Navigating the Quality of Your Experiences
An Antidote for the COVID Blues
Feel Better and Get Better Results
by Robin Jones
Response from Carl
“Loss of identity and structure” were the two main problems when I spoke to my newly retired friend a couple of years ago. As he told me, he’d been the owner of his own business, and his days had been action-packed. “Now,” he said, “I get up, shower, have breakfast and read the paper until mid-morning. Now what?”
His challenge was to figure out his new identity and create a new structure. I figured he’d start with golf and happy hour and build on that. ( I didn’t coach him. He’s a personal friend. )
When Carl received my email asking for an update he shared my question with his golf buddies. They quickly agreed that “lack of purpose” was the main problem, but Carl thought that was too easy. “Something was missing.”
Later that evening he told his wife about my question, his golf conversation, and that he felt something was missing. “ Oh,” she said, “that’s easy. Your problem is procrastination”. Ouch.
It was hard to hear, but he knew it was true. “I tell myself that I want to write but I can’t get started.” One of his friends wants to learn to play the guitar. “He bought a new guitar and it just sits there. He can’t get started either.”
I jokingly asked him if he ever procrastinated about happy hour. He said he was “diligent on that front.”
Response from Brian:
Brian is a retired management consultant. He and I were in the training business together in the ‘70s. We’ve stayed in touch over the years. This year we’ve been checking in about once a month. We are quite different in our political views and Brian wanted to avoid arguments so we agreed to focus on trying to understand each other this time around. It’s worked pretty well. ( You will see this reflected in his response)
“It is difficult for me to answer what is the top of mind problem for others, although maybe it’s the same as the top of mind problem for me. Mine is… How do I find meaning in the rest of my life?...perhaps combined with… How do I help contribute to the solution rather than the problems of others?
I sometimes think I am full of good intentions to be of assistance to stop various injustices and to do something good to help, but I don’t directly contribute very much to resolving the issues of the day. Donate to various causes, but mostly it seems like a drop in the bucket. My current take is that I should be satisfied with small gestures of kindness rather than to do something grand and massive to make the world a better place.
You might be interested in the fact that I’m reading Jordan Peterson’s book that you recommended. I was skeptical but I’m re-thinking as I get into it. In fact, I’m re-thinking a lot of things, maybe even changing my mind about some things that I thought were rather fixed or permanent. One thought was “how can I be critical of Peterson when his scholarly work has taken so many views into consideration?”
I’m also looking at some of the criticisms of the covid lockdown, which I thought was just common sense, but now I’m reconsidering that as well.
Finally, this health scare has shaken me up, since although I am aware that at this stage of my life, anything can happen, it gave me a real shock when things started to go south. In particular when my head was not thinking straight. I had a difficult time thinking straight.
Sharon and I are watching ‘This is Us’ on Netflix, and one of the lead characters has early dementia issues and that started me thinking about losing my thinking capacity. Scary thought, but a possibility for many. “
Your bud from Eden Mills, brian
Summary: So there you have it. Two different takes. Both agree on meaning and purpose. Carl added procrastination as a problem. Brian talked about how to respond to various social issues.
The psychological impact of the combination of COVID lockdown, constant fear messaging, various social justice issues and the political narrative is a major problem for many today. Many people are experiencing anxiety issues that interfere with sleep. And alcohol sales are way up.
Health concerns and loss of capabilities are increasingly present as we age.
In a future blog, I will explore some ways to address these problems.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a short message using the comment box below so everyone can read it or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today on today’s CBS Sunday morning two ageing entertainers talked about finding peace
David Lee Roth. Famous lead guitarist for Van Halen, studied “Sumi – e”, the Japanese art of ink painting, for two years in Japan. An obvious over top Enthusiast, Roth found a different part of his personality where he could go within to experience what he calls “graphic therapy”. Sumi -e is an artistic endeavour that involves intense solitude. ( We all have that ‘zone’ within our Enneagram personality map. It’s different for different Types, but it always a place where one can get lost… in a good way.)
Elliot Gould, now in his 80s, talked about his marriage to Barbara Streisand, his successful acting career, and his gambling problem. Today Gould is “finding peace in the present”. “ To be in the moment..this is everything. I am in the moment.” (Learning to detach from mind and just ‘Be’ is a best practice for New Retirement.)
