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December 11, 2018

Thinking About Retiring? Say “I Do” to Curiosity

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by Denis Wuestman

Last year I wrote a blog about lessons learned observing a one-year-old turning the pages of a picture book (Turn the Page).  The lesson for retirees is that we too have to turn the page if we want to move forward and experience the great things that freedom affords us in this next phase of our lives.  This may mean leaving some things behind as it is hard to fully appreciate the next page until you move from where you are today.

A New Lesson – The Curiosity-Creativity Link

Yes, moving forward is a key first step.  But, the two-year-old isn’t finished as he has taught me yet another lesson – although he doesn’t know it.   Watching him play, I can see how his curiosity feeds his creativity.  How so?  He wants to learn new things, and via the action of doing, he creates new approaches to tasks which spurs his growth.  The 2-year-old’s favorite phrase now is: I Do– meaning, of course, he wants to try it (I let him do it – assuming it’s safe of course).  Curious about throwing a ball or drawing a picture – well, doing it requires action and then the creativity takes over as he experiments.  For example, which hand does he start throwing the new ball with? How does he throw it the next hundred times and what is he doing differently?  Or what colors/shapes/lines does he like to draw as he creates his own artwork to show Mom?    The curiosity gets his mind engaged, the creativity happens after he starts doing.  He has made the throwing and drawing experience his own and adapts it over time. Curiosity and Creativity together – what a great pair!

Mindset and Curiosity

Think about what this could mean as you create your best self in retirement. It could open up new possibilities and feed continuous learning and growth in a positive way.  Recently I became curious about ice-skating, something I tried some 40 years ago.  In my decision to give this a try, I recalled some of the guests we had on our Retirement Conversation podcasts who shared their experiences with trying new things, challenging oneself and not being afraid of failing.  Fritz Gilbert (aka the Retirement Manifesto) on his approaching decision to retirement emphasized the importance of mindset in his podcast Preparing Well for the Soft Side of Retirement: “So to me, the perennial definition is a person that has the mindset of like a perennial flower, you always bloom year after year. And from an individual perspective, I think what that means to me, is you’re somebody that’s always challenging yourself, you’re always curious, you’re always growing, you’re always trying new things, you’re pushing up new flowers every year.”

So, although not sure if I could do this, I decided to take some ice-skating lessons with a small group. My curiosity gave me adrenaline and it felt good to try something I hadn’t done in a long time.  However, I also had to get a bit creative both physically and mentally.  First, having a coach this time meant a world of difference as I asked her to teach me how to fall, thereby removing that fear (wearing a helmet helped too). Second, I decided to set a goal for each lesson in order to create a routine for myself that would build confidence and skills in a short period of time. From learning how to ease into a smooth skate, to stopping, to swivel back-ups, to bringing my feet together and then apart, and finally the freedom of looking up versus looking down at my feet, I turned the page by letting go of my fears (and the boards).  Although I have to keep practicing, in order to get better, I was able to adapt and not smash my head on the ice!  My confidence grew too (but that’s too many C’s for this article).

Our Ability to Be Creative Doesn’t Diminish

Ok, ice-skating may not be for everyone, but it demonstrates the opportunity to continue to learn as we age and the connection between curiosity and creativeness. We either learn or are born with curiosity, so following it as we age isn’t hard, but we need to be able to turn the page and look forward.  And creativity doesn’t diminish just because we age.  Dr Alan Castel – author of Better with Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging, in his podcast How Can You Be Better with Age referred to creativeness and aging: “We actually might be more creative as we get older, whether it’s taking up a new hobby, playing a new musical instrument, or just approaching problems in ways that we hadn’t thought of before.”

Think of a time when you were curious about something, and how pursuing that led to a great growth experience.   What page do you want to turn now so you can learn or do something new?  It doesn’t matter if you are good at it or not, your creativity will kick in if you stay with it.  As you seek to enhance your retirement life, recall the two year old in yourself.  Feed your curiosity, take action and let your creativity take over.  Enjoy the skate and let go of the boards!

Denis can be reached at denisw@retirementwisdom.com

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