November 29, 2019

Restating the Obvious, or Eat Your Vegetables Advice


Some blogs, web sites, newspapers and magazines love to hand out rather simplistic advice, delivered in bite-site portions: The top 7 ways to prepare for retirement, 10 ways to live a healthier life, 8 steps to declutter your home.

I call this "eat your vegetables" advice. It is common knowledge, it is obvious, and it is virtually useless. Not because top 10 lists are inherently bad or flawed. But, because most of these approaches assume that a "one-size-fits-all  actually works. I suggest it doesn't.

There is nothing more unique than your life. A list of possible solutions to your problems or opportunities can't hurt.  Over the 9 plus years of this blog I have offered my fair share. They might remind you of something you have neglected for too long. One of them could prompt you to action. But, there is no way anyone telling you the best 10 ways to do anything can really solve your problems. Life issues aren't that easy to fix. They certainly won't be resolved by scanning a list.

So, what do you do? Clearly I am not about to list 10 steps you should take to solve your problems. Rather, as we approach a new year, I am suggesting you do some heavy lifting and develop your own approach to what needs attending to. It may be finding a new passion or something that interests you, fixing or strengthening a relationship, deciding how you are going to simplify your life, or figuring out how you are going to solve the financial bind you find yourself in.

Some of us do better with learning more about a subject before we move forward. Taking a community college course or two may be all you need to feel comfortable enough to better manage your money. The library has books, audio, and video resources on virtually every subject. The Internet has almost too much information to choose from.

Maybe your personality thrives in a mentoring type arrangement. You find a friend or the friend of a friend who knows what you need to know. Develop a relationship where you get what you need (information), and the other person gets what he or she needs (feeling needed).

I know people who find answers through solitude. Turning off the cell phone and computer, staying at home or finding a place to go for a day or more allows the brain to mull over the issue at hand. The freedom from distractions and everyday responsibilities can be tremendously energizing. Try it. You may find yourself with new ideas. Or, you may simply find yourself relaxed and refreshed with no specific solutions to a problem at that time. Both outcomes are positives.

You may be the type that needs hard physical work to allow your creative side to be released. By doing a manual task that requires little active thinking, your mind is free to explore solutions. As a side benefit you finish something on your to-do list.

What works best for me is is usually learning more about a subject or quiet time to think about what I have discovered. I do tend to over-study a problem before moving forward...I'm working on that. Sometimes I will see an article in the paper or a phrase from a book that will grab my attention and give me an idea that I kick around for awhile. Then, I decide if it is worth pursing.

The point of all this is simple: a list that suggests it can help you have a happier, more fulfilling life by checking the items off like a grocery list is not going to work. Life's problems and needs can't be reduced to such an easy format. Put in the effort to discover the approach that works best for you and develop your own action list.

Oh, and eat your vegetables. They are good for you. That advice is true.


12 comments:

  1. Interesting post, Bob. Since I spent so long putting my memoir together and then getting it published I felt a bit guilty about ignoring my art. Creating art is my favorite thing in all the world. But, the memoir was something I'd buried for more than half my life and it needed to be let go. I do appreciate your contribution to the finished product, more than you know.
    So, my goal for 2020 is to get back to the gift God gave me and, enjoy doing it.
    OH, and I love vegetables! Here's to 2020 my friend! b
    My son has reminded me many times over the past couple of years about my promise to paint their dog, Teddy, who's getting on in years. I've done many pet portraits over the years and they are all enjoyable to do. Each animal has their own personality.

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    1. I encourage you in your move back into art. I have bought some of your lovely gift cards over the years; you have real talent.

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  2. Hi Bob! I so agree that creating a happier, or more meaningful or more healthy life can't be done in 5 or 10 easy steps. Still, the way my mind works I do like to make lists and uncover basic ideas that work for me--and then share them with others. The challenge of course is reminding myself and everyone else that it still takes effort and discipline to accomplish anything that is important. And that's not a very popular idea in our culture these days. But like the advice to "eat our vegetables" it still is important to say what needs to be said even if it is just a tiny seed planted in a fertile mind. ~Kathy

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    1. I am a serious list-maker, too. Mine are constantly changing, being crossed off and updated as things change. There is nothing wrong with a top 10, as long as we recognize those items are 1) changeable and 2) not all inclusive!

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  3. Hello Bob, New Orleans author Walker Percy said something once that resonated with me: "All one really needs to put ones life in order is a good pad of paper and a pencil." ~Ed

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    1. I like that. Notice he said pencil, not pen. Which one has an eraser?

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  4. I use "top ten lists" as a check list to make sure that I'm not missing out on something. If I find something I might take a deeper dive into that area if appropriate. They also serve as a reminder that I might need to do more work in a particular area. Call it increased awareness.

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    1. A list can be a prod to action or uncover something overlooked...absolutely. All of us should take input from wherever it is offered. What we decide to act on is the key.

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  5. That was a blog post with a twist! People are so attracted to lists and steps -- the lure of a tried and true formula. But you are right -- we all come to our "answers" in our own way. I have come to rely on quiet listening within, but it took me a long time to trust that. Before, I needed to have the validation of an "expert" set of instructions. Now, although I still love all those books full of wisdom, it doesn't motivate me unless it resonates deep within.

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    1. I have been reading a wall full of books on spirituality, perennial wisdom, and religion this year. Several thought they had the answers to the biggest questions of life. Actually, they just prompted me to think more deeply and to keep searching.

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  6. Thanks for this perspective. That this is "heavy lifting" really hits home for me. I too always research and study on upcoming projects usually until I'm "overthought." I've read lots of books/articles/blogs/attended classes but I don't feel like I'm getting the heavy lifting done. It seems like it should be much more freeing to be retired. I've "graduated" from a local "retirement transitions" group - which I did find helpful - because I've been retired 2.5 years, and I can see I'm further along than the "newbies" in that group. But next steps are in fog. I don't know of an Advanced Beginner Retirement Group! I seem to be following advice from the movie Frozen II : "take the next right step", (even if you don't know or are afraid where it will lead.)

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    1. Or, from Frozen 1, "Let It Go." Sometimes a workable approach is "Ready, fire, aim." Retirement is all about constant course corrections, so the best bet maybe just to start the journey ("Take the next right step"). You will learn and correct along the way.

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