the thinking man’s thinking man

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about thinking. It came to me while we were walking the dogs the other morning. It is commonly recognised that walking is a good time for thinking. It must be said that when you’re walking the dogs this time is far from pure and uncluttered. Your thinking gets interrupted by paying attention to where they’ve taken the ball, getting it back and throwing it again or making sure they don’t rush off chasing other dogs / cyclists / joggers / little girls in pink on scooters. Lately walks have been much influenced by mud. It’s a bind, a lack of attention about where one is putting one’s feet can see oneself sitting in the actual mud as opposed to walking upon it. And much more. You get the idea.

In between these distractions it is possible to squeeze in what I’ll call for the moment, productive thinking time. It occurred to me that when a person is retired, which in turn means they’re getting older, we have one of those best of times, worst of times, scenarios. Much of my retirement seems to be like this. In this case being retired means we have more time to think about aspects of our life that are not work-related – obviously. That would be the best bit, the worst bit is that this increased freedom to think can be a curse.

Let me explain. I suggest that when retired, there is a greater responsibility on us to choose what we do think about. I think I’ve written before about types of thinking and after four and a half years of this thing called retirement, a mixed blessing in itself it seems to me, I’m still very much of the opinion that what we choose or allow ourselves to think is instrumental in determining what kind of retirement we live. Our thinking dictates both the way we feel about our retirement and how we behave in our retirement years. There may be some debate about which of the unholy trinity of cognitions, emotions and behaviour comes first, which influences which and in what order. I choose to believe that the thinking bit comes first and influences the other two. My blog, my choice.

So in ‘my’ model it’s clear that what we choose to think during (rather than about although that too) our retirement is important in determining the quality of our retirement. I’ve written before about what is called in some circles, faulty thinking or irrational beliefs about retirement. You know the kind of thing – I’m old, I can’t … or I was so much happier when I was … Incidentally, one of the benefits of keeping a diary for the last forty years is that a person can be reminded, should s/he choose to look back on those written pages, that the view that my life was a better place x years ago is a myth. In my case I was as miserable then as I am now. I exaggerate for effect of course, I’m only partially miserable then and now.

I’ve invented a couple more versions of this type of negative thinking since I wrote that last blog about thinking and retirement I’ll share them with you. The first one relates to the idea above that the past was best. I think that walking along between bouts of ball-throwing thinking about all the fabulous times you had in your younger days, is misplaced unless taken in very small doses. In my case sometimes I allow myself to fantasise about the times we spent working abroad – USA, New Zealand, Australia. How it was all totally fabulous. A quick reread of these diaries puts this myth to flight. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have missed these times for the world as the cliché has it particularly now travel is somewhat restricted I’m glad I did it then, but those years were by no means unblemished. So a bit of looking back is OK but wallowing inaccurately in the past is not helpful.

There’s another kind of negative thinking that I specialise in. It’s broadly called worrying or always looking on the non-bright side of life. I don’t want to go into this too deeply because I don’t like what I find there but generally I spend a disproportionate amount of time reliving past embarrassments or failures that scarred me. I don’t mean massively scarred but they made a mark on my well-being and I can recall them all. The point, I realised on my last walk, is that this is particularly stupid given, as a retired / aging person, I only have so much thinking time left, so wallowing in negativity is extremely bonkers. And in terms of worrying about what is to come well it won’t have a work-related aspect where many of my setbacks have resided. So this kind of thinking should be written down put in an envelope and consigned to the rubbish bin.

So OK, the above represent a quick overview of the kind of thinking to be avoided in retirement. What’s to be recommended? At this point I’m going to cop out and write what, for me, constitutes ‘good’ or at least enjoyable thinking. Of course action-planning type thoughts are always good, identifying your ‘problems’ and coming up with strategies to remedy but more than this, I like to think creative thoughts. To have ideas. After all that’s what this blog is about. All the blogs I’ve written are ideas, a creative moment like the one walking in the park, that led to this blog being written and then ‘put out there’. That’s what Mrs Summerhouse’s art is about, each picture she (now) is putting out on Instagram, check them out at ellenmaxwell48. A little plug there. I’m sure she will do the same for me. Nepotism? Well, maybe. I’m trying to get my cartoons going again and then I’ll have another vehicle for those creative thoughts I’m so fond of.

So retirement and thinking, I’m going to make massive effort to avoid the kind of negative thoughts mentioned above and have more of the creative thoughts also mentioned above but not quite so far above.

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