I remember when I found out that one of my friends was “old”! Our close-knit group in our college gym were all 21-22 years old. So when we found out that Mike was actually a grad student, and that he was 24, our reaction was one of surprise. “Wow, he’s that old!? Man, that’s too bad, he’s such a good dude!” Our not fully developed brains had pre-defined what old was, and 24 was closer to a rocking chair than we ever wanted to be. As funny as that now seems, this type of mentality is all too common.
There are certain things that we cannot control. Our chronological age is one of them. It is based on how long ago we were born. Every second, we get older. That’s a simple fact. But that fact doesn’t always mirror our true biological age. Our bodies can age at varying rates from person to person, and even within the same individual. The rate we age can be greatly affected by genetics, lifestyle, stress, nutrition, exposure to environmental elements, even mental outlook. We do ourselves infinite favor by following a positive fitness lifestyle and practicing good nutrition and even with good skin care practices (like avoiding excessive sun exposure). But it’s our mental outlook that can also greatly affect how we age or view aging. How old is old? Is it a number, a look, a set of circumstances beyond our control? How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?
Once you decide that a certain number is old, guess what? When you reach that number, you will see yourself as old! It is one of life’s ultimate traps. You have sentenced yourself to be something that you’ve determined as negative. More often than not, you have done this prematurely. Yes, there are people in the world who will help accelerate you along the way towards anything negative. But it is your choice whether or not to fall into the hole that has been dug for you, let alone to help others dig it and then jump right in! Just because you are always aging doesn’t mean that you will suddenly become old! Yes, there will be a measurable physical shift and change. But that can be individually minimized with simple consistent practices. Ultimately you can only do so much, but you can still do a lot and accomplish a lot. What you have to understand it that it is a privilege to still have the opportunity to keep aging. You can’t view aging as a negative. It is a part of your journey. You have traded time for experience, knowledge, and opportunities to become who you were meant to be. Stop mourning the loss of your former self when your next, new self can be so much better! You are time traveling through life, one experience at a time. The nature and perspective of those experiences may change, but the value and opportunity for them is as strong as ever.
I will be honest. I am one of those people who doesn’t seem to “look their age”. There are some genetic reasons for this I’m sure, but there are also a number of lifestyle reasons. The real story is that it is a mental outlook. At 28 I felt the pressure of getting to where I thought I was supposed to be. It was a negative outlook that was way too influenced by outside voices. At 58, I feel the excitement of heading where I want to be, thankful for the opportunities that I still have, and knowing that those opportunities were born from time and experience. The things I strive to accomplish now would not have been possible for me at 28, or 38, or 48. Often we are positioned where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there. If we keep embracing the process and the journey, the destinations in our future will continue to be just as important and fulfilling as anything in our past. More so because it is new and fresh and young!
You can keep yourself new and fresh and young! Take care of yourself physically. Challenge yourself to continue learning intellectually. Nourish yourself spiritually and emotionally. Don’t stop living before your time. A number, wrinkle, or a few aches and pains can only define you to the degree that you let them. Don’t allow those things be what defines you. Keep pushing yourself to be better. Keep pushing yourself to move forward. Embrace and treasure who you were as it’s made you who you are. But don’t get stuck there, allow yourself to keep living!
Keep growing into your life! Keep growing younger each day!
Photo: Terry Goodlad