10 Life adjustments on your inevitable journey
Every dorm room in my college featured a small whiteboard and dry erase marker outside the door. It was a useful tool to communicate with your roommate or nearby friends.
“Headed to the bar.”
“Staying at my girlfriend’s tonight.”
“Meet you in study hall at 7.”
The dorm room whiteboard was how we messaged each other before the age of cell phones.
My History of Rock N Roll professor (yes, I took that class) was in his fifties, but he rocked the attitude and demeanor of a twenty-something. I couldn’t imagine being that old back then, but he was the kind of “old person” I admired.
On the other end of the spectrum, you see folks in their sixties and seventies, spending their hours clutching a pillow to their chest, watching cable news all day, and sinking deeper and deeper into a crabby, fearful state.
Why do some folks age like fine wine while others age sour milk?
Nobody aspires to reach the old-age mindset, but it sneaks up on you. I first felt the tug in my early forties. I was out for brunch after a run with a group of younger folks. Someone commented about a political issue, and I thought it was the most naive, idealistic crap I’d ever heard.
I kept my opinion to myself, but it later occurred to me that it was the kind of thing an older person would have said to me twenty years earlier.
It was a sign of aging, and it scared the shit out of me. I’ve made changes since then to keep my body and mind youthful. All of these techniques are simple and straightforward. And they’re good for you at any age.
Record your life in a journal; any kind will do. Keep your musings private. It ensures you’ll write with complete honesty.
Question your actions. Challenge yourself to think of how you could do better next time. Only by critically examining your life can you gain the wisdom that comes from experience.
Carve out at least one hour a day to work your magic. Make this time nonnegotiable like sleep, eating and bathing. Wake up early or stay up late if you must, but do it.
Don’t think of it as selfishness. The ninety minutes you take for yourself enable you to give your best to everyone else.
Through experimentation, I’ve found diet and lifestyle choices that work for me.
I splurge every so often, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I have a simple rule on splurging. It needs to be in a social setting. I can’t eat a tub of ice cream by myself while I binge watch Netflix.
You may not like their attitudes and values, but the exposure will serve you better than bawling up in front of the tv while you listen to someone tell you precisely what you want to hear.
Today, I brush it off or ignore it. I don’t claim to be bulletproof to criticism, but age has hardened my core. Caring less about the opinions of others does wonders for your mental state.
But you can take it too far. Age doesn’t entitle you to be right when you’re wrong.
As I approach fifty-years-old, I find myself drawn to the certainty of my beliefs and values. It’s a tendency I must fight.
My beliefs were malleable in my twenties because I was still figuring stuff out. Guess what? I’m still figuring stuff out. You can feel sure about your values and beliefs but still maintain the mindset of figuring stuff out.
Try this exercise to help you strengthen that perspective.
Record in your journal a situation where someone directly or indirectly challenged your belief or value. Take a moment to consider the issue from their perspective. Keeping an open mind does not mean you must change your opinion, only that you’re willing to listen and consider.
Putting a number on your mortality puts life into perspective. You realize that a disappointment from yesterday means nothing. All the things you regret, enjoy, stress over, and wish for, will come to an end when your timer expires.
Calculate your number.
(Expected age of death — your age) *365
Keep the figure in your head. When something undesirable occurs, remind yourself of your remaining days and what that number will be tomorrow. Yes, it’s a hack, but it makes you realize that all the stuff you stress over isn’t worth stressing over.
You’ll think that experience enlightens you to the cruelty of the world. But consider the possibility that it taints your worldview. As you age, you see the world through the lens of your choices, while a twenty-year-old sees it through the lens of possibility.
But some folks maintain a youthful zest, an openness to possibility and a curiosity about the unknown. Seek them out and discover their secrets.