When I wrote the article about “retirement”, I did not expect the extent of emotions that it stirred up in people who read it. It was quite a surprise. Three readers left their comments online, while most have come to me either privately, during psychotherapy or in their life coaching sessions, to talk about the feelings that it evoked. You have let me know that the fact that I dare to venture down new paths supports you to envision the same for you. It makes me feel good to know that many of you are looking for what is important in their life and want more out of it than daily routine.
It is not just the idea of retirement that provokes the question of “was this all?” or “will my live just potter on like this?” However, my little article also stimulated those who are far from retiring. Younger men and women have confided that they derived courage from it to do something different with their life or at least that they know it is possible to change direction. I know it is not always easy. But it is definitely possible.
Yesterday, I had a therapy session with a client who has just retired. He had read my article and was delighted to see that there is light at the end of the dull retirement tunnel. We were sitting together imagining and dreaming what it could be that he wanted to do during the years ahead. He had just given in to the attitude of “Now I am retired, now I have to work in the garden”. Working in the garden is of course good as well. Putting hands into the soil is grounding, calming and refreshing. Being surrounded by flowers and plants gets us in contact with nature and natural beauty. But he wanted more.
“What if I took up horse back riding lessons?” he asked shyly, almost thinking “oh no, I am too old to learn something new, this is for young people”.
“Horse back riding?” I asked. “Do you like horses?”
“I have always wanted to sit on a horse, but never had the time. I worked and worked, came home tired and that was it. I always loved horses. Secretly. Nobody ever knew.”
“So why are you not doing it?”
“Well, I am too old.”
We looked at each other and laughed out loud. “Too old – Too young – Too busy -Too poor – Too …” What else?
Oxygen ran through his body when he breathed deeply, and his heart started to pump more blood through the veins. He became alive again. We made a plan how he would go about it. What comes first? We also created a time frame. He went out smiling and full of energy.
This all sounds good and encouraging, but I also have to admit that there are days when I think “Oh no, this is just too much effort. I am tired. (Re-tired!) Do I really want to do all of that? Expand my work into life-coaching, write regularly, and get out into the open giving public talks”.
When those thoughts come up, I take my cushion, sit and just observe these thoughts. They come and go. I know they lurk around the corner. And I know how to sit with them, acknowledge them and know that they will pass. You can do the same. It is called mindfulness or meditation. When you have disturbing feelings or thoughts you can take a moment, sit somewhere quietly and just observe what is going on inside of you. Observe your thoughts and observe your feelings. It all belongs to you. Sit with it. Don’t push it away. If you acknowledge your feelings they will move on. I assure you. Thoughts, fears and doubts come and go, just like the movement of the entire Universe: in and out, coming and going.
In contrast to my doubtful moments, starting my new direction gives me energy and inspiration; I meet new and lovely people; I can meet old friends with new ideas; and I can experience myself in a new suit. I discover sides in me that I did not know were there. I expand and deepen.
What is holding you back trying something new? I really think that essentially it is fear that holds us back. I can see it in myself. You will see in in you. We want to please, to be liked and to be appreciated. We imagine that we have to fulfil a certain image and behave accordingly. It is the deep-rooted fear that people will not like us when we do what we really want to do. And I guess it will never go away entirely. But I also know from myself that I can do the things that I want to do despite those fears. It requires courage and a bit of bravery. It requires an inner movement and it requires overcoming inertia. Just like in physics, it requires energy to move an object.
Courage is a vital and life-giving action. Courage can be soft and smooth at times and forceful at others. I like the idea of courage being a dance, a focused and straightforward dance. When you feel close to yourself, and when you appreciate and love yourself, courage comes more easily; fears dissipate or at least move into the background of your focus.
I know that our biggest fear is the fear of the unknown, which ultimately is the fear of death. Everything that is unknown makes us anxious and afraid. Doing things that we have never done before scares us because we do not know the outcome. We cannot control what is happening. And yes, we humans love to control. Well, control is an illusion.
We are afraid because we do not know if we will succeed, if our partner will still want to be with us, or if our children will still appreciate us when we change direction. We fear that we will lose all of our money and wind up poor, alone and living on the street. You will experience a whole range of fears that are unique to yourself. Fear appears in so many different guises and it is an integral part of life. Fear is what keeps us save from serious harm and keeps us alive. Without it we would not survive.
Here I am talking about imagined fears, irrational fears, not the fears we need to survive. To face the fears that prevent us from changing requires courage, self-respect and self-love. Not to forget, being courageous is fun and exhilarating. It gets the blood circulating, the adrenaline pumping, and makes us feel alive. Fear and courage go hand in hand. Both have a profound effect on our mental and physical systems. Changing direction or doing something new means also taking risks. Taking risks can be scary, but that is fine. It is okay to be scared. Allow yourself to feel the fear!
What are your fears? What blocks you from doing what you “really” want to do? How are your fears holding you back?
Please write your comment here on the site, speak with me or write to me. I am happy to sit with you and assist you in taking the next step.