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he theme for this article was generated by a few calls over the months from therapists who have been in the profession for many years. They have been very motivated in the past, and wish to stay motivated, but without change and innovation how do you stay motivated? How do you keep the enthusiasm necessary to do a good, professional and fulfilling job right up until you retire and move on to the next stage in your life? As I was pulling my ideas together, I found a great little book of quotations on the joys of being senior. ‘Age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese’ is a trifle cheesey, but it has some apt quotes. From Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, that great expert on death and dying, “Our only purpose in life is growth, there are no accidents” (p.146). From Albert Einstein, “Do not grow old no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born” (p. 303). And finally from Norman Vincent Peel, “Live your life and forget your age” (p. 125). No one can doubt that the profession has changed hugely over the last few decades. The professional standing and status of therapists, the academic and accountability standards expected, not to mention society’s expectations and the sheer volume of work. Is it any wonder that some degree of burnout and disillusionment appears?


Grey(ish) power
How do you stay motivated when you have given many years to the profession? Life coach Jo Middlemiss considers why maturity can be empowering – and something for us all to celebrate.
was all mine, as she cared nothing for fashion, had quite a few chin hairs, wore very thick stockings even in the summer and smoked like a steam train! But all of the younger teachers knew that we were walking on holy ground. I once mentioned to her that it was a bit of a poor deal for the children who got a brand new chick like me for a year rather than her. She was so encouraging and said she thought that the children would gain as much from my enthusiasm as they would from her experience. about their practice. And, while Jenny delighted in the enthusiasm of younger therapists, so full of new ideas, she also noticed a degree of condescension towards those who had been in practice over an extended period. When I asked Jenny what kept her motivated she made several clear points: 1. She welcomed new ideas and techniques 2. She had a thirst for new client skills 3. She loved working with others who were willing to learn 4. She loved working with positive and motivated people. There are developments in the profession which Jenny welcomes, especially in the area of professional reviews and appraisals. She feels that, when these are well used, they provide an opportunity for learning and goal setting. But she has noticed that some of her colleagues are terrified of appraisals and so tend to be very defensive when the time comes for review. This of course is understandable but again the young can lead the way as they expect it and are used to it and therefore do not feel threatened by it.

Open mind
When ‘new’ ideas come up it is easy to be cynical and dismissive but an open mind will see the development of an old idea and learn how to adapt it. Things do come round again - think of music and fashion - but there is generally a slightly different aspect which makes it more accessible to the following generation. Also, a closed mouth and an open mind actually allow people to make mistakes - and mistakes have to be made if any learning is going to take place. When I asked Jenny, “What are the main challenges facing speech and language therapists?” she responded with: • paperwork • isolation • dealing in a multidisciplinary team • differing ideologies in the profession • organisational issues • tedium. This was a good, honest list. These are the places where our attitudinal keys – awareness, appreciation, abundance, affirmation, authenticity – come in. How can we make sure that our needs within the workplace are being met when these challenges are ongoing? I offered Jenny this slightly different take on an individual’s basic human needs. We all have need of: 1. certainty 2. variety 3. personal significance 4. connectedness 5. growth 6. contribution.

a closed mouth and an open mind actually allow people to make mistakes - and mistakes have to be made if any learning is going to take place.
However, I have been thinking about those professions where longevity is considered a positive advantage. Now, while age isn’t a badge of honour in itself, just think of the times when you would actually prefer to see someone who looks as though they have a plentiful amount of experience. If you went to see an eye surgeon, would you like to be his first patient? My brother is a cardiologist, and I know that his patients are reassured by his grey head. When I was a young teacher, my mentor was a woman who had been teaching for 40 years. I was in awe of her. No child ever left her room as a non-reader but she wanted to know about our young trendy gimmicks just to see if she still had something to learn. In truth the learning

Enthusiasm combined with experience
In retrospect I realise that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The aim is enthusiasm combined with experience. Staying fresh over the years. Embracing new skills but building on the years and years of experience accrued by long-term practitioners. Jenny booked a session because she wanted to talk over this very thing. She had been a therapist for over 25 years and had never taken a career break. She had a range of skills in the profession and had gone on to take some advanced qualifications. Her question was “How do you stay motivated especially in the face of the negativity of other senior colleagues?” She had observed that several older therapists were very set in their ways, resistant to change and defensive




