Written By: Sanderson Sims
Not long ago I read an article which had a profound influence on me. The gist was that when one turns 60 years of age they should consider a radical change in their life. The recommendation? Move to a foreign country at least half of the year, take up a foreign language, take up a new physical activity such as dance, and perhaps engage in a new hobby or some form of art.
The point here was to move out of one’s traditional comfort zone. Like a plant when it is repotted, humans will continue to grow later on in life by reinventing their interests. Once we become comfortable with our surroundings, our activities, and our life pattern, we tend to lose our edge. We get into ruts. We know how life works or at least we think we do. Our surroundings are so familiar we can almost sleepwalk through them. In effect, we lose a bit of our vitality and even confidence in ourselves.
This is not to say that the aging process or a life invested in hard work does not merit a more restful pace, but there is a difference between pace and familiarity. Age 60 was hi-lighted in this article because at this age many people have retired or are contemplating retirement. Advances in medicine and health leave them feeling physically quite youthful. Thus, the focus here is primarily on the mental state.
In his book Mastery, George Leonard, a prominent member of the Human Potential Movement, suggested that life is like a set of stair steps. Each step is comprised of a sharp vertical followed by a plateau landing. If one looks back he or she will most likely see the truth in this observation.
The vertical components are comprised of challenges which require concerted effort to get through. These challenges can be voluntary, such as conscious choices for seeking higher education or issues that emerge in one’s profession. Challenges can also be involuntary when, for example, a crisis in health, relationships, or finances emerges. Arriving at the plateau, one will find that new skills, self-realization and improved health are the outcomes. During a plateau, a comfortable familiarity is established and sets in. Life is good, or at least manageable.
As we age, we realize that we have already climbed a number of these stairs. We have had a number of both vertical challenges and “life is good” plateaus. There is a natural slowing down and with it comes the lure of hanging out on these familiar and comfortable plateaus. Yet this familiarity can also lead to a lethargy in mind, body and spirit.
When we change our environment and activities we give ourselves a new palette. We move our horizons further out, which can and does revitalize us. As a therapist friend of mine once said, “Life is a collection of experiences.” One is not necessarily better than another, just different. More and varied experiences provide a richness in the fabric. The point here is not to run away from challenges in the current environment, but to examine whether old habitual patterns are really serving us and if we are invigorated by seeking change.
Many years ago Ken Dychtwald, in his landmark book Age Wave, observed that the idea of working in some career for a lifetime then finally enjoying the golden years did not necessarily pan out. The vision of endless days of fishing, playing golf, travel, etc., would all too soon ring hollow. Younger generations saw that retirees were not necessarily happy with this model and realized that there could be a different way to approach retirement. It would involve a series of work experiences followed by rest, invigoration, and retooling for the next adventure. Instead of one life time career, there could be six or seven with time to enjoy in between. Joyless work, at least beyond urgent necessity, seemed pointless. This has indeed come to pass.
Edgar Cayce, nicknamed the “Sleeping Prophet,” opined that a balanced life gives us the greatest fulfillment. This means giving equal time to each of life’s four quadrants: work, home, play, and spiritual development. How we get there is the challenge. As our choices increase regarding what type of work we desire, and our ability to work virtually from anywhere, we may all need to consciously embrace the concept of repotting. Could it be time for you to repot yourself?
Photo Credit: Burst Photos, Avelino Calvar Martinez