A few weeks ago I heard someone lamenting the fact that they would turn 30 years old. “I’m not ready for this”; “how can this be happening to me?” I’m only a year and a half away from 30 myself, but all this worrying seemed rather pointless to me.
This got me thinking, “why is it that it is so hard for some people to deal with aging”?
First off, let’s face it. People are denying aging like never before. We live in a society that favours youth. Over the years, anti-aging has become a multi-billion dollar industry offering everything from creams and surgeries, to products such as Botox® and Rogaine®, and other so-called “wonder treatments”. What is the attraction of these things? I think most people would agree with me that none of them will actually extend your life. I would propose that the attraction of these things has to do with an over emphasis on outward appearance. If one of your greatest values is the way you look, then holding onto that will be of the utmost importance. The problem is that your youthful appearance disappears as you age. There are ways to try to slow it down, but you won’t be able to stop the process.
The only real solution to dealing with the appearance of aging is to change your perspective. Instead of worrying about all the wrinkles, think of all the times you had to smile to get them. And then smile some more. The appearance of aging can be a sign of all the experience and wisdom you have gained.
The second reason people have aging anxiety is that they are afraid they haven’t lived to the fullest or accomplished the things that they should have. One of the difficulties of this is not knowing what it actually means for you to live to your fullest or what things you need to be accomplishing. One way to help clarify this is to spend some time thinking about the things that make you feel the most fulfilled and the people who you care about the most. Are you investing enough time in the things that you need to be invested in? Set some goals for yourself so that you can measure your progress in achieving the things you set out to do. Maybe you need to make some decisions to get life on a track that you can be happy with. Don’t live your life just trying to survive day-to-day. If you’re not happy with the way things are, start laying the plans for how to change. This doesn’t necessarily mean changing jobs or moving to a new town. Often it is not the circumstances that are the problem, but the attitude and perspective that you bring to each circumstance. As Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”Although a little thing, attitude can often be harder to change than circumstance but it will be far more rewarding if you do.
The final way to age with ease is to have a proper perspective on the past and the future. The past is a difficult thing. It’s made us who we are, but sometimes it can hold us back from what we could be. People talk about the good old days and pine for the time when they had no responsibilities and could party away and hang out with their friends whenever they wanted. Others feel condemned by the regret of poor decisions or things gone awry. But no matter how hard they try, no one can go back to the “glory days” of high school or redo a section of their life.
The future is just as difficult. No one has been there. No one can say what it holds for us. Attitude plays a large role in how we see the future. We can worry about it wondering what doom or gloom may befall us, or we can anticipate the opportunities and adventures that may be presented. Either way, tomorrow will come when it comes and bring with it what it will. I have some friends that have been married for what they describe as thirty-five great years. The motto of their life has always been “The best is yet to come”. I want to this to be my attitude towards the future.
So where does all of this leave us? It leaves us here: Today. What will you do with today? Will you spend your time trying to prevent the wrinkles or enjoying the company of the people around you? Will you worry about the things you haven’t done, or plan for the things that you would like to do?
The first step to aging with ease is to care more about who you are and the experiences and wisdom you’re gaining than you do about the youthful appearance you’re losing. Second, Invest your time in the important things and be conscious of your attitude. Finally, learn from the past and value the experiences you have gained, but don’t try to live there or recreate it. Plan for the future, but don’t worry about it. Live your life in the only moment you have: this one.
How do you deal with the prospect of getting older?