Posted by: jowanderer | January 10, 2008

Your life manifesto

January 9, 2008

Your life manifesto

To be happy and successful in all stages of your life you need to plan, says our life coach and counsellor

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Age Defiance

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I have worked as a counsellor and life coach for 25 years with a wide range of clients. When things in life get tough it can often help to take time to stop, reassess and clarify the situation. By adopting a positive and optimistic approach we can harness a strong sense of self-belief, which helps us to build the inner strength that we all need.

Anyone who lets the surprising nature of life work for them rather than against them is on to a winner. The capacity to make the most of life lies entirely in our attitude. If we are upbeat and expect the best, we are inclined to attract positive opportunities.

Different stages of life bring different challenges, possibilities and interests. Our preoccupations might change as we grow older but some of the underlying issues remain the same. We all need to watch that we don’t slip into negativity and cynicism when change comes along. Here, I hope to highlight both the perennial and specific life challenges that you might face each decade, and give some pointers as to how to deal with them. Fast Track to Happiness by Lynda Field, £8.99, Vermilion Age

Age 16-25

Key issues This is an intense period of great transition. There is inevitable peer pressure to contend with, alongside the struggle to gain your independence and break away from the family (emotionally, physically and, eventually, financially). Many young people experience a crisis of body confidence as they undergo an onslaught of powerful hormones and may face greasy skin (most common in boys) and weight gain (commonly in girls), just at a time when they desire to be attractive to the opposite sex.

Challenges How to: Maintain your self-esteem and the confidence to act independently. Bounce back and not be floored by the many mistakes that you will make along the way.

What to do: Keep the lines of communication open with your parents. This will help you to establish a solid base to launch from. Take a part-time job while still in full-time education and familiarise yourself with the adult world. Try work experience in any area that interests you. Don’t compare yourself with others; this habit only leads to low self-esteem. Just remind yourself that you are a one-off with your own unique qualities. Play team games, this will maintain your endorphin (happiness) levels and help you to build body confidence and good relationships.

Age 26-35

Key issues This is a more stabilising time, with your focus on career development, relationships and possibly marriage. There may be dilemmas concerning who and what to commit to (mortgage, person, profession) and also of course the financial strains involved in settling down. There might also be a sense of loss of youth and personal freedom and this can affect your decision-making powers.

Challenges How to: Trust your own judgment. Make plans without losing your natural capacity for creativity.

What to do: Set down your goals on paper and if they don’t excite you then delete them. Break down long-term goals into smaller steps so that they are more manageable. Make good relationship choices. Be aware of what you are looking for in an intimate relationship and don’t sell yourself short. A good partnership depends upon shared goals. Have fun and keep things fresh by trying something new: snow-boarding, scuba diving, salsa . . .

Age 36-45

Key issues You are likely to be busy spinning the plates of home, work, children, partner, friends, relaxation time, etc. For women this issue might be even more significant with a growing feeling of “what about me?” The burdens of responsibility can add strains to the marriage and most women will become aware of the approach of the menopause. This period is stretching but also rewarding as you see the fruits of your labour emerge. Your family and friendships will bring increasing depth and meaning to your life.

Challenges How to: Manage children/career/community issues and still have time for leisure activities. Keep the spark in your relationship when so much of the time your home life can feel like hard work. Deal with the emotions that come with parenting – love/guilt/responsibility/anxiety.

What to do: Make time work for you by learning how to manage it well. Be utterly realistic about how long tasks will take, get your “to do” lists together and delegate. Schedule relaxation times into your “to do” lists. Give these top priority and build the rest of each day around them. Drop the guilt! This tip is specifically for women. Know that family life brings up a ragbag of emotions and accept this. Keep talking to your partner and share your feelings. Discuss domestic issues and come to joint decisions.

Age 46-55

Key issues A time of transition and change at every level – physically, emotionally and practically. This period requires you to let go of many things that have been important to you. The empty nest takes some getting used to and partners usually experience a change in their relationship when the last child leaves home. And then there’s a growing responsibility for elderly parents. Plus, of course, the menopause for women and a mid-life crisis for men! Relax, you have all the strength you will need to deal with everything.

Challenges How to: Let go of your children yet still be supportive. Deal with loss of family life in your home without feeling redundant. Be there for elderly parents without taking over control of their lives. Face the physical changes of the middle years and accept your age gracefully.

What to do: Adopt a regular fitness regime that you enjoy. It could mean going on regular walks, or you might take up yoga or golf or ballroom dancing. Accept that your changing relationship with your children and your parents will take time to assimilate. Do some voluntary work. When we give our time to others we feel happier and more fulfilled. Fight any feelings of increasing invisibility and lack of confidence by reinventing yourself. Overhaul your wardrobe, adopt a new hairstyle, take regular massages and keep your sex life alive.

