Welcome to this third module, focusing on how to ensure that you have and maintain a positive mental attitude in relation to your active retirement

 

 

Specifically, we will be looking at the four essential elements of a positive mental attitude, namely: healthy wellbeing; feeling motivated; being resilient; and having courage

Tackle the module in bite size chunks, don’t feel that you have to do everything in one go

To gain the most benefit from the information provided, it is important that you read and digest each section before moving on

The module includes helpful ‘Activities’ for you to complete, it is strongly recommended that you undertake them to get the most out of the content and the key learning points

Allow plenty of time to reflect on, internalise and apply the key messages and suggestions

Share your thoughts and feelings with the people you trust and respect to help you and don’t bottle things up

This module will enable you to

  • Appreciate the relevance, importance and value of having a positive mental attitude

  • Recognise and understand the four key attributes of a positive mental attitude

  • Wellbeing – ensuring physical, emotional, social, societal and activity healthiness

  • Motivation – being internally driven to want to take action and make things happen

  • Resilience – being able to bounce back from any and all adversities over time

  • Courage – not to let any concerns or fears stop you from achieving your goals

  • Providing practical, easy to use tools to maintain and enhance positive mental attitude ​

As we have already seen in previous modules, retirement is a significant time of change and transition, involving adjusting to new circumstances and challenges 

Having and maintaining a positive mental attitude will help enormously with ensuring that you enjoy your retirement, whatever it may look like and consist of

A positive mental attitude is about having or developing four key behaviour attributes that are crucially important to being content and happy as illustrated below

Lets spend some time looking at each these four attributes to understand how they can be of value in the context of your active retirement and also how to maintain and enhance them

The five main types of wellbeing are

  • Physical wellbeing – improving body function via healthy eating and exercise habits

  • Emotional wellbeing – feeling good via a sense of balance and by minimising stress 

  • Social wellbeing – developing meaningful relationships and communication with others

  • Societal well being – enjoying participating in your community, culture and environment

  • Work wellbeing – gaining meaningful value from any paid or unpaid responsibilities

Wellbeing is crucial to enjoying, valuing and getting the most from your retirement

There are seven proven, pragmatic techniques to manage and enhance your wellbeing

Surroundings

It is highly likely that when you retire, you will be spending more time at home

So, to support your wellbeing at home

  • Spot your triggers – recognise what makes you feel negative and avoid or manage them

  • Make time for yourself – selfishness is OK, be as generous with yourself as with others

  • Be kind to yourself – provided tasks are completed OK, don’t give yourself a hard time

  • Celebrate successes – like any good manager, praise your own good work and effort

If you have a partner, and they're already retired, they may also be at home quite a bit too

If this is the case, then

  • All of the above points apply just as well to your partner as they do to yourself 

  • Be aware that, from their perspective, it may feel like you're encroaching on their space

  • See retirement as a shared learning experience and a joint journey of discovery

Your active retirement plans may include seeking unpaid or paid work or responsibilities

Should you so wish to do so, then

  • Compartmentalise – keep work (unpaid or paid) and leisure time and activities distinct and clearly separated

  • If you are going to be seeking paid work because you need to financially, use all of the techniques in this module to sure you are engaged and positive 

  • If you don't have to, but want to carry on with some (paid or unpaid) work, make sure you are aware of why you are doing it and how you will enjoy the experience

Connecting

Feeling close to others and being valued by them is a paramount relationship need

Feeling a sense of belonging, being there for others and them being there for you is key

Practical ways of making connections include

  • When appropriate, talk to someone rather than send an email or speak to someone new

  • Seek to genuinely empathise and build rapport with people you know and new people

  • Engage with the people around you including family, friends, neighbours, clubs, etc

  • Listening and being interested in people, whether it’s done remotely or face to face

Being Active

Regular physical exercise tangibly lowers anxiety, stress and feelings of depression

Being active improves mood and mental health, as well as generating a sense of positivity

Exercise contributes to avoiding or slowing down age related memory or cognitive decline

