Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

We all know that 50% of US marriages end in divorce. Although your marriage may not be in trouble, now is an ideal time to divorce-proof your relationship so that sooner or later divorce doesn’t happen to you.

What initiatives should a committed husband or wife take now to strengthen marital ties? May I suggest the following three-stage process?

  • Stage 1: Search for and identify early warning signs. Look for telltale signs that the two of you may be drifting apart. Before you can address the problem, you need to become aware of areas that need work.
  • Stage 2: Recall the passion from early in your relationship. Precisely what bound the two of you together as one? How did your mate sweep you off your feet? What convinced you that he or she was the one? What drew him or her to you? Early on, in what ways did the two of you demonstrate your love?  
  • Stage 3: Reignite the fire and restore the sense of commitment you demonstrated years ago. Begin each day with your own positive attitude and agenda then make the day better for your spouse.  Honor and build upon your mate’s strengths, admirable traits and favorable features.

Let us consider each of the three ” marriage restoration stages” in turn:

Stage 1: Early Warning Signs

Signs of trouble are never identical in every crumbling marriage, but here are a few common signs to look out for:

  • The two of you can’t get simple projects done around the house without argument.
  • You or your spouse view apologizing or giving in as a sign of weakness.
  • Your spouse tells you that he or she “gave up my life and ambitions” for you.
  • Although neither are happy with the status-quo, fear of change keeps both of  you in a rut.
  • Business trips out of town (heck, even a day at the office) provide a welcome separation from your spouse.
  • Your most innocuous hobbies, interests or activities start to infuriate your spouse and your spouse’s hobbies bore or infuriate you.
  • You lie about inconsequential things (little white lies) to avoid a dramatic scene.
  • You stop looking for the good in your spouse but are quick to jump upon everything that you don’t care for.
  • You cannot begin to agree upon how to guide or discipline your children.
  • You can’t remember the last time when you complemented your spouse or when your spouse complemented you.
  • Whenever something goes wrong, your spouse implies it’s all your fault and you respond, “no it’s yours!”
  • Each of you keeps score.
  • Your begin to replace morning goodbye kisses with a wave from across the room.

Do you recognize any of these warning signs in your marriage? They are but a few of the hundreds of big and little things that couples do or fail to do. When taken together, they can seriously weaken a marriage over time. Make out your own list, then begin working on your side of the equation. See if your marriage doesn’t begin to improve dramatically once you cut down on thoughtless slights and painful negative interactions with your mate.

Stage 2–Passion and Commitment From Early On

Sit back in your recliner, close your eyes and begin to recall what it was like when the two of you first met: your courtship, your honeymoon and the early years of your marriage. What personal attributes and personality traits attracted you to your mate? What consistently thoughtful, loving actions did you take to win your lover’s heart? What personal sacrifices were you willing to make to make him or her happy?

Here are a few examples of common “love strengthening initiatives” some of you may recall:

  • You celebrated your spouse’s accomplishments as much or more than your own.
  • Both of you demonstrated love and gentleness, even in rough times; you faced the most difficult of challenges together.
  • Both could express your innermost self-doubts, fears and struggles without fear of criticism, rejection or ridicule.
  • You were always there to listen and understand, even when your mate’s message was hard or painful.
  • Whenever apart, you tingled at the thought of your mate’s returning; you couldn’t wait to get him or her back in your arms and back into bed.
  • There was always gentleness between you, even during the roughest of times. He/she was your greatest strength in times of trouble!
  • The two of you came together as one but each found ways to enjoy your independence and respect the independence of the other. You shared common interests but had also solo hobbies, encouraging each other to pursue them.
  • When the kids were young, you invariably parented as a unified team.
  • Each offered the other loving, positive feedback, never nagging criticism!

Now comes the million dollar question, if you were able to demonstrate undying  love and affection when courting and early on in your marriage, why can’t you now? Deep within, your spouse is the same wonderful, one-of-a-kind individual now that he or she was when you first fell in love. If over the years your spouse has grown cold, disinterested  and unaffectionate, I wonder how he or she would react if you began routinely to demonstrate the same passion, understanding and loving affection that you did back then.

Stage 3–Restore the Commitment; Reignite the Fire

There is no single magic formula to restore mutual commitment and reignite the fire of passion in an established, midlife marriage but there is no lack of “expert” suggestions. Here are just a few:

  • Begin each day on the sunny side–no one wants to cohabitate with a perpetual grouch!
  • Stay in the present and walk in forgiveness. Neither you nor your spouse can go back now and correct mistakes from the past. The future is uncertain. Right now, your primary question should be, “What can I do to make things better for you today?”
  • Get moving, get dancing. Throw yourself into an active, constructive daily routine and encourage your spouse to do the same.
  • Never be loud and angry around your life partner. Talk issues out calmly without interrupting your spouse’s point of view. Avoid pointless “I win, you lose” confrontations as though they were the plague!
  • Listen up! Be completely attentive when listening to your spouse and respond calmly and thoughtfully. Don’t interrupt or display scorn or anger.
  • See if you can go an entire week without nagging or criticizing your spouse.
  • Tonight, turn off the TV, computer and I-phone and make your spouse the only center of your attention. Better yet, watch a worthwhile TV program together and discuss what each of  you got out of it when it is over.
  • Here’s advice to all spouses: let him be him and her be her!
  • Before he or she gets home, dress up and groom yourself to look your absolute best just for your spouse. Do it both for yourself and for your life partner. Doesn’t your mate deserve your best?
  • Suggest taking up a new project, charitable cause or hobby together.  Be open  to alternative suggestions from your spouse.
  • Go out (or stay at home alone under candlelight), just you two, on a ‘date night’ at least once a week. Certainly, you can find someone to watch the kids!

