Three Secrets to Positive AgingLin Schreiber
No, two of them are NOT diet and exercise!
The exciting field of brain science, and research like the Harvard Study of Adult Development, reinforce that you no longer have to look forward to your mother’s (or father’s) old age. So much of the research is pointing toward what we life coaches have instinctively known—it is the strength of your personal foundation and development of certain capabilities that keep you young and vital, and determine your happiness as you age.
If you’re lucky, you’re positively going to age, but are you going to age positively?
Here are three factors I believe are crucial to positive aging:
1. The Flex Factor. The Flex Factor is all about resiliency, flexibility and adaptability. How well do you bounce back when life throws you a curve ball? Do you usually go with the flow or dig your heels in when things don’t happen the way you expect them to? Can you easily adapt to a change of plans or an unplanned situation?
I always think of Christopher Reeve when I think of the Flex Factor. While by his own account he wanted to die when he was first paralyzed, when he made the decision to live, he went on to make lemonade out of a great big batch of bitter lemons. He spent every day of the rest of his life working towards finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. He never lost hope that he would some day walk again. And, he left a legacy of hope for others. So whether you choose change, or it smacks you right between the eyes, seize the opportunity to reinvent yourself—not a different you, but a deeper, more authentic you, and make the most delicious lemonade possible out of the lemons that come your way.
2. The Grace Factor. The Grace Factor is about lightening up, and has three important components: maintaining your sense of humor, developing an attitude of gratitude, and expanding your ability to forgive. First, maintaining your sense of humor means being able to laugh at yourself and the indignities that often come with old age. It’s the fastest way to lighten up when you’re feeling down, and it can quickly shift your perspective and your experience. And, if you don’t have a sense of humor, get one.
Second, when you develop an attitude of gratitude, you’re able to deeply and profoundly appreciate all that you have. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, what was, and/or what will never be again, you grow a grateful (and positive!) attitude. Finally, expanding the ability to forgive is the one that many of us find the most difficult. Don’t ignore this one! Instead, be willing to let go of the anger, resentment and desire for revenge against those who have harmed you in some way. There is that wonderful expression that says by not forgiving, you are drinking a glass of poison and hoping the other person will die. Honestly, it’s not about condoning or even forgetting what happened. It’s about freeing yourself from the power that the person who harmed you still holds over you. It’s not about them. It’s all about you—and your well-being. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to forgive yourself for all those things you deem unforgivable.
3. The Zest Factor. The Zest Factor is embracing the snap, crackle and pop of life. It’s having the capacity to play and to love, a desire to connect with others, the ability to gain nourishment from your past accomplishments, but not dwell there. It’s being curious and willing to learn from other generations. It’s engaging in the world and living with anticipation, excitement and hope for what each new day will bring. Without it, life loses its luster.
Make a commitment to develop these factors in yourself, and you’ll build a solid foundation for the rest of your life. And, who knows? You may even become the poster child for positive aging!
Lin Schreiber, PCC, is a Retirement Revolutionary who loves helping self-reliant women reinvent themselves in the next stage of life, formerly known as “retirement.” Lin is featured on the PBS series Boomers: Redefining Life After Fifty, and is the author of The ABC’s of Retiring Retirement. A Professional Certified Coach, Certified Retirement Coach, and founder of Revolutionize Retirement, Lin combines her contagious enthusiasm, nonstop energy, and passion for her subject to create a fun, dynamic learning environment that energizes and inspires her audiences.