Freedom 55

I remember when London Life launched its marketing campaign called “Freedom 55”. Its premise was, if you invest with us, by the time you reach age 55, you won’t have anything to worry about. How many people with great anticipation bought into this advertising, only to realize that on their 55th birthday, freedom from worry had not been achieved?

My 55th birthday falls on December 19, 2011. I can assure you that when the clock turns to that historic date all my worries will not disappear. I can’t depend on the equity markets to provide me with a suitable return as a substitute for a company based defined benefit pension plan; nor can I rely on a sizeable inheritance to erase my retirement concerns; CMA is a good organization to work for but it doesn’t provide any shares or options that can be sold upon retirement, like many of my friends have and do. Maybe I will have to work longer to find that evasive financial freedom. And of course if a merger does occur in the Canadian accounting profession, where does this soon to be 55 year old find another job? It won’t be easy! It’s a constant worry.

But it doesn’t stop there. Even if we do become financially secure, does that mean all of our worries disappear? No way! Will I ever stop worrying about my two kids? Richard is in BC and Joanna is returning to Korea and who knows what they will be facing. So the answer is "No!" I will always worry about their welfare, where they are and what they are doing. Will I ever stop worrying about my health? After surviving cancer surgery last year and open heart surgery this year, the answer is a definite "No!" The worry of the cancer returning or sudden heart failure will be with me forever. Will I ever stop worrying about events that may drastically alter our way of living? No!  The political, economic and social events of this country and world always causes worry as it affects our way of life and that of future generations.

No...No...No...when one worry seems to end another takes its place. That’s just the way it is. I realize then that Freedom doesn’t begin at a defined age, it doesn’t start with a huge investment portfolio; nor does it surround us even if our health and family are all in the right space. Freedom is a function of my mind, my thoughts, my attitude, my outlook. Life has its glory but also its constant challenges.

Freedom is about learning to be content in any and every situation of life.

Steve Jones who writes a blog on self-growth said “Dale Carnegie, in his classic book ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’, writes of the eternity behind us and the one before us – the past and the future – and our inability to live in either. Today is where we are, and the present is what we should busy ourselves with. Life is a journey of 24 hours today. Then 24 tomorrow and so on.”

In other words, I can’t change the past therefore I should not live in it. I can’t predict the future therefore I should not worry about it. But I can affect today, therefore when I wake up in the morning, I need to focus on what’s my attitude today towards life?

What is your attitude towards life? This is a good question to reflect on as we move in a few weeks to the close of 2011 and the opening of 2012.

I found the following comments from Charles Rush that are worth considering.

Contentment does not reside in stuff. It is only about people, about integrity, about love. Stuff is titillating. It is cool and it has its place. But it is what it is… stuff.  Contentment is difficult in a society driven by materialism.

Watch where you look. I’m always amazed at my friends that put themselves continually in social positions that make themselves miserable.  If you know you covet sports cars but have no reasonable means of owning one, don’t hang out at the dealership. Your life is defined by the company you keep.

Practice being content.  A lot of this is opening yourself to being loved, and, at some deep spiritual level, finding an acceptance of yourself. It is a life long journey and you fall in and out of it many times. But so much of what drives our inordinate desires of other people and other people’s lives, is that we are unhappy with whom we are. We are anxious that we are not good enough, at least not to ourselves. This observation cuts right through class and success. Don’t believe it. You are lying to yourself. You must accept yourself first before you can achieve contentment.

Enjoy what you have— “Learn to want what you have and pretty soon you will have what you want,” Barbara Brown Taylor once said “there is an immediate beauty to the world around us, a wonder. Breathe it in”.

Limit your intake of advertisements, a symbol of negative influencers. The world’s influence on our thoughts and attitude is immensely negative. They are profoundly powerful and they take on a life of their own. Be on guard with what fills your mind.

Don’t covet the things or the lives of others, which you cannot have. Move on, and embrace the goodness of your life now. My friend Gerard taught me this lesson: simply separate your needs from your wants. When trying to make decisions about life, the question becomes simple: is this something I need or something I want.

Lastly, and ultimately, learn and adopt the insights from this popular prayer:

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; 
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference;
Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!