Friday, April 27, 2012

STEP THREE: Learn Something New. Knowledge is Fuel For The Mind and The Soul.

    The older we get, the more set in our ways we become. The skills we've cultivated over a lifetime - whether it's making scratch biscuits, leading a panel discussion or managing a client crisis - are handled with ease, grace and precision simply because we've done them so many times before. Our actions are automatic and effortless. Unfortunately, the very qualities that make us experts in our field can also make us dull, repetitive and stuck behind the times.
     With my past career focused on the creative culture of advertising and marketing, it was my responsibility to stay on top of product trends along with lifestyle and demographic evolution. In order to develop targeted and effective campaigns with timely images, it was mandatory that I have my finger on the pulse of change. I was constantly learning new ideas and perspectives. Now I find myself moving farther and farther away from my familiar sources for insight into our ever-changing world. What's worse, I also find it ever harder to give a hoot. The undertow of patterned thinking and the mindlessness of habit are taking hold, and I'm showing signs of becoming a real bore, even to myself.
    Learning something new, as often as possible, is the best way I know to keep my mind, my spirit and my life fresh and interesting. I'm not ready to give in to indifference just yet. Here are some of the tricks I'm trying to help me stay in the game.

  • Break The Routine:  When we were raising our kids, building our careers and our lives, the daily rituals we created were the only things we could truly control. The rest of our day was generally chaos. In retirement every day is routine. That is why it's important to shake things up a little to break the pattern. If you always drink orange juice in the morning, then try a V8 for a change - just like the commercial says. If you only read the local newspaper, pick up the Washington Post or New York Times to get a new perspective. If you never wear bright colors, throw on that red sweater you've never worn and see what happens. Surprisingly even the smallest change from the norm can be a giant step when it comes to spicing up your life and your desire to make it richer.
  • Take A Class:  What better time than right now, no matter what your age, to try something you have always dreamed of trying. Enlightenment is the best antidepressant - no prescription necessary. Sign up for Conversational French. It may inspire you to take that trip to Paris you've always imagined. Take piano lessons. You have the time to practice now. Learn Latin dancing. What could be more stimulating than a little Salsa music? Learning something new, or refreshing old skills will breath new life into tired thinking. I took a motivational class for stymied writers. Now I have my own blog and am attending a writer's conference for the first time. Anything is possible if you take the initiative.
  • Interact With Younger People:  In the work environment we are surrounded by a wide range of diverse coworkers of all ages. Sadly, when we lose that connection our world and our vision narrows. Make a point of spending time around younger people whenever possible. Then watch, listen and learn. The world revolves around the next generation, not the previous one. Put away your judgement and criticism and tap into budding ideas and flowing energy. I go to the Apple retail store from time to time, not only to check out what's new in technology, but to watch the young customers and sales team. Their clothes, their technical savvy, their relaxed attitudes are fascinating and inspiring, and they are surprisingly open to explaining things. Attend sporting events on your local college campus to watch the crowd as well as the game. Dine at the hottest new restaurant in town, always a great place for people watching in addition to sampling the latest food and beverage trends. When you serve the newest cocktail and play the latest jazz favorite while entertaining your regular gang, you will be the trend setter for a change.

    What's important is finding creative ways to learn new things, large and small. By being receptive to different viewpoints, experimenting with new foods and music, or learning new skills you begin to stimulate your thinking and your life. It is the simple act of learning that leads us to vitality and passion, the very things we need to remain enduring contributors to our world.

Next week, STEP FOUR: Making Time For Physical Activity. A Body in Motion Stays In Motion.

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