Go for a walk, jog or run, or regular gardening, or perhaps take up a suitable sport or game

Break up periods of sitting with short walks or doing some quick and easy stretch exercises

Taking Notice

Awareness of what is going on around you and being ‘in the present’ improves wellbeing

Research has shown that it can enhance and reaffirm your motivation, drivers and priorities

Greater self-awareness of your environment and yourself supports making positive choices

Take notice of how others are acting or feeling and respond positively and appropriately

Live more in the present by

  • Using your senses to appreciate what is going on around you

  • Tapping into your thoughts and feelings now, not in the past or the future

  • Connecting with the world around you, appreciating and savoring the moment

  • Being ‘in the moment’ by noticing and appreciating change e.g. the seasons

  • Enjoy the present moment and the world generally in your thoughts and feelings

  • Being mindful, thoughtful and having an awareness of your environment and needs

Keep Learning

Continuing to learn enhances self-esteem, self-awareness and self-confidence

Learning encourages a more active mind and an interest in life and the external world

Learning also generates social interaction and the setting of positive personal goals

Learning isn't just about education, it’s also includes embracing new experiences and skills

Being curious and seeking out new positive experiences is proven to stimulates the brain

It’s about being open to new ideas and being willing to keep acquiring knowledge

Continuous learning enhances our ability to respond to change and to flexibly adapt

Set new goals, take up something new or rediscover a previous interest or hobby

Giving

Research shows that people who help others are more likely to judge themselves as happy

Undertaking acts of kindness, however small, increase life satisfaction and contentment

Do something nice or kind for somebody you know, or volunteer your time for a good cause

Develop a spirit of generosity and altruism, doing things purely for the ‘common good’

Our sense of purpose and self-worth rises when we do deeds of kindness and generosity

Complete the activity below to help you to maintain and build your wellbeing in relation to the first six techniques we've just looked at

Nobody or nothing else on the planet can make you internally motivated, only you can do it

To become happily and successfully retired you have to want to make it work for you

Specifically, being internally motivated is key to being retired because it means that you

  • Want to do it for 'you and yours', not for anybody or anything else

  • Will be driven 'from within' rather than by any external factors or forces

  • Will have lots of self generated energy and enthusiasm to make thing happen

  • Are emotionally committed and making your retirement a happy experience

Motivators   

  • Underpin our actions, they are sometimes called our 'critical needs’

  • Often reflect and influence important decisions we make

  • Are closely linked to feelings of personal satisfaction and enjoyment

  • Offer solid criteria for making life styles and personal decisions

  • Can be quite difficult to pin down as they are so ingrained in us

  • Tend to just ‘be there’ and not in our conscious awareness

Below is a list of some of the most frequent internal motivators

The list doesn't contain all of them by any means, there are lots more!

Having identified your six most important motivators and how important they are to enjoying your retirement, we now need to look at your motivation levels

 

 

During your retirement, your level of motivation will, inevitably, vary – sometimes you will feel highly motivated, at other times you may feel quite demotivated or deflated

 

 

The diagram below provides an excellent visual representation of how your motivation level over time can rise and fall and why it may be so

Motivation builders

These are the factors that that help to increase specific motivators and also enhance your overall level of motivation during your retirement

 

 

For each of us, our motivation builders are different, they might include, for example

 

 

  • Physical activity – walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, sports etc

  • Personal interests – hobbies, charity work, music, DIY, gardening, cooking etc

  • Relationships – family, friends, community, personal networks, social media etc

  • Mindfulness – meditation, yoga, qigong, tai chi, reading, faith, belief, spirituality etc

Motivation drainers

 

 

These are the factors that may dampen down one or more of your motivators and, as a result, reduce your overall level of motivation during your retirement

The combination of motivation drainers are different for each of us, they might include, for example:

  • Outcome failures – not achieving what you set out to do, or missing out on opportunities

  • Circumstances – financial pressures, relationship difficulties, physical/mental health etc