Sunday Morning link. You can move the thingy to get to the interview about midway.
I recently read something that said it wasn’t a question of if the US dollar would fail, but when. That sent me running to Amanda Knapp, my RBC Wealth Manager. She has been taking care of my retirement nest egg for about 12 years. She’s used to me panicking. Usually, it’s prompted by something I’ve read or heard…some dire prediction.
This time she wasn’t quite as reassuring as I would have liked. She admitted that she too was concerned about the level of the US debt, and she added that Canada’s national debt is headed hard in the same direction, fueled by COVID 19 spending. We talked about how few voices are speaking about the danger of rising debt. No serious opposition it seems.
It made me think how glad I am to have Amanda to talk with about this sort of thing. I never feel like I’m being talked down to, or “handled” with some stock answer to calm the worried client.
It is so easy to get triggered when we are swimming in a sea of media stories intended to activate our fear or anger.
Recently we’d talked about articles that had appeared about the need for transparency and trust in wealth management, and the push to automate wealth management. (See links below) Of course, we all want to know the truth about our fees. And it was reassuring, if not surprising, to read that the majority of clients highly value their personal relationship with their wealth manager.
It takes a team of specialists to manage a portfolio. But perhaps more importantly, most of us need someone to keep us grounded; someone with an educated perspective who will calm us, and stop us from doing something stupid when the market goes crazy.
The faster things move the more complex life becomes. Complexity is what creates our need for partners to help manage parts of our lives. For wealth management, we need a partner with depth of experience and access to the most sophisticated systems. We need a partner with bench strength. Not one person, but a team. Perhaps most importantly we need a partner we can trust to have our back; to put our interests first.
Deepening the Partnership Connection
The COVID 19 experience has made us more aware of the importance of relationships of all kinds. In some cases, it has brought about a deepening of relationships. In other cases, it’s made us aware of neglected relationships and the need to create deeper connections. A major long term Harvard University study found that our biggest need is the need for intimate relationships. Connections with people who will be there for us in crunch times.
One of the key factors for emotional wellbeing is partnerships with people that help us manage important parts of our lives. As we change and our world changes, we need to reassess our relationships with professional partners, such as tech services, medical and wealth management, to ensure that we are connected in ways that take care of our changing needs.
Being Clear About Your Needs
Sometimes it’s hard to accept that our emotional needs are changing. We may not be clear about our needs because we are focused on other people’s needs, or because we’ve never really thought about our needs. Perhaps we worry that it’s going to be too painful to go there. Like avoiding the subject of your will.
It’s very helpful to have a checklist that gives you the language to specify your emotional needs.
I’ve been coaching for about 10 years. In 2018 I created a coaching program for retired people called New Retirement Experience. Its main aim is to help people create new meaning and purpose. The foundation of the program is 12 Key Factors for Wellbeing. It’s like a pilot’s checklist for proactively managing your emotional wellbeing. ( see link below)
Three Key Factors are Relationships
1. Friends. We need friends who care about us and have our best interests at heart.
2. Intimate relationships. We need people we can trust to be there for us in a crisis.
3. Support team. In this complex, fast-paced world, we need a support team. People we call for help with certain tasks like home maintenance, and others who ‘comanage’ important parts of our lives, like our wealth manager. My motto is… “It’s not what to do, but who to call.”
The Six Human Needs is a foundational model used by Tony Robbins and taught in the Robbins-Madanes coaching training which I did several years ago.
In the training, I learned to use the Six Human Needs to assess my own needs and help my clients to calibrate their needs. I shared the model with my wife. Together we did a joint assessment of our needs, and we talked about how we could help each other satisfy each other’s needs. It was a revelation for me to learn about her need for variety. “Not big things”, she said. Maybe a new place for breakfast or walk the dog someplace new. I remember feeling relieved and thinking…“I can do that!”.
Tony teaches that our mission in love relationships is to satisfy the needs of the person we love. That mindset helps me to keep focused on the main thing. Now I take the garbage out as an act of love. I know, that sounds sucky, but it’s true. It’s not a task that I resent any more.
