Change is necessary as we age and it is not something to fear.
BY: Jim Then
The concerns and needs of longer lifespan with current economic, social environment and globalisation require us to consider reinventing ourselves. The journey-of-longevity has to be joyful and meaningful through work or leisure.
Studies have reported that attitudes and lifestyle not only add years to your life but also add better quality of life to your years. Growing up, you have been told not to waste time on what you are passionate about but towards realistic or practical pursuits. As you are going through the motions of life, you have therefore forgotten what you love that would make you happy.
But reinvention is neither easy nor always smooth especially for older adults. Be it embarking into a new career or taking interest in new hobbies. Often we encounter resistance; struggle with self-limiting beliefs or stories that hold us back from change.
The 3Rs – resilience, reliance & renewal
Resilience, reliance and renewal are the three key emotional components that will determine your success to “reinvent yourself”. Those who move forward with change feel enthusiastic and hopeful about their future, whilst those who are scared and lost feel empty.
Reinventing yourself requires the ability to rebound from the challenges you currently face. Letting go the old and getting in the new takes much energy and determined effort. These are beyond those that had come naturally your way. The ability to be resilient is necessary in finding new ways to cope with change.
The thought of making major changes at mid-life and leaving behind what had been familiar and comfortable can lead to the feeling of going alone or the sense of loss. This may be a job, person, place or relationship you have associated with for many years. Coming next will be the ability to rely on others for assistance and support while in transition to this new experience. Besides self-reliance, the ability and courage to rely on others is important in reinventing yourself. Be it from professionals or your network of resources.
Renewal depends much on the flexibility to have different perception and belief of self, others and circumstances. It requires determination to get out of “being stuck” in old habits, beliefs and values, and to unlearn and relearn. Some are better equipped to take on the challenge of change, whether it is making a career change or taking on some new and different interest.
How to overcome the barriers
When you are slipping away to old habits or procrastinating to move forward to change, ask yourself: “What can I do to keep myself moving forward?”
Create a vision of how the ideal future after the change: Sit down quietly and visualise how the new situation will be and the good feeling glowing inside you.
- Know your strength and work that will bring you joy.
- Practice “motivational self-talk” and engage like-minded people.
- Acquire relevant skills and knowledge, especially along your interest.
- List down the various benefits to reinvent yourself.
- Set “baby-steps” that you feel achievable at your own pace.
- Be aware and manage your emotions that hinder change.
- Accept your past mistakes that should not define your self-worth.
- Do not doubt or fear your ability to change.
I forgot about my birthday candles! But I do remember how to reinvent myself. During my 30s and 40s with a GCE ‘A’-level certificate, I was a financial future trader. In my 50s, turning away from retirement I decided to reinvent myself. From financial futures to “human futures”, I became an assistant programme coordinator in a Family Service Centre. I developed a passion in social work and counselling, therefore enrolled in a long-distance degree course in Psychology with a university in Australia and subsequently a Masters in Science, Counselling. Having given up the 25 years of smoking habit, I took up a specialist diploma in Health and Promotion in Nanyang Polytechnic in the evening. All these fulfilled my passion to develop and conduct a holistic wellness programme for the ageing population. Now in my 60s, I am still moving forward as a corporate trainer/wellness coach.
Revisit your vision everyday and have related pictures, articles, objects, music or songs around you to enhance your interest and joy in reinventing yourself. Seek advice from professionals or experienced personnel and support from like-minded people. The key way to overcome challenges is for the individual to have the right frame of mind, and a strong determination to move forward with the ability to embrace change. As poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.”
Jim Then, 67, is a corporate trainer/wellness coach. In 2010, he won the POSB ACTIVE Award, which is part of the Active Agers Awards given by the Council for Third Age (C3A).