In some cases divorce may be for the best and your only good option, but please don’t give up your marriage without a fight. Take heart: many angry or passionless couples rediscover the joys of their marital partnership after years of feuding and neglect. In more cases than not, you’ll rediscover that the person best suited for you is standing right there in your own living room!

Want to learn more? Tune in to the October 21, 2013 installment of my weekly Internet radio program “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age.” (Google “middle age your best age”–our program link is at the top of page 1.) I interview both acclaimed author and motivational speaker Don Huntington PhD, who wrote ‘the’ book on divorce-proofing your marriage, and also the happily married couple Rick and Sarah Ruiz, two disheartened people  who found each other after prior broken marriages. They have written a book on 365+ ways for married couples to break but also proven solutions to restore their marriage. Beginning October 21, you can listen at any time at your convenience.

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What Recruiters Won’t Tell You–Get Hired for That Dream Job

For a lot of us at middle age, the past five years have not been kind to our careers! Economists keep telling us that the U.S. is in slow recovery but that’s not very convincing if you are 45 or 55 and have been unemployed and job seeking for months, even years!

Are you mired down in the midst of a frustrating job search? You are registered on Monstor.com and have sent your resume all over the Internet but it always seems to end up somewhere in a black hole. You’ve tried networking but your contacts never have a solid connection with anyone who is hiring. You’ve been to several job fairs but you just blend in with the crowd where most fellow attendees are 10-15 years younger. You’ve had a number of preliminary interviews only to get screened out by a Human Resources recruiter. Most disheartening, you’ve had a few promising “final interviews” that seemed to go well but after an agonizing wait you learned  that someone else was hired!

If you are like me you’ve asked yourself 100 times, “Why didn’t I get hired?” Don’t you wish you could get into the head of a recruiter to discover the criteria he or she uses to hire certain people and weed others out? I’m not a recruiter, but I recently interviewed one of the best on my Internet radio program, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age.”  Here are a few suggestions to help place yourself on the inside track for that dream job  opening:

  1. As an initial step, define in as much detail as possible precisely the dream job you seek. In my book, I suggest you write out an “ideal position description.” My guest suggests a “career vision board.” Your subsequent task is to paint a vivid mind picture and to visualize yourself daily as an incumbent performing tasks associated with your dream job.
  2. Your second step is to research industries and the types of employer (e.g., large or small company, high-tech or people intensive) that presently employs or has need of your dream position.
  3. If targeting a radical change from prior positions, prepare to offer clear rational as to why you are fully qualified to make the change. For example, if you desire to move from a large company to small, you must demonstrate an aptitude for  the uncertainty, long hours and multi-tasking mentality required to succeed in a small business.
  4. In resume Internet distribution, key words are the overwhelming key. First, you must determine what key words are relevant to your target position. Then you need to include them in the text of your resume, as many times as you can! Recruiter screens will position a candidate who listed a key word three times way above a candidate who listed it only once. If you think 6-Sigma is a keyword and you worked 6-Sigma into projects with three prior employers, for certain list 6-Sigma three times.
  5. Once a week, take down, refresh and re-enter your resume on major Internet recruiting boards like Monstor.com. If possible, make minor changes each week. Recruiting data bases list the most recent submissions on top, so if your resume is several weeks old, it will be pushed to the bottom, hard to find!
  6. Use social media to network. LinkedIn is the one absolutely essential social media site for networking but it may help to employ Facebook and Twitter as well. Enter your entire resume on LinkedIn loaded with keywords  relevant to  your targeted position.  Also, let network contacts know that you are seeking a job–most will want to help you if they can. Of course, you will need to be far more subtle if presently employed but seeking a change. Confine networking to individuals not in direct contact with your present boss!
  7. Social media tactics to avoid: never post silly or embarrassing photos or controversial massages. When seeking new employment, you always should stay away from sports, politics and religion!)
  8. To get through HR screening,  you must appear both passionate and genuinely enthused about the position you seek. A tactic guaranteed to get you weeded out: demonstrate little if any conviction about the employer or position for which you are interviewing. To get hired, be fully prepared to explain with conviction: “I am here because….” (Note: this is your golden opportunity to demonstrate a firm grasp of employer culture and challenges.)
  9. In the final interview, you have two essential tasks. First, convince the hiring decision maker that your unique combination of kills, experience and passion place you clearly above your completion. (Why I am special.) Second and perhaps even more important, convince your targeted boss that you are both likeable and fully supportive of him or her, your associates and co-workers.  Demonstrated skills may be head and shoulders above the competition but if you come across as abrasive, negative, threatening or self-absorbed, you won’t get hired.
  10. Before the interview, place yourself miles ahead of competition by visualizing yourself as the incumbent, excelling at job-related tasks, fully prepared to discuss challenges faced and ways you can contribute to a long-term solution.
  11. After the interview, follow-up with thank-you correspondence, but don’t become a stalker. To speed decision making, during the interview it may help to subtly mention all the interviews you have scheduled and your need for an early decision.
  12. If you hit a brick wall, get back on track by taking initiatives that other job seekers are not taking. Examples are cold calling of executives to seek advice, snail-mailing your resume to potential employers (no one does that any more), walking in the door of promising small businesses, or seeking temporary employment (this often can and does lead to a permanent job.) If you can afford to, also volunteer for projects requiring skills somehow related to the job you seek.
  13. If over 40 or 50, routinely fight off the notion that no one will hire you because of your age. “Unemployed” is not the same as “unemployable”! If you can demonstrate the “right” mix of skills, enthusiasm and personality, hiring managers will want you as a member of their team, regardless of your age!

You can prosper in job search by taking charge from the word “go”  and conducting a pre-planned, positive and enthusiastic marketing campaign with one product to sell: you!  By placing yourself firmly in charge of your own search, fully confident that you can make good things happen, you will succeed. Just as you would from a great job, don’t neglect to take occasional breaks for “rest and relaxation” but be certain you remain focused on your ultimate objective: that “dream job” that really doesn’t feel like “work” at all!