I encourage you to get some paper and assess your Six Human Needs on a scale of 1-10 and then think of actions to improve your satisfaction. And if you are feeling brave, try it with your partner.
The Six Human Needs: A Brief Definition
Certainty: The need to be certain of things that are important to you, like health and financial security.
Uncertainty: The need for variety, unexpected surprises, even challenges as “the spice of life”.
Significance: The need to be valued, respected and appreciated.
Love and connection: The need for intimacy; the need to love and be loved. In a work context, it is the need to be connected to people with mutual care, trust and respect.
Growth: The need for continuous learning, growing and expansion. We grow or we die.
Contribution: The need to contribute to others and to make the world a better place.
Note: The first four needs are described as personality needs or ego needs. The last two are spiritual needs that go deeper to your true self.
Here’s how I see it. You may see it differently.
Certainty: This is number one for me. I need to be certain that my nest egg is safe. I accept moderate growth in good times in exchange for relative stability in bad times. I value the ability to have reassuring and educational conversations about how I am protected. Failure is not an option!
Uncertainty/variety: Boring is fine with me. I accept that turbulence is a reality and I am continuously reassured by revisiting the conversation about natural ups and downs. Even though, I admit, I sometimes wonder, secretly, if this is the big down that will finish us. I want ‘boring’.
Significance. Of course, I have a need to be significant to my wealth manager. I want my peace of mind to be her chief concern. Smart business people know that ‘job one’ is customers feeling that they are significant. Everyone says the words, but few deliver.
When we retire we lose our identity and role significance to a great extent. We need to create a new identity and to find new meaning and purpose. In some ways I find it freeing to be a “nobody”. However, I am secretly grateful to be somebody in my relationship with Amanda. I know it is so because I feel it every time we talk.
Love and Connection. Being deeply connected is a top priority. In a wealth management partnership, I’d reframe that to ‘care and connection’. From the first time I met Amanda, I felt connected. I intuitively felt that she cared about me, not about selling me. In my experience that’s rare. I’ve learned to trust my gut.
I was a partnering strategy consultant in business for 20 years. I know that the basis for true partnership is shared goals. In this instance, that means to me that my partner takes ownership of my financial goals and all the parts of the puzzle. I trust that she has my back. There it is again. In 12 years I’ve never doubted it. I know it is her soul purpose.
Growth: This is a top priority for me that is enabled by my wealth manager. By virtue of my partnership with Amanda, I am free to focus on my growth. I love to learn more about coaching and writing poetry and songs. It keeps me young. I can do that because I don’t worry about money. Amanda and her team do that for me.
Contribution: Similar to growth, I am able to focus on my coaching clients, because Amanda is taking care of my money. I get to do what I love to do and she gets to do what she loves to do. In that way, we enable each other to contribute the most to make the world a better place. That’s what partnership is all about. Together we are stronger.
Closing Note: I haven’t actually rated these factors with Amanda. We haven’t had that conversation directly. However, I would rate our relationship a 9 out of 10. Only because, I suppose, there’s always room for improvement. It’s the best professional partnership that I have ever experienced! We are constantly in conversation about how to improve it.
What investors can learn from B.C.’s superstar provincial health officer
12 Factors for Wellbeing: The New Retirement Experience
Copyright Robin Jones, The poet on Princess June 6, 2020
Hard rains are coming down
My friends are feeling blue
But I’m as happy as a clam
I don’t really give a damn
‘Cause tonight I’ll be coming home to you
Times are changin’ that’s for sure
It’s hard to know just what is true
But I don’t listen to the talk
I’m as solid as a rock
‘Cause tonight I’ll be coming home to you
I know that I’m a lucky guy
To share this life with you
I don’t bother asking why
I’m just happy that it’s true
Forty years and holding strong
After all that we’ve been through
My heart feels a love that’s real
I’m the winner in this deal
‘Cause tonight I’ll be coming home to you
Morning sun warms the sky
Rising high on a sea of blue
The two of us are really one
This party’s far from done
‘Cause tonight I’ll be coming home to you
I know that I’m a lucky guy
To share this life with you
I don’t bother asking why
I’m just happy that it’s true
I have projected the same images day after day
Becoming a prisoner of the known.
