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Take a risk!

Tracey Columns

The last couple of weeks, the subjects of this column seemed to hit a nerve for many of you. While some readers let me know they’d had positive experiences with the topics I was addressing, others had quite different reactions.

After I responded to a woman who was interested in, but leery of computers, I heard from the ‘you’ll never get me to use one of those things’ crowd. The following week, I wrote about the auditions coming up for HLOC’s new Boomer+ Troupe and yep, the “not on your life’ group weighed in.

It got me to thinking. Why is it that our activities and interests can narrow with age? Naturally, physical limitations may prevent us from fully enjoying activities. But what about those folks who may want to secretly try something new but talk themselves out of it? Ever heard any of these bells clanging away in your head: “I’m too old.” “I’ll look foolish.” “I won’t know anyone there.”

What happens when we allow these types of messages to run us? Nothing and we end up stuck in a rut. Sadly, depending on how old you are, it can be a very, very long rut!

But look at what happens if we take that deep breath and explore something new: 1) confidence and self-esteem improve; 2) perspective typically shifts in a more positive direction; 3) new social connections are made; 4) mental agility is improved; and 5) having purpose invigorates.

Okay, maybe you want to shake things up but don’t begin to know how to approach it. That’s a perfectly understandable situation many of us find ourselves in. Don’t fret. There are ways to add new experiences to your life.

Let’s use those auditions as an example. For those of you who haven’t heard, I’m working with Humboldt Light Opera Company to develop a new performing ensemble for those of us over fifty. The first production, Those Fascinating Fifties, will weave stories and songs together to create an entertaining show about the 1950s, a decade that was both fascinating and influential.

We are inviting anyone interested to audition. Sing a song or write a story about the 1950s. Show up and share it with two very friendly and supportive people, me and Carol Ryder, Artistic Director for HLOC.

If you want to audition or …. travel, take a class or learn how to kayak, try approaching it this way:

Make a list of some of the many nerve-wracking things you’ve successfully experienced in your long life; your first day on a new job, giving a talk at your service club, or learning how to play tennis. How did you do it? By utilizing all of those life skills and experiences you have under your belt. Tap into these and your nerves will quiet down considerably.
Instead of worrying about everything that can go wrong, write down everything that can go right!  Focus on how the new activity could leave you feeling quite happy that you tried something different, appreciating a new social connection, and/or just having some good old-fashioned fun.

Remember, there is no such thing as perfection. No one begins something having already mastered it. I repeat, no one! We have a word for this – learning!

4) Work on maintaining a realistic perspective. Be clear on your goals. Why are you trying  this? What are your expectations? If these things are realistic, your experience will be more positive.

5) Close your eyes and visualize your success! Sound silly? Hey, if it works for Olympic athletes, it can work for you!

New activities are such an important part of healthy aging. Go ahead, shake things up.  You just may have a wonderful experience.