Tag Archives: Elderly

Lessons for living- 5 Regrets to avoid.

30 Aug

As I was discussing in the past few articles the gems of Knowledge we learn from people who have lived their lives and have come to a realization that certain things in life matter more than others. I was taken with the words of the people who had taken part in Dr Karl Pillimers legacy project  on the thoughts of our elder friends and the wonderful conclusions that they had in life.

One Comment that recurred time and time again was the importance of “Saying it Now“. The only time you can share your deepest feelings is while people are still alive. Yet how often have so many of us failed to do this with Friends or especially parents or loved ones. This reminded me of a talk an article I did about a palliative care Nurse.

This Nurses name was Bronnie Ware and she cared for patients in the last 6 or so weeks of their lives. During this time with people who were confronting their own mortality and reflecting on their lives. She noticed that there were 5 regrets that kept recurring with all her patients. These regrets are interesting, when you think that these people have reached the final stages of their lives and are reflecting on what they would change.
* I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not a life others wished of me.

When people’s lives are over it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. How often have we followed our parents footsteps into a world we have no interest in only to find our passion and zest for life being crushed as we try to please others. Find what you love to do and spend as much of your life doing it as is possible. Make it your Job!!. We are only happy when we spend time doing what we love to do. If you don’t want to be an accountant then don’t be. I am not trying to offend accountants but merely providing an example.

Most people have not honoured half their dreams and have died knowing it was down to the choices they had or had not made.

* I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.

Many of us suppress our feelings in order to keep peace with others. As Irish people we are good at this. We are in a restaurant and are unhappy with our meal. We tell everyone  at the table how unhappy we are. But don’t tell the people who served us the food because we don’t want to ruin the night or cause a fuss. We walk away from that restaurant kicking ourselves for not having the courage to say what we felt was right.

We are also not a great nation for expressing our feelings when we see wrong. Our economic collapse has been created by other forces yet we end up paying for it. We are not good at taking to the streets or expressing how we feel to the right people.

“If you think you are too small to be effective you have never been in bed with a mosquito” said Gandhi. If only more of us took that on board. as a result we are happy to settle for a mediocre existence.

* I wish I didn’t work so hard.

Every single male patient said this!!. They all said that they wished they had spent more time with the people they cared about most doing the things they loved. Life is not, Birth, School,Work ,Death. It’s much bigger than that.

* I wished I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. It is so easy to let relationships slip. Remember this! We choose our friends, that is the power and beauty behind friendships.

But as the final weeks of our lives stare us in the eye it is not money or success that matters but love and our friendships.

* I wished I had let myself be happier.

Life is full of events. We get stung by bees, relationships end, we crash cars, we lose jobs.That’s just life! it is how we interpret these events that make the difference. We can see it as another knock in what you expected to be a perfect life or you can see it as a chance to grow from your experience.

Many do not realise that happiness is a choice. Fear of change only strengthens that unhappiness.

What an interesting insight from the people who are most qualified to understand what it is like to stand on the precipice with one foot stepping into the unknown and the other leaving behind the past they created.

Lessons for living-Think small

23 Aug

We have spent the past week talking about the reasons for living that Gerontologist Dr Karl Pillimer compiled from talking to 1200 elderly people. People who have lived their lives and looked back and realized what contributes to a happy, fulfilling existence. Some of us may realize that the path we are taking through our lives does not correlate with what those that have experienced life and might have a greater panorama about how life works. We have talked about the importance of connections with others in relation to our wellbeing, we also talked about how travel is a wonderful way to open us up to situations and worlds that we might never have experienced if we had not left our couches. The first day we talked about the importance of looking after our health at a young age it will matter a lot once we get older and how worrying about what most likely will never happen only taints our present experiences negatively.

All our lives we have been thought to think big and there seems to be something wonderful about the imagined possibilities that we can achieve once we dream. The huge house, the sports car, the overburdened bank account, the super dooper yacht, the life of leisure, or life as a celebrity or oil magnate.

But what would happen if suddenly…. you were to think.. small. If you were to find wonder in the small things that life has to offer, the beautiful sight of sun dappling through your windows on a sunny morning, the softness of your pillow when so many in the world do not have them. The smell of freshly brewed coffee, the smile from a passing stranger or the scent of fresh-cut grass at the start of summer. The list could go on and on as it regularly does in my classes .It is when we value the beauty and intricacies of the small wonders in life that the outstanding moments become even more memorable.

