I recently overheard a person graphically explaining that her retirement challenges were comparable to an inexhaustible supply of weeds with the most persistent one being an inability to define herself. Maybe the theme song for the popular TV series “CSI” and recorded originally by The Who describes this common post-retirement predicament most intuitively: “Who are you?” 

In spite of how diligently we try, there are times when maintaining or even getting a temporary grip on life seems daunting. One issue is handled and another one goes awry. During those periods when things seem to be in balance, our psyche tends to have a knack for kicking in and creating an unforeseen problem. Add retirement to life’s array of challenges, and we quickly lose sight of who we are; our real self becomes a blur.

At about the time you perceive your problems as being depressingly overwhelming, you can turn on the national news and hear a barrage of problems you didn’t know existed. Just when you think all is lost, a commercial appears offering the solution to all of your woes in the form of a new medication breakthrough. Eureka, there’s a pill for everything, but all of them have “some” potential side effects. Our culture now seems to define itself by its problems, or potential ones, so we’ve become accustomed to perceiving the world in terms of problems along with the expectation of initiating rapid solutions for them.

The core of all problems, according to many researchers involved in unraveling the myriad of human mysteries, is the mind. They theorize that our minds create problems that don’t really exist in the physical realm and offer a simple exercise for proving it.

The next time you think you have a problem view the mental image you’re holding of the problem and the cause for it and make sure you are seen clearly in the picture. Then take away your image from the interpretation. The situation still exists, but you aren’t involved in it. Do you feel any better?

Some people do, others don’t, but the essence of the exercise is getting you to recognize reality: By removing you from the mental image of the problem, the quandary often disappears. When there is no you or self-involvement, a huge dilemma may be reduced to a manageable level allowing you to do something with it, or not. Either way, you may feel better because of the avoidance of stress and follow-on anxiety.

Of course, this is really simplistic and some diligent egos won’t fall for it. The ego of many people prefers to operate in a more complex mode viewing almost everything as a problem and needing attention immediately. The ego is a quirky little mechanism that never solves problems and is most often the source of them, but we have a hard time grasping this concept. Einstein’s take on the issue was that problems can’t be solved by the level of awareness that created them, further confirming that the ego is incapable of solving the problems it creates. 

Another approach for shedding some light on the origin of problems is paying attention to your inner self or state of being. This often has an effect on the complexity and number of problems being experienced at any given time. For example, when you’re feeling full of energy, the sky is clear blue and the temperature is ideal; your problems don’t exist, at least none are nagging at you. 

Bad days are another story. If our ego is on a rant nearly everything grates on us and everything we experience is perceived as a problem. Regardless of the size or complexity of the issue, it’s a problem on these days and we tend to brood for unnecessarily extended periods of time long after the obvious problem has either expired of its own inertia or we fixed it. 

It’s during these excessively down times that we tend to question who we are today, and often hearken back to a time when we knew who we were because we had some sort of job title. 

The connection between our state of being or inner self and problems has been shown to differ greatly depending upon the size of one’s ego. Do you know some people who tend to have more problems than others? 

As we make headway into unscrambling the mystery of the ego it becomes easier to grasp the notion that there are no problems but only problematic views or perceptions of various issues.

Another fascinating element of the intellectual sense of self is its addiction to time for its survival. When one concludes that the ego is an entity consisting of mental images from the past being projected into the future, removing the time factor dissipates the ego and many problems tend to evaporate along with it. Can resolving the majority of life’s problems be as simple as eliminating the time factor from the ego? Consider how often you’ve conjured up anxiety for days, weeks, and even months ahead of the scheduled time for a particular event and the entire ordeal turned out fine, not a hitch. 

The next time you catch yourself thinking you have a problem, ask one question: What is my problem at the moment? Force yourself to focus on the here and now, this very moment. By taking this initiative you’ll likely discover there is no problem at the moment. 

More often than not it’s merely a situational issue that may or may not require any immediate attention, and you can make a quick decision on that as well.

Always keep this in mind: If it’s an issue in the future then it can’t be a problem right now. 

Learning to drop the reins on your ego will take some time and practice, but allowing yourself to embrace the ideology that your life is more problem-free than you initially realized allows your mind to clear and focus on who you are today. 

This is a critical element for everyone, especially retirees, and the sooner you can make this finding the more enjoyable and stress-free your life will become. 

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