What does living an authentic life mean to you? My next guest in the Ageing Well, Living Well series, the lovely Jan Wild from Retiring, Not Shy!, explains what living an authentic life means to her and why it is a vital ingredient to our long term happiness and well being. I’ve know Jan for a few years now and admire her passion for providing positive ways and resources to embrace all aspects of Retirement. She also has a passion for fashion and I look forward to her fashion of the day posts on Instagram. You can connect with Jan through the links at the end of her article.
Ageing Well living an authentic life
What does it mean to age well and to live well in our later years (however we define ‘later years’)?
I suspect that in many ways the answer is as individual as we each are, but there are definitely some markers for ageing well
Perhaps I should start with what it isn’t; it isn’t a one size fits all. We see media images of ageing well (and of ageing badly) and it is easy to be conned into thinking that we need to match some or all of those positive images. The images are often somewhat extreme – women dressed a la Iris Apfel, men running marathons, you know the ones I mean. But the truth is for most of us living well and ageing well is much more mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, if your definition of ageing well fits those iconic models then go for it, you already know your answer and you probably don’t really need to be reading this post.
For me ageing well is about being authentic, because
only when we are authentic are we truly happy, and our middle years and beyond offer us the opportunity to really find ourselves and our unique voices.
How do we find our authentic selves?
We can only be truly authentic when we take into account and nurture all aspects of our selves; those being our physical, our mental, our emotional and our spiritual selves.
Stop right there, where did your thoughts go when you read those four aspects?
Did you immediately think oh yes, I need to work on my physical fitness, or I should meditate more often, I should read better literature, I need to work on my relationships?
Any or all of those may be the case but I want you to consider whether you are looking at those selves from the point of view of your uniqueness or rather in comparison to others? If the latter, then you are not honouring your authentic self but rather you are seeking to attain some idealised model of ageing well, or worse perhaps, you have decided that it’s all over and you might as well give up.
Let me give you an example from my own life. I have spent a lot of time over the past two years working on improving my health and fitness. It would be easy for me to look at Sue for example who is a runner, or others who are lifting heavy weights. But neither of those are authentic goals for me: I am not and have never been a runner and I have no desire to be a body builder. But what I can do is create authentic goals for myself and I know they are authentic when my other selves feel comfortable with them.
If I look at my goal to exercise 5 times a week it ticks all my boxes. My physical body is comfortable with my plan because it has a mix of Pilates, walking and light weights and it makes me work but within reasonable limits. My mental body is comfortable because it can see how that mix can easily fit into my schedule and budget. My emotional body is comfortable because it can see that my goals are achievable and my spiritual body is comfortable because it can sense the balance this offers me and that it meets the needs of my true self; it fits clearly with my vision of a good life. My goal meets the needs of my authentic self. It allows me to age well by being the best I can be, the best I can be not what someone else can be. And that makes me happy.
Yes, but how do I create goals that meet the needs of my authentic self
There are several tools and techniques I have successfully used to find and get to know my authentic self, they are as follows:
- Spend time alone – it is so important in this world of 24/7 connection that we disconnect. Whether it is sitting quietly at home, walking alone in nature, perhaps swimming laps, it is critical that we remain connected to our inner self. We need to hear our own unique voice, that of our wise self, our inner child etc. Only solitude gives them a chance to be heard.
- Don’t compare yourself to others – be clear on your goals and what makes you happy and disregard the rest. Know what you need rather than feeling jealous that your next door neighbour has a new car. Would that truly make you happy, and if so for how long?
- Exercise gratitude – note what truly makes you grateful (not what you think should feel grateful for). Just as I put out my light at night, I like to note 5 things I am grateful for that day. They don’t have to be big things, but they will come from your authentic self.
- Be aware of toxic relationships and remove yourself from them – and that includes family members where appropriate. It is a myth that all families are happy and nurturing, if that is the case for you then that is truly wonderful, but for many of us we may outgrow parts of our family and we need to acknowledge and honour that.
- Self-nurture – whatever that means for you. It might be a quiet cup of tea or it might mean a trip to the beauty therapist. Make time to care for yourself
If you get to know and begin to truly honour your authentic self, I guarantee you will age well and live well – whatever that means for you. It might not happen overnight but it will happen, and the journey towards wholeness will be a true miracle.
Jan Wild blogs on retirement lifestyles at Retiring not Shy! Jan feels very strongly that our mid years and beyond can and should be the best times of our lives. Jan is a strong advocate for disrupting ageism and calls it out whenever she sees it, Jan and her partner Rowan live on the beautiful Sunshine Coast.
Connect with Jan
Follow Jan on her blog https://retiringnotshy.com.au
on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/retiring_not_shy/
on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/retiringnotshy
on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com.au/Retiringnotshy/
and occasionally on Twitter https://twitter.com/RetiringNotShy