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Archive for April, 2011

The “Retirement” Transition

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

You’re giving up a lot more than the paycheck and the demanding schedule when you retire.  Usually, we just worry about how to replace the paycheck–and how best to celebrate the demise of the schedule. But to thrive at this stage of life, there’s much more to deal with in terms of what you’re leaving behind.

Our culture sees retirement as the brass ring. When you can grab it, you get a free ride and life is wonderful. In reality, the euphoria of simply not having to go to work anymore wears off after about a year. And if you’ve thrived in a fast-paced, high energy environment for decades, even that year might be disappointing.

Knowing what you value in what you’re doing as a career can help you create a better life after you leave it by discovering ways to include “the good stuff” once you throttle back. But you need to know what that “good stuff” is before you can get creative with finding it a new way.

Things to think about:

The thrill of a challenge: If you love solving problems, work is almost a necessity in some form. Once you give up what you’re doing now, be ready to apply those problem solving skills in a new way. Just saying you’re going to volunteer with a specific organization probably won’t be enough. Unless they already know what you can do because you’ve worked with them in the past, you will start at the bottom, just as if you had recently been hired. So the first problem you may end up having to solve once you are retired is “How can I use the skills I’ve so thoroughly developed and love to use?”

The prestige of a higher level position: Let’s face it. A lot of us have jobs where the very title makes people treat you better. “Doctor” and “Lawyer” come to mind, but so do “General Manager” and “Foreman.” If you like being “special” in that way, you’re going to need to find knew ways to be at the top of the heap. (However, it might be better for all concerned if you just get over yourself and let go of the whole concept.)

And you may not be the one who’s hung up on prestige.  If your spouse or kids trade on your clout,  they need to be ready for their own change in status once you give it up.  If nothing else, an honest conversation with your loved ones about the “intangibles” that are going away is an important piece of your retirement planning.  And if you have perks that they use, they need to prepare themselves for losing those, too.

The camaraderie of your co-workers:  Work provides a pre-established group of friends.  If you’ve been with the same organization for more than a few years, you have “history” with all of them just like you do with your family.  In fact many of us have spent more time with them than with family because of the demands of the job.

Though there are usually promises that you’re going to stay in touch, that tends not to happen when you retire.  When you aren’t trying to get the work done together, the need to connect to these friends wanes.  For them, it takes a backseat to what they’re still trying to get done in the workplace.  Even with the best of intentions, time for each other tends to get lost in the shuffle of these different lifestyles.

This can leave a big hole where a large group of friends used to be in your life. Isolation is a big downside of tradtional retirement. Identifying new opportunities for friendships is essential if you want to thrive.   Since most of us have spent the vast majority of our time at work for decades, this may be more difficult than expected.  Look at what you need and where you will get your social support before you leave the “home” of your career.  You’re the only one who knows how to go about making a new circle of friends for yourself.  This new tribe has to be hand picked to last.

Settling for somone else’s circle of friends is a short cut you probably don’t want to take.  Find people who are interested in what you’re interested in.  Consider what kind of classes or team involvement might be a good fit for you.  Just “tagging along” gets depressing after a while.  Have the guts and expend the effort to make you own new friends.

Eventually, you need to stop working.  How you go about that is yours to decide.  But look at where you are likely to hit rough road in this new adventure and think of new options for yourself ahead of time for a smoother transition.


Making a U-Turn on Your Own Negative Attitude

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Let’s face it. Sometimes we can be very un-fun folks to be around.  Most of the time we don’t even notice this.  Instead, we grump around blaming the weather, the traffic, the idiot boss, or the barista who screwed up the order you are certain you gave her correctly.

Take another look.  When thing after thing is going wrong and you just want to strangle whatever currently seems to be making that happen, it’s time to look in the mirror.  Quite often, it’s what we are telling ourselves–and a resulting attitude of being wronged–that’s the crux of the problem.

There are wise, intelligent people who have survived the most heinous of situations cheerfully.  And there are the materially blessed who have every comfort they could ever want but still feel like they’re being gypped.  Which one are you?

We don’t realize what’s going on.  We really think it’s “the other guy.”  The guy who cut you off in traffic.  The guy who took the parking space you’d been waiting for.  The guy who didn’t put the seat down on the toilet in the family bathroom.