For additional job-search tips that recruiters can’t or won’t tell you, tune in to the September 30, 2013 weekly installment of my program “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age.” I interview top-flight corporate recruiter, Abby Kohut, known far and wide as “Absolutely Abby.” You’ll find our program link on Google, right at the top of the page.    

 

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Mid-career Job Search–Interview Went Great, Why No Offer?

Are you contemplating or in the midst of job search at middle age? Perhaps this scenario sounds all-too familiar to you:

  • You diligently did your homework and defined an ideal next position where you clearly excel and can have a good time while earning a living.
  • You networked and found a potential “perfect employer”, one that hires and rewards the very type of skills that you possess.
  • You can demonstrate the right education and prior job experience and spent hours preparing a quality resume and cover letter.
  • The resume did the trick–you made contact with the right hiring decision-maker and were invited for an on-site, face-to-face interview.
  • The interview seemed to go well–you shared your extensive list of accomplishments and shared all the reasons why you’re a perfect fit.
  • Guess what–after several nervous days or weeks of waiting, you receive bad news–YOU DIDN’T GET THE JOB!

I’ve been there are done that! Several times in my past life I felt like I had aced an interview only to learn that someone else was hired. If this has happened to you, you already know that “final stage rejection” can be one of the most devastating set-backs in job search.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could know precisely what went wrong? In a lot of cases the answer may be “nothing”–you simply may have been first runner-up to someone with even better experience or job qualifications (or perhaps to an internal candidate who the hiring manager already knew.) You mustn’t lose sleep over this situation. You gave it your best shot; quality of your competition is something beyond your control. But how about those situations where you remain firmly convinced that absolutely no one could be more qualified for that position than you?

Want to know the #1 factor influencing most hiring decisions and why so many middle-aged job seekers get it wrong? I recently interviewed an acclaimed career coach who answered as follows:

” Most job seekers are under the false impression that hiring decisions are fully rational. In fact, more often than not emotion, not pure fact, determines who ultimately gets hired. In that final job interview, your primary task is to make the hiring manager or executive feel comfortable around you. Likeability is a crucial factor so you must calm interviewer fears that you will prove difficult to work with, draw resentment from co-workers or won’t fit in. Convince your targeted boss that you can add value as an ambitious yet gracious and cooperative team member; a pleasant person to be around.”

Here are some of the biggest mistakes you can make during a final job interview:

  • Appear too intense, too rational. No one wants to hire a job seeker who appears to be “all business”, not able to smile or laugh, support and inspire managers and co-workers–someone fun to socialize with over lunch or coffee.
  • Appear threatening rather than comforting and supportive of. No one is going to hire a candidate who appears to be after his or her job!
  • Don’t understand the interviewer’s emotions and motivation–what key  problems and challenges does he/she face? What can you contribute to the solution.
  • Make responses to questions all about you and milestones you’ve accomplished in the past for someone else. Your talents will only appear relevant to the interviewer if you can tie them in to target employer mission and the task at hand.
  • In any way bad mouth or run down a prior boss or employer. You may be asked to explain why you left or are leaving but it is never wise to place blame on your “ex.”
  • Waste excessive time highlighting or talking about personal hobbies or situations that have nothing to do with employer mission or the open position.  If you notice a large fish mounted on the interviewer’s wall, it is great to mention you love fishing also, but remember you’re not here to sell yourself as a commercial fisherman!
  • Ask about salary, benefits and vacation before you are offered a job. To do so is highly presumptuous and a certain turn-off!
  • Ignore, talk down or act rudely toward potential co-workers, even that “lowly” clerical person who might end up typing your letters. Leaving the impression that you are not a good team player is a near-certain kiss of death.

To land that dream position, here’s the bottom line: be the one candidate that the hiring manager most remembers–for uncommon warmth, likeability and compatibility. Without question, you must be qualified to perform the job you are interviewing for but your competition will be qualified also. You need to win on the intangibles! If you can come across as a consistently positive energy supplier rather than a negative energy drainer, you clearly will have the inside track to getting hired. Here’s one more idea: instead of simply citing dry facts, illustrate past accomplishments and milestones through personal stories, describing in detail on-the-job challenges you faced and how you overcame them.

Unfortunately, in most job interviews only one person gets hired. Want to learn more about succeeding in yours? Tune in to the September 23, 2013 weekly broadcast of my Internet radio program, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age.” I interview hiring expert Tom Payne, author of NO MEDAL FOR SECOND PLACE: How to Finish First in Job Interviews. We’re on WebTalkRadio.net You can listen in any time at your convenience after September 23.

 

 

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Hey Ladies–What’s Holding You Back in Your Career?

Over 55% of college graduates in the US today are women, yet men still hold the vast majority of top leadership positions in business. Like me, do you wonder why that is? What’s been holding you women back and how can you step forward to assume your rightful leadership role in business, politics and in our communities?

We often hear brags about “women’s intuition”–a lady’s ability to spot trends and gain insight into what others are thinking far better than we men can.  Given this talent, why aren’t more women than men the top leaders in business and government? How about all the other skills where women usually outshine men, including sensibility, emotional bonding, relationship building and verbal communication? It seems a slam dunk that highly capable and ambitious women would employ these talents to rocket right to the top?

Perhaps the answer lies in women’s less-than-exemplary decision making. A key element of leadership is the ability to make wise, timely and forceful decisions, yet so many women appear to have been raised with a reluctance to stand tall and say, “let’s do it!”  Is it true that women change their minds more than men or is this a myth? Is procrastination more of a problem for women than for men? Are powerful women often stymied by “paralysis of analysis?”

