14 Day Challenge: Examine Your Preconceptions by Bob Lowry
Today, I am assigning you a task. It will not be particularly easy because it requires you to look at some of your preconceptions and decide if each is still valid. To keep things moving I am asking you to complete this challenge in the next two weeks, give or take. In 14 days, give or take, I will ask you to report on your progress. And, yes, I will participate fully. To begin, let’s think about what types of preconceptions might qualify for examination.
How we think about aging
This is a biggie. I would guess all of us have certain images in our mind of what getting older means. Physical decline, financial struggles, moving out of our home, or the loss of a partner can certainly part of that preconception.
Hopefully, the last 7 years of this blog have added notions like freedom to change and grow or learning to say, “No,” and controlling our commitments. Realizing that plans change, life unfolds in ways we never expected, or that the decades we may spent in retirement are ours to shape. Maybe we firmly believe our physical and mental decline can be slowed and altered to a degree. Does your conception of what it means to age well need adjusting?
What are your preconceptions about death? As we get closer to the finish line than the beginning of our journey do we need to adjust how we think about this final step?
How we think about people not like us
The last election and its aftermath have brought this set of preconceptions into sharper focus. For Americans, Charlottesville may come to mind first. But, it is certainly not the only case of serious problems when people of different beliefs, politics, races, and religions come into contact, and conflict. London, Barcelona, Paris, Mumbai, Madrid, Quebec City….these place and many others have suffered as well.
As humans we tend to want to cluster with people like us. Problems arise when we treat “the others” as inferior, wrong, or dangerous simply because they are not us. Of course, since there are over 7 billion people in the world, only a very small percentage of the total are just like us.
Obviously, there are those who are dangerous, harmful, hateful, and out to do you and me harm. But, there are unnecessary problems when we begin to assume that everyone who is a member of a group that is not like us falls into that same dangerous category. This is not an easy set of preconceptions to think about. It is even tougher to change them. Do you have any goals in this area?
How we define success
During my business career, success was easy to define: more business, more money, bigger house, more industry accolades. After retirement, every single thing that I thought of as being successful was not. Isn’t that amazing: retirement forced a total reversal of a notion I had held since my teens.
Now that you are retired, what is success to you? How you define it will impact much of what you do and own. I will guess that success means something very different now than it did earlier in your life.
How we interact with other family members
Some of us have convoluted, messy relationships with family members. It may be that brother or sister who you stopped talking to twenty years ago, for reasons you can’t quite remember. It may be a grown child who seems to turned his back on everything you tried to teach him. Or, It may be a strong, interconnected family makeup: you spend time together, really enjoying each others’ company. You may not communicate often with your siblings but you know each will be available for the other in times of family crisis. Now that you think about it, reaching out to them is past due.
Now is the time to question all those relationships. Are preconceived notions of a sister or aunt keeping you from adding them back into to your life? Did some family member hurt you years ago, and that slight has kept you apart far too long? Maybe you continue to interact with someone in your family who is toxic for you: you dread your visits together. That person makes you feel bad about yourself, yet you feel a sense of obligation to keep up those familial ties.
If certain relationships are strong and nurturing are you doing the work needed to keep them that way? Do you assume things will always go well so extra efforts aren’t needed?
By Bob Lowry