Figure 1 Six basic human needs TASK: CERTAINTY / 10 Ideas to increase this: UNCERTAINTY/VARIETY / 10 Ideas to increase this:

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Next steps for older people
Age Concern has welcomed the government report ‘Next Steps in Implementing the National Service Framework for Older People’, but called for the recommendations to be funded and put into practice as soon as possible. The ten programmes of activity identified include steps to ensure that older people receive any assistance they need with eating and drinking and to support stroke survivors as they transfer from hospital to home and with long-term services. The importance of healthy ageing and independence, well-being and choice are also emphasised, prompting Age Concern to note that, “While younger generations are increasingly encouraged to lead healthier lifestyles, the health needs of older people have been routinely overlooked. We support any action to tackle barriers, such as poor health awareness and access to leisure facilities.” ‘A new ambition for old age: Next steps in implementing the National Framework for Older People’ by Professor Ian Philp is available to download at

SIGNIFICANCE / 10 Ideas to increase this:

CONNECTEDNESS / 10 Ideas to increase this:

GROWTH / 10 Ideas to increase this:

CONTRIBUTION / 10 Ideas to increase this:

If we make sure that all these needs are met, we will feel like happy and fulfilled people. Take any task you like and another task you loathe. Give yourself a score out of 10 in each box as to how much of it you have. You will soon discover why you love / loathe that task. For me throwing a dinner party scores high but ironing scores very low. However, if I insert some distraction into ironing - like listening to a play or watching an old movie - I can make the most of it. If you take this idea into the workplace (figure 1) it can help to pep things up when tasks become repetitive and tedious, as they do in any job. Difference of opinion and style can always be resolved if people are upfront and open and stay in an adult state. We all know that it is impossible to change other people although it is hard to put into practice. Time and time

again we must learn that we can only change ourselves - but in changing ourselves, the world seems to change. If we want changes in our lives, we have to make the changes. It may be changes in style, shape, situation or attitude. We can choose the easy route or the hard one - but choose we must. According to baby boomer journalist Rosie Boycott, her generation has every intention of living up to this challenge. Coughlan (2004) quotes her as saying, “I don’t want to give up that sense of being involved in things to do with change. I think we’ll have an exciting old age. It will be something that will be rather thrilling, it will shake up a lot of governments.” It is possible to stay motivated when you have given many years to the profession - and maturity can be empowering. Mahatma Ghandi said frequently, “Be the change you want to see.” I conclude with reference to a little book I dip into often, ‘The Power of the Subconscious Mind’ by Dr Joseph Murphy. The language is archaic, and he does quote the Bible fairly often, but the underlying message is the same: Patience, kindness, love, good will, joy, happiness, wisdom and understanding are all qualities that can never grow old. Cultivate them and express them, and remain young in mind and body. (p. 223)

User involvement makes a difference
Therapists who want to promote user involvement may be interested in an award winning scheme where young people brought up in care contributed to teaching social work students. The School of Applied Social Studies at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen won a Care Accolades 2006 under the category ‘Involvement of people who use services in any aspect of the organisation’s work’. Lecturer Jeremy Miller said, “We have been working with a service user group of young people brought up in care who delivered a session on the ‘ideal social-worker’ to first year students as part of a module on social work roles and tasks. Everyone found the session to be of immense value, and as a result we are keen to develop further opportunities for the young people to contribute to teaching the social work students.” Continuing the theme, a research project in Manchester schools is claiming “striking improvements in attendance, behaviour and attainment by allowing pupils to have a say in how their schools are run”. Developed in conjunction with the University of Manchester, the Manchester Inclusion Standard uses the views of children and young people as a stimulus for school and staff development. A spokesman said, “Our evidence supports the view that the views of pupils can provide a powerful lever for change.”

Coughlan, S. (2004) The rise of ‘grey power’, BBC News Online. Available at: (Accessed: 23 June 2006). Murphy, J. (1988) The Power of your Sub-conscious Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster. Petras, K. & Petras, R. (2002) Age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese. New York: Workman Publishing. SLTP

Jo Middlemiss is a qualified Life Coach with a background in education and relationship counselling, tel. 01356 648329, Jo offers readers a complimentary half-hour telephone coaching session (for the cost only of your call). Jo would especially like to hear from readers who are going through a major change such as coping with being a student, starting a first job, promotion or returning to work after a career break. The detail of your call will be entirely confidential and, while it will inform ‘Winning Ways’, no personal or identifying details will be given.