Even today, lifelong subconscious beliefs may prevent some capable women from aiming too high. Career limiting beliefs may have been implanted in these females as young children, by parents, by teachers at school and surprisingly by classmates and playmates, including other girls. Certainly the male-leadership bias is not as prevalent today as when we were young. (In the fifties, my mother urged my sister as a young girl to major in Home Economics at a local university which back then had a high male to female ratio of 5 to 1. Mom’s advice, “You’ll learn to cook and find a great husband at Podunk State U!”)

Why do women more often than men experience guilt which in turn makes them feel they don’t deserve genuine career success? I’m certain a lot of it stems from a woman’s natural motherly instincts–after all, we men did not house our cherished offspring for nine months in our wombs.  In truth, a wife should experience no more guilt than her husband over neglecting child-rearing and family responsibilities. A vital issue today: how best can a successful, career-driven wife get her husband to share 50/50 in mundane parenting and household duties?  After a full day at the office, is it fair that she discipline the kids, wash the cloths then scrub the floors while her husband watches TV, scans the Internet or goes out bowling with the guys?

So how can you ladies who aspire for new heights regain career/life balance and reclaim the power and influence you deserve? The first step is to rid your subconscious mind of any guilt emotions over career success. How old were you when the thought was planted that a man always should be primary bread-winner in the home? That idea should be long-gone! If you make more money than your husband–congratulations, you deserve it. If he’s your true loving life-partner, he will celebrate your success and confirm that it does not in any way reflect negatively on him.

Your second step is to clearly map out personal career aspirations and your intended road map to achieve them. Your third step is to share these aspirations with your husband and to ask for his support and assistance along the way. Ideally, your husband will share his career aspirations with you. As a final step, the two of you could forge a loving mutual “life-partnership compact” intended so both of you can thrive in your careers, share domestic and family responsibilities and move your marriage forward in harmony.

When we think about it, the same as race, one’s gender should play absolutely no role in determining whether a person should lead or follow. Our late daughter Kristen, a former US Navy pilot, had the drive, ambition, independence and decision-making ability equal to any man, yet she also had the sensibility and relationship building skills of the finest lady. The fact that she was born a woman in no way held her back in her career because she refused to let it.

You ladies deserve career success every bit as much as us men, if that’s indeed what you want! On the other hand, there is no worldly job more important than giving birth then nurturing, educating and raising a child to adulthood, bringing out his or her full potential. Therefore, it is perfectly fine to place career on hold when the children are young, returning to business once they reach their teens or are fully grown.

Ladies, if you are middle age and just now considering a return to the workforce, please be certain you first reprogram your internal mindset. Simply because you chose to take time away from career for home and children does not in any way disqualify you from holding a responsible position now, advancing up the career ladder or leading others as you resume your career and move forward! Household and family skills demonstrate both leadership and responsibility and you’re far from too old to thrive in business. Furthermore, you can catch up with any technological obsolescence.

For an extended discussion about the power of women in business and how you can apply your own skills, please tune into the September 2, 2013 weekly broadcast of my Internet radio program, “Middle Age Can Br Your Best Age,” currently playing on www.WebTalkRadio.net. On this week’s program, I interview nationally-acclaimed women’s coach, motivational speaker and trainer Janice Bastani, author of the brand new book, EVE: Reclaim Your Power. To locate my program, simply google “middle age your best age”—our program link is at the top of page one.  

 

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Loneliness Is More Deadly Than Cigarettes: Don’t Let It Kill You!

Did you know that loneliness kills more people each year than cigarettes? In fact, loneliness is considered a health risk equivalent to smoking a pack a day. Today, 28% of all adults in America live alone and that doesn’t count the untold millions who physically reside together in a marriage or a relationship that’s grown cold but are alone by themselves emotionally.

Being alone may not be so bad when we’re in our twenties or early thirties but it becomes much harder as we pass through middle age. How many of us relish the thought of growing old alone? Perhaps even tougher is finding oneself alone after long years of marriage following a divorce or the untimely death of a spouse.

Beyond mere survival, studies demonstrate a host of proven health benefits from bonding with other humans:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduction in stress hormones.
  • Improved immune system.
  • Decreased risk of major illness like stroke, heart attack or cancer.
  • Increased years and better quality of life.

When you think about it, it is not hard to understand why people in sustainable positive relationships often fare better than their single contemporaries. We as human beings thrive on a strong sense of connection and the opportunity to give something of ourselves to others. That beautiful sunset over the Pacific is not so special when you view it all alone. Buying gifts just for yourself can be an extremely hollow experience.  A job loss or financial crisis is more intolerable when we are comforted and supported by spouse, family members and close friends.

It’s one thing to talk about the benefits of relationships but it’s not always easy to form one. Finding that one special person is especially difficult on the rebound, following a bitter break-up or the tragic loss of a spouse or cherished life partner. Let’s say you are middle age and in the early stages of recovery from from a traumatic midlife loss. Here are a few ideas that may help you rebound and recover the joy you are missing:

  • Don’t rush to recover! You’re not on a time clock. Mental health experts say most people should give themselves a full two years to recover from any life-altering midlife emotional trauma. Death of a spouse or child may take even longer, especially if the death was sudden and unexpected. Once you are over the immediate shock, it’s going to be a long process.
  • Don’t feel pressured to make yourself be OK–you’re not OK! Make it known to close friends, family members and business associates that you’re working on recovery but that it will take time. Ask for their help and understanding.
  • As soon as you can, begin formulating then working on an extended plan for recovery. Recognize and tell yourself repeatedly that your plan is flexible and can be altered and extended whenever you feel overly depressed, overwhelmed or anxious.
  • Set interim objectives and target dates. Break the recovery project down into realistic stages and routinely update your targets as your plan unfolds.
  • When ready, take those first small steps to recovery–but only at a pace you are comfortable with. You have nothing to prove to yourself or to anyone else but, once accomplished, full recovery will benefit both you and all those around you.
  • Before seeking out new relationships, make certain that you love and honor yourself! You will never be able to truly give of yourself to others until you are fully convinced that you have something worthwhile to give!
  • Begin daily imagining and visualizing the fully recovered, self-confident, inner-directed person you intended to become. The more you picture new, mutually fulfilling relationships, the sooner they will occur.  
  • Set a firm target date for the end-point when you consider yourself “fully recovered” and ready to move on. Establish your own internal criteria against which to measure that recovery.
  • Plan to reward yourself with a meaningful joy-producing prize on the date your recovery is complete.

