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Being smarter than when I was younger is one of the main things I like about getting older. All those life experiences, both positive and negative, have helped to create a mantle of wisdom and clarity. Sure, these qualities are not only associated with seniors, but younger people, in general, have fewer real life events from which to learn. I do admit there's no one who can be more compassionate and supportive than a spouse or a parent, whether they're a senior or not.
It's not all about me?????
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s (yeah, probably most of my 40’s and 50's too!) it was all about me. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to see the impact of my words and actions on others. That’s when the clarity and wisdom started to manifest itself in my life.
I’m neither sage nor a guru, but I have more answers now, the kind of answers that speak the truth rather than try to show how smart I think I am. When I'm sharing my opinion or volunteering some uncalled for information, I try to visualize molasses oozing slowly out of a jar. I try to drag it out and let the content and manner in which I respond form more fully in my brain before spewing forth. Ideally, I question whether my opinion is called for at all!
It’s not like I’m Oprah with a staff of editors and censors standing behind me monitoring what I say and how I speak. I’m thinking on the fly. It’s easy for me to contest myself with how quickly I can come up with a snazzy answer before anyone else. Very rarely, however, does clarity and wisdom show up in these situations. These days, especially now that I’m retired, it’s less important that I be first with the ‘correct’ answer or comment. Thankfully, there are no work situations for me that require a fast solution to one problem or another. But we do live in a sound bite world, so it’s easy to feel responding quickly is better than responding with forethought.
Work environments sometimes hinder clarity and wisdom.
Lots of us love to hear ourselves talk. When I worked as a manager in the Sheriff’s Department, I abhorred 2+ hour meetings. I had this funny saying: “My mind cannot grasp what my butt cannot endure.” Meetings like these occurred frequently because the participants (including me) loved to hear ourselves deliver great pearls of wisdom. It finally dawned on me that true clarity didn’t need massaging. I started having stand-up meetings wherever I could. We were often done in 20 minutes! Ah, clarity.
For me clarity and wisdom begins within. How can I say anything with sureness that has meaning and is appropriate when I don’t have it settled in my head first? And most often it takes time to have things settle before a coherent answer or comment surfaces. I’ve also been enjoying a twist when, during a conversation, there is a pause that begs my input but I ask instead, “What do YOU think about that?” Lots of time, the other person is a little surprised that 1) I didn’t want to go first and 2) I am interested in what their wisdom is. Their surprise tells me I've got lots more fun work to do on this issue!
As elders, we carry the opportunity for learning within us all the time. And, as seniors, we always have the opportunity to set the example for sharing the value of clarity and wisdom with others. We demonstrate the multitude of life experiences that can be viewed as one big Wikipedia to those around us. We don’t have to share if it’s not wanted, but it’s there if and when it’s desired. Be prepared.