Age 56-65

Key issues A phase of profound change, this stage seems to give and take in equal measure. On the one hand you will experience much more free time and on the other you might be grappling with concerns associated with giving up work. Issues such as loss of status and changing self-identity might need addressing. Certainly you will be living life at a new tempo and this could take some getting used to. You are now probably the oldest in the family clan and this brings new and different feelings of responsibility.

Health permitting, this can be a marvellous period to have fun with your grandchildren and to enjoy doing all of those things that you have never been able to find the time for.

Challenges How to: Make a smooth transition from career to retirement. Keep physically and mentally fit. Accept your changing role in society and choose to adopt a positive and enthusiastic approach to the future.

What to do: Prepare for the day you leave work. Try your hand at some new hobbies and you can look forward to developing them when you have more time – pottery, local history, tracing ancestors (you can even go on genealogy holidays) . . . There are so many exciting new projects for you to discover. Keep your mind buzzing and alert. Learn a new language or a musical instrument (great for engaging both sides of the brain), do challenging cross-words or try Su Doku. Treat yourself to a Nintendo DS (very up to the minute) and play the Brain Age game, a fabulous tool to keep you mentally young. Stay up to date with modern technology. This will keep you informed and able to help your grandchildren with their homework. You are both as young as you feel and as young as you act. Keep exercising.

Age 65+

Key issues This is the time to call on all the understanding and knowledge that you have gathered throughout the years. You have faced so much and have learnt how to overcome setbacks and cope with losses, but you also know how to celebrate the beauty of life.

Increasing age brings the ability to become more accepting of self and of others and to develop the wonderful capacity for forgiveness. Naturally you will be contemplating the fact of death and this can lead to an enlightening sense of the bigger picture and a maturing of spiritual awareness. As we look back on life it becomes possible to see how each separate stage leads inevitably to the next and how, in the end, we can only realise our unique and amazing potential by living with awareness and learning from every single one of our experiences.

Challenges How to: Face uncertainty with grace. Leave a positive legacy. Share your many gifts with others. Accept the ageing process.

What to do: Reflect on the changing nature of your thoughts, feelings and behav-iour. What attitudes and approach-es bring light and understanding to you and those around you? Use your wisdom and be glad for all that you can offer to others. If you haven’t joined the U3A (University of the Third Age) then check what your local group is doing. This great organisation can open so many new doors as well as introduce you to new friends. Alternatively, join a library, if you haven’t already done so. Learn to relax and enjoy the moment, there is so much to appreciate, as you know. Keep up with your friendships; these are as valuable as gold dust.

Soul-searching Helen Brill, 32 Susan King, intuitive counsellor; £150 (for one hour). 020-7637 1478 or I wanted answers – do I stay with him or do I go? Is this the year I buy a flat? Will it all be OK in the end? Susan looks into a person’s past and future and offers guidance and reassurance. After describing my boyfriend with frightening accuracy, she reassured me that I would soon gain the clarity I needed to make a decision. After meeting Susan, I knew it would all be OK.

Start a business Clare Mann, 44, lives in Surrey

Starting a new business has given me a much-needed lease of life. In the past year I have divorced, moved house and found a boyfriend, at the same time as trying to juggle my life around that of my 7-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. I have definitely felt pulled in all directions, and I have felt very guilty that I have not given enough attention either to my children, or to my new boyfriend.

A nurse by training, I worked for a pharmaceutical company but gave up work to look after my kids. But over the years I have become more and more interested in fashion, and so I decided to set up my own image consultancy, called Blazer, about six months ago. I found it hard to think of something that would fit around work and children and find the right balance, and crucially, to make it all work financially. Childcare is so expensive that you can often end up earning nothing.

The whole thing makes me feel useful once again, because I was starting to feel useless, and I am really excited about earning my own money, and achieving something for myself. The thought of having my own business also makes me feel much more confident, and more forthright about what I want.

Books and music Henry McKenzie Johnston, 86, lives in London London Library: 020-7930 7705

I joined the London Library 25 years ago, aged 61. I had never belonged to a library before but, after a career in the diplomatic service, I decided that writing a book would keep my mind active when I retired. So I joined the London Library to carry out my research, as well as for personal pleasure.

My wife, to whom I have been married for 59 years, is also an avid reader and belongs to the local public library, and between us we house 45 metres of books. Reading and listening to music are two of the greatest pleasures of old age, and for once you have the time to enjoy both properly. My wife gets through up to five books a week; I read fewer, because I tend to go for very long historical biographies that take longer, and I read for at least an hour a day before bed, and more if I can.


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