If you like this content, see: Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled Volume 1 by Zero Dean
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” – Henry Ford
So, I understand that as people age, certain things that they used to do in their “youth” become more challenging, or in some cases, truly impossible (or unadvisable). I get it.
But growing older does not equal “growing old”. “Old”, in my opinion, is a state of mind. And the oft-used phrase, “I can’t, I’m old.” is more often used as an excuse to not do something than it is an actual reflection of reality — especially coming from someone under 60 — in my opinion, obviously, because I’m not 60 yet. Just a couple more years…
I’ve seen it happen, people a lot younger than I am saying, “I’m old”, and it’s almost shocking.
So what makes a person “old”. I wonder…
Lance Armstrong is 39. I know of many people younger than he is who have claimed to be “old”. Well, Lance participated in the Tour de France this year. He placed 3rd last year. And he’s a cancer survivor. He’s proof that even at the ripe “old” age of 39, human beings are capable of amazing feats of physical strength and endurance. No, he didn’t win. He didn’t have to in my opinion. His participation is inspiring enough.
More proof? How about an 80 year old Ironman triathlete?
Lew Hollander, 80-year-old scientist, returned to the Ford Ironman World Championship again this year. He hopes to returns next year and for many years to come. The word motivational just doesn’t do him justice…
“You don’t stop doing things because you get older, you get older because you stop doing things.” – Unknown
So is it physical age that makes you “old”?
I don’t think so.
Now that I know what someone Lance’s age — and who is in good health — is capable of, I refuse to believe that anyone even remotely close to the age of 39 is physically incapable of accomplishing certain things “because they are old” — and I would even go so far as to add 20+ years to that figure! ;) Of course, what you can accomplish physically now is dependent on the condition your body is in and your state of health. For example, I would still consider myself to be in reasonably good shape at this point in my journey, but I wouldn’t choose to run a marathon tomorrow — or maybe I would, but I wouldn’t expect to do very well.
Yes, it is a fact that the physical capabilities of the human body begin to decline as we get older, but the rate of decline is completely within our grasp to control. Your body adapts to the lifestyle you choose to live. And barring injury, most people are capable of doing far more physically at any age than they believe they are. Most people greatly underestimate their physical abilities. They believe they can’t, so they can’t. Most don’t even try.
“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
When I was hiking a mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland a couple years ago, it was not uncommon to see people (I perceived to be) in their 70 or 80’s on the trails. Steep trails, mind you.
Sure, they walked a little slower, but they walked with intention and they eventually reached the same heights as people 60 or more years younger — I know, because I saw them at every stage of the hike, bottom to top.
And I remember it all vividly because I admired it so much. Particularly the couples, husbands and wives — it just seemed “romantic” to me. You don’t see that sort of thing so much in the U.S. I intend to be one of those people when I’m 80 — I just hope I don’t have to carry my wife up the mountain, but I will if I have to. (But I think it’s far more likely that we’ll race each other up the mountain — even if we have to be on 4-wheelers to do it). ;)
I’m not the only one to notice, a quote from this blog:
“We saw many older Swiss people hiking wherever we went. We saw a hunched over old lady with a cane that must have been in her late 80’s. That was one thing that really impressed us. Many times they were going up hill when we were going down hill.”
And another from a review here:
“Many old people hiking. I’m 51 now, I use this term to describe those at least 20+ years older. We were impressed.”
But look, there’s a lot more to this “I can’t, I’m old” thing than the physical — and it’s far more debilitating, in my opinion. I’m referring to “old age thinking”.
“The mind can assert anything and pretend it has proved it. My beliefs I test on my body, on my intuitional consciousness, and when I get a response there, then I accept.” – D.H. Lawrence
I think “I can’t, I’m old” is a self-limiting belief. Most of the time, it really isn’t based on any sort of truth, yet people accept it as if it were.
And once people accept a belief, they tend to continue believing it. Sometimes people sense that what they believe might not actually be based in reality, so they find “evidence” to support their belief — even when the evidence itself isn’t really evidence.
How does this happen? Well, as human beings, we very much tend to focus on one thing at the exclusion of others. In other words, we find what we seek and we often miss what we don’t. So if we’re seeking evidence to support our beliefs, we tend to find it — completely missing evidence that supports the contrary.
Want an example? Watch this and follow the instructions:
More than a few times on my journey, I’ve seen people talk to each other about how “old” they are. “Boy, to be young again”, they say, when the reality is that whatever thing they were commenting on was well within their scope of accomplishment. It disturbs me.
But what disturbs me more is watching people re-enforce their mis-beliefs — encouraging each other in their “old age thinking”. It happens all the time. “I feel so old”, “I know, me too”.
I reject that kind of thinking. I’d rather be judged (or judge for myself!) by attempting something and failing than by limiting myself in my beliefs that I cannot do something because my body is a certain number of days old.
And I’ve heard this while watching people watch children play, “Ah, the joy of being a child.”
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Theodor Seuss Geisel
Really? Who told you you had to get “old” or let go of that “joy”? Yes, I understand that as people age, we are expected to do so with a certain level of maturity. We are expected to act “responsible”. I get it. But expected by who? Give me their name. I don’t think there is one. I think it’s an expectation of the society most of us live in (I say most of us, because not everyone who reads this is from the USA).
So, if you think about it, no one ever said that you had to lose your childlike wonder of the world — and no one said there isn’t a time and a place for everything — including being “grown up”.
