The other night I was having a conversation where the topic of getting older was being discussed. This is something that I think about fairly often at the moment, maybe it is because I’m turning a year older soon and I see that forty is within spitting distance. As those milestones get closer, I often do more reflection and evaluation than is necessary. I do not live with a lot of regret, but I do spend time evaluating choices and the outcomes that resulted. Those periods of reflection are very valuable exercises for my continued growth. The lessons I have learned from this activity, over the years, have allowed me to make many positive changes in my life.
The potentially negative side to this process is when I start to compare what the outcomes were to what my expectations had been. This does not have to be negative, because there are many times that I have far exceeded my own expectations. However, I tend to focus on areas where I have yet to meet those expectations. As someone who has high expectations for himself in every aspect of life, I can be my own worst critic. I do not think that I am alone in this, as I have many discussions with friends and family who use their birth date as a time of reflection.
An aspect to aging, is that it’s a forever progressive and forward moving process. The biological implications of this are something I help people deal with daily. Helping others understand how to age well through exercise, nutrition and behavior change is all underpinned by this human struggle we all face to some degree. The physical process of aging is often discussed and highlighted by the negative consequences: achy joints, decreased mobility, less strength, lower energy levels, increased sensitivities and less adaptability.
Even after we discover how to bring biological aging to a near standstill, we won’t be capable of stopping time. With that time comes mental, emotional, spiritual and social experiences that we have to be capable of fitting into our psychological model of the world in which we live.
The best and healthiest approach for this that I have been able to adopt, is to remain mindful. To understand that this instant is truly the only moment we have. The past is the past and tomorrow will come tomorrow. The mindful mindset is not my natural state, more of an aspiration.
The reason that the discussion of aging the other night stands out to me, was because it quickly took a turn in the positive direction. Instead of falling into the normal piling on of reasons why getting older sucks, the person I was talking to immediately shared that she loved getting older. She recently had a birthday, so she could have fallen into the common traps also. However, she said she could not wait until next year when she was a year older. It definitely challenged me to think about the joys of aging, so here’s a list of reasons why getting older can be joyful:
1. I have more experiences to draw upon when making decisions.
2. I have more data points to use, allowing me to understand my strengths and weaknesses as it relates to my career.
3. I possess more understanding of myself as an emotional and spiritual person.
4. I know my body better, what it can do and what it’s limitations are.
5. I have more wisdom that I can offer to others.