“Set in their ways.” That’s a dreary expression that conjures up an image of a stubborn, grumpy guy or gal. We all know people like that. The trick is not to become one.
As we move into our 60’s and 70’s, life changes can begin to accelerate—people start moving to retirement locations, health issues can begin popping up, we can lose relatives, grandkids start becoming more independent…and on and on it will go.
“Set in their ways” is not a good start for that time of life. One of the ways I see people getting “set” is expecting to know how things will end before they are willing to start. Some of the simplest things become rigid. They know when the night will end because they always go home at 10 p.m. Grocery day is the same every week just like laundry. They read the same newspapers and eat at the same restaurants, do the same things.
Used to be they took more chances, let things unfold and rolled the dice. Not so much since they grew up and older. Some of their caution developed when kids were at home or when their professional demands demanded seriousness and left little for the spontaneous side of life.
For most of them, that’s over. So why don’t they return to their freewheeling days and shed their stuck-ness? Not so fast. They’ve grown fond of their routines and over time, become timider about stepping out of the familiar. It’s a lifestyle now, not a necessity.
Truth be known, none of us know how things are going to end. It’s a myth.
Somehow, the image of empty nesters doing things for the first time—learning to fly, taking flamingo lessons, going skydiving—is inconsistent with how we see older adults.
How would you react if your best friend decided to join the Peace Corps? What if your closest relative planned to backpack through Italy? Crazy might be our first thought. Hopefully we will think again and remember the exhilaration we felt when we did something for the first time.
If we suspect that stuck-ness is creeping of in our own lives, what should we do?
It can be hard to notice when life rhythms turn into inflexible routines. Is it upsetting when our schedules need to change? When a Saturday activity must be moved to Thursday, does is cause a tizzy? That’s a sure sign.
Ask a good friend or family member
A trusted confidante sees us more clearly than we see ourselves. They will know if we are starting to get stuck in our ways.
Try something new
Getting out of our routines can tell us a lot. If we want to retreat immediately, stuck-ness is probably taking hold.
If we see the signs, what then? Next week we’ll look at ways to break free.