We get negative when we feel we’ve been wronged–when what’s happening is not what we wanted to happen, what we think should have been happening.  The sense of injustice become a small war internally.  Something is “not right” and must be corrected.

In a negative frame of mind, you expect someone else to do the changing.  The kid who doesn’t pick up after himself should.  The wife who spends too much money on clothes shouldn’t.  The neighbor who backs out too fast or lets her dog dally in your yard should know that she is being inconsiderate.


But there’s a whole lot more room to live in a happier place if you leave Shouldville in your rear view mirror.  Should doesn’t work very well because it rests on the idea that you have a right to decide what other people will do.  The same problem arises when someone else tells you what to do.  Either way, the assumption gets you into trouble.  Nobody gets to decide what another will do–at least on a personal, all-day-every-day basis.  (“Take out a sheet of paper and a pencil.  This is a quiz,” still seems to be pretty valid.)

Assuming that what you want to happen should be what’s happening is at the bottom of this whole negative attitude thing.  If you can catch yourself when you start doing that, you can avoid doing time in the “oh poor me” swamp.

So the next time you’re grousing about the driving skills of the person in front of you, resort to these questions:

Why am I letting this bother me?  Quite often the real reason is not even close to what you claim is making you frustrated.  The traffic may be what you notice, but the disagreement you had with a co-worker or loved one may be what’s making you feel like you need to pick a fight.

What am I telling myself about this situation that isn’t true?  Anything that includes an expectation about what someone else should do is suspect.   Just because you planned a picnic doesn’t mean the weather is going to be nice.  Thinking that it should be just because you wanted it to be  is childish.  We all do it though.  The key is to notice when you start thinking this way so you can move on to better assumptions and happier times.

Is there a legitimate source of sadness, anger, or frustration that I need to explore?  Life is not simple or easy.  (It would be very boring if it was.)  There are things that don’t go right that make for major disappointments.  But that doesn’t authorize you to kick the dog.  Be sure you know where you negative feelling started so you can work on accepting that disappointment instead of making life miserable for yourself and everyone around you by whining, complaining and intimidating loved ones because you are “upset.”

Is this really that important?  There is so much that gets blown so far out of proportion these days.  Life is sweeter if you cut some slack.  For yourself.  For those around you.  For total strangers who do things that make you want to scream.

Life is too short to live it in the negative.  So when you notice things are negative, see what you’re doing to foster that mind set.  Then stop that!  Do a 180 and get on with having a good time.


When People You Love Face Problems

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Watching someone you care about deal with a major problem is every bit as daunting as trying to solve it yourself. And far too often, that’s how we respond—by trying to solve it ourselves. Then there are two problems—the original challenge and the relationship that needs to be patched back together.

It’s not easy watching a loved one struggle. As parents, grandparents, and spouses, our dearest desire is usually to make the hurt go away…now. That most noble intention can get us in a lot of trouble. In an effort to “help” we sometimes offer advice that isn’t wanted, assume we have answers when we don’t even grasp the extent of the problem, and leave the person dealing with the adversity feeling even less competent about handling it or more alone in the daunting thing they face.

Lately, a lot of this has to do with being unemployed or underwater on a home mortgage. But we can make similar messes on a wide range of challenges, all with the sincerest desire to help.

Well? What can you do? Just standing there makes you feel helpless.

A few things to remember:

Dealing with adversity is essential to personal development. Much as we don’t like to see them having to deal with difficulty, those we love will never become more than they already are if they never get to face real challenges. Even if that person wants you to solve the problem, staying on the sidelines until he/she at least tries is wiser in most cases.

If you jump in–and many of us are even worse about this with our spouses—the person who really owns the problem is denied the chance to prove he/she can solve it. Give that loved one room to try to deal with it before you rush to the rescue. This ranges from finding a missing sock to targeting a new life direction. Try to remember it’s not your problem.

Offering unsolicited advice is insensitive. Period. “You should….” “If I were you…” and other well-meaning directives can be extremely frustrating to the person with the challenge. The idea that we have a “right” to do that because of our role in the relationship or the positions we’ve held that relate to the issue is just plain naïve. If you’re not asked to help, jumping in just gets in the way and makes what the person is trying to do harder.

