serene ambition™

transforming the culture of aging

Archive for the ‘Personal Empowerment’ Category

Being a grandparent

Posted by Vincent on 01/10/07

When I was a little kid, my picture of “grandpop” was of a little old guy with spectacles, stooped posture, a little paunch, a distinctive limp and false teeth. My grandfather often brought a smile and a wink with him, but he wasn’t particularly able to relate to me. I recall we sometimes played checkers or cards; however, I don’t remember doing anything special with him. We never went off exploring together (except for an occasional movie). He seemed more interested in assigning me chores (and imposing discipline) than teaching me values and how to think. Grandpa was a part of my life, but he was actually more of a babysitter than anything else.

Too proud to be vulnerable, he wasn’t really “accessible”. He never really knew me or dialogued with me to any extent. He didn’t serve as a confidant, guide or mentor. We never had a heart-to-heart conversation, and I never felt particularly safe or connected with him. Maybe this was just our family. Maybe it was the times. Or perhaps it was both.

I can tell you that being a granddad in 2007 for me is a very different experience. Okay, so I wear glasses and fight having a paunch. Yet, while my granddad in his 60s looked like he was 70, I’m 60 and look like I’m in my 50’s (well, okay 591/2 — just wait ’til I’m done my liposuction!). More importantly, I relate to my grandchildren powerfully: I am full of life and have unconditional love for them, and they with me. We are very physically active together and extraordinarily involved. We have taken several journeys together—in fact, we take some sort of adventure every time we’re together. We’ve mastered Charades. We visit frequently. We talk often. I listen a lot. We laugh even more. They teach me and I them. We play and play at the game of life together. In fact, they’ve given me new meaning to exploring and playing (even though we live 3,000 miles away from each other.)

We are deeply connected.

I am committed to building an exceptional relationship with my grandkids—filled with joy, adventure, intimacy and safety. My children support (and appreciate) this. In fact, my commitment to my grandchildren has built an even stronger bond with my children and their spouses. We all act according to this commitment. We will not let miles limit or separate us. I hop on a coast-to-coast plane every 6 weeks. We talk frequently on the phone. They’re too young to use email yet, but I email them photos and stuff through their mom and dad. I make audio and videotapes for them. I bought webcams for my computer and their computer—so we can join our faces with our voices.

Frankly, I’m thrilled and amazed at how I’ve taken to grandparenting and how both my kids and grandchildren have taken to me being a grandparent. Of course, I have technology and financial means that my grandparents didn’t have in the 1950s. But, I have much, much more than that. I know what was missing for me and that has informed my awareness of what’s possible being a granddad. I’ve developed a fairly high level of consciousness about my responsibility. I rarely experience more joy and self-expression than I do with these little ones. I have a profound awareness of the vulnerability of life on this planet. I’ve worked hard on myself and have transformed my fears into august actions.

Maybe this is just our family, maybe it is the times. Or perhaps it’s both.

What do you think?


Posted in Personal Empowerment | Leave a Comment »

Retirement Mythology

Posted by Jim Selman on 01/4/07

We generally think of ‘retirement’ as the line dividing our ‘working years’ from our ‘not working years’ (or at least, a time when we don’t have to work for a living). I think retirement is a false distinction, one that has taken on enormous importance in people’s lives and that can be a fulcrum for either new possibilities and positive changes or profound resignation and negative changes.

I think ‘retirement’ is a false distinction because ‘work’ is itself a false distinction. It’s easy to see that for some people ‘work’ is ‘play’ (because it is what they love to do), while for others it’s a strategy for something else. ‘Work’ is just a word. We, as individuals, define what is and is not work, and our interpretations are based on the assessments we make about what they’re doing. Of course, when we don’t like what we’re doing or when we don’t think we have a choice about it, then work becomes a kind of indentured labor. In this case, retirement is seen as a welcome escape.

If we think about life in terms of circumstances, then work is about having the circumstances in our lives be what we want—whether that’s providing for our family, having lots of toys, or achieving power, prestige and all the attendant positive and negative factors that come with success in our society.

Retirement is the time when we imagine having the time and space to reap the rewards of our careers and experience the ‘good life’. Unfortunately for many, the ‘good life’ in retirement becomes a conversation all about the ‘good old days’, a reliving of the past filled with sadness and tinged with regret that the future will not be as fulfilling, exciting or enlivening.

But retirement really has little to do with our status as employees and everything to do with our relationship with ourselves and with the world. On that basis, we could choose to redefine ‘work’ as simply the means to realize our dreams.

So what would it be like if you saw work as the process of realizing your dreams, a process which never ends as long as you have a vision and a commitment to creating a future you want?

© 2007 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

Posted in Personal Empowerment, Retirement | 1 Comment »

The Last Day

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/31/06

About 3 hours until the ball drops and we all sing Auld Lang Seins and kiss someone close to us. This year had an early dinner, shared resolutions and went through the ritual of ‘completing’ 2006. I notice that staying up until midnight somehow isn’t what it used to be. Nonetheless, this is a special day no matter how cavalier I may be about it. Every culture seems to have a New Year. I suppose if you are Jewish and Chinese, you could have three New Year celebrations. I wonder if all cultures emphasize completing the past and creating the future as the main point to the process?