But the known is dead and past now
And I must buy my ticket to freedom
By embracing the fresh unknown.
Chance encounters, unexpected coincidences
Premonitions, dreams and wishes
Flashes of unpredictable joy
Random events are
Weaving themselves in the web of time.
I have left the voice of reason.
I am listening to the beckoning whisper
In the recesses of my heart.
And new shapes of reality
Are coaxing me out of my prison.
Source: Raid on the Inarticulate – poems by Deepak Chopra
It was our first Toastmasters meeting online. We had had a training session earlier in the week, which gave me confidence. But, as you will read, it didn’t end well. At least in my mind.
Apparently, it was much worse in my head than it may have appeared to others. I often have people at Toastmasters tell me how relaxed I appear when I am speaking. For me, it’s usually more like that picture of the duck. Calm on top of the water and paddling like hell underneath.
Here is the email I sent to my fellow Toastmasters a week ago last Wednesday afternoon. I mention some of the feedback At the end, I mention some of the feedback I received, and lessons learned.
But first the story.
Dear Fellow Toastmasters
I felt that my talk this morning was the worst I’d given in years. I thought I’d write about my experience for the therapeutic value, and in case something may be useful to you. I say that without knowing right now exactly what I’m going to say. I’m trusting the process.
When I have a bad experience I try to learn from it. In some cases, I can find that I can develop a story that can be useful in coaching. It can be useful to examine a bad experience to look for how I was responsible. So here goes.
First things first, I was not well-rehearsed. In the days prior to my speech, I was finding it difficult to be clear about what I wanted to say. Things kept changing so fast with the virus and becoming more serious. I noticed that it felt somewhat intimidating to think that I had something to say that would help you with your wellbeing. That’s called reaction. But I didn’t see it clearly for what it was. My shadow of insecurity showing up.
The thing about ‘reaction’, is that it’s often transparent. Difficult to see it when you are in it.
Of course, I’d been taking in reactive energy, along with everyone else, for the past few weeks. I think I underestimated its effect. My big mistake is too much social media. It makes me crazy. Plus every conversation is about the virus.
In my speech, I talked about the key idea of ‘focus’… of changing your focus to get out of a reactive state. It’s true enough, but…in my experience, it’s impossible to do when I’m in the ‘grips’ of reaction. Once reaction changes your body chemistry your toast. Your cortisol levels rise to put you in fight-flight-freeze mode. You can’t just stop that like the flipping of a switch.
You have to let it subside. Give it space and time. Take a break from the whole thing. Get back to balance to be able to shift your focus to a better way of being and begin to generate new action that boosts your dopamine to cause you to feel better.
After the meeting this morning, Raymonde and I went for a walk. Then had some lunch and watched a bit of TV. Here it is about 3 pm and I feel ready to write about the experience.
At this point, most of us may be close to our ‘stress threshold’. Which means it won’t take much to tip us over. I’ve noticed myself being a bit edgy. That’s a sign. Having our routines completely turned upsidedown is very disruptive to our nervous systems. It makes us fragile. But again, we may not see it.
As a result of not being able to decide what I wanted to say, I left it too late. I’d told myself that it would come clear to me just in time. After all, I’ve been doing this stuff for years.
But I was still changing my talk yesterday. I talked to Raymonde about it and she got me straight. “Just talk about ‘reaction’!”… Right. “Stick to the basics”. It’s not about training it’s about informing and encouraging. I rewrote my talk did a few run-throughs for timing yesterday afternoon. It felt pretty good. I thought I’d be ok. Kidding myself perhaps:)
Morning came early. I woke up at 4:30 am and felt anxious. Lack of rehearsal haunting me. I did a run-through about 7:30 and it didn’t feel good.
8 am came and off we went with Neil leading the way on Zoom. About 30 minutes in, my wifi connection to Zoom dropped out. My reception varies from day to day and today was a weak day. I moved around my office and reconnected and lost connection several times. Finally, I went into the house where the modem is and reconnected just in time to hear my intro by Sarah and Neil.
