As human beings, we are aware of our mortality. This often brings anxiety that increases with age.
One of my favorite activities is reading biographies and learning the stories of impactful people. An unfortunate byproduct comparing myself to some of the most accomplished leaders of all time. Whenever I hear what their life was like at a particular age, I compare it to my life
This has been great for motivation, but brings with it increased anxiety. It motivates me to push myself towards habits and activities that help me become more successful. The catch is a lack of appreciation of where I am in life right now.
Now I realize that, as long as I believe that I’m behind where I should be, there always will be something missing. As long as I believe that the present moment is not enough, that will be the case.
On the other hand: Once I decide that the present moment is enough, that becomes true.
The Positive Side of Aging
In his book The Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Shahar shares the benefits of taking a positive view of the aging process. He says that American culture has a negative view of aging, which has a harmful effect on our health and happiness as we get older. It even affects how long we live.
“Those with a positive view of old age lived on average about 7 years longer than those with a negative view.”…”A positive perception of old age affects the quality of life. Leaving those who accepted…the aging process to enjoy significantly higher levels of physical and mental health”
“If we perceive aging as something to be avoided, then we’re likely to spend more time trying to avoid the fate that awaits us. If, on the other hand, we appreciate and value old age, then we have much to look forward to and pursue.” – Tal Ben-Shahar
By taking a more positive view of the aging process, we can increase our enjoyment of life in every moment. As Tal says in The Pursuit of Perfect:
“We enjoy better mental and physical health when we spend our time pursuing the positive instead of avoiding the negative. Especially when it’s something as inescapable as age. Aging provides us with immense intellectual, social and spiritual opportunities for growth.”
Why We Become Happier As We Age
Earlier this year, I asked Tal how to minimize the anxiety caused by aging. He told me that people actually become happier later in life.
He went on to describe why people are happier as they get older:
“The answer is that they are more accepting. They are more embracing of what is. This does not mean they are resigned. They are more accepting of the way things are. Part of accepting is saying ‘So I’m not the next Winston Churchill’. No, I’m me, with all my strengths and weaknesses. So let me focus on my strengths. Let me celebrate my gifts.”
He goes on to describe the shift from focusing on proving yourself to being of service to others.
“And how can I make my gifts count? And the focus changes from proving myself to the world to being of service to the world.”…”Embracing who I am. And then asking, how can I take this person and be of service? And that’s a great weight off our shoulders. Because it’s very stressful to always be wondering ‘Am I good enough?’
The Power Of Acceptance and Choice
We have the power to decide what our lives are. I still remember the parking lot I was in years ago, when I realized this.
In a moment, I thought to myself ‘My life is terrible.’ Then I realized that I decide whether my life is terrible or amazing. No one else has a say in that decision.
Choose to decide that your life is amazing. If you perceive it that way, you will notice the good things in your life more than the bad.
There are always countless good and bad aspects of our lives. Some areas are better than ever, and other areas seem like they’ll never get better.
I could list a number of things about my life and make it seem like everything is horrible. By changing what I list about my life, it sounds amazing instead.
Action Step: Make a list of 10 things that are AMAZING in your life right now. Choose to be grateful for the aspects that are good instead of obsessing about the bad.