I led a seminar last year called “Learning to Die”. The point of the course was to see that if we can truly, deeply and profoundly accept that we are going to die—not just as an abstraction—then we are free to fully experience aliveness and the freedom to be ourselves. I think I was the only one who really liked the title. I got it from something attributed to Socrates who supposedly said that we can never have wisdom until we learn to die. From my point of view, we are dying from the day we are born …. So why is there so much fear and denial about it?

In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche says people are terrified of dying because they don’t know who they are. This makes sense to me. I don’t think a person needs to believe in any particular religious dogma to realize a profound spiritual truth at some point in their lives—I am not my thoughts and I am not my body. I may not have a well-developed ontology for understanding who I am, but I don’t need a PhD in philosophy to know who I am not.

This is the last day of the year. What if it were the last day of my life? I would still be sitting here typing my blog and feeling happy and grateful for my life. I would still experience love and still have a pretty long list of things that I would like to accomplish or things that I hope others will accomplish. I would hope I would be conscious and serene and accept my parting with as much clarity as I have learned to accept most aspects of my life and my world. If this is the last day, I would want to celebrate the paradox of experiencing the serenity that comes with acceptance and responsibility while at the same time looking forward to whatever possibilities we can imagine for the day after the last day.

In Zen, it is taught to live each moment as if it is the last. This is the point I think of “Learning to Die”. It is obviously easier said than done. People spend a lifetime learning to be that present and that conscious of this mystery we all share. Whenever our last moment arrives, it is also the first moment of whatever is next—for us and all those who will share in our passing. Leaving the metaphysical possibilities aside, I think George Bernard Shaw said it best in Man & Superman:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I can live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

Posted in Personal Empowerment | 2 Comments »


Posted by Jim Selman on 12/30/06

I started a conversation about procrastination on Wednesday and planned to do this posting yesterday. I am a day late. I procrastinated. I never actually say or think, “I am going to procrastinate”. It is a judgment I make after I don’t do something that I intended to do. I am sure this is on my mind because of New Year’s Eve coming up, but it is also a big source of discontent and negative self-talk for lots of people.

There may be many reasons for why we keep putting off what we say we want to do. The obvious explanations of habit, patterns, and we don’t really want what we say we want are all variations of psychological explanations. These are always after the fact and, while they do offer an explanation, they don’t satisfy a deep understanding of causality and aren’t especially useful when we are procrastinating. It is like when your mother says “Don’t worry”: it doesn’t help much when you are worried.

I think we procrastinate because we are not complete in some arena. Completion is not the same as finished. Finished is a function of the circumstances. Completion is our way of being in relationship to the circumstances. We all know people who are divorced but not complete, and we all know the experience of being complete in the middle of something like a game. When we are complete, we are present, satisfied and whole, and usually experiencing a deep sense of well-being. Complete is a way of Being.

When we are not complete, we aren’t choosing. Our way of being is that ‘there is something wrong’ and we begin to feel and interact with the circumstances in an attempt to ‘do something’ to finish what we started. We are not present, we are re-acting and resisting the ‘way it is’ and are reinforcing whatever it is that is incomplete. We become attached to what is incomplete and the more we try to change it, the more power we give to it being incomplete.

We get what we resist.

One thing that we can do about this condition is to first acknowledge it as an incompletion, rather than to see it as some defect in ourselves. We can see what exactly it is that is incomplete and ask ourselves what is missing or needed to be complete—not what should we do. If something comes to mind, then do that. If not, relax and observe what comes to mind. Sooner or later, we realize that we need to choose to be doing what we are doing and not resist anything. When we can choose or accept that we are always just doing what we’re doing and can remove the ‘should’ from our thinking, then we are complete and can either give up any pretense that we are going to do something or make a new commitment and get whatever support we need to do what we want to do.

Completion is necessary for us to choose anything.

I think as we get older it is easy to give up, to become resigned—to buy into the conventional thinking that “I am too old to change”. And then the patterns and the ‘incompletions’ rule us as we drift into a condition of resignation and coping with circumstances. The wisest of us are able to simply accept ourselves and the world as ‘the way it is’ and be complete. There may always be things we will want to do, but if we died tomorrow, we would be complete—there would be nothing missing and we would be satisfied with our lives.

I find it useful at year-end to ask myself what is not complete for me from the prior 12 months and make a list of what I see and what is missing for me to complete it. Sometimes it is a “Thank you” I overlooked, sometimes it is something I need to return. Often it’s something I need to forgive myself for. Whatever it is, it is almost always actionable and frees me up in a way that is much more satisfying and meaningful for me than my resolutions list.

