November 14, 2014

When Life Shrinks Your Glass - Get A Smaller Glass

An astute reader left a comment a month or so ago on a previous post. She noted she is a glass half-full kind of person rather than one who sees the glass of her life as half-empty. Then, she added a thought that I loved: if life has suddenly become more of a struggle because of some problem, rather than switch to a pessimistic view, she simply envisions a smaller glass...which is still half full.

I have written a lot about attitude and retirement. There should be little doubt as to which side of the half glass side I am on. But, her comment gave me new insight into how to react to the inevitable stumbles and problems we will all encounter during this stage of life.

Now matter how well you have prepared, how many hours you spend in the gym, how much you exercise your mind, and how many roses you buy your spouse, you are going to go off the rails at some point. It may be a series of small detours that eventually allow you back on track. Or, the derailing may be much more serious, resulting in a change in your life that cannot be reversed.

When that happens what will you do? Will that glass start to look more empty than full? Will you become withdrawn because of your physical limitations or the loss of important relationships? Will you lash out at the world for the unfairness of it all?

Or, will you have the ability to shrink your glass? Will you look at the limitations and be able to say, "OK, I can't do what I once did. I can't live how I once could. This is what I can do now. And even though my glass is smaller, my life is still pretty good, and that glass is still at least half full."

I will readily admit my life to this point has been a rather smooth ride. There have been a few problems, but certainly nothing on the scale of what so many of you share in your life stories on these pages. I will also admit I expect my situation to change at some point. My life is not a fairy tale; it will have some chapters that I would rather not experience but must.

Then my half glass take on life with be tested. I believe my faith will provide me with the support I need to handle what is coming at some point. But, how I will react is still an unknown. When those situations arise I hope I can remember the lesson of the smaller glass.

More than any other part of retirement, be it financial, health, relationships, passions.....whatever....I firmly believe attitude spells the difference between a disappointing or unhappy retirement and one that is satisfying. Why? Because my attitude is 100% within my control. The world can throw everything against me to try and break my spirit. But, it cannot determine how I decide to react.

That is up to me. And, my glass will remain at least half full, regardless of how small a glass life decides to give me.

  


24 comments:

  1. Amen, Bob. I feel incredibly blessed that I've been allowed to live to 61+. My dad had a saying posted in his gas station when I was a kid, "Don't regret growing old; it's a privilege denied to many." I understand that now. BTW, "old" is a LOT older now than it was even 10 years ago! At least in my mind.
    Jeff in OK

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    1. According to my 90 year old dad, middle age extends to 100. I think "old" is flexible based on our attitude and lifestyle.

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  2. Your post also made me think that we can also adjust our attitudes about what we consider to be part of the full glass or part of the empty glass. After reading your post I realized that often what is in the empty part of the glass are "used to be be's and "used to do's." For example, I might find myself thinking, "I used to run 3 miles a day" or "I used to be able to get through the day without a nap." It would be beneficial to chuck that thinking out of the empty part of the glass and create fullness out of it instead. "I do so much enjoy my one mile walk every day." "How wonderful to be retired and able to take a nap when I'm tired."

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    1. What a great insight. The half filled with regrets and "used to do's" no longer serves a purpose. Thanks B.E.

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  3. I believe our disposition is determined by our genes, but looking at the glass half empty is as much a choice as the opposite view. You can choose to be the victim, which was my mothers go to stance, or you can choose to look on the positive side and make your life better. Sometimes circumstances make being optimistic a real stretch, but wallowing in pessimism is a horrible way to live.
    b

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  4. Google has decided that I will be unable to post by any of the choices available. It deletes my post and then tells me I can't post a blank message! But I am still reading and trying to react.

    This is what I would have said:

    I agree with your perspective, Bob. I have always lived by the wisdom of Epictetus, the stoic philosopher who said: "People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them."

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    1. I can't fix Google's sudden failure to post comments properly. I have tried different settings but problems like yours keep popping up.

      Epictetus was absolutely correct: it is all in our perceptions. In fact, during part of my consulting career I used to preach the simple but true fact: perception becomes reality. Tell someone something often enough and he will believe it to be true. Actually, that is how our political system works at the moment.