A good example of this is Denmark and its people. The Danish people over the past 30 years have time and time again polled as the happiest nation on the planet followed by countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden and Netherlands.

A Danish Professor Kaare Christensen  decided to look into why the Danes always polled so high in the World Happinesss report. He noted that ” In countries like Italy and Spain people have much higher expectations for what the coming year will bring, but they are not especially happy or satisfied with their existence”.

He suggests that Danes take a more realistic view of life ” Year after year we’re just happy things didn’t go as badly as we feared”. In truth Danish expectations are pretty modest. They don’t seek to change the world or dominate it. They are just Happy to be.

The Danish football team had not made it to the 1992 European cup they were beaten into second place by Yugoslavia a team that was to be withdrawn from the tournament ten days before it started due to international sanctions. Denmark quickly had to reassemble their players many who were now on holiday with their families. They arrived at the tournament and proceeded to advance from their group ahead of France and England. Beat the Dutch in the semi finals and then win the final with a 2-0 result against the mighty Germany. The country was ecstatic no one expected this to happen which made it all the more glorious.

As Kaare Christensen says” If you are doing pretty well and once in a while your outstanding you’re pretty happy about it but if you’re starting point is you should be outstanding that’s not good”.

By having low expectations one is rarely disappointed. We live in a world where our expectations are very high all the time  “If a job is worth doing it’s worth doing well” we hear. We set targets for ourselves were we say that failure is not an option or that until something is perfect we are not happy about it. We constantly have to be a 10 when most of the time a 6 or 7 is ok . It is important that we understand that it’s ok to be ok. Because when we strive to be the best all the time and don’t achieve it what do we feel?

We have seen the joy on the faces of the Olympic athletes who have won gold and the desperation on the faces of some that have won silver to the delight at those that have won bronze. Studies have proven this.  Those that won silver are feeling the disappointment of being so close to the worlds greatest. Those that won bronze ( like the Danish football team) might not have expected a medal at all and are ecstatic with their result.

Sometimes when we strive for goals in life we fail to see the wonder or the awesomeness of our life in the present for a feeling in the future. If you achieve your goal that is fine if you don’t achieve your goal that is also fine. Enjoy the journey.

We all know of examples of business that were very successful that turned over a profit and kept their staff with a comfortable salary who decide on World domination only to fold completely within a few years.

Remember that life is more than achieving goal after goal and feeling that perfection should always follow you and everything in life must be a 10. As I tell all people who attend my workshops…. sometimes it’s ok to be just…ok!

Lessons for living-Worry wastes your life

22 Aug

Think about this how often have we spent time worrying about some event in the future not turning out how we expected. The answer is probably a lot. We worry when travelling to foreign countries, that an unsuspecting ice cube in our drink or a salad leaf will cause mild dysentery, and we end up in a hospital surrounded by people who can’t speak our language shaking their heads as they analyze your chart. We might even get bitten by some insect we have never seen before and produce a boil the size of Belgium on some inconvenient part of our body. Or end up in the hotel from hell with brown water in the shower and ants living happily under your bed or in your mattress. That is if we make it past the Ryanair desk without emptying the contents of our wallet for forgetting to spell your name correctly on your luggage tags.

These are all incidents that might happen but most likely won’t. Yet we spend an inordinate amount of our time contemplating situations or events that will never happen. All that time sent worrying has done nothing productive bar produce(depending on the worry involved) the stress hormone cortisol into our system which provides us with glucose that helps us when we were hunter gatherers in fight or flight mode  to stay and defend ourselves or run like the clappers if in trouble but unnecessary if you are panicking about the possibility of your holiday being turned into a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary.

Put it this way. I once worked as a plant supervisor for a large food manufacturing company. Our plants were in production from Monday through Friday. Saturday was for cleaning and maintenance. The plant was closed on Sunday and production started up once again at 8am on Monday morning.  Monday morning was sometimes a difficult day. People were just getting back into work mode others were wishing they were still at home and sometimes the  machines might need a few tweaks to get them running as efficiently as they did on Friday. Gremlins seemed to creep in on Sunday.