  • Negative thinking – self limiting beliefs, lack of confidence, self doubt etc

  • Personality traits – feeling stressed, a lack of a sense of control, nervousness etc

Being able to recover and learn from 'knock backs' is a useful retirement attribute 

Some things you want to achieve or bring to fruition during your retirement may

  • Not initially happen exactly the way you want them to 

  • Take several attempts before you get you to where you want to be

  • Involve some failures and require some persistence before you succeed

Resilience has variously been defined as our

  • Ability to bounce back from difficulties

  • Recovery powers from negative experiences

  • Attitude of mind to be both realistic and positive

  • Capacity to adapt and respond to challenging events

  • Aptitude to manage significant pressure without stress

  • 'Triumphing in the face of adversity'

Resilience is helpful when retired because you

  • Inevitably, will face difficulties, some things will go wrong as well as right

  • Will not have fellow employees or an employer to help you through the rough times

  • Will learn a lot from your mistakes, provided you are open to learning and keep going

During adversity we focus on external reasons and external solutions

The adversity is a fact, but we can change how we respond to it

Building resilience involves looking within to changes our thinking responses and actions

 

Specifically, resilience is about

 

  • Learning

  • Treating every adversity as a learning experience

  • Realising ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us grow stronger'

  • Feeling

  • Being able to emotionally 'bounce back' undamaged

  • Maintaining or enhancing self-awareness and self-esteem

  • Thinking

  • Have 'high frustration tolerance' – not being easily wound up

  • Being open, flexible and pragmatic – a good problem solver

Some of the common attributes associated with resilient people include being able to

  • Welcome change willingly, flexibly and openly

  • Be determined and persistent to make things happen 

  • Learn and grow from failure, not fearing it

  • 'Cut their losses' and move on positively

  • React with pragmatism and realism

  • Realise the battles they can and can’t win

  • Maintain strong self-esteem and self-confidence

  • ‘Reinvent' themselves in changing circumstances

The ABC technique is an established model to build your resilience

 

  • A = Adversity – the negative challenge or problem you are facing

  • B = Belief – the tape in your mind that determines your reaction

  • C = Consequence – the result or outcome of your reaction

You can’t do anything about 'A' – the Adversity – it has already happened

But you can do something about 'B' – your Belief – you can choose to change it

Changing 'B' enables 'C' to change – the Consequence – with a new potential outcome

The principle can be usefully illustrated by the following diagram

The original belief has resulted in the original consequence that happened

However, by changing the original belief next time, you enable a different consequence

Consider the following scenario

 

  • Adversity – after an interview, you receive a rejection email for a local part time job

  • Belief – you believe you embarrassed yourself and won’t seek feedback

  • Consequence – you fail to learn and repeat the same mistake at future interviews

Now consider the following alternative scenario

  • Adversity – after an interview, you receive a rejection email for a local part time job

  • Belief – your new belief is 'this is a learning opportunity' and you seek feedback

  • Consequence – you learn key info that significantly improves your interview responses

Retiring is a new experience and, with any new experience, a certain level of nervousness, trepidation and fear are quite normal and understandable

One dictionary definition of courage is 'the ability to do something that frightens one’

Another definition is ‘the ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation’

A third one is ‘to do something difficult or dangerous, even though you may be afraid’

So courage isn’t about not being afraid but, rather, the ability to manage your fears

In particular, retirement courage is about the ability to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’

The most common fears around being retired (but there are lots more) include

Fear of rejection

Fear of ridicule

Fear of change

Fear of losing ……

Fear of uncertainty

Fear of looking undignified

Fear of reduced self-respect

Fear of being demotivated

Fear of making mistakes

Fear of embarrassment

Fear of blame

Fear of failure

Being courageous often involves being open, non-defensive and prepared to fail

e.g. many successful entrepreneurs tell stories of their failures before becoming rich

Our fears can be very powerful and influential in what we do, say and think

Courageously overcoming our fear(s) can be incredibly empowering and liberating

Let's look at why it is so difficult to overcome our fears and what can we do about them