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  5. I read a book ("How of Happiness") a while ago which summarized studies on happiness. My recollection is that it said 50% of happiness was genetic based; 10% life circumstances (wealth, etc.) and 40% attitude. You can make a dramatic improvement to your sense of happiness by practicing gratitude, etc.

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    1. I kept a gratitude diary for a few years. It was a very positive experience.

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  6. We are on the Big Island of Hawaii for about the sixth time. We always stay in the same place, a condo 30 miles from Kona. On earlier trips we took eight-mile hikes, snorkeled, explored lava tubes. This time we're reading and writing and sitting outside catching some sun with an evening walk to a little Thai place we like. It's just as pleasurable to be doing these things as it used to be when we were more active. For some reason I thought getting older I'd be frustrated at what I can't do any more. Not so, though. I'm not interested in doing those things I used to do. I've done them. That's a relief.

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    1. It is hard to get frustrated in your setting, Linda. I read about your trip on your blog. I don't know if I have ever read of a more positive beginning to a long trip! You and Art enjoy.

      You are so right - learning how to live within limits and still being grateful is the key.

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  7. A great insight! When life hands you lemons, make lemonade -- and pour it into a small glass. :-) -Jean

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  8. An old saying among engineers goes like this:
    -- The pessimist says the glass is half empty...
    -- The optimist says the glass is half full...
    -- The engineer says the glass is twice the size it needed to be in the first place.
    BTW, I really like the analogy of shrinking the glass. Great insight!

    PS - Back in Phoenix after 4700 miles and 20 days in the RV. MN (where there are grandkids) to AZ (where there is no snow) via CT (where there are more grandkids.) A full glass on that trip.

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    1. Welcome back to the desert, Daryl. You missed the huge blast of cold in the upper Midwest over the last few days. I bet that breaks your heart!

      Yes, I'd say that trip was a full glass.

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  9. People can change.
    Our glass was once half full, and then became half empty.

    Your post on your mother and worry (or lack there of) helped with that half full view again- no matter the size of the glass!

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  10. I couldn't agree more with your sentiment. I have seen for myself how much better I feel when I am able to focus on the positive, and roll with the punches when the inevitable disappointments come along. I also believe that by surrounding yourself with others who also view the world in this way, you will exponentially add to your happiness and positive attitude. Being around those who are constantly complaining and always negative can take its toll.

    I, too, have not yet really been tested. It’s interesting to contemplate how our half full glass changes over the years. I hope I continue to be able to adjust as I age, and to use your phrase, “get a smaller glass” when needed.

    I love these kinds of discussions. I think that your posts go a long way to raising the consciousness level of your readers. Insight frequently brings about change for the positive.

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    1. I have had a few medical issues pop up ever since I got my Medicare card (strange how that happens), with a few more things to be checked out/dealt with over the next few months. I did fight a feeling of "why me" until I remembered how great i have it and nothing so far is even remotely in the serious camp.

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  11. Reminds me of a quote from U.S. Open champion Arthur Ashe who in 1993 died of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion: ""If I were to say, 'God, why me?' about the bad things, then I should have said, 'God, why me?' about the good things that happened in my life."

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    1. So true. We do tend to forget the positives when the negatives make more noise.

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  12. I tend to be a half full glass person in general,but of course, the cycles of life bring the down times too.. that's when our faith ,courage and relationships become so important! Enjoyed this post.My spiritual beliefs support the idea of "cycles" of life.. and getting older brings its own agenda! I Just like our young days of mothering and working had its purpose, this elder time does too.. I say, keep going for adventures, small and large,within your capabilities at any one time.. (For me, an adventure might be finding a new BOOKSTORE! but I also enjoy physical adventures within my ability--shorter hikes than I used to, but I am still out there!) and keep investing in your relationships--they can sustain you through the rough times! I spend time nurturing my family and my friendships--that's our "gold" in life!!

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    1. As you note, Madeline, it is about adjusting to whatever is your new reality but not accepting limits that are set by others or your own lack of willingness to risk more.

      I love finding new, Independent bookstores!

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