serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Archive for November, 2006


Posted by Jim Selman on 11/30/06


A friend was asking me why I’m so keen to change our conversation about aging—to transform the culture of aging from one of decline to one of possibility. One answer is self-interest, insofar as I am growing older and experiencing more and more of the symptoms of a culture that objectifies me and wants me to follow its prescription for “growing old gracefully” (which means ‘slow down’, step aside, play golf, enjoy my grandchildren, be as comfortable as possible and ‘pass the torch’ to the next generation). While there is nothing wrong with this scenario (and on many days it looks inviting), I want to have a choice and not become marginalized because of my age and our culture’s fixation on youth, speed and passing fashion.

I have spent most of my working life helping organizations deal with cultural issues such as ‘us versus them’ office politics, departmental silos that undermine and destroy any possibility of effective teamwork or accountability, and bureaucratic environments that bog down in endless talk without action or without commitment to implement what everyone agrees needs to be done. What I have learned is that cultures are just people living and working inside a story about ‘the way it is’. The culture is always whatever is considered ‘reasonable’ at a certain point in time. It, in turn, affects what people can see as possible and what actions they can take.

A culture change can only occur when a critical mass of people commit to a ‘new story’ and start living that story every day. What gives power to the status quo and keeps a culture from changing is when people are resisting and fighting against the old story, trying to ‘fix’ or control ‘reality’. When this happens, we ‘get what we resist’, which is why some basic and fundamental changes seem so difficult to bring about. It is more accurate to say we need to create the culture we want and then conventional wisdom and ‘reasonable choices’ give way to new possibilities and actions.

The biggest obstacle to this kind of change is RESIGNATION. Resignation is the state we fall into when we give up—when we lose touch with the possibility of there being any possibility. Being resigned is buying into a story that none of it really matters, we don’t make a difference, why bother trying, and so forth and so on. It isn’t a particularly negative state: it’s more like a ‘deadening’ of our creative sensibilities, curiosity and capacity to engage in productive and creative ‘what if’ conversations. Resignation is not acceptance—acceptance is a choice. No, it is by definition taking on a point of view of ‘I have no choice’, which renders us powerless and victims of our circumstances (including our age).

My real reason for taking on this project to transform the culture of aging is that I observe that, sooner or later, most people become resigned as they grow older. This is unnecessary and unfortunate at the individual level. It’s when a population with the demographic muscle of the Baby Boom becomes resigned in very large numbers that the whole society is impacted in a profoundly negative way. All possibility is sucked out of the system for everyone—young and old. For this reason, I am challenging all of us to keep CREATING POSSIBILITY—regardless of what our cultural stories tell us—and to have the last day of our lives have as much (or more) possibility than the first.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.


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Posted by Dr. Anne Marie Evers on 11/29/06

During my business lifetime, I have hade many careers—everything from school secretary, waitress and restaurant owner to author, legal secretary and promotion director. I was also a realtor, both in Canada and the United States. When I retired from the real estate profession after more than 20 years, butterflies started flying around in my stomach. Instead of giving in to my fears, I said, “Stop. Listen up, self. I have worked all my life. I’m entitled to some relaxation and enjoyment. I give myself permission to do whatever I choose.”

Since my retirement from real estate, I have been very busy doing what I love to do—writing my Affirmation books, monthly newsletters and columns, counselling, teaching seminars, and conducting workshops on the power of Affirmations. I have also completed my ministerial studies. I make numerous guest appearances on radio and television shows. I thoroughly enjoy visiting, writing, meditating, walking, playing, laughing, reading, and travelling. I can also take advantage of doing absolutely nothing and having fun!

“We are not what we do. If we are what we do, when we don’t, we aren’t.”
—Wayne Dyer

Sometimes we identify with what we do. Being too attached to that identity can make it difficult for us to find another purpose later in life. If I had seen myself as a realtor when I retired, I would have lost that identity when I retired or if I had not been able to do my job for any reason. I think it’s better to say, “I am Anne Marie and I am in the real estate profession.” This way, I am identifying with myself as a person, not a realtor.

When I retired, I chose to share all the ideas, experiences, business and marketing plans and expertise with anyone who chooses to use it to benefit or further their business, career, life and growing process. I know that when good, positive, constructive ideas are lovingly released into the Universe, anyone may tap into that information and benefit accordingly.

So now I am choosing to be Anne Marie—mother, author, lecturer, teacher and friend.

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Labels and Gender

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/28/06

Most of the attempts to categorize people who are older (“temporally challenged”, seniors, golden oldies and so forth) are usually attempts to find a label to make a state or condition that most people relate to as ‘negative’ seem nicer. Ronni Bennett has some interesting thoughts about language and how our labels often reveal a lot about how we observe and relate to others and the world in general. I agree with her that most of it is nonsense, and I like the term Elder.

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No More Bad Days

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/27/06

I was watching a Larry King interview the other night in which he was speaking with a bunch of positive-thinking gurus about their beliefs and theories. One of the questions he asked was, “Do you have any bad days”? Most of them said they don’t have bad days, and a couple said that they still have ‘bumps’ in the road but recover quickly. I got to thinking about my own life and concluded that I too can claim that I don’t have bad days, although some are more challenging than others.

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Age Discrimination

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/24/06

Age discrimination is probably one of the last forms of negative stereotyping left—perhaps even the subtlest. It wasn’t so long ago that color, sexual orientation and gender were in the spotlight. Now, as 70 million of us are becoming the dominant demographic force in the world, we can begin to see our culture’s bias toward age appearing as overt forms of discrimination.

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Posted by Jim Selman on 11/23/06

Thanksgiving with family is a tradition I love a lot. It’s not the turkey and dressing so much as the chance to take a moment and be grateful for all that we have. I have grown over the years in how I think about gratitude—originally I thought it was about taking an inventory of ‘things’ I have to be grateful for, like listing “Thank you’s” when saying Grace. Later I came to think of gratitude as more of a ‘selfless’ expression of appreciation of good things in the world. At one point, I began to see that gratitude has more to do with my relationship to life and the world than any particular circumstance or event. “I am grateful” has become more of a declaration of who I am and an acknowledgement that I don’t have a whole lot of control over much.

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The Mirror of Old

Posted by Shae Hadden on 11/22/06

I’m fascinated by how people affix meaning to language, and the limitless interpretations they draw from words. ‘Old’, for example, triggers different responses among my friends. And their interpretations show me how they feel about growing older. It’s not always a happy image…

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Victory over OJ Day

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/21/06

Today they announced that the OJ confession book won’t be published and he won’t get the limelight on Fox Television. This is a great example of the kind of change that can come about when enough people ‘take on’ the system or the culture and take a stand. It is to Rupert Murdoch’s credit that he was listening.

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An Elder’s View

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/20/06

An essay was recently sent to me about the current quagmire in Iraq that drew parallels between the current conflict and WWII. I am 100% in agreement with the author’s conclusion that America and our people fought a righteous war against Hitler and the Japanese. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for the sacrifices and duty of my parents and their generation. I agree with the author’s idea that the Islamic fundamentalist Jihadists are committed to a campaign of world domination and that their tactics leave little to the imagination in terms of their willingness to destroy Western Civilization at any cost. I also agree that, somehow, it is essential that our leaders do whatever they must to protect our people and to the extent possible, our way of life.

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One Day at a Time

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/17/06

As long as I can remember, people have been teaching me to relax, enjoy the moment, smell the roses and just take it easy—to live life one day at a time. This wisdom is at the center of Alcoholic Anonymous’ prescription for living a sober and sane life. I wonder why it is so difficult—even rare—to live in the moment and why I find it easier to do so as I grow older?

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