When we feel fearful, our brain tells our body to produce adrenaline

 

It is a perfectly natural, normal and safe auto reaction that you can’t stop

It is your brain’s primeval way of preparing your body for ‘fight, flight of freeze’

Although you can’t stop it, you can manage and harness your response to it

In retirement terms, you need to ‘fight’ for what you want to do, not take ‘flight’ or 'freeze'

Successful retirement involves feeling the fear and still achieving your retirement goals

Our response to a fear related adrenaline rush can be managed via two dimensions

Namely, our response to fear consists of our feeling response and our thinking response

Our feeling response to fear or an adversity or challenge can be either positive or negative

Similarly, our thinking response to the same adversity can be either positive or negative

 

 

Our positive or negative feeling and thinking responses drive our subsequent behaviour

Let's have a look at a graphical representation to better understand our fear responses

AMBIVALENT

ENTHUSIAST

TRAPPED

CAPTIVE

KEEN

ACHIEVER

ANXIOUS

DOER

Emotionally, you can feel ready to face the fear, but your negative thinking can make you unsure and hesitant to do anything about it

This model will help you to identify and manage your feeling and thinking responses

The fear can make you both feel and think negatively with seemingly no way out, with your decision making frozen - like a nocturnal rabbit caught in bright car headlights

Because you are positively managing and harnessing your fear at both levels, your courage enables you to make things happen and enjoy doing them

You know it is the right thing to do, so you do it, but you may feel stressed and nervous while doing it

Lets look more closely at our feeling and thinking responses and how we can manage them

The adrenaline fear generates makes you feel anxious and uneasy or perhaps worried

 

 

Naturally, your brain attributes the sensation to the fear that generated it

 

 

However, the same adrenaline is generated when you are excited or enthusiastic

 

 

Bungee jumping generates adrenaline, sometimes even just the thought of doing it!

 

 

Some view bungee jumping as exciting, others see it as a fearful activity to be avoided

 

 

It's simply a matter of how your brain works and how you interpret the adrenaline rush

 

 

So you need to retrain yourself to attribute the feeling adrenaline gives you differently

 

 

In essence, you need to change your attribution, something like this for example

Original attribution

The adrenaline is making me feel fearful or anxious

New attribution

The adrenaline is making me feel excited and enthusiastic

When you experience an adversity or something you fear

 

  • Your thinking response is driven by one underlying thought  – ‘I can’t handle it’

 

  • If your driving thought was ‘I can handle it’, then you wouldn’t think it was fearful

Either way, the thought is rooted in your level of belief or trust in your own abilities

Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, famously summed it up

  • ‘Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you're probably right’

So the solution to thinking less fearfully is in having more belief and trust in your abilities 

It is about truly believing that you are ‘good enough’ to deal with the adversity or fear

That is a very easy thing to say, but much more challenging to actually make happen

Below are a couple of techniques to help you to build your belief in your ability to cope

Use either or both, whatever works best for you and for the adversity or fear you’re facing

Technique 1 – keep repeating one of the mantras below or another of your choice

  • ‘I know I can do this’

  • ‘Doing it will get rid of the fear’

  • ‘I will feel better about myself if I do it’

  • ‘Doing it is less scary than living with the fear’

  • ‘If I do it I will be in control of my fear and situation’

  • ‘I can handle this’

Technique 2 – redefining how you measure success and failure by truly accepting that

  • ‘I’m not a failure if it didn’t work, I’m a success for trying’

  • ‘Failing is just part of my journey to get to where I want to be’

  • ‘Failing is painful, but I can handle it to achieve my goals’

This module has

  • Enabled you to understand and appreciate the value of a positive mental attitude 

  • Shown how to maintain and improve your

  • Wellbeing – feeling good and being healthy

  • Motivation – feeling 'up for it' and energised

  • Resilience – bouncing back from negativity

  • Courage – feeling the fear and doing it anyway

  • Provided you with key tools and techniques to improve your retirement readiness

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