Birthday Wishes

A few days back it was my wife Kendra’s birthday. It is always a risk to write about one’s spouse, particularly when your spouse also reads your posts! Add to that now the risk of talking about a woman’s age and I am starting to feel like I am skating on thin ice! So let’s start by saying I love Kendra very much and there isn’t another person I’d rather grow old with. Doh! Did it again! Sorry my dear!

Seriously what is this thing we have against growing older?

I remember going on a fishing trip years back and we were sitting in the main lodge with the owner and a friend of the owner. They were both in their 60’s or later, so when the friend got up out of his chair to refresh his drink all his joints creaked and cracked. “%*#^}*#”, he said. “I hate getting old!” The owner replied “I’m not sure why you are complaining about getting old when you consider the alternative. Worst thing that ever happens to you is you stop getting older!”

When we stop getting older ...
When we stop getting older …

It’s true! Why do we wish this for ourselves? Where did the youthful exuberance surrounding growing up go? “When I grow up I’m going to …. !”. And when do we make the switch from trying to speed up the aging process to trying to slow it down? What makes us do that?

I’m sure many of us are familiar with this desire to “stop the clock“. But how does this explain another competing tendency we sometimes experience? That of wishing away parts of our life or rushing on to the next milestone.

  • “Oh my, I can hardly wait for my vacation!”
  • “When am I going to be able to retire?”
  • “This meeting is so boring … when will it ever end?”
  • “When can I go for lunch?”

It’s interesting how we view time. As just described, we just want to run away from some moments in time, some “now’s” if you will, and at other times we seem to wish for anything other than moving forward into the future. The birthday example is one of these, but I’m sure we can come up with others.

  • An encounter with someone else that we aren’t looking forward to.
  • The departure of a favourite colleague from the department.
  • The completion of a really interesting project.
  • The end of a contract which leaves us unemployed.
  • A difficult conversation we would rather not have

The nature of both these states, the “I can’t wait to get out of this now” and the “don’t make me move on from this now” both actually point to a lack of presence with what is happening in right now. In the first case we are focused on the discomfort of the moment rather than what is truly happening and in the second case, even though wishing to remain in this moment, it is our trepidation about future moments that prevent us from engaging in thinking in the present that will help us move forward.

My father-in-law Ed Milliken has a wonderful approach to life. Ed is 82 years old but you would never know it by either his physical countenance or his youthful exuberance.  I’ve never asked Ed this, but my guess is he never thinks about dying, only about what else there is to create, express, experience, and contribute.  Without really thinking about it he has created an amazing ability to live in the present and enjoy the moment while being productive and connected to others.

Ever young Ed Milliken
Ever young Ed Milliken

Are there parallels to this at work? Are we actually wishing a valuable opportunity away in our present assignment away when we long for or lament missing a promotion to a higher position, when we may not yet have had the experiences necessary for us to excel in that position? Do we hold back from having critical conversations with someone that when it goes well will lead to growth and fulfillment, out of the fear that it goes badly? Do we change jobs or companies looking for greater satisfaction before we ask for what we want within the context of our current assignment?

Or do we show up each day, in each now, plans for the day in hand but ready for any curves the day will throw at us?  Do we take each event in stride and be our best in dealing with it? Do we allow our careers to unfold in a natural way where our skills and talents are always on display for leadership to observe and value? Do we allow ourselves an honest perspective whether we are happy and engaged in our work?

There was wisdom in the old fisherman.  While he was joking about his friend’s lament he kindled a theme in my life. A desire to embrace every day of getting older along with an awareness that we can’t skip ahead. And a desire for those days to be fulfilling.

Another of my wise octogenarian friends, a golf partner, has a favourite expression that would be good for all of us to embrace … “Another great day on the right side of the grass!”  And that, at the end of the day, will always be better than the alternative!

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

8 thoughts on “Birthday Wishes

  1. Perhaps it is Ian that we fear what happens when we do quit getting older — and thus, blame our fear on the getting older, not the fear of dying. If we overcome our fear of dying, perhaps we then can focus on our age, without targetting our age as the culprit of our unease!

    1. I do believe that is true Louise. I think the trick here is to accept what is happening at any moment (“it is what it is”) and then act upon those events with thoughts in the present. The first step in that process is to want to be in this moment!

  2. Not until I’ve gotten older have I begun to understand this concept. When I was in my 30’s I thought why didn’t I realize how vibrant I was in my 20’s. In my 40’s I thought the same about my 30’s calling them the best decade of my life. In my mid 40’s I realized I would look back and wonder the same about my 40’s so I made a decision to enjoy the NOW so that I wouldn’t look back wondering why I didn’t. Happy Bday to your wife Ian and a lovely Sunday to both of you!

  3. With my life in transition due to the fall-out of divorce, this is a timely post. So much energy of mine is spent on wishing to fast forward to a better place (past the messy bits) yet at the same time hold back (eg: hold onto the home that I know I will need to sell). So much energy focussing on dealing with pushing ahead or pulling back, rather than enjoying the present moments that are still there, that are worth celebrating, even in the midst of a difficult situation. Like you with your father-in-law, I am lucky to have a great role mother in my mother aged 86 who is still involved in community and family projects; and who enjoys and savours the moments of each day.
    Great post and a fantastic way to honour your wife on her birthday
    (and very cleverly, you did not give away her age).

    1. Hi Elizabeth. Thank you for the comments and thanks for expressing the essence of this so well!

      Ian Munro Vice President, Procurement Services (403) 515-3297

  4. This was great, Ian. I enjoy the personal detail, and your views. I love your solid relationship with your wife, too.

    I’m in my 40s, 50 is pretty close. I’m realising how single I am, how I will be alone when Daniel leaves, how much I’ve given to his life these 17 years (without regret, but I didn’t plan the future – I did not (truly) think I would be alive in the future), and I’m in a place where I’m not as open to men (they’ve harmed too much, but due to my invitation I guess) and, hmmm. Yes, you do end up thinking in your 40s. Loved this, Ian.

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