During that period of my life every Sunday after Breakfast a sense of dread would fill me as I contemplated everything that could go wrong on Monday morning. Consequently every Sunday was a day ruined with worry about what might happen on Monday. Was every Monday a bad day in work with machines breaking down or staff not turning up…No it wasn’t on the contrary we had a lot of very productive fun filled Mondays, but was every single Sunday ruined thinking of what might happen on Monday… the answer is Yes. All those Sundays ruined by contemplating the worst …and the worst never happened.

As humans we do this all the time as Dr Karl Pillimer points out in his study the legacy project ” Yes bad things happen,but you will find the resources in yourself to handle them. Why poison the present moment with continual pointless worry. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want in life and on a subconscious level that is not good…stop praying for what you don’t want in life.

Some of the elders who participated in the programme had wonderful insights to impart. Remember these are people who had lived large parts of their life and come to the realization that worrying is pointless

Manuel 72: ” You have to be flexible; don’t get locked into one frame of mind over anything, the most important thing is 95% of all things worried about never happen”.

We live in a world filled with advertisements that tell us how we should feel and remedies to sort it out. We are bombarded with the need to secure our homes in the case of fire,burglary,floods. Health insurance works on the premise that someday soon illness is on the way to you don’t be left out on a limb when it happens.Have you insured against losing your job… that’s on the way. Have you got Mortgage protection… Travel insurance for that weekend in Paris… Did you get your pet insured!! because here is the sad news that some day like all living creatures your dog/cat will die. Be prepared!!! It is no wonder we are in a constant state of worry.

Frank 88: ” Don’t give into every ache and pain be thankful for every day that you have on earth and enjoy your family. You can’t change anything by thinking about it. Worrying and concerning yourself is not going to change it one little bit”

Worry does us no good. It is like teaching a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Stop worrying…give it up… and just let your life happen.

Lessons for living -Travel more

21 Aug

As someone who has just returned from 10 days travelling and surfing the West coast of Ireland I can vouch for this. Travelling opens us up to activities and experiences that remain within our memory for a very long time. Not only do these memories stay with us but the happiness that we experience from meeting new people (remember we love to make social connections) and exploring new environments and cultures make some of the highlights of our lives.

Some of the greatest stories that we tell about our lives are the stories we experienced while travelling. All the Elders that had come to the latter part of their lives realized that travelling more was a great contributor to happiness in life. I am only thinking of the people I met while hostelling in Doolin Co Clare last week from Germany Italy , France and Austria that I would not have met if I had not left my sitting room couch. Similarly the beauty and memories of an ice cold Prague in February or a sun drenched Turkish holiday to some of the worlds most amazing archaeological sites would not have been realized. Sitting in the Roman arena in Verona with 20,000 other people as the opera is about to commence or surfing on the Australian East coast in beautiful warm waters are also treasured. Travelling by train across the southern alps in New Zealand or riding a bike with my daughter around the beautiful walled city of Lucca in Italy.

Not all flowed so easily  though like having no visa in Johannesburg for a flight to Australia. Losing my credit card on a hung over morning in Ko Samui in Thailand with 18 hours travelling ahead and no money at all to pay the exit tax from Thailand. Those experiences stay with you forever and become moments in your life that you can dip in and out of. They are the blueprints of a lived life.

If necessary you should sacrifice other things to ensure that travel becomes a large part of your life. It also allows you to experience life outside your comfort zone and this is where you grow.

As older people in Dr Karl Pillimer’s research the legacy project have said “Most people look back on their travel adventures as highlights of their lives, If you have to make decisions whether you want to remodel your kitchen or take a trip- well then take a trip.”

Lessons for living – Connections

14 Aug

The one contributor to unhappiness in later life is the loss of connections with other people.

As we get older social connections can be more difficult to maintain.  Friends move in and out of our lives or pass away. We retire and miss the camaraderie we experienced with our workmates or the interactions with our customers. We look at our partners and wonder what connection we had all those years ago.

We lose touch with what matters… Other people.

We know that having social connections is a strong predictor of our health.

What is the key: we need to get involved in social networks  and meaningful roles. All life needs a purpose. Volunteering is a good way to participate in a positive way. We feel better when we contribute to helping others and giving something back.

Being isolated when you reach old age is not good for us. Remember this when you are moving through your life. Connecting with others is the one thing that us as humans yearn for. I see the importance of this constantly in my programmes. Be mindful as you slowly discard relationships that were once important to you in life.

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