We all need an Elder in our life.

2016-09-22 11:22

We all need an older, wise person in our life – but that needs some explanation. What does older mean and what does wise mean? And of course, why? Why do we need an Elder?

Age is relative, but implies that an Elder has been around the block a few times and has gained some experience of life. So there is nothing strange in one’s Elder being younger than oneself, particularly where there is some degree of practical expertise involved. Wise is a little more complicated. There are 3 primary roles that help define that wisdom ….

As Mentor and Advisor – this implies the existence of some level of expertise in one’s area of interest. We place high value on technological knowledge and business expertise, but just as important is "life" wisdom - what makes for a successful marriage, how best to raise kids, the meaning of loyalty, dedication, respect, love and trust? But we need to be cautious, just because someone knows something doesn’t mean they know how to pass that wisdom on – there are skills to being a Mentor.

As Sounding Board – again this implies some level of expertise, but it also requires an ability to assist others in finding their own answers - and the ability to invoke the higher nature of those others.

As Backstop – perhaps the most important role – to hold us to our good intentions and commitments. And it is to this role that I want to give attention.

There are so many demands made of us as we go about our lives; demands that pull us in multiple different directions at the same time. Our intentions can be good, but with so many things to do it’s hard to stay focused on the important things. And it is here that an Elder can be of real value.

With their “long view” of life they are able to look back over their own lives and see where key moments occurred. At those moments did they commit fully to the decisions they made or did they get caught up in the “noise”?

From that experience they can help us recognise our own key moments and help us to commit to, and enact the decisions we have made. And a wise Elder will know that they can only hold us accountable with the authority we give them and thereby, avoid bullying us into doing something we don’t want to do.

So, how do we recognize such an Elder? To paraphrase the words of Ron Pevny from the Centre for Conscious Eldering in the USA, we need to look for

“… a commitment to continual personal growth, deepening spiritual connection, passion, discovery of purpose, and service to others. An awareness that their wholeness, their wisdom and gifts, and the well-being of the larger society and our planet itself, cannot be separated.

When you find such an Elder hold onto her/him. You may be fortunate in finding someone who has all three attributes described above, but three “someones” each with one attribute can be just as valuable. And for the Elders, it is important that they feel valued and respected – one of the greatest losses the elderly suffer is the loss of a sense of value. So, if the person they are guiding does the work that they committed to, then the Elder’s value is demonstrated.

For everyone’s benefit, we cannot be shy about asking for an Elder’s input, and Elders must remain open to the opportunity to be of service to others.

Alan Maguire is a Retirement Coach, and works with people to help them create their best possible retirement and old age. He has developed The Elders Journey as a guide to the changes we go through in later life. He can be contacted at alan@theeldersjourney.com

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