Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Goddesses Never Age: Your Best Years Are Ahead, has conducted decades of research affirming that so much of aging is a matter of attitude. According to Dr. Northrup, “It is your beliefs—and the behavior that stems from those beliefs—that largely determines your experience of moving through time.”
The sad fact is that so many people who are young in chronological age choose to unnecessarily think, feel and act old.
I recently sat in on a teaching by leadership and management expert John Maxwell whereby he shared some tell-tale signs of those with an “old people” mindset. His lessons completely jived with the mantra, "Age only matters if you're a bottle of wine."
Since Maxwell is pushing 70, he has the credibility to share observations in this area. Here are six of his key points, along with my added commentary on how to anti-age your attitude:
Old people stop asking questions – One of the worst things we can do is lose our sense of curiosity. Asking intentional questions of family, co-workers and neighbors—geared toward getting to know them better—fires up our brain’s neural networks. Being inquisitive not only creates amazing heart connections with others, it also sets the bicycle wheels of the mind in motion, exercising our mental muscles.
Old people stop learning – When we stop learning, we stop growing. Inertia of the mind more rapidly moves us toward withering and then finally to--kaput. Learning a new skill or knowledge set not only expands our minds and bodies, it keeps us young. My sixty-something friend Peggy returned to college a few years ago, worked like mad and recently graduated, Pomp, Circumstance and all. And my eighty-something Uncle Kenneth is taking painting lessons. What an inspiration.
Old people lose interest in life – Losing interest in life is a reflection of losing interest in ourselves. We all need a purpose to get out of bed each day. Even if we can’t physically roll out of bed, we still need to focus on making ourselves interesting so that we can bring value to others. Getting clear on what sets us on fire at any age and then doing something about it is a tonic for eternal youth. Each of us was created with unique, interesting gifts and should not hide them under a barrel.
Old people don’t have goals – Setting and pursuing inspiring goals is like throwing jet fuel on our vitality. My beloved mentor, Paul Hutsey, is in his late 80s. He still casts a vision for his future and sets goals each year. Paul makes me excited to move through time. He personifies the fact that chronological age has very little to do with being old. Just the other day, Paul called to check on me and shared various plans he and his family have in the works. He may be 88, but Paul has a youthful soul and magnetic energy.
Old people talk about yesterday – According to John Maxwell, “If you are still talking about what you did yesterday, you haven't done much today.” Those who cling to the past with the might of a barnacle place themselves at risk of early "old people" syndrome. It's okay to enjoy memories and lessons from days gone by. However, savoring today and continually designing an inspiring future is akin to drinking from the fountain of youth. Simply study the stories of Colonel Harlan Sanders, Ronald Reagan and Grandma Moses.
Old people stop reinventing themselves – Life is a series of stages and stories, some planned and some unexpected. A great life requires that we reinvent ourselves over and over again. Staying stuck in complacency is one of the most sure-fire recipes for getting old. The law of physics confirms that nothing remains in a constant state. We can defy aging of the mind by regularly shaking things up and reinventing slices of our life in the area of career, hobby, adventure or new knowledge.
What’s the general lesson here? When we intentionally cultivate our attitude, we have profound influence on ourselves and others in a meaningful wa. So to live an inspired life full of vitality at any stage we would be wise to practice these anti-aging tips:
Ask great questions.
Continually learn new knowledge and new skills.
Take interest in life.
Live in the now while also designing our future.
Reinvent ourselves over and over again.
My final point comes from the words of Dr. Northrup, “If deterioration is essentially optional, then you can write a new script, follow a new path. You can actually become biologically younger this year than you were last year. It all starts with your beliefs. And the behavior that follows.”
So repeat this mantra with me every day: “Age only matters if you’re a bottle of wine.”
Kathleen DuBois is president of Progressity, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in three core processes: Leadership Development, Strategic Roadmap™ and Nonprofit Development. Visit Progressity.com for more information and resources.