What Am I Waiting For? by Patricia Doyle
As part of my work life, I developed a very strong habit of delaying gratification. I was always saying and thinking – ”I will do that someday”. Guess what – in retirement – someday is here!
There are so many things on my someday list: jewelry making, losing weight, cooking healthy, being active, traveling more, learning yoga, learning to swim. How do I change my “someday habit”? Strongly held habits, ones you’ve had for years, are hard to break. Just asking myself “what am I waiting for?” has not worked!
So my focus shifted to – what tools can I use to break old and/or start new habits?
One tool I am using is trying to determine if the things I’ve been “putting off” are things I truly want to do. How will I feel in 5 years if I don’t do this? Am I willing to work – put in the time and effort – towards making this a reality? Will I enjoy the process of learning that new skill, achieving that goal? Or does the learning process look to be more like frustration? If I’m not willing to work at it, then I just need to acknowledge it is a fantasy and will never be reality. What things (dreams) do I really want to chase?
Second tool is to understand what is holding me back? Is it fear of not doing what you were supposed to do? Meeting others expectations, whether consciously or subconsciously, is all about belonging and acceptance. While belonging is a need for most people, it is a very big one for me! What if this new thing conflicts with my inner mind-set of “supposed to do”?
We all have an inner belief system of what retirement is “supposed to be”, even though we might acknowledge that this is a “new retirement” world we live in! One of the elements I know I’ve heard repeatedly is that in retirement, you are supposed to be doing things that are meaningful and giving back to the greater good. Another expectation, which many people articulated for me as I retired early, is you are supposed to continue to work and be a “contributing member” of society while you are still able to work. Or you’re supposed to identify your big life passion and devote yourself to learning that new skill/doing that new thing. So if an activity that I think I might have passion for doesn’t match these expectations – is that the inner conflict that is preventing me from even starting it?
Perhaps my procrastination in starting the new thing is because the new thing is not aligning with my self-identity? Everyone has a self-identity and this is one I do believe has a long-term element. Were you always the “smart one” or the “stupid one”? The risk-taking bad girl or the play-by-the-rules girl? The one with her head in the book or the athletic one? The one who’s not good with people? The one who’s not creative?
I recently had lunch with a young lady who in the breadth of 30 minutes told me twice that she has always has a hard time networking and talking with people. And in the same 30 minutes told me about 2 instances where once she got into the meeting/conversation, everything was fine! Her belief, when I asked her, continued to be she couldn’t network well, even with 2 examples she gave me of the opposite. Reality doesn’t overcome our belief in our identity.
Are my long-term identifiers (subconsciously) holding me back today? The “I can’t start/do that activity because I’ve never been good at that type of thing” mind-set?
Moving into action after using these tools: 1) set small, realistic goals for the things I truly want to do. 2) Use affirmations to change my beliefs about my self-identity.
My new affirmations:
– I am an active person, a loving & supportive wife & friend.
– I am not “too” anything to prevent me from changing…. not too old, too fat, too scared. I am enough. I will not get hurt. It is OK to be a beginner and start small/slow.
– I release the need for belonging; I release the need for external validation. I accept and love myself. I am in the right place at the right time doing the right things
– I joyously move forward to greet life’s wondrous adventures.
So what happened with using these new tools?
– I planned and went on a long weekend trip to New Orleans, a weekend fall leaf-looking, a zip-lining weekend, and the “biggie” lifetime trip (an African Safari) is booked. Wondrous life adventures!
– I recognized that I am not willing to put in the effort to lose weight, but I will plan activities with friends that are not always passive or food-centric. So I walk with friends about half the time now, instead of meeting for lunch! Active friends!
– And took up yoga (finally).
And, I still ask myself regularly – what are you waiting for? Because old habits are hard to break.
What are you waiting for someday to do?
By Patricia Doyle