August 13, 2011

What happened to Second Helpings?

Remember second helpings? When you were younger with a body that would allow you to eat almost anything without gaining an ounce, second helpings were probably quite common. The food was good, you still had room to squeeze in more, and the platter beckoned you to help yourself. You may have felt stuffed when you were finally done, but so what. Life was good.

As we age weight seems to pile on with virtually no effort. We have learned that our body will gain pounds and inches just by thinking about food. Second helpings are a fond memory. We eventually learn to push back from the table.

What about in other things? Have you developed the habit of pushing back from the table of life? Do you "know" that certain things just aren't good for you, or probably not worth the effort? Instead of pounds are you afraid of changing?

If so, you are entirely normal and human. Certainly for me, I went through a period in my life where I became so comfortable with a certain pattern of existence I avoided all change. I wasn't particularly happy with the rut I had parked my life in but I was comfortable, and comfort tends to win. That is sad. When I think back to what could have been during those years, I wish for a magic wand that could give me a partial "do-over."

What was it that kept me living a life that was far less than it could have been? 

  • Fear of change and the risks involved
  • Fear of the unknown. I was doing OK with the known
  • My family seemed to be prospering. Why shake them up?
  • I had to act age-appropriate, didn't I? I had responsibilities
  • I had expenses. The cash flow had to be maintained
  • I knew how to do one thing. What else could I do?

It took a major jolt to my nice, safe, tidy, little world for me to understand I had been pushing back from the table of life for years. What happened? My business died. It faded away to nothing a good 10 years before it was supposed to. I was kicked out of my rut and into retirement before I was ready.

Guess what? I landed feet first with a burst of insight and and clarity that money and security and safeness had been hiding: I disliked what I had been doing and how I was spending my one and only life on earth. I had been avoiding life by pretending to live.

From that moment on, I wanted second helpings. I wanted to repair the damage to my marriage. I wanted friends...lots of them. I wanted to know God and deepen my spiritual side. I wanted to push myself. I wanted second helpings.

The last twelve years of retirement have been some of the most satisfying of my 69 years. It took a kick out the door of comfort, but I finally realized how much more I was capable of. The box I had drawn for myself was too small for the person inside. Most of the limits were self-imposed. I had become afraid of stretching myself.

Am I a wild and crazy guy? No. Am I likely to walk across Africa or live in a tent in Alaska during an Arctic winter just to prove I can do it? Not going to happen. Will I surprise myself occasionally by tackling something new and different? Yes, though still not often enough. I am very much a work in progress.

I am willing to bet there are parts of your life that could use a shakeup. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to think of a few ways you want to add a dash of change, a pinch of excitement, and a spoonful of risk to your satisfying retirement day. Come on, admit it, there are times when you really would love going back for second helpings. 


  1. I had an epiphany two days ago. I realized that I've only been retired for a few months and I was already headed down a path of "shoulds." I thought about what I really wanted to be doing and decided to adjust my course. Second helpings--yes!

  2. Galen,

    Second helpings are like "pay it forward." You feel so much better when you pull back to the table of life's full bounty.

  3. We all do like what we're used to. But there's this additional thing in our senior years: While our brains still need stimulation and are still amazingly plastic, they are less so than they were. If I'm forced to expend what mental energy I have on trying to find the light switches in a new home, rather than on absorbing a fascinating new scientific concept, I will, of course, but it won't be my first choice.

    And, given that, I'm trying as hard as I can to sell this house so I can look for new light switches. So it goes.

  4. Nance,

    I think there are some studies that show not pushing your brain actually speeds up the slow down of our thinking process.

    But, I understand exactly what you are saying. I forget where my cell phone is too often. Then, my wife has to call it so I can follow the ring.

  5. This is such an insightful post. Thanks for having the courage to share your personal experience. I tend to wed myself to the same routine. This is a good kick in the butt. Thanks.

    I'm so glad you liberated yourself. It seems like life is far more fun and satisfying for you now.

  6. Bob,
    A lovely phrase:The box I had drawn for myself was too small for the person inside.
    I think you not only got yourself a bigger box but you grew some too.

  7. I can tell you from my experiences in the corporate world that fear of change is the number one problem with lots of people both in the business and private lives. I for one have always charged toward change whenever it seems better than the current conditions. My problems always seem to be dragging others along with me. Most of my co-workers and for that matter bosses were just too comfortable drawing a pay-check. My wife, whom I love dearly, strenuously resists almost anything different in her life.

    But I do certainly relate wanting to do some "do-overs" in my life. I think when we are seniors and realize the clock is ticking we tend to try to get more out of the life we have left to kind of make up for those years sitting on the sidelines.

    Good post Bob. It really got me to thinking. I can see a few posts of my own in the area soon ;)

  8. Ralph,

    I liked that phrase, too. Thanks for noticing! It may be the basis for some future post. After all, blogging is just recycling knowledge or awareness!

  9. RJ,

    I look forward to your "extensions" of this post. That is how we all learn - by gathering input from many others.

    It is interesting that my career as a consultant was always in two phases: the first was to convince a client to change things: different music, different announcers, different marketing.

    Then, after the changes were implemented my message became one of consistency: don't change the plan but keep steady.

    Frankly, I think what hurt my business over time was too much of phase two..I was unwilling to change what had been a winning plan. Even when it became evident that change would help I tended to stick with the "party line."

    A flash of insight..I had never considered this aspect of my business until your comment.

  10. Sandra,

    So I'm a butt-kicker! See, us retired folks can do anything. After your digital sabbatical I bet you had some fresh insight about certain aspects of your life.

    I hope my time in Hawaii at the end of next month into mid October will give me a similar opportunity to reassess and perform some needed course corrections.

  11. Totally recognize the feeling ... it can be humbling and cause a refocusing on one's core values


  12. It's time to get daring again. C'mon. We can do it.

  13. QwkDrw,

    I'm surprised someone hasn't asked if that massive hamburger was one of my failed cooking experiments!

    Life does tend to occasionally slap you upside the head and suggest you pay attention, doesn't it.

  14. This had really made me think. When I retired a year ago,I did completely change my routine. I started gardening-which I had never done previously. Now I will look for some new activities-I do tend to stay in my comfort zone. Thanks.

  15. Good Morning Donna,

    We all stay in our comfort zone until something shakes us up a bit. I'm happy this post might have done so for you.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  16. Second helpings ... good way to put it. I'm on my second helping of marriage, family, career. And just today I had a second helping of birthday cake (not mine). Hmmm, gotta watch it on the cake.

  17. Another inspirational post. I know I can be a guy who is predisposed to "ready, aim, aim, aim, .... I need to remind myself sometimes to follow the old Nike slogan ... "Just Do It"

    Best regards.

  18. Sightings,

    Second helpings...bad for the waist line, great for your life. But, I LOVE birthday cake.

  19. Rick,

    Thanks for the compliment. Just do it, or sometimes you can even ready, fire, aim...and see what happens.

  20. such a great post & something to think about at 49, appreciate being able to piggyback off your great lesson

  21. Anonymous,

    Thank you! Whether someone is 29, 49, or 99 it is never too early or too late to push your limits to see what you are capable of.