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Most people look forward to the freedom of retiring from full-time work, but do not know how to handle a change in lifestyle that it brings about. I have often wondered why people are so resistant to change, even when it is positive. Since more brain research is now available on the subject, here is your guide to successfully navigating change, and retiring to a great lifestyle.
Every day, I speak to people who understand the benefits of exercising and don’t do it; know they need to save for retirement but don’t budget for it; can’t find important documents but wouldn’t organize their records if their life depended on it. And by the way, when I ordered dinner last night, it was no secret to me that vegetables are healthy, but I felt like having desert. I call it the “2 + 2 = 4, but it does not concern me” formula. And we run a lot of our behavior in this pattern. That’s how we can have the greatest number of websites promoting a healthy lifestyle and the greatest rate of obesity in the world, all at the same time. That is exactly how you can enjoy retiring and be bored by it all at once. "Help me deal with my mixed emotions," people write me, and I empathize with their need to handle change.
Many people are divided in their emotions over retiring. One of the reasons for that is their assumption that as they leave the workforce, they will be less valuable and needed. What nonsense! You can find ways to contribute, as long as you have the desire to do so. Retiring well means full-blast living, when none of the ingredients that make your life complete are missing... When everything is working, the mixed emotions give way to a more integrated and a more congruent life perception. And so we run into the fundamental question of how to move from the “split” to “integrated” consciousness, something that psychologists, notably Abraham Maslow, considered an essential part of our life’s trajectory. In practical terms, it helps us be healthy and accomplish what we want – in other words, to live a life that we truly enjoy, rather than settle for something we can get without too much effort. I find it fascinating that fitness coaches, who observe thousands of clients a year and see this pattern very clearly, describe the difference between their successful clients and those who drop out in terms of “must” and “should” language. Successful clients say to themselves that they “must” follow certain rules, and so they are completely “integrated,” or consistent in terms of what they say and what they do. Drop-outs are more “split” about requirements, and while they know they “should” follow guidelines, lack the consistency that a “must” actually provides. I believe there is a third, and a better option to a “must” and a “should”, and that is “I can” – an invitation, a choice. It is much more appealing to the majority of people already overloaded with demands. The essential nuance to get is, are you integrated or split over a particular lifestyle decision you are trying to make?
I chose my words cautiously when I described “the decision you are trying to make,” rather than “the decision you have made.” Being split over a particular issue is how we get ourselves into a holding pattern – we are struggling, but nothing much is getting done. The holding pattern is a frustrating place to be, and yet many are stuck in it for years. Retiring well means you enjoy living your life in retirement; it does not mean repeating the same year thirty or forty times over.
How successful are people in general at managing change? Some of the most interesting studies describe patients who have been through a traumatic, life-threatening event like heart surgery, and are asked to make a lifestyle change to avoid another painful occurrence or even death. The reason I find these studies revealing is because they describe such a clear-cut case: the patients did not have to imagine the painful consequences of their actions, the surgery was fresh in their memory. Their motivation was quite clear as well: avoid pain, do what it takes to live. Well, it turns out that 8 out of 9 people, on average, would not adopt healthier day-to-day habits even though they clearly saw the value of doing so. I don’t think these people thought to themselves, “I would rather die than change.” They just couldn’t follow through.
We need to learn how to master change: when, what and how to change, and how to follow through. Managing change is a life skill that we simply must have. In the next four articles, I will describe breakthroughs in brain research that will give you an enormous advantage in mastering change.
Read the next article here https://www.joycompass.com/blogs/julia-valentine/2011/jun/tuesday/retiri...