You Might Not Hear It Coming

March 19th, 2014

You might not hear it coming today. But one day, it will. That sudden, stupendous, probably surprising, maybe overwhelming event that will pick you up, smash you down, and send you on a new path. That’s how avalanches work.

They start out as innocent and maybe even inconsequential snow falls. Small dustings, hardly worth notice. Tomorrow or the day after, another layer is added. Maybe there was a slight thaw in between so that a crust is formed.

And so it goes. Layer after layer. Week after week. The pile grows. More snow. More crust. More days. The layers compress. The mass grows thicker. Can you see it in your mind? It is kind of merciless in its continued growth. Layer after layer builds up a sort of surreal suspended bridge that can hang out over thin air or span across a chasm. It can be beautiful. It might be worth seeing, but it usually seems to be too far away to make a difference.

Sadly, the apparent distance means we can dismiss the significance of the minute changes. We didn’t see the pile when it was small. It looked much the same as always when we looked last year. Until one day, the layers are no longer surreal. They are instead very consequential.

Then they can come crashing down.

I work with the nearly or newly retired who are struggling to fill the hole where work used to be, discover a wonder-filled sense of purpose, replace the friends they left behind, and keep up! I’m writing this to introduce you to my book Retire to a Better You: How to Be Able for the Rest of Your Life. I’m going to focus on the single most difficult challenge you face to become a better you: Motivation.

Motivation comes in two flavors:

  • How to get started
  • How to keep going

The how-to get-started kind of motivation is better known as the wake-up call. I liken it to an avalanche. Layer upon layer we build the pile… For me it went like this:

Over the years my wife grew more concerned about my health
As my daughter grew up, her care became evident
My own body felt the effects of my misuse: I had bypass surgery

At age 49. And now you’re saying, “That bypass probably did it. That’s when the avalanche hit.” No. It didn’t. After a time I became every bit as irregular working out as before. So back to the avalanche…

You see how this works. Concern added to care added to warning… The layers build up. Time passes. Then you’re in deep trouble!

You on the other hand don’t have to wait. There is a well-known and often used strategy to kick off avalanches before they become a problem. You blow them up. That’s right. You take a cannon up the side of a hill and you shoot it. The noise does the rest.

The cannon you can use is called “paying attention.” What has been happening in your life? Start a list:

  • Are there things you don’t do today you used to enjoy? Softball? Frisbee? Marathons?
  • When did the image in the mirror start moving away from what you hoped for? Why?
  • What does your spouse want you to do that you’ve passed over because (secretly) you’re afraid you cannot do it?
  • When did the couch become more appealing than doing something?
  • Have you always eaten what you now do?

My advice? Shoot those puppies off the mountain. Don’t wait for the avalanche to come crashing down.

You say your list is not so big. Get your family and friends to help. Ask them what they miss doing that you used to do together. Find out what they’d like to do but are afraid to ask you about. After all, you may have said “No” so often, they shy away from inviting you.

Getting fit and healthier sounds easy, right? It took you ten minutes to read this; so what’s the problem? Well, it took me a long time because I didn’t have a clue where to begin or how to proceed. You have an advantage. You can read what I’ve done and learn from what I’ve learned.

Am I a muscled, six-pack ab kind of guy? No. But I do exercise six days a week. I’m no longer obese. I still have goals I’d like to achieve to be more able. But I have started. The big surprise for me is that I enjoy it. Exercise has turned my life around. Join me. Get a head start by reading my book: Retire to a Better You.

How is your retirement going? Are you still building an avalanche? Or are you ready to shoot it down?

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