But giving advice is so easy…and watching someone struggle is not easy for most of us. We know things they could benefit from and can do things they need to get done. Even so, it’s better to wait until asked—for advice, for information, or to suggest solutions.

Ask questions that respect that person’s efforts. If you do end up in a conversation about it, try questions like “Have you explored ____?” or “Is there any way that ____ could make a difference here?” The words “you should” and “why?” don’t belong in the lexicon for these kinds of conversations.

Do a little sincere cheerleading when you can. Reminding the person of what they have already accomplished and are good at is most likely the best gift you can give in this instance. A little is better than a lot though.  Laying it on too thick comes across as insincere.  Less is definitely more here

Being empathetic and finding a positive spin for a rejection can reduce the sting. (“That sucks. But there’s a job that’s an even better fit out there and you’ll find it.”) Going on and on about how unfair the world is and how stupid employers are because the loved one is still unemployed is not helpful.

Recognize when it has become your problem. Sometimes, what starts out as someone else’s problem becomes yours because of how the solution is being handled. If you agree to fill in until your kids can find a replacement daycare arrangement and it’s been three months, you need to speak up. If your unemployed spouse is spending more time on video games than the job search, there’s a problem that is yours to deal with. Don’t hide from those. But don’t assume the original problem and the new problem are joined at the hip in how you address it. Being responsible is way different than being unemployed.

People have more confidence when they’ve experienced solving their own problems successfully. Letting that happen instead of getting in the way with what you think will make things better is the highest form of love. It’s not easy. Do it anyway.


Scary Info from the Alzheimer’s Association

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The recently released report Generation Alzheimer’s has some staggering numbers. Below is a summary, sent by Diane Wright of the Alzheimers Association. It’s worth the time to read.

Mary Lloyd


This year, the first wave of baby boomers is turning 65 – and with increased age comes increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Our new report, “Generation Alzheimer’s: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers,” sheds light on a crisis that is no longer emerging – but here. Many baby boomers will spend their retirement years either with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it. An estimated 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s.

Starting this year, more than 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65. As these baby boomers age, one of out of eight of them will develop Alzheimer’s – a devastating, costly, heartbreaking disease. Increasingly for these baby boomers, it will no longer be their grandparents and parents who have Alzheimer’s – it will be them.

“Alzheimer’s is a tragic epidemic that has no survivors. Not a single one,” said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association. “It is as much a thief as a killer. Alzheimer’s will darken the long-awaited retirement years of the one out of eight baby boomers who will develop it. Those who will care for these loved ones will witness, day by day, the progressive and relentless realities of this fatal disease. But we can still change that if we act now.”

According to the new Alzheimer’s Association report, “Generation Alzheimer’s,” it is expected that 10 million baby boomers will either die with or from Alzheimer’s, the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression. But, while Alzheimer’s kills, it does so only after taking everything away, slowly stripping an individual’s autonomy and independence. Even beyond the cruel impact Alzheimer’s has on the individuals with the disease, Generation Alzheimer’s also details the negative cascading effects the disease places on millions of caregivers. Caregivers and families go through the agony of losing a loved one twice: first to the ravaging effects of the disease and then, ultimately, to actual death.

“Most people survive an average of four to six years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, but many can live as long as 20 years with the disease. As the disease progresses, the person with dementia requires more and more assistance with everyday tasks like bathing, dressing, eating and household activities,” said Beth Kallmyer, senior director of Constituent Relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. “This long duration often places increasingly intensive care demands on the nearly 15 million family members and friends who provide unpaid care, and it negatively affects their health, employment, income and financial security.”

In addition to the human toll, over the next 40 years Alzheimer’s will cost the nation $20 trillion, enough to pay off the national debt and still send a $20,000 check to every man, woman and child in America. And while every 69 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease today, by 2050 someone will develop the disease every 33 seconds – unless the federal government commits to changing the Alzheimer’s trajectory.

“Alzheimer’s – with its broad ranging impact on individuals, families, Medicare and Medicaid – has the power to bring the country to its financial knees,” said Robert J. Egge, vice president of Public Policy of the Alzheimer’s Association. “But when the federal government has been focused, committed and willing to put the necessary resources to work to confront a disease that poses a real public health threat to the nation – there has been great success. In order to see the day where Alzheimer’s is no longer a death sentence, we need to see that type of commitment with Alzheimer’s.”