Here are five additional suggestions:

  1. Don’t plan immediate, drastic changes in your life until recovery is complete. Rarely if ever is it effective to move across the country simply to ease the pain of death or divorce. Worst of all, never rush into a hasty “on-the-rebound” relationship! A drastic move before you are ready may in fact prolong your recovery.
  2. Consider every aspect of your life that may have been impacted! Close friendships with other couples will not be the same for you or your ex-spouse following divorce. Career objectives and workplace commitment may change radically now that you’re alone. As a single or divorced parent, your relationship with offspring most certainly will change. At least for awhile, finances may be strained.
  3. Don’t shoot simply to recover! Perhaps your prior daily life wasn’t all that great anyway. Moving forward, your objective is a better, more joyful and productive life on your own terms.
  4. Whenever you are down, frustrated or facing a roadblock to recovery, turn your immediate focus to someone else and to attacking his or her problems. You will be amazed at how seeking creative solutions for another often leads to unexpected insights for yourself.
  5. Recognize that in most cases, you will need a whole new self-identity and a new life pattern, so they might as well be ones you are comfortable with. If recently divorced or widowed, you no longer are “husband” or “wife” and your daily pattern of interaction will be far different than your recent past.

As we progress through middle age into our “senior” years, cherished face-to-face relationships become more and more important. Daily interactions on Twitter and Facebook are never enough. If you are lonely begin, perhaps timidly at first, reaching out to others, regaining your sense of connection and experiencing the true joy of giving. As you connect, your life will become longer and more fulfilling.

For more advice on combating loneliness, tune into to the August 19, 2013 edition of my Internet radio program “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age” on WebTalkRadio.net. My guest is Dr. William Courter, author of THE BOOMER SURVIVOR KIT.  You’ll find our program link on page one of Google under “middle age your best age.”  

     

 

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Our Radio Program Now Available on Three Platforms

Great news–our popular weekly Internet radio program, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age, ” is now available on three platforms–WebTalkRadio.net, iTunes and Stitcher! To hear us on Stitcher, go to: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/web-talk-radio/middle-age-can-be-your-best-age-roy-richards.

The notion that once we reach middle age our best years are behind us is utter hogwash! The secret is to filter the idealism of youth through the lenses of adult experience, a winning combination! Wake up to life! It’s time to conquer fear, remove layers of self-doubt and to restore positive emotions and hopeful expectations for the future.

Join me each week as I interview outstanding guests who offer sound advice on confronting and overcoming career, lifestyle and relationship challenges common to middle age. Bury once and for all any unfounded regret over “lost dreams” and “diminished expectations”–your best is yet to come!

A new program debuts live on the Internet each Monday morning but prior programs remain  archived so you can listen at any time to any program that catches your interest. Please join my guests and me each week as we point the way to a brighter tomorrow!

For easy access to our program, simply enter “middle age your best age” on Google Search. Our program link is at the top of page one.

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Midlife Loss of Spouse or Child–From Grief to Inspiration

The toughest day of my life was New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2006. Just three days prior, my wife Gloria had received a highly encouraging report from her oncologist following three months of chemotherapy. All the signs were great–her cancer appeared to be in remission!

Because our two grown children lived far away–our son in Austin, Texas, our daughter in San Diego, California, Gloria and I decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve and her victory over cancer at home–just the two of us watching the ball drop at Times Square on TV. Shortly before 7 PM our home rang and my wife answered. Suddenly, she dropped the phone and turned to me sobbing in utter disbelief! Our daughter’s close friend was calling to inform us that our only daughter Kristen, a former Navy pilot, had been killed instantly at age thirty when her single engine plane stalled out and nose dived suddenly into the ground after retrieving an advertising banner to fly over the San Diego Chargers football game.

The horror of the moment can only be understood by parents of a child killed in an accident or some other tragic event. It’s not supposed to happen this way! God doesn’t intend for any of us to outlive our own child. In a few terrifying seconds our daughter’s love of life, ambitious plans and shining future as a professional pilot had been snuffed out! Emptiness engulfed my wife  and me as we contemplated a future without the daughter we so loved and admired.

Paralyzed by grief, little did Gloria and I realize on New Year’s Day, 2007 that in death Kristen’s brief thirty years on Earth would become an inspiration for the remainder of our lives.  Looking back, I see clearly that my own daughter’s life also provides an ideal blueprint for a joyful, purpose-driven and benevolent approach to daily living.

My wife and I always knew that Kristen was self-assured, strong-willed and inner directed. On her first day of life in October, 1976 she survived a delicate operation by an extremely talented surgeon with very small and capable hands. You see Kristen was born with her esophagus attached to her windpipe instead of her stomach–without the operation she wouldn’t have survived. Baby Kristen survived the operation with flying colors and never looked back. Doctors marveled at how rapidly she  recovered and went home.

At age four after soloing on a kiddie plane at an amusement park Kristen declared, “I’m going to be a pilot when I grow up!” She never gave up on her dreams. After working her way through a prestigious four-year college, she went straight into Naval OCS and on to flight school. An accomplished  Naval aviator, Kristen flew missions in the Middle East, South America and the North Atlantic. Transitioning to commercial aviation, she flew advertising banners over southern California beaches and football games mostly for the fun of it and to log flight time prior to applying to a major airline.

