Baseball season is only into its second month and the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have their dreams for 2014 already gone. With the worst start in team history, as I write this they are in last place, 10 games out of first. They began the season with a horrible losing streak that will be virtually impossible to overcome.
At this point, I assume their day-to-day goal is to simply try to stay positive. It would be easy to give up already, but being (overpaid) professionals who are providing entertainment to those attending games, their job is to go out every day and play as if all those loses don't exist.
It occurred to me that the same attitude is crucial to those of us having a rough go of it in retirement. Like a losing baseball team, it would be easy to throw in the towel, to settle for the (bad) hand life has dealt us, and muddle through.
You know I'm not going to allow you to do that, right? Attitude is the magic elixir of a satisfying retirement. No matter what struggles you are having, they will not be easier to handle if you have a defeatist approach. Thinking about the dark cloud instead of its silver lining will only make your troubles harder to bear.
This is not a Pollyanna approach to the real pain or problems we may have to deal with. Plenty of studies have drawn a definite link between attitude and health, both mental and physical. Not dwelling on the wrong parts of your life actually has been shown to help you find solutions or deal with an issue more quickly and successfully.
Obviously, I am not referring to serious depression. That is a medical condition that must be addressed and controlled. I am talking about those toxic thoughts that that bog you down and color your daily life but can be attacked by a change in attitude and approach.
Most newly retired folks will have times of toxic thoughts: "I will run out of money, I miss my friends, I have nothing to do all day, my health plan stinks," and so on. This phase of retirement usually disappears as we get used to our new schedule and freedom and begin to build a lifestyle that is as satisfying and enriching as we can make it.
Even then, it is much too easy to allow some new obstacle to upset us or force us off our path. We begin to focus on the negatives or the limitations that change has imposed on us. Certainly, I am not denying that a sudden, major change in our health, marriage, financial status, or death of a loved one can throw a large wrench into our world. Life can change in the blink of an eye.
But you've known that for years. Nothing, I repeat, nothing we have today is guaranteed tomorrow. We have no control over the past, and not much more over the future. The only control we absolutely retain is the control over how we respond, how we react when life does its best to knock us off our block.
I have just finished reading a new book that was sent to me for a review. It is one of the Chicken for the Soul books; this one is built around Alzheimer's. You can find the full review here, but the message in each of the 101 essays is the same: the attitude that an Alzheimer suffer has makes all the difference in the world to the quality of his or her remaining time on earth.
If someone dying, or someone caring for that dying person from this horrible disease is able to tell us that toxic thoughts do no one any good, then I am hard pressed to see how I could have the gall to complain about whatever is bothering me.