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137 Years Young (July 2004)

July 1st is Canada Day for those of you who didn’t know that important fact (for Canadians, at least). The country is 137 years old this year, which got me thinking about age and the meaning that we place on the small numbers that tell us and others how ‘old’ we are.

Just for a moment, think about a couple things:

  • What does age mean to you?
  • What does old mean to you?
  • What age is old?
  • How do you feel about others who are younger or older than you?
  • How do you feel about yourself being younger or older?

Those are just to get you started…

I remember when I wanted to be much older than I was (waiting for driving age) and then thinking several years later that being 15 wasn’t so bad at all…

Now I’m really happy just being however old I am at the time. If I was to look back and graph my life, no matter what ups and what downs, the general progress of my life over the years has gone from good to great – and I’ve been told by my seniors that it only gets better!

If you’re still thinking that being 17 again would bring you back to the best years of your life, here are a couple thoughts.

1.  You really are as old as you think you are.

Recently I’ve found myself qualifying ages. When people ask about someone’s age, I find myself saying “53, but a teenaged kind of 53” or “a tired 45” – look around you. Have you noticed people you know who have aged quickly, or seem to be getting younger over time? The latter group (botox and extreme makeovers aside) probably has taken control over age IN THE MIND, and the body just follows – more about that later.

People tend to believe themselves and about their expectations. I know when I was presenting a skills training course for the ‘downsized’ in Singapore, I often got people in their forties saying that they were ‘too old’, ‘past their prime’…

What?!? My father just turned 70 a couple weeks ago and I’m sure he’s more active, interested and involved than many people decades younger than he is (and he’s still going strong with work).

Whether it’s that “Grey Power” in North America has uped the ‘old’ age there (social, national, and cultural expectations), or it’s an individual’s state of mind (personal expectations) – you can help or hurt yourself by your thoughts (35=decrepit, 75=sprightly)

If you were to draw a ‘lifeline’ where would you be along it? – half way, a 10th of the way, almost at the end? Your perceptions and your expectations of your present and future will affect your thoughts and your actions. You can look at a job shift at 45 as a difficult and downgrading experience (make it so, says your brain) or as a wonderful opportunity for your wisdom and experience to be placed in an entirely new direction – you’re still so young anyway (if you choose).

2.  Meaning makes young

Back to looking at your ‘young’ friend of whatever age – both inside and out. There is power in purpose and positivism. When there is meaning in life, there is generally less internal stress about things

Think about the lighthouse – I love the lighthouse – its purpose is to light up the rocks to stop ships from crashing upon them. It doesn’t matter whether it is stormy and gloomy or clear and still night. It still lights the way.

What is your light? Loving your work or your family life or your sporting, religious or cultural community is great, but what’s your light inside? Finding meaning in what you do, and more importantly, who you are, lightens the years.

 3.  Laugher makes younger

I love laughter – I laugh at it. I used to play a game when I was young where someone held onto your shoulders while you were on a spring mattress and then bounced you up and down. At first you were just dooiing doinging but then they would laugh and you would laugh and the laughter sounded funny as well, so it would expand… anyway…

There are studies that speak praises about laughter (there are even laughing courses) – and I believe it. Look around at friends that laugh easily – they probably look younger than those who don’t. Oxygen aside, giving yourself a break and taking yourself less seriously is a great youth agent! So chortle, guffaw, chuckle, slap your knee… you might just get it after a while.

 4.  Your body follows your mind, and other seeds of wisdom

Put your arm in a cast and your body will be guided by the setting of the cast, but will heal itself. Amazing. Learn to balance on a bicycle and you’ll be able to do it (fairly easily) years later. The body remembers and is simply amazing.

When I work with athletes or golfers, they can enhance their performance based on the body’s experience of a ‘high’ sporting achievement. The mind can speed up metabolism or healing for different purposes – if it is given directions.

In the case of the athlete, if she focused on the failures, then her mind would send ‘failure’ messages for the body to follow. Or she could use only the best to base her future performance on.

What you focus on expands. Focus on wrinkles, aches, forgetfulness… you get the picture.

Sure you can help stay younger and stronger with good healthy food, lots of water and exercise, but getting your head on straight about age will help influence what you do to it and put into it.

We’re amazed by athletes and individuals who push the envelope – push it yourself and see how ‘young’ you can be. You don’t need a bottle to stop the effects of aging – it starts inside.

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BTW, I’m 34 and turning 35 at the end of August. Having no trouble with birthdays, you’re all welcome to send best wishes (or presents!) then.

For all you people with birthdays this month – happy days! For everyone else – happy days! Have a great July. Apologies for sending this out on the 4th instead of the 1st – computer issues – but all the best to American readers!

 

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