It wasn’t until after Kristen’s death that Gloria and I discovered the full extent of Kristen’s service to others and her favorable influence on those around her. Here are only a few examples:

  • At Kristen’s memorial service in Iowa, a number of friends flew up from Jacksonville, Florida (one of her last Navy posts) in the dead of winter; all commented on Kristen’s warm personality and unique can-do attitude.
  • A volunteer from the Naval Relief Society described how Kristen drove solo 358 miles overnight from Jacksonville to Pensacola, caught two hours sleep in the back seat of her car in a Wal-Mart parking lot, purchased several hundred dollars of relief supplies with her own money and spent the next several days helping out with disaster relief following a Gulf hurricane.
  • At a second memorial service in San Diego, two female Navy officers relayed how Kristen had inspired their careers.
  • A Personnel Director described Kristen’s intervention on several occasions to help resolve workplace disputes.
  • A close friend sent us a letter: “Kristen was always genuine, never talked behind your back. When others were gossiping, Kristen would always intervene and put in a good word for the person being maligned. The most independent, self-assured person I ever met–but never haughty and never at the expense of another.”
  • Kristen never tolerated bullying or put-downs. She always looked for a positive feature in another person to comment on: “You have great eyes!” Once, patrons of a dance club were mocking a man dancing to his own beat. Kristen called  the man over and began dancing with him, silencing the critics and making this man’s day.
  • Kristen used her wit and strength of character to survive and prosper in the male-dominated world of Naval aviation. One she offered to assist a gentleman attempting to move a heavy freezer. The man remarked, “This is a man’s job!” Kristen responded with a big smile on her face, “Well I can do just about anything better than a man, so you’d better let me help!” Together, Kristen and the man got the job done.
  • Kristen refused to hide or dwell upon her own imperfections. She confidently noted qualities she liked about herself and sought out companionship with others who appreciated those qualities.

Following our daughter’s tragic, untimely death, Gloria and I had two choices–the same midlife choices you may face should you lose a loved one in his or her prime:

  1. Spend months, even years stuck in neutral or moving forward in low gearforever lost in a bitter, hopeless remembrance of how much better things used to be. (Why did this happen to me?)
  2. Rededicate your life to honor the memory of your loved one then begin moving forward to build a productive, joy-filled future. 

Is there any doubt in your mind which is the better choice? Will you, your departed loved one or anyone else benefit from your lingering in a permanent state of sadness and inactivity? Is this what your loved one would want were he or she still alive? OF COURSE NOT!

I am not a trained grief counselor, but from my own experience and that of close friends who have suffered loss, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Grieve and mourn for as long or as short a period as you need but by all means don’t experience guilt. Some folks require a long time to recover from a tragic, unexpected loss. Others handle grief best by getting right back to work. If that describes you, you don’t have to explain, just do it!
  2. As early as possible, take that first small step to recovery. Call a good friend. Attend church or venture out to a non-stressful social function. Go to a ball game or a movie.
  3. Seek whatever outside assistance you need to advance beyond grief to recovery. If you are a person of faith, ask God for strength of acceptance. Establish on-going relationships with other people of faith, especially those who have recovered from similar loss. Join a support group (e.g., Compassionate Friends, a national organization with local chapters comprised of parents who have lost children.)
  4. Remind yourself daily that your only realistic positive course of action is to plan out, then visualize, the remainder of your life in service to self and others. No matter how devastating your loss, you can’t afford to forfeit control over your very own personal destiny.
  5. Seek out a cause or take up that hobby that you always have wanted to try. A perfect solution might be volunteering for a cause that honors the memory of your departed (e.g., American Cancer Society if your loved one died of cancer.) Volunteer activity or a hobby can’t compensate fully for your loss, but you may make new lifelong friends and uncover joy and satisfaction in an unanticipated direction.

As contradictory as it first may sound, the recovery phase from any life-altering traumatic loss may prove in hindsight to be an ideal point in time for personal midlife renewal! Unlike most procrastinators, those of us suffering tragic loss don’t have the option of retreating to the past, putting off needed change or clinging to a less-than-fully-satisfying present. Our only logical choice is to move forward to something better.

If you are a person of faith, there’s nothing wrong with asking God for a sign that your departed loved one is OK. You may be pleasantly surprised by the answer! My wife and I have received several positive signs from Kristen:

  • Shortly after learning of our daughter’s fate, a vendor at craft fair rushed over to tell my wife that in her mind she distinctly heard Kristen  laugh and proclaim, “”I’m fine!” That’s precisely the way Kristen would have reacted when she was alive.
  • After driving a few blocks to mail a letter, I discovered on the car’s front seat next to me a pair of sun glasses I’d been missing for weeks. I swear to God they weren’t there when I got in the car.
  • One night, a beautiful series of lights suddenly flashed on and off in our daughter’s bed room for no apparent reason for only a minute or two, then just as suddenly faded away. We discovered absolutely no explainable source for this splendid light show.

We have had four or five other signs beyond rational logic. I don’t pretend to know where or in what form our daughter’s spirit resides today, but I am 100% convinced that Gloria and I will see her again. Somewhere in the universe, Kristen is “fine” with the same vibrant personality, caring attitude and spirit of adventure that she had on Earth. For the rest of my life, she will remain an inspiration.

 

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Survive and Prosper from a Head-on Crash or Other Disaster

If your motorcycle crashed head-on into the side of a van at 40 mph, what thoughts would flash through your mind? On my Internet radio program, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age”, I interview a remarkable gentleman, Knighton Warbeck, who suffered this crash and describes the split second before impact as “one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.”

I don’t recommend you jump on a motorcycle to duplicate this experience yourself but here’s the remarkable follow-up to the story. Yes, the actual crash impact did hurt and knocked Knighton out. When he awoke in hospital, the emergency room physician inquired, “Can you wiggle your toes?” Faced with the prospect of a severed spine and life as a paraplegic, I would have been too scared to try. In contrast, Knighton deeply relaxed his mind, found peace within then calmly wiggled his toes.  Three days later he walked out of the hospital and subsequently recovered strength and full bodily motion.

