An important skill taught in Driver’s Education courses is to keep one’s eyes where one wants to go (the safe place) and not on obstacles that one wants to avoid. For example, if your car starts to skid out of control, don’t focus on the tree you’re afraid of crashing into, but on the open road. If you focus on the tree, that’s where you’ll end up.
In life, that tree can be a metaphor for the last decades of our lives. We tend to focus on fears such as, “What if I don’t have enough money to retire?”
We live in a youth-centered society. We don’t take care of our elderly very well. So it’s no wonder so many of us fear growing old (despite the fact that it’s inevitable if we don’t die first).
When we choose to stop focusing on aging (and limitations), and start focusing on The Possibilities, fascinating things can happen:
Annie Proulx, this year’s winner of the National Book Award, and author of Brokeback Mountain and The Shipping News, did not start seriously writing until she was 58. (Bigthink)
In the middle of his prolific career as inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison’s plant was burned down by a fire – all of his work was gone. What was his reaction?
“Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.”
And he did, the very next day. He didn’t even let any of his employees go. Edison and his team made $10 million the very next year. (BusinessInsider)
She sat across from me at her birthday dinner. She just turned 35. I am almost 49.
“I have laugh lines! I am getting gray hairs that stick straight up on end!”
“Well, it just makes it easier to pluck them out,” I said, trying to cheer her up.
“I am not going to complain about getting old. I LOVE aging!”
I looked at her sideways. This was unexpected. Who loves aging?
She explained, “We’re lucky to get old. Not everyone does. We should celebrate getting older, we’re so fortunate to keep living!”
I’ve decided that even though I live in America, where it is becoming a crime to be gay, trans, Mexican-American, Muslim or old, I hope we will eventually be like Taiwan when it comes to social issues. I’m not gay, but as an Asian-American, I know what discrimination feels like. In Taiwan, gays have equal rights. The Taiwanese also respect their elders and take care of them. So I’m going to walk around proud in all my Asian and old glory because I know I’m lucky to be alive and kicking.
How happy are you? Your age might be correlated to the level of your happiness. And acceptance might be the key to joy.
According to a study by Nielsen, people ages 18-21 are pretty happy, but the level of self-reported well-being goes on a decline until it hits rock bottom at age 50-53. This is due, in part, because people in this age bracket are preoccupied with money concerns: kids’ college tuition and their own retirement funds. But then, the level of contentment goes up on a steady trajectory for a high into the eighties. The reason?
As people age, they accept their aging. THIS is the key to contentment.
Perhaps we should all accept our present condition, no matter the age? Wouldn’t this naturally lead to more joy?