Are you afraid that people will judge you because you sometimes “act like a child” (and I obviously mean that in the positive sense)? Really? Who? I tend to think that if someone is going to frown upon me doing something relatively innocent that makes me feel good and it’s not hurting (or truly disturbing) anyone else, then that someone isn’t someone who should truly matter (paraphrasing Dr. Seuss).
Yes, there is a time and a place for everything — but some people never even take advantage of that, out of fear or out of the acceptance that they’re either “above” such things or that they’re “old”. And that’s sad.
People tend to base most of their standards and beliefs on what is “acceptable” and “achievable” on the people they surround themselves with, friends, family, social groups — and this can be good or it can be bad.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
It has been said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. This has so many connotations — it can affect everything. Your health, your beliefs, your aspirations, your relationships, everything!
Yes, we naturally tend to gravitate towards people who are “like us”, but sometimes we end up in places in life (with our friends) where we’re not as comfortable as we’d like to be. We want change. We’re not motivated or inspired, but we don’t know how to change that.
Sometimes changing that is as simple as changing who you hang out with — for example, finding a gym partner, taking yoga, or joining some kind of positive social club — finding people who motivate and inspire you. There are people who have changed their entire lives for the better by doing so!
And I’ll admit something here… I haven’t had a regular set of friends to hang out with in years (my friends are all over and I haven’t exactly stayed in one spot long), but even so, that hasn’t stopped me from staying motivated and inspired. My trick? I look for other sources of inspiration — when it comes to physical accomplishments, I look to athletes, when it comes to other achievements, I look to any of the countless other people I respect and admire (though there is a risk here — sometimes comparing yourself to the “best” of everything can be discouraging when you fall short — you have to be sure you use it to pull you up and motivate, not push you down. The fact is, not everyone is the best at everything. We all have our individual strengths).
When I decided to set a goal to run a 5k in under 20 minutes earlier this year, something I’d never accomplished before, I never doubted I couldn’t do it — and that’s because I was convinced it was possible. And something else — I consider it pretty slow compared to the 5k record of 12:37.35 seconds.
So while I struggled with knee and leg pain and cramps, I kept telling myself I could do it. That I was physically capable. That the pain was temporary and that I was not going to let it permanently stop me. Had I had the self-limiting belief that my goal was impossible or that I was too “old” to do such a thing, I would have. Many people do.
I see many people attempt to do something and reach a certain level of discomfort, so they quit. “Well, I tried! I guess I can’t do it. Oh well.” And that’s it — and people let it happen. I can’t think of any parent that would let their baby “give up” trying to walk after the few times they tried. But the fact is, babies don’t give up. Adults do.
“Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.” – E. Joseph Cossman
Ever hear of those people who are told “I’m sorry, you’ll never walk again”, but they refuse to believe it? They fight to accomplish their goal and they struggle with pain and rehabilitation. Whatever it takes. While I am sure not everyone who has ever been told such a thing succeeds in defying doctors and walks again, if everyone who was ever told they couldn’t do something never tried, then all those people who were told they’d never walk again and did, wouldn’t have.
This is something I thought about while I was dealing with my own “struggle” to achieve my goal earlier this year. I hadn’t run in years. And my knee really hurt at times — but I told myself, “Hey, at least I’m walking and this is fabulous.”
So rather than let it get me down, I’d switch my workouts from running to the elliptical and let the swelling in my knee go down. And then when I felt better, I’d try again — and the same thing would happen. Pain. Stop. Heal. Try again. I really wanted to achieve that goal.
And you know what, after a couple months, my muscles eventually adapted and the pain actually went away — and I accomplished my goal.
A physical goal, but because of a mental belief that I could accomplish it.
There are a lot of self-limiting beliefs that people support. Most of them start with, “I can’t…” or “I wish I could…” But they’re not true.
Such as, “I wish I could do what you’re doing Zero.” Really? You can’t? Is it truly impossible, or is it simply that you have different priorities right now?
I get the fact that many people have great responsibilities — a job or a family. Even so, if you truly wanted to “take a journey”, would it be impossible or would it simply be “a challenge”? In the same way that most people greatly underestimate their physical capabilities, they also greatly underestimate what they are capable of achieving in other areas as well.
And the fact is, most people prefer their comfortable ruts. They say they “I wish I could…” or “I can’t…”, but it’s said as an excuse. It’s a common expression, actually. I think in many cases, what most people truly mean to say is, “That sounds like something I might enjoy doing, I’m just not willing to change my priorities to make it happen”, not “I wish I could.”
But limitations only exist if you let them. The great thing is, if you have self-limiting beliefs you don’t want, there is a very good chance you can change them. The first thing is you have to truly want to. Next, you have to believe you can.
And, well, there are lots of sites on the internet to help get you started.
Anyway, I kind of went off a couple tangents there, but hopefully y’all get what I’m saying and I haven’t offended anyone too much.
And I hope that the next time you think you’re “too old” or you have some other self-limiting belief, you can recognize it as what it is and hopefully challenge it a little.
I don’t care who you are. I am confident you are capable of far greater things than you imagine.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Brian Littrell
‘Til next time, be well!
“I’m not interested in age. People who tell me their age are silly. You’re as old as you feel.” – Henri Frederic Amiel
And I completely understand “biological clocks” and the desire to have children and raise a family “within a certain window of opportunity”. Those very age related things are real. And I understand not naturally “fitting in” with people much younger (or older) because you don’t physically match their age — but I do think with the right mental attitude and approach, that is something that is at least possible under the appropriate circumstances, if desired.
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