the brain has “plasticity” well into old age – if you exercise it.
When you study emotional intelligence (if you take a good course that deals with more than what to do when you get angry) you will increase your EQ, and also learn a lot about the brain. We form neural connections when we learn things, and while we stop at some point to make new brain cells, we can continue to make new connections almost indefinitely. And how do you do this? By learning new things.
This, by the way, is considered one of the preventatives for Azlheimers. Two risk factors that might surprise you are (1) having less than a high school education, and (2) having a job that doesn’t require you to learn anything new.
And we mean RADICALLY new. That means if you’re an engineer, going on a getting your Ph.D. is nice, but it would benefit the resilience of your brain to learn opera or water skiing. If you’re a musician, it would be super to learn a new instrument, but would be far more beneficial to learn how to grow roses, or take up physics.
What should you learn? Something that scares the heck out of you. Something you know nothing about. Something you “hate.” Something where, when you sit down, you feel LOST. (How long has it been since you felt that way?) You’ll almost feel the wheels grinding as you grope around. I describe it as there’s no skeleton to hang the stuff off of, and what you build when you do this, is new connections. Then there’s something to hang it on!
I’ve worked with a number of EQ clients who have started into something radically new and they report great results. “My memory’s coming back,” one of them told me. “I thought it was gone.”
Another client who’s an expert in his field tells me it was “fun” to sit in the back of the room and be the one with his hand raised. I must add that at first he did not enjoy this, his ego was at stake, and it took come coaching. Soon he realized results and this motivated him.
You can get in a box, especially if you’ve worked in the same career field your entire life. It seems foreign, or simply impossible, to take up something new. It doesn’t even seem interesting.
And that’s another way to become resilient as you age. You know how they say if you find people boring, it’s because you are boring, or bored, and what you need to do is GET interested. Being bored by people, by life or by occupation is a habit of thinking after all, and the way you GET out of it is the same way you GOT into it. By going through the motions.
Instead of shutting down when you meet someone who bores you, that you think you know all about, or you disagree with them politically, or they come from another place in life, stop and enforce upon yourself the concept of “curious.” Force yourself to ask them questions. You’ll be surprised at the good it does you.
Almost beside yourself, you will learn interesting things, and regain some joy that’s been lost in your life.
If you walk past a rose garden every day and either don’t see it, or think the person is ignorant to be growing roses, intentionally change your viewpoint. .
Of course it’s up to you. Certainly nobody is going to MAKE you do this if you don’t want to, but I suggest it. After all, someone famous said that when things become old, what you need I new eyes, and that’s part of what emotional intelligence is about.
Knowing how to grow old is demanding, but not any moreso than learning how to be an adult, or taking your first job. You might even want to become a coach yourself and pass on what you’ve learned. It’s a great profession for someone with some wisdom!
©Susan Dunn, Life Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Career, relationships, retirement and other transitions. Susan trains and certifies coaches worldwide. She is founding member of CoachVille and has a master’s in clinical psychology. For fr*e ezine mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org . Check out her ebook “Speak on a Cruise and Travel the World for Pennies,” http://www.webstrategies.cc/acruise.htm .