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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Directions In The Sense of Self

         The ideas and structure of this post are connected with a very interesting research article I recently discovered.[i]  It explores the relationship between our selves staying basically the same and also making changes following retirement.  Galit and Douglas first suggest that new challenges not only help us grow in new directions but also help us maintain a sense of “who” we are. They explore ways that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can help explain our behavior.
         Maintaining continuity both inside within our selves and outside with our identities can help us stay healthy and also maintain “perceptions of competence, control, and freedom” which help “..moderate the impact of stress on one’s well-being.”
         I have been teaching at Kwantlen since 1983 when it was still just a community college. That’s a long time to identify with a work role. I will be retiring in four months, at the end of August 2011. If my retirement is to be successful I must understand both the changes and continuity of my retirement style.
         My motivation for continuing to “teach” through the use of workshops is based on both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I really like teaching and I can use the money. Over the past 10 years, since I designed and began teaching the aging class at Kwantlen I have developed a fascination with the lives of older people. For several years I have concentrated on the study of Ageism (a number of blog posts are related to that topic). This fall I will be 73 years old and have recently noticed that I am an older person. I refuse to fall into the pit of self-stereotyping connected with Ageism.
         Now I am concentrating on the psychology of retirement and what the authors cited in this blog entry describe as Self-preservation Innovation, which are activities consistent with former interests. “These activities suggest a new path for an old activity, a close substitution for activity that is no longer available and development of new skills in order to pursue old interests.”  My motivation is also extrinsic because my pension is not sufficient to meet all of my financial obligations. The money raised through workshops can help maintain a comfortable life. But it’s definitely not just about the money.
         At the core of it all is my desire to continue to find meaning in life, which to me means engaging in meaningful activities. I will canvass my neighborhood for the Canadian Cancer Society this month. I have also created Wisdom and Memory workshops.
In  summary the authors the research cited below report that  they have found the following:
      1.“ most cases motivation for innovation is intrinsic or a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic.”(e.g. my workshops)
         2.  “While in some cases, innovation represents an opportunity for renewal, refreshment and growth that is continuous in some respects from earlier interests and capacities,. in others it presents opportunity for reinvention of self.”
         3.  “There is a consistency within individuals with regard  to type of innovation to which they are attracted: while some seek different ways to reinvent themselves, others find ways to preserve their existing sense of self.”and last but not least
         4. Innovation seems to have a positive impact on elders’ well being.
       It is my hope that those of you who read this blog entry will  ask yourselves whether or not the above material can be related to your own lives.

[i] Nimrod, G. & Kleiber, D.A., (2007).  Reconsidering change and continuity in later life: Toward an innovation theory of successful aging, Int’l J. Aging and Human Development, 65(1), 1-22.

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