September 21, 2017

14 Day Challenge: Examine Your Preconceptions

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?

How we want to be remembered

While I was working, I liked the ego satisfaction of seeing my name and picture in one of my industry trade publications. I loved being quoted or interviewed. I felt good when someone approached me about retaining my services. I figured I would be remembered as an influential person in my career field. Well, no big surprise, within a year or so I was forgotten. The industry had moved on and others had become the hot new topics. Old clients remembered my name and occasionally made contact, but even that stopped within 2 years of retirement. Thirty five years of work had vanished.

Now, that "success" is the farthest thing from my mind. I don't want to be remembered for my radio shows or the music formats I developed. I have no interest in being remembered for any of those things. That chapter of my life is over and the book has been closed. What I had perceived as the essential Bob Lowry turned out to be temporary and fleeting. 

So, what are my measure of success? Is the word, success, even a good fit for what I want to accomplish?

What about you? Give yourself some time to think about these preconceptions. Feel free to comment on where you are at the moment. Make a public declaration of your preconceptions as of today in one or more of these areas. 

Then, look for a follow up post in a few weeks so we can discuss our changes, if any!

This could be an interesting experiment.


  1. I don't mind aging if I'm relatively healthy, which I am so far at 70. I am a widow and while there is grief, longing and missing, there is also freedom of being able to do what and when to our own desires.

    The dying bothers me but not being actually dead. I fear more than anything in life being stuck in a nursing home wanting to die and not having that right. I do not believe in an afterlife.

    I am appalled at how easily people judge and dislike others who are different than them. I think this is the single most dangerous thing that can end humanity and for some reason it seems to be increasing.

    Success for me was to have an enjoyable life with family and friends, a good husband, and other simple hobbies and interests that make our life meaningful. Keeping it simply is something I feel we value more as we age. Younger people create an awful lot of stress in their lives, much of it self imposed.

    I have no children, but several good friends and I keep socially active. I have no strained relationships that need mending, thankfully. I would want to be remembered as a nice kind person.

    1. Thanks, Mary for your comment. I ask that you continue to ponder some of these issues over the next few weeks. When I have a follow up post, which will include my thoughts, please feel free to modify, add, or subtract something you have noted today.

      From what you have written I'd say your various interpretations of these important topics are logical and mature. But, you may think of a modification here or there. If you think of a solution to the problem of human hatred toward others, please speak up immediately!

  2. Morgan Spurlock had an interesting show years ago where he'd send someone to live for a month with people who had differing values. An example was a devout Christian who lived with a Muslim family and a hunter lived with vegans. I found it fascinating and while the experience didn't necessarily change anyone's beliefs, they had a new respect for others' views.


    1. That is quite a concept. Simply showing respect for someone not like us would solve so many problems. Mr. Spurlock has produced some very interesting films.

      I am beginning to give thought to my reaction the the areas listed above for the follow up post. I must say this is one area that remains a struggle for me. Try as I might, I have preconceptions that cause me to too often react in a way that disappoints me.

  3. I recently watched an interesting TED Talk by Ashton Applewhite on the topic of preconceptions about aging. It was titled "Let's end ageism" and her main point was that many of the characteristics that we associate with aging are myths. She suggests that often ageing is feared and the process is made more difficult because it is (unfortunately) still socially acceptable to express negative attitudes (prejudices) toward ageing and older people. It is a short talk worth watching.


    1. Excellent, Jude. Right on target for this topic.


Inappropriate comments will be deleted