I plunged in with notes in hand. I was having a strong case of imposter syndrome. Here I was in a state of reaction, completely jiggled, and having lost my concentration, blathering away about wellbeing and how to manage your reaction. And the new feature… being able to watch myself on camera at the same time! Perfect.
I also realized that I had not pinned Sheila, who was our timer, and so I couldn’t see her and I Iwas wondering where I was with my time. More distraction.
I just wanted it to be over!
And then to cap it off I had my evaluation from Sarah. She seemed perplexed. I thought she was kind. She called me later to ask if I was ok. I was a long way from OK. We talked. I assured her that her evaluation was fine.
So there you have it. I feel better:) I hope it’s of some value to you too.
See you next time. “
A Breath Practice: The practice is from the Institute of Heartmath. “Breathe feelings of peace and love through your heart area for a few minutes to set a calm and genuine tone.”
Notice it says breathe feelings. That means you have to access those feelings by recalling a time when you had those feelings and then bring those feelings to your heart area. You do that with an image of a pet or a baby or someone you love or a scene that elicits feelings of love. This is immediately effective and the more you do it the more beneficial for your immune system and feelings of wellbeing.
Name Your feelings. Sometimes, like in the story I shared above, we feel overwhelmed. A blur of powerful emotions. Know that It’s not what is happening now. That’s just the trigger. The source is your childhood emotional imprinting (and learned personality ego defences). You may have thought you were over it. But here it is rushing back uncontrollably. You may be so overwhelmed that you can’t think clearly. It may be way out of proportion to what just happened.
If we can be present enough to see what is happening we can use writing to clarify the cause. Once we settle down a bit. When you start you may not know what you are going to write, but if you begin with a question such as… What words name what I am feeling? Name your feeling, It may surprise you. Then you can begin to write out your story.
Usually, it’s something like this. You had a ‘feeling’ goal and a story of how things were to be. And then life happened and the story was shattered. And it was out of your control. And you got caught off guard. And you were triggered into reaction. Embarrassment, fear, anger, rage, depression. Start by naming it and you will take back your power.
The benefit is not only clarity. It is also that you feel better because you have your story out of your body and on paper in front of you. You have it now. It doesn’t have you.
More about the Heartmath practice…
Every Saturday morning I look forward to receiving a blog from John Dick. He titles his blog ”‘What we are seeing”. John runs a large US marketing research company. “Now steadily over 5 million (polls) every 24 hours. That’s like 1,000 people answering a 20-question survey every 5 minutes. Almost all of it is about the coronavirus because almost everything is about the coronavirus right now.”
One of the distinguishing features of John’s blog is his “Dick stories”. A favourite story that he shared was being out for breakfast with his kids one morning. They got to talking about their family name. They all have to contend with people making “Dick jokes”. John asked the kids if they wished they had another name. “No way”, said his young daughter, in a loud voice. “ I love Dick! ” The restaurant went quiet. The Dick stories keep coming. Almost every week.
Civic-mindedness is way up. The Latin roots of the word ‘civic’ are community, selflessness, oneness. “And that’s what’s happening right now. At scale.” ( The name of John’s research company, Civic Science)
We’ve all seen this around the globe, the pictures are amazingly similar. People cooperating to stay safe and create new ways to be connected. Acts of kindness everywhere.
Could this give birth to new meaning to the term ‘globalism’? People voluntarily cooperating with a sense of global community and a sense of oneness. Instead of the current meaning of globalism. Corporations with a global perspective for the sake of maximizing profits. No loyalty to the country that helped them get started. Avoid taxes by lobbying government and using every loophole possible.
People are taking a lot more vitamins
Hiking is up (get it?). Especially among younger people
Food delivery is booming, relatively speaking, especially among remote workers.
Weed is kind of in-between. Cannabis use is down appreciably since the start of the crisis mostly because the dispensaries have been closed. But the majority of people nonprofits or tipping service providers, (people) are giving;
People snacking more! We studied the most popular quarantine comfort foods and other indulgences (Spoiler: Chocolate chip cookies are king).
Generosity is way up. Whether it’s supporting local businesses, donating to nonprofits, or tipping service providers.
If you’d like to subscribe to “What we are seeing:” Sign up here. If you are new to this list, check out our Top Ten to get caught up.
That’s how 2020 started for me.