Obviously, not many of us would survive a head-on crash and come out this well. Thankfully a vast majority of us won’t have to. How did Knighton do it? Prior to the crash, he had discovered and perfected a technique for overcoming both traumatic life events and common “disasters” much more mundane than a head-on motorcycle crash. Another advantage: 95% of the time, you and I will have advanced warning of hours, days or even weeks to prepare for actual impact. (Before you are laid off, I’ll bet you will know your employer was in trouble and that cut-backs were coming. Your divorce won’t be a sudden shock; your spousal relationship has been crumbling for years. Your finances will steadily deteriorate long before your home is foreclosed.)

Simply because we anticipate an impending disaster or negative outcome, doesn’t mean that we effectively prepare for it. Most often, we are far too worried and fearful of failure that we can’t come up with positive solutions or alternatives moving forward.

Here are highlights of Knighton’s recovery process:

Step 1: In your mind, think about the worst possible outcome. If you are a soldier nervous heading into battle: “I am already dead!” If under stress at work: “My employer has fired me; I’m out of work and must find a new job.” If your marriage is crumbling: “I’ll soon be divorced, lonely, seeking companionship all over again.” If facing extensive rehab to walk following a serious accident: “I’ll be confined to a wheelchair the rest of my life.” If awaiting medical test results, “I’ll be diagnosed with cancer.”

Step 2: Imagine yourself experiencing this worst possible outcome. How will you feel? Briefly in your mind imagine all of the pain, sorrow, loss and inconvenience this presumed negative outcome would cause. Get all of the sense of loss, resentment, worry and fear out of  your system now so that you will be ready to think clearly and respond positively later, should the worst actually occur.

Step 3: Accept worst possible outcome and make the best of it. This outcome is in your life today for a reason. What is its purpose? For example, cancer’s ultimate purpose is to kill but millions have discovered new strength within and positive momentum for their future by sending it into remission. Your goal: broaden knowledge, gain confidence, explore new options and come out in the end a stronger, more well-rounded, self-fulfilled positive individual..

Step 4: By visualizing the worst, you have overcome it so “time travel” to the future and begin making rational contingency plans, whatever may happen. Within our minds, we need only suffer calamity one time.  By “fooling the mind” into accepting a traumatic worst-case outcome–which in fact may never occur–we deflate negative impact of the actual event and can move forward rationally, relying on our inner strength and seeking out a positive long-term outcome.  

In accepting the worst before it occurs, how long must we suffer in the mind? It varies immensely from person to person, but generally the time becomes shorter as we become more experienced at the process. For some, negative emotions may last as little as ten minutes, for others an hour or two, worst case maybe one or two days. The like-magic conclusion: it is possible to remove fear and stress in advance so that when the actual trauma occurs we will have the proper energy needed to address the challenge and move on.

The bottom line: when facing life-changing problems and challenges large or small, assume the worst, time travel forward with the negative result, then make peace with the consequences thereby putting the stress behind you so that you can open your mind to a creative solution. Once you discover that solution, then you can begin to visualize success so that the positive “law of attraction” can kick in.

Knighton Warbeck describes his technique for recovery far better than I, so tune into my interview with him on the July 29, 2013 edition of “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age” on WebTalkRadio.net. You can listen in at any time at your convenience on your Personal Computer, smart phone or similar electronic device.

 

 

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Why Isn’t God Answering Your Prayers?

For persons of faith, a primary avenue to recovery from a midlife crisis or from the doldrums of an uninspiring life is prayer–communication with the Divine Presence. Like me, do you sometimes wonder why prayer often times doesn’t seem to work? We tend to pray most when we fervently want something–either for ourselves or for someone else. So many times it seems like we don’t receive an answer!

It often doesn’t seem like we’re asking for all that much:

  • Maybe a job that’s a bit more satisfying and pays a little more. (Of course, as soon as we get the raise, we’ll share some of it with the church!)
  • Reassurance that our loved one will pull the operation.
  • Positive results from the scary, pending medical test.
  • That our son or daughter will conquer his or her addiction to drugs.
  • To get over that recent divorce and to find someone new who will bring joy and contentment back into my life.

Every week you go to church, routinely read the scriptures and pray time and time again but so far no signs of resolution. You’re not a bad person, so why hasn’t God answered your prayers?

I am not an ordained minister and this blog is not intended as a sermon. Nevertheless, I hope to inspire anyone who desires more out of life than continuing to move forward with an unsatisfying status quo. Will power alone is never the answer! That’s why a sound first step is to acknowledge the presence of a Greater Power and to tune into that power for guidance moving forward.

As an initial suggestion, pray to God once with all your heart then relax and wait for God’s affirmative “YES”. You and I don’t need to pray over and over with the same request–God hears us the first time and is aware of our deepest concerns before we utter a word! By all means, consciously seek God’s help in silencing that little voice inside your subconscious mind that holds you back. So often it is us as God’s children who answer “NO” and create our own opposition. At times God’s positive response may not be the precise “yes” answer we are seeking but once we gain true insight, we will come to realize that God’s answer is better than our own.

Prayer is a sound first step to unlocking the potential that many of us don’t even realize we possess. Who says at middle age your best days are behind you and that accomplishments up to now is all you’re capable of? The opposite of success is not failure but mediocrity. Perhaps your initial request to God should be to open your eyes to your wonderful full potential!

Here’s another good reason why at first blush prayer so often appears to fail. A lot of us get mental fatigue from praying over and over for the same thing. After a while, our words tend to lose meaning for us. I must admit I’ve prayed the Lord’s Prayer so many times in public worship services that the words at times have no genuine impact on my emotions. The next time you recite a prayer in communal worship, take time out to reflect upon the precise meaning to you of the phrases you are reciting.