Whatever you are doing to celebrate and pass from 2006 to 2007, may you have a safe, sober and very happy New Year.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

Posted in Personal Empowerment | Leave a Comment »

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/29/06

I’ve been making New Year’s resolutions for more than 50 years now, and you’d think I would have learned something about how to do it well by now. Unfortunately, I am still a beginner at making resolutions—I continue to “make ’em and break ’em” with more precision and predictability than the blooming of flowers in Spring or leaves falling in Autumn.

The lull between Christmas and New Year’s Eve certainly is a great time to reflect on the year past and the year to come. I sometimes wonder why I do this over and over again, even when I suspect I probably won’t keep this year’s resolutions any more than I kept those from previous years. I suppose it is a kind of annual ritual where I acknowledge my good intentions and accept my human failings. I don’t really feel guilty. I learned long ago that guilt is a way to justify doing what we think we shouldn’t be doing—a sort of psychic balancing of the ‘moral’ scales.

No, it’s more like I feel foolish for pretending I am committed to something I am not. The problem, of course, is that I have kept a few of these promises to myself, just enough to think this year might be another exception. This is the same principle, I think, that keeps lots of people playing golf. They hit just enough great shots to keep hope alive that they will become ‘real’ golfers.

For example, there are a few ‘keepable’ resolutions, such as cleaning the garage, writing thank you notes, updating my address book, and so forth. There are others that ‘might’ be kept, such as reading some things I have been stacking up in the ‘to read’ pile or finally taking a long talked about vacation. Then there are the ‘I want to, but…’ resolutions, which include losing weight, doing more regular exercise, finishing my book and learning to play the piano. It is this latter category that leaves me feeling foolish. I can’t quite bring myself to say “I will NEVER learn the piano”, in spite of having spent thousands on missed lessons and it having been at the top of my failed New Year’s resolution list since 1981!

So here is my list again for 2007:

• Learn to play the piano
• Learn Spanish (next level)
• Lose 15 pounds
• Exercise daily (go to the gym)
• Finish my book manuscript
• Stop making resolutions I suspect I won’t keep, but really want to

What it comes down to is whether I am really committed to change something and, specifically, if I am willing to change my ‘self-talk’ about myself. You see, for me to accomplish these goals requires that:

a) I believe it is possible for me
b) I am willing to give up many years of failing at accomplishing these things, and
c) I can be responsible for what it will mean in terms of real changes to my life regarding schedule and day-to-day practices.

For example, I know that if I go to the gym every day for a month or two, it will become a new habit … and that is that on failing to exercise. All I need to “do” is go the gym. I also know that if I get into the habit of going to the gym then I will probably lose the weight and have the time to listen to my Spanish lessons on my iPod, which might at least help in the matter of ‘learning’ Spanish. It all makes sense and sounds so easy a few days before New Year’s Eve. So what is the source of my failure to do so? Why do I procrastinate?

Why does anyone procrastinate?

My thinking here is that it is because our resolutions are ‘open-ended’ … more like intentions than commitments. It is hard to hold an open-ended commitment. This is why AA doesn’t expect people to promise never to drink again—just not to drink today. By focusing on “one day at a time”, the individual can concentrate on what they can manage and not get lost in their idealism in a matter where they have failed over and over again.

I think this year I am going to amend my resolutions and focus on taking action just “one day at a time”. Perhaps by focusing on short-term actions, I will be surprised at how far I have come in fulfilling my intentions by the end of the year.

I will say more on procrastination tomorrow.

Today I am going to the gym.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

Posted in Personal Empowerment | 1 Comment »

Beauty is a Journey

Posted by Lilly Page on 12/20/06

As I continue to follow my passion, helping people ‘feel’ beautiful, I’ve come to notice that beauty and self-image are one and the same. The journey to real beauty is an interesting path of self-appreciation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Personal Empowerment | Leave a Comment »

Life after…

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/11/06

It occurs to me that we relate to our chronological age as something that we don’t control. And we spend an enormous amount of time and energy resisting this lack of control. A friend of mine overheard a 40-something woman recently tell a colleague, “Oh, I figure that I will be pretty well finished by the time I am 60, so I need to make hay while the sun shines”. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Personal Empowerment | 1 Comment »


Posted by Jim Selman on 12/8/06

If I could give one gift to my children, I think it would be “acceptance”. It isn’t too hard to understand intellectually that we should simply accept life on life’s terms and not try to control what we can’t really control. Yet, it’s a hard lesson to learn. I think not accepting may be the source of most, if not all, suffering. When we live with the view that reality ‘should be’ other than it is, we are living in a dream (at best) and a state of self-deception and denial (at worst). Not accepting throws us into a relationship with the world in which we must either control our environment or cope with circumstances we consider beyond our control.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Personal Empowerment | Leave a Comment »

Balancing Priorities

Posted by Vincent on 12/6/06

I’ve noticed I’m feeling a certain dynamic tension between two opposing forces. On one hand, I’m committed to going out in the world and maximizing the difference I can make. In my 60s, that continues to be a significant priority. On the other hand, I’d like to play more, visit with my family and work in my woodshop. And that too is a priority.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Personal Empowerment | Leave a Comment »


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.

Posted in Personal Empowerment | Leave a Comment »