Another challenge: most of us need to dedicate more prayer time to expressing gratitude for all of God’s blessings. Don’t simply ask God for favors! Expressing gratitude also will serve as a blessing for you! If you’re like me, when you take the time to reflect upon and give thanks for everything you have, a flood of positive emotions will flood your mind. At times you may even discover previously hidden solutions to the very problems you have been praying about.

As a final suggestion, surrender your deepest longings and concerns to God in prayer but afterwards don’t just sit around waiting for God to do all the work. God created you and me with the imagination and intellectual capacity to address our own problems and to experience divine joy and fulfillment, once we begin working with rather than against God.

If less than fully satisfied with your life today, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. “Why do I struggle in a world created by a God  who intended us to prosper?”
  2. “Since God created me with unlimited potential, why am I willing to settle for mediocre?” 
  3. “Possessing a heart and tongue that can move mountains, why do I feel despair and speak often about limitations and lack of resources?”

To explore further “why God doesn’t answer our prayers” please tune in the July 22, 2013 edition of my weekly Internet radio program “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age.” My honored guest is Wrenwick Williams who assures us that God has promised us all health and wealth–He’s just waiting for us to come by and get them! 

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Is It Time for Your Midlife Happiness Makeover?

If you’re over 40, take time out today from your hectic routine and ask yourself this question: “At middle age, am I more happy than sad?” Are you satisfied with what you have accomplished up to this point in your life? Do you have positive and constructive yet challenging plans in mind for your future? Do you wake up most mornings looking forward to the day ahead?

Because life is multidimensional, I trust you are satisfied with all five major aspects of your life:

  • Career and vocation: someone pays you to have a good time.
  • Relationships: romantic partner and family along with a few good friends.
  • Lifestyle and possessions: not to impress others but because they make your life better.
  • Spiritual: trust in and communication with a Higher Power.
  • Recreation: hobbies, sports, travel–whatever produces joy in your spare time.

Maybe you don’t need to take this test: you already know that your life is filled with “the blues.” I trust you do not suffer from the common midlife curse of “lost dreams and diminished expectations.” If sadness describes you, it is high time you stop blaming “someone else” or “circumstances beyond my control” and take the initial steps to your very own HAPPINESS MAKEOVER. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Get over the blame game. It will not help you to rediscover joy by blaming the boss, your spouse, the government, “mistakes my parents made” or “whatever” for everything that’s “wrong” in your life today. None of us has 100% control over external circumstances but every sane, responsible adult does have total control over how he or she reacts to these circumstances..    

2. Get to the root of your problems so you can begin to address them. Your purpose is not to assign blame and the exercise is not always as easy as it seems. As an example, a problem  of shyness in relationships (therefore few close friends) may have begun with a careless, hurtful remark someone made to you as a small child. Once you recognize the shyness for what it is, you will begin to realize that this stupid remark from long ago does not define your adult relationships and you can begin working to purge shyness from your subconscious mind.

3. Consciously resolve to live a happier life, beginning today. Don’t be like the old dog on a porch here in Iowa who was continuously moaning because he didn’t have the ambition to get up and move off the sharp tack that was poking him in the side. Living a happier life must be your conscious personal choice. Imagine yourself happy and fulfilled, then visualize yourself in that continual state, in as much detail as possible. How wonderful you will feel! Both happiness and sadness are self-fulfilling prophesies, so why not choose happiness?

4. Live in the present moment; seek to create your very-own happy mindset every moment of every day. The present moment is the only one you’re living right now so regretting the past or worrying needlessly about the future accomplishes absolutely nothing. (Of course you should make sold plans for the future, guarding against possible unfortunate contingencies, but why pull your hair out worrying over something that most likely will not occur?)

5. Consider several key elements to your “happiness makeover”: 

  • Take a step back to “renegotiate” your position. Instruct your subconscious mind: “I no longer am a person who anticipates the worst. From this day forward, I will have faith and start from the premise that things will work out for the best in the end.”
  • Step away from life’s daily “drama” to regain sight of what’s really important to you. For example, when you stop to think about it, maybe that promotion at work you are striving so hard to attain will not make you happy and is not really how you wish to spend the remainder of your working life.
  • If you are a person of faith, take advantage of prayer for guidance. In any event, seek out advice from others and read books and articles to take advantage of proven methods to solve problems you face.
  • Put it all together and charge forward with self-confidence and the positive attitude: “I am a new person: strong and ready to overcome whatever life throws at me.”       

To close this article, let’s imagine perhaps the worst of all circumstances. Let us imagine that a fictitious person, John or Joan Hardy, who has been happily married for 38 years without warning tragically loses his or her spouse to a tragic accident or illness. Obviously the loss is a huge, unwelcome shock. Moving forward following an appropriate period of mourning, which of the following two mindsets and attitudes should the surviving spouse adopt?

  1. “I can never get over the loss of my life’s true partner. I will live out my life in sorrow, never venturing out to look for new love or companionship because no one can ever take my loved one’s place. The good life is over for me!”
  2.  “I miss my departed spouse like crazy but I am a positive person. My spouse loved me and would want me to be happy. Despite my tragic loss, I consider this my time for new beginnings and I will take every opportunity I can to meet new people and enjoy new experiences. Who knows what the future will bring, but I’m ready!”

Following a tragic loss or traumatic circumstance, which of these two pathways would you choose? On occasion, bad things may happen to us whether we are happy or unhappy, but it’s entirely up to each one of us how we react. On a more positive note, favorable results are much more likely to come to those individuals who consistently initiate positive interactions with others and who anticipate favorable “win/win” ultimate resolutions even in the toughest of circumstances.

For additional suggestions on your very own happiness makeover, tune in to the Monday, July 8, 2013 installment of my weekly Internet radio broadcast, “Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age” on WebTalkRadio.net. One of my guests, Dr. John Stagl, has written a brand new book on the subject